Timers on espresso machines

November 24, 2011

A big prosumer or commercial espresso machine takes between 30 minutes to 90 minutes to reach equilibrium where it is truly ready to go, much longer than just the time it takes to heat up the boiler because the huge mass of metal has to be heated up, too.  


One solution is to put the machine on a timer so it automatically turns on a little before you are ready to use it.  This is, of course, not a perfect solution.  A careless user might, for example, bump the machine turning the pump on when the timer has the power shut off.  Then when the power comes on while the user is asleep to preheat it will also drain the boiler flooding the house.  Similarly the steam valve could be left open and since the power is off to the machine it is not clear that the steam is turned on.  The steam will then blast out until either a human notices or the machine runs dry.  The other big problem if either of these things happens is that if the boiler runs dry it can burn out the heating element.  Some machines have a mechanism in place to stop this, but many do not.  


Of course, some machines are plumbed in, so they will have a constant supply of water and the boiler will not run dry, but then if the drain is not also plumbed in it will truly flood the house.


My solution is to use a low tech timer – ie when I get up the first thing I do is turn the machine on and I do not get coffee right off the bat when I get up.  If I do want coffee right away I make a brewed cup.  


My machine only takes 30 minutes and not 90 and I can almost always wait 30 minutes, but 90 would require a timer for me (or to leave the machine on overnight)  as I would not have enough time before going to work if that were the case.


By the way one vendor once told me that he though machines even in the Silvia class are better off left on 24/7 and he likened it to lightbulbs which are more likely to break when you are turning them on and off than if you just leave them off.  I haven't had the heart to do this simply because of the energy waste which I can't quite stomach.

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