Your commercial espresso machine steamer wand has a brilliant second purpose
Every professional caterer and coffee shop barista knows the primary purpose of their commercial espresso machine’s steam wand: frothing up the perfect latte or cappuccino. But there’s a second purpose that becomes all the more important with the move towards reusable coffee cups and flasks.
If you’re following this coffee blog regularly, you’ll have read last week’s new year’s resolutions for coffee shops – tips for a more successful 2018. If you’re keen to boost your business, you’ll be trying to put all ten tips into action over the coming months. The coffee machine steamer has particular relevance to tip 10, and a whole lot to do with looking after the customer.
A quick GCSE physics recap for the less scientifically minded among us: steam is the product of water boiling, which happens at 100°C and above. A concentrated blast of vapourised water at 100°C and over will kill almost 100% of bacteria. A commercial coffee machine won’t boil your water at that temperature, however; a change in pressure allows the steam to be produced at nearer 90°C. That won’t kill everything, but it ought to minimise the volume and severity of bacteria.
And reusable coffee cups are the perfect little incubator for bacteria. At lunchtime you whip up a delicious latte in your customer’s spanking new reusable coffee cup – ideally one which you’ve sold them, as part of a customer incentive programme where you offer a discount to customers who bring their own coffee cups – and that customer heads off back to work, delighted with their discount, a warm feeling of being a bit more environmentally friendly, and a healthy, delectable drink. So far, so good. On the way home from work, the customer decides a tasty decaf coffee would go down a treat, so they pop back in. They hand you the reusable cup, you turn on the charm and the coffee machine, and they head off home with a drink that won’t keep them awake all night.
Except that the cup they brought back to you hadn’t been washed. It’s been in their unwashed hands, in the bag where they store all sorts of stuff, and open on the desk at work. The coffee and milk residue is a beautiful breeding ground for bacteria. And now they’re pouring that bacteria straight into their mouths. Yummy.
If you practise good coffee shop hygiene, you’re releasing a blast of steam to clean your espresso machine’s steam wand tip and pipe and wiping down the wand immediately after every single use. If you’re really smart about it, you’re using colour-coded cloths, so you don’t contaminate the wand by using the same cloth that you’ve used to wipe the counters or, worse yet, the floor!
And if you care about your customers’ health, you’re going to start using the steam to blast at the reusable coffee cup mouthpiece, lid and interior. Kill a bunch of bacteria. And point out why you’re doing it, too, in the hope that your customers will start cleaning their cups after every use. But make it clear that a steam blast isn’t perfect – whereas a proper washing-up with decent detergent or washing-up liquid ought to be. It’s an issue that even Public Health England has felt the need to comment on, so make sure you act on it.
It’s just a little thing, but it shows you care about hygiene and each customer’s personal health – and that level of consideration can only boost your reputation. It also reduces the risk of someone picking up a nasty stomach bug and attributing it to your coffee shop, or their new eco-friendly coffee-drinking habit.
Simple, but effective on several levels. Start today. Next week, we’re going to go over some of the must-do coffee shop and coffee machine cleaning practices, to make sure customers have zero dirt to dish on you.