Why is keeping your machine clean imperative to making delicious coffee? From Christchurch, Nico Refiti interviews Chris Uren of Espresso Tools and from Tauranga, he interviews new member Daryn Pearson of Java Jons.
How did you get your start in servicing espresso machines?
Daryn Pearson: As an electrician, I concentrated my career in complex industrial Automation and control diagnostics. We spent time in Adelaide and I enjoyed a lot of coffee. When we moved back from Adelaide in 2006 our first purchase was a Breville Coffee Machine (yes Breville….) and went on a local barista course (wouldn’t call it that now).
There weren’t a lot of opportunities and landed a job with a firm that was servicing steam and hot water boilers. The business started to struggle and I decided to start looking into other opportunities, we looked at purchasing an electrical business but that wasn’t my thing. I saw local business selling their servicing and repair business. I decided to have a chat to him and to my surprise it was repairing coffee machines, I thought it was an easy transition from my current employment to working with coffee machines (same principles) but soon found that the coffee machines were a lot more complex than standard steam and hot water boilers.
Chris Uren: I began working with espresso machines as an Electrician for another company. I began to specialize in espresso machines and became more and more interested. I have worked as a Barista, in real cafe’s, serving real coffee in real time and it has helped my understanding in the technical side immensely. I assisted Carl Sara, Luciano Marcolino and Addison Dale over their various WBC Campaigns which gave me a great perspective on skill and technical developments. I have made a real investment in travelling to as many international shows to help broaden my experience and understanding of new knowledge as well.
In 2010, I started working full time for myself and developed a business to service domestic and commercial espresso machines/grinders. Since then we now have grown to 4 Espresso Technicians and an Office Administrator. We provide a 24/7 business to our customers in Christchurch – South Island. I am very proud of what I have achieved over the last 7 years.
What’s your all-time favourite espresso machine to both service and make coffee?
Daryn: In our business, we deal with a lot of different brands, my apologies if any of our customers/suppliers feel their machine(s) are better to work on. I think the Wega Nova brand would be the most straightforward machine to carry out our servicing on. The access to all components is relatively straightforward from a standard service. Also, there are not too many restrictors to deal with blockages and they are easy to get to. There are no plastic panels (always a pain when servicing due to high temperatures involved, they become brittle).
Chris: This is a very good question as I started working on Carimali fully automatic machines and loved how they operated to produce an espresso. Diagnosing faults on these machines was very complex but also exciting. But over the years traditional machines are at the forefront of the Specialty Coffee Industry and I was introduced to La Marzocco – GB5 / FB80. These handcrafted / built machines are made for Barista’s to make great espresso and beautifully textured milk. The team at La Marzocco really do think of every aspect of design and quality of the machine, their passion is unbelievable and I am so privileged to have visited the factory in Florence in 2013 and 2015. La Marzocco’s latest models Linea PB and Strada AV are my favourites – design and excellent in producing the very best espresso.
What’s the most common form of machine misuse you see baristas doing?
Daryn: That’s hard as I am not a Barista, I don’t understand the reasoning why it would need to be done but my pet hate is watching a barista knocking the side of their handle with the tamper. However, this is great for our business because over time both the handle and tamper become damaged and require replacing.
Chris: Barista’s need to be tidy, and keep their machine and workstation. Clean the waste sump, remove cups and clean panels, backflush the groups and rinse the portafilter handles when possible. It’s very frustrating when the basics are not getting done. Are the barista’s really doing their job 100%? Dirty portafilter handles are a sure sign things are not all well on a machine!
Any advice for an aspiring coffee technician?
Daryn: I try to keep in my head when I go to any breakdown, to keep calm. Generally, the customer is in a fluster as they are losing client’s and revenue but we are here to fix their problem and when we get it fixed we are now their new best friend.
Chris: Getting qualified is the most important part of becoming an Espresso Service Technician, without this you will struggle. Make coffee. Learn how a Barista works on a machine in the real world, and in different environments. Not all baristas have a deep technical knowledge, so understanding how to interpret their comments to accurately and swiftly diagnose is critical. Listen and learn – understand the principles of espresso. Ask questions, there is always a reason.
Finally, any “what not to do” stories you’d like to share?
Daryn: I have made a few but the most notable would be working on a La Marzocco within my first year. The handover of the business was very short and not a lot of information about machine repairs given (probably another ‘how not to buy a business’). I had an issue with the sight glass leaking and had turned the machine off and drained the pressure from the machine. I removed the drain plug below the sight glass but due to the stress of getting the job done quickly didn’t check the pressure had drained properly from the boiler. The boiler water scalded my stomach.
Chris: Maintaining your espresso machine is the most important aspect of the café business. Without a machine working 100% – you will make a bad coffee.