Wondering if you should turn your espresso machine off or leave it turned on. What’s better in the short and long run? Let’s find out.
If you don’t intend to use your espresso machine for the next 6-8 hours, it’s better to turn off the machine. Heating up the machine from cold uses more energy but turning it on and off also puts more stress on parts and decreases the need for cleaning scale.
Let’s take a look at what pros and cons there are to leaving an espresso machine turned on.
Is it bad to leave an espresso machine on?
The choice of leaving an espresso machine on or turning it off can be a bit confusing. There are quite a few factors that go into making the decision.
Leaving an espresso machine turned on 24/7 is unnecessary, uses more energy than necessary and can put more wear on certain parts of the espresso machine. However, turning it on and off every five minutes isn’t good either.
So we have to find the right balance between leaving it on all the time and turning it off after every 5 minutes. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of leaving an espresso machine turned on. To see if we can figure out what’s best for your situation.
Pros of leaving espresso machine on
Let’s start with the pros of leaving a machine on.
- No wait time: If you leave the machine on, everything is hot and ready to go. You just have to fill the basket with coffee and press the button and you’re done.
- Less scaling: The changes in temperature of the water creates deposits on the walls of the boiler and the lines. Those deposits are called scale and are the reason you have to regularly clean you espresso machine. The more often the water goes from hot to cold, the faster it happens and the more often you have to clean.
- Less chance of breaking electronic parts: Electronic parts are most likely to break when appliances are turned on. The sudden surge of electricity is what usually breaks electronic parts. Those parts are hard to replace especially on domestic espresso machines.
Cons of leaving espresso machine on
- Energy consumption: Keeping water hot 24/7 costs energy. Warming the water from cold also uses energy. What is best depends on how much time between cups there is if leaving it on or turning it off is better. In general, if there is less than 4 hours between cups (and the boiler is well insulated), it’s better to leave the machine on. Click here for more information.
- Reduces lifespan of some parts: Some parts like the thermostat, heating element and gaskets are used more and therefore reduces the lifespan.
- Stresses materials: Heat cycles expand and contract most materials. While espresso machines are built for those temperature changes, the heat cycles still puts stress on materials and can cause weakness over time. This takes a long time though.
- Heats up your kitchen: Having a big pot of almost boiling water is going to heat up your kitchen or other place it’s placed. In the summer this can be uncomfortable.
- Some parts might be hot to the touch: An espresso machine has a boiler with hot water. Even if there is a standby mode, that water is kept at a pretty high temperature which can cause some parts of the machine to be hot to the touch (depending on the machine). If you don’t know the machine is on this can be dangerous.
- Potentially decreases gasket lifespan:
- You’re not there if something were to go wrong: It’s unlikely that something were to dramatically go wrong with an espresso machine, there is steam and pressure involved. That’s not a good thing to have turned on around children.
Both leaving an espresso machine turned on and turning it off have their pros and cons. As you can see, there is a balance between the two options. If you want another cup of espresso in 5 minutes, leave it on. If you want another in 5 days, turn it off.
So where is that balance point where it’s better to turn off your espresso machine?
When to turn off espresso machine
So the biggest reason to turn off the machine is to save energy but preventing scaling is also a very nice plus. Nobody likes cleaning their machine and if you can extend the periods in between, that’s good.
Many of the other pros and cons are not as important or dependent on your situation. Turning the machine on and off puts stress on certain parts and leaving it on turns stress on other parts. It’s not obvious what the best thing to do is.
So there are a few factors that have to be balanced to get the best of the pros and the least of the cons. Of course it largely depends on how much use the machine gets. In a busy coffee shop, it obviously doesn’t make sense to turn the machine off except at the end of the day.
However, at home, you probably don’t pull a shot every 5 minutes or even every hour. If you drink one espresso when you get up at 6:00 and one at 11:00, it makes sense to leave it on in the morning and then turn it off after 11:00.
In general, it’s recommended to turn off an espresso machine if you don’t intend to use it in the next 8 hours. Leaving an espresso machine turned on overnight does not provide many benefits and it’s safer to turn it off.
If you have an espresso machine that’s exceptionally well insulated and therefore doesn’t leak much heat from the boiler its fine to leave it on for longer. And if you have a machine that’s pretty power hungry you should turn it off a little earlier.
If you want something simpler, check out lever espresso machines. If you get a manual espresso maker without boiler there is no on off button so you completely get rid of this question.
What if you don’t want to wait?
The biggest reason people like to leave their espresso machine on is not energy savings. While that’s nice, most people just don’t want to wait for their espresso. If you turn off the machine, it will take a while before you can actually brew espresso because the water and all the metal parts have to heat up.
How long it takes before your machine is ready depends on the machine. Some take 20 minutes, others only 10 and everything in between. But what if you don’t want to wait 20 minutes after waking up before you can make your espresso?
It’s pretty easy, get a digital outlet timer. You plug the timer into the outlet and the espresso machine into the timer. Now set the timer so it comes on +-20 minutes (or more/less depending on how long your machine takes). This way the machine turns off overnight but is still ready to go when you wake up. Of course that only helps if you wake up the same time every day.
Getting a smart timer is also a great option if you already work with Amazon Alexa or Google home. Smart outlets allow you to set a schedule and adjust the timer from your phone so you can set the time your espresso machine comes on from you bed.
Recommended Espresso Equipment
Besides an espresso machine, there are a few other tools that can make your espresso better. Here are my favorites:
- Espresso Machine: The Breville Barista Express (Amazon) is the sweet spot in price and quality for most casual home baristas. It comes with a built in grinder and most tools you need to brew espresso.
- Tamper: A nice tamper helps you tamp your grounds in the filter for the best result. Any correctly sized tamper can do the job but a nice heavy one just feels so much better in your hand than a plastic model. This Luxhaus one (Amazon) has a nice trick up it’s sleeve to make tamping very consistent.
- Beans: Good espresso starts with good beans. Using fresh beans is a big improvement over pre-ground coffee.
- Scales: Getting consistently good espresso means you have to know how much grounds is going into the machine and how much is coming out and how long this takes. A coffee scale is going to make your espresso much more consistent and also makes adjustments a lot easier. The Apexstone coffee scale (Amazon) is cheap and doesn’t look too sleek but is just as accurate as more expensive scales. The TimeMore scales (Amazon) look and feel a lot nicer but cost a bit more.
- Grinder: To make the best of your fresh beans, a good grinder is necessary. Espresso requires a good grinder to get the best results. The Baratza Sette 30 (Amazon) is a good espresso grinder that can also be used for other brewing methods and while not cheap, is good value for money. If you prefer hand grinders, the 1ZPresso JX-PRO is one of the best options (Amazon)
- Distribution tool: After grinding you can get some clumps in the coffee grounds. Those clumps should be broken up so the water can extract all the coffee grounds equally. Distribution tools are very simple things but this one (Amazon) is beautifully made and will look good in your kitchen.