Posted by Tim Stobbs on November 6, 2013
*insert growling noise here* “Why isn’t this damn cappuccino maker working?!?” I swore to the gods.
I got a decent cappuccino maker as a wedding gift over 13 years ago. It was totally a luxury item for a couple of broke university students back when we got married, but it got fairly regular use over the years and likely saved us a small fortune on ‘fancy’ coffee drinks at home instead of a coffee shop. Yet at the same time the thought of having to actually buy a replacement made me a little sick since it would likely involve a nice $250+ hit to replace…I like cappuccino, lattes and espresso, but I wasn’t sure if I liked them THAT much.
Then I gave myself a metal slap…Tim you are a damn ENGINEER…it is merely a piece of steam producing machinery. At least TRY to fix it before you assume you need to replace it (worse case scenario it becomes trash and I buy a new one). So I filled it with fresh filtered water and heated it up and started doing a little troubleshooting. Steam production? That seem rather normal. Water flow rate for espresso production? Watching the little trickle of water…it was way lower than it should be. Mmm, likely causes..line blockage and/or restricted piping. Potential solution that ideally didn’t involve taking apart stream lines…chemical clean.
Despite the higher pressure a cappuccino maker is very similar to a coffee maker and if you have hard water where you live you are likely used to having to clean your coffee maker with warm water and vinegar periodically to keep it working well. So I added to the water reservoir of the cappuccino maker about $0.05 of vinegar and some warm water…the poor man’s version of a chemical clean solution. Then I turned on the steam production and ran it for a minute to ensure the temperature was good and high…then I switched to espresso production mode and in a few seconds the flow rate increased dramatically. I ran it through two more cycles to ensure it was clean. Then rinsed the entire thing three times with water (otherwise you will have the worst coffee based drink of your life afterwards).
Total troubleshooting and repair time: 30 minutes. Money saved: $250+. Effective hourly pay rate of repair job: $500/hour. Getting your double espresso without leaving the house during the first snow storm of the season: priceless.
Today’s lesson: skip thinking about buying your way out of a problem as your first option. Odds are you have other easier options at your finger tips if you just stop and think for a minute or when in doubt…Google it.