Factors to consider in buying a refurbished machine
Completely De-Mineralizing An Espresso Machine
To de-mineralize an espresso machine successfully both boiler(s) and tubing must be removed from the frame of the espresso machine. A service technician will carefully dislodge and manually remove minerals from the boiler. I write ‘carefully’ because denting and marking the boiler invites minerals to adhere to these rough and porous areas in the future.
In some cases, a majority of the minerals are removed manually but in other cases the boiler and all tubing are soaked in an agent mineral build up inside espresso machine such as citric or phosphoric acid. The acid is left for a period of time, then removed and the boiler and tubing are flushed. This process is repeated until all traces of mineral have been removed. A final flushing process is completed and the boiler is reassembled and replaced in the machine and tested.
If minerals remain in the tubing, the tubing should be replaced. It is very important that the process be competed and not terminated before all minerals have been extracted. For an average commercial espresso machine, the demineralization process can take up to two weeks depending on the hardness of the minerals and the amount of build up. The complete demineralization of an espresso machine is labour intensive and should be performed in a shop type environment.
Partial Mineral Removal
There is also a practice of partial mineral removal which simply means minerals are carefully dislodged and removed manually through the boiler cap. The boiler and tubing are then flushed. During flushing, if the boiler has not been removed, the service technician must be careful not to damage nearby components. Although a lot less labor intensive, minerals will remain and, at some point dislodge, finding their way into restrictors or valves.
Minerals in tubing and valves cannot be removed by partial mineral removal
Purchasing a machine that has not gone through the complete demineralization process and has a history of being exposed to hard water is not recommended. Even though the boiler and tubes might have been flushed there is still a chance that minerals can dislodge and get stuck in restrictors or valves causing major malfunctions.
After de-mineralization, a comprehensive parts replacement should be completed. The following is a recommended list of espresso machine parts that should be replaced:
Refurbished Commercial Espresso Machine Parts that should be replaced:
•O-rings, gaskets and screens
•Hot Water Valve(s)
Additional services include the rebuilding of all steam, expansion and check valves. If the machine has a thermostat it should be replaced as well. Main boards and/or electronic boards should not be replaced unless inoperable. Group heads and portable filter holders are also optional.
The Right Service Company To Refurbish Your Espresso Machine
Whether you are purchasing a refurbished espresso machine or are an owner looking to refurbish your existing equipment, take the time to find the right company to give your business to. Understanding refurbishment and communicating what you expect will assist you when working with a sales or service company.
If you are purchasing a refurbished machine, request documentation detailing the refurbishment and a complete list of parts replaced or rebuilt. Was the machine de-mineralized? All sales and service companies will have this information available. If not, our advice is not to gamble your money and risk your business on the possibility that the machine is not sound or the company is not legitimate, which will be important when warranty issues come up; continue looking.
Before choosing a service provider, ask for a written estimate from at least two companies. The estimate should be for a complete refurbishment that details parts to be replaced and services to be completed. Also, ask for a limit on additional charges. Getting an estimate will let you know ahead of time what you will be purchasing, and help you avoid additional costs as well as a lot of miscommunication down the line. Consider electronics and brew group heads heads when evaluating your estimate. If they are not included, remember that they may need to be replaced at some point. Many service companies will provide a rental or complimentary espresso machine for your convenience so you will want the cost of removing and re-installing your equipment included in your estimate.
Refurbishments typically come with some type of warranty beyond thirty days. Be sure to ask specifically about the individual areas of the warranty such as labour, travel, and parts. Will they warranty repairs if minerals are found in the machine? If any electronics fail during the warranty period, will the warranty cover the labour and travel to install the new component(s)?