Ask a Technician: Modbar by La Marzocco USA

A closeup of a black Modbar countertop espresso machine.

We continue our series on coffee equipment with some answers to common questions about the iconic countertop espresso machine: Modbar.

BY SAMANTHA TAMPLIN
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE

Photos courtesy of La Marzocco

Modbar espresso machines have become a common presence in cafés in recent years, with their signature design of the inner workings being tucked neatly under a café’s counter. Modbar machines are a frequent topic of discussion for Scott Guglielmino—product manager for La Marzocco USA, the parent company that includes Modbar—as he helps café owners and anyone using this equipment feel more confident when confronting everyday issues that arise when making espresso drinks.. We recently spoke to Scott about common maintenance issues and tips for general upkeep during his visit to Fort Wayne, Ind., with the co-founders of Modbar, Corey Waldron and Aric Forbing.

The Modbar on display at My Fresh Basket in Spokane, Wash.

Barista Magazine: What are some of the common issues you notice with businesses that use Modbar equipment? 

Scott: Most of the time, we get questions about how to clean the equipment for both La Marzocco and Modbar. The main thing that we like to talk about a lot is water filtration. Because at this point, we’ve done a huge amount of work in understanding where we have technical problems. We have this great program called the product improvement team. It’s a group of Marzocco and Modbar employees who meet on a weekly basis and look at stats like sales and service feedback from our network around the world and say, “How can we make this product better?”

What are some of the steps technicians take to fix potential problems with the machinery before they become an issue?

A lot of the work on Modbar is really on the installation process itself. Basically, every undercounter machine is more complex in its installation than a traditional espresso machine. With that said, most technicians will spend a lot of time, care, and attention to make sure that the café’s bar is built to receive the equipment really well. When that happens, we’ve found it sets up a great ownership experience for the life of the machine.

The Modbar in use at Tate Modern in London. Proper water conditioning is key to a long-lasting machine.

What are some steps café owners can take to adjust their equipment without the help of a technician?

The first and most important thing is great water conditioning. Every Modbar machine ships with two water test kits, and those kits are incredibly important for the health of the machine. From the manufacturing side, we try and build the machine as incredibly robust as possible, and what we found is really we’re coming to a point where the majority of service problems are actually water related, because that’s the one factor that we can’t control.

If they think they’re having a problem on the equipment, reaching out to us is the single best thing they can do, and really helps us ensure that their daily life is great. There’s always an interesting question of how far can you go and still be servicing machines daily if you haven’t had the proper training. The people on our service hotline know exactly how far that is for each individual problem and are happy to answer phone calls from whoever it is to walk them through (issues) over the phone. Or they can identify if it’s something that will be opening up to the water mains or to high-voltage power because you’re going to want to get a trained technician to safely do that work for you.

Can you give me some tips on how to keep Modbar equipment in good condition, even when it undergoes heavy use?

For that daily cleaning, we recommend using Cafiza. We built in an auto backflush function to our espresso machines because we had found a lot of people may not do it quite as often or at the timing intervals they should. You know, nobody likes to hang out in front of their machine for three or four minutes while it’s back flushing, so we’ve built that all in to make it easier. At the end of the day, the water going in is really unpredictable. But there is really great water conditioning equipment that exists, and we try to connect people with what they need, not to just have the machine last for a long time, but to also brew fantastic coffee. 

Got a question about equipment? From Toddy cold brewers to grinders and pourover cones, we’re accepting inquiries for anything barista-related! Send in your technician questions to tech@baristamagazine.com!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Samantha Tamplin (she/her) is a recent graduate from Eastern Kentucky University with a B.A. in journalism. She spent her time in college writing and editing for the university newspaper, the Eastern Progress, and traveling abroad with the EKU Honors Program. Currently, she works with Modbar equipment as a barista for Cincinnati, Ohio’s Coffee Emporium, and plans to begin teaching art lessons this summer.

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