Second Life for Refurbished Espresso Machines
In a small warehouse in Lynnwood, Washington, a dedicated refurbishment crew turns previously loved coffee equipment into serviceable items. While Seattle Coffee Gear specializes in selling new versions of these espresso machines and coffee makers, they incorporated recycling into their business plan in 2008. Machines returned to the original manufacturer due to defect or customer remorse were often considered waste and ended up in the landfill. Brand partners send units by the pallet load and the refurb team replaces parts as needed, repairs, tests and then thoroughly cleans the equipment. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!
Here’s How it Works
A mixed pallet arrives and the units are separated and stored by model until they are scheduled for service. “You name it, it’s all there,” Reynaldo Pulido line manager for the team said as he explained the process, “the good, the bad and the ugly!”
Once a batch of machines is scheduled for service, they are set up in rows and then given a thorough examination. Machines are either repaired by technicians or set aside to be scrapped. Along with any repairs, techs replace water tanks, gaskets, O-rings and other delicate items with brand new parts. These machines get a quality check and a final cleaning before they are repackaged and sold as refurbished units.
But what about the machines that don’t pass muster? Each espresso machine is broken down into its most basic parts. Serviceable parts are cleaned and stored for reuse to make repairs. Broken parts are separated into metal, plastic or electronics and picked up by a private scrap recycler or dropped off at a local recycling facility. Currently 90% or more of each shipment is repaired or reused in some way by Seattle Coffee Gear. Even the cardboard, Styrofoam and pallets used in transit are reused or recycled.
Currently, only the superautomatic espresso machine brew units on some models cannot be recycled since they are a fused mass of plastic, metal and rubber. The crew continues to put their collective caffeinated ingenuity into solving this issue for the future.
A Drop of Espresso in a Venti-sized Problem
By all measures, the refurbishment program is a success. It provides full-time employment for the crew, combats the byproduct of our disposable culture and offers an affordable option for consumers in the market for espresso machines.
However, if we can stave off the initial flow of returned units, the environmental impact will be further reduced. Proper cleaning and maintenance keep any mechanical device running better (and longer!). An espresso machine and a coffee maker are mechanical devices. There are steps specific to each model to prolong its useful life. If you have lost your user manual or are afraid that DIY espresso mechanicing is not your cup of tea, then by all means pay the lesser cost of professional maintenance versus the greater cost of a new machine.
Consumers have higher expectations for quality coffee at home and at work, sometimes called the “Starbucks effect.” This has led to a popularity boom for consumer coffee and espresso-making equipment. The challenge is to educate these newly minted home baristas about the basic cleaning and maintenance requirements of their chosen brew method. Seattle Coffee Gear provides a whole suite of free tutorial videos. From how to troubleshoot common pitfalls to how to descale your machine, the goal is to keep another unit in service and off the refurb line. If your machine is beyond repair, you can recycle it at Seattle Coffee Gear.
+Samantha Joyce is a writer for Seattle Coffee Gear. Seattle is renowned for all things coffee: from the headquarters of the largest global distribution chain to the very small warehouse where some lucky machines are given a second life.