After more than 7 years in business, creating hundreds of custom espresso machines, and making thousands of custom accessories, we have learned a few things! We will be sharing some of what we have learned here on the “How to customize an espresso machine” blog.
Episode 1. - Color
You decided to make the jump. You reviewed all the specs, the price, and the features. You made a spreadsheet. You created google alerts. You lie in bed at night, and with your eyes closed you can see it already sitting on your kitchen counter. But, you are sleeping restlessly.
After a few nights of tossing and turning, it hits you! All your careful research, the machine you painstakingly selected, the one result your expertly designed filter returned to you, is only available in polished stainless steel……with plastic highlights. But what about your grand vision? There were flowers! You weren’t turning plastic knobs! In your mind they were a lustrous semi-gloss, with the undulating grain of sustainably harvested walnut; and grain as deep and rich as your favorite bean. And, there was no glaring reflection of the morning sun, in your grand vision, your machine, in perfect harmony with the rest of your kitchen, was a calm and breezy matte white.
So what is one to do? Despair? Settle for less? Regress to the mean? You think, “I wonder if I could customize my espresso machine? Is that a thing?” Good news! It’s a thing!
These days there are more options for espresso machine customization than ever before, and by following some simple guidelines, you can make sure that your custom espresso machine project is a success.
Surface coatings: Understanding the basics
Your two main options for changing the color of a custom espresso machine are paint and powder coat. There are others that we will discuss in future episodes, but these two are the most common.
Paint can be sprayed on many materials including metal and some plastic. When done by a specialty painter, a paint finish can look pretty good…..for a while. The main drawback with paint is that it has mediocre durability. If you paint plastic parts, you will be able to scratch it off with your fingernail. Here at Pantechnicon we try to avoid using paint at all cost - especially in a commercial application because after 3 months of commercial use, it will look terrible. The best option for dealing with plastic parts is to replace them with parts made of a different material. Definitely DO NOT paint or powder coat your drain tray or steam wands. This coating will not last, and will look terrible in a matter of weeks.
Powder coat is a process where powdered plastic or epoxy pigment is stuck on to a metal part with an electrostatic charge and then baked in an oven to cure. Powder coat can only be used to coat metal parts. Powder coat has much higher durability than paint and is a good option for custom espresso machine body panels. Light scratches in powder coat (as long as they don’t go through to the base metal) can also be buffed out. The main failure mode with powder coat is in areas with prolonged contact with steam, hot water, and coffee oil. No, really, DO NOT paint or powder coat your drain tray or steam wands. This coating will not last, and will look terrible in a matter of weeks.
Pick a reputable vendor: If you are spending the extra time and money to go through this process, you want it to be as easy and trouble free as possible. Doing a custom color espresso machine falls firmly in the “simple but not easy” category. You will be best served by selecting a vendor who does this full time, and not as an extra. By selecting a full time customizer, you will get better results because they will have spent the time to develop the relationships with the suppliers necessary to get consistently high quality parts delivered on time. With surface coatings like paint and powder coat, there are many common defects that can happen, and the powder coater needs to have a process in place that is specific to espresso machine parts. The thin, polished sheet metal panels that are typical in espresso machine construction need to be sanded or bead blasted to create a rough surface for the powder coat to grip on to, which will give you maximum adhesion and durability. If this isn’t done correctly or at all, the coating can peel off.
If possible, purchase your machine from the same person that is doing the customizing. This will simplify your purchase process tremendously, and ensure you receive good warranty support for the equipment and the custom parts. Custom color can be a great way to take your machine to the next level, or add a unique color pop to your kitchen design.
Thanks for reading! In our next episode, we will be talking about some different materials you can use to customize your espresso machine. Until then, be well, and go have a coffee.