Replace It or Fix It?
Do you have an aging machine at home? Perhaps you saw a great deal on a piece of coffee gear that needs some fixing up? We get questions about repairing older machines frequently, so we wanted to provide some insight on whether it’s time to replace that old espresso machine or whether that listing is really as good as it seems. Let’s get into it!
Repairs and Tuneups
If you have a 5-10 year old machine there’s every possibility that a quick repair or tuneup will get it working as good as new. This largely depends on what kind of machine it is and what it looks like internally. For many drip brewers, repairs are pretty difficult. If you have a drip brewer with a bad heating element it’s likely that it should just be replaced. On the other hand, if you need a new showerhead or spray arm, that could be an easy fix depending on the manufacturer.
For espresso machines, it’s a little more complicated. With more complex internals and many moving parts, repairs can be less cut and dry. It’s easy to do maintenance things like replace a brew gasket, change the shower screen, or get a new portafilter basket. The problems start to arise when you get into bigger showstoppers. For instance, if your machine won’t heat up it could be a number of reasons. The control board that sends a signal to the heating element could be damaged, the boiler itself could be damaged, some wiring could be loose, there could be failed tubing, or it could be as simple as the on switch coming loose. The problem here is that it’s very difficult to diagnose the issue. If you need some screws tightened it could be a quick fix. If you need a new boiler it’s likely not worth repairing.
With all of this in mind, some semi-automatic brands lend themselves better to long term repair and maintenance. Machines from manufacturers like Rancilio and Rocket Espresso have very long lifetimes and use parts that are generally readily available for decades to come. Some manufacturers rely on more custom parts that they stop producing when the machine is no longer being made.
Is That Deal Worth It?
When it comes to purchasing used machines, we tend to be very careful about recommending this route. You may be able to find a used machine for a low cost, but it’s important to consider why it’s so cheap.
One thing to check is whether it comes from a brand known for long term parts availability. It’s also worth checking local repair shops to see if they repair the machine, and what their rates are for tune ups.
Another consideration is whether you can tell what kind of maintenance schedule the machine has been on. Generally a well maintained machine will last longer without needing repairs over a poorly maintained one. Unfortunately with online used sales it can be hard to determine whether or not the machine has seen regular cleaning and maintenance.
Mostly though, if it seems like it’s too good to be true, it likely is. Generally it’s a better option to go for a more affordable new entry level machine that is currently supported, then upgrade down the road. This way you’ll also get warranties and have some peace of mind about your purchase.
We hope this provides a bit of insight into whether you should start ordering tools or a new machine instead!