Cleaning and Maintenance

How to Clean Commercial Beverage Dispensers

beverage dispenserAs much as I loathe saying it, summer is winding down. The weather in the Midwest is already chilling. Soon we’ll see the shutters on our little lakeside snack shops coming down in preparation for the coming fall and winter months.

As summer fades into fall, it’s the perfect time to take a look at your refrigerated beverage dispenser. Whether you’re packing up and closing shop for the season, weaning your patrons from frosty mixed drinks, or breaking out the concession equipment for the upcoming school year, the demand on your beverage dispensers has decreased…for a moment.  Now is the time to take a look at your current dispenser’s state and look for the indications listed below that it’s time to go shopping.

Beverage dispensers typically offer a service life of between seven and 10 years on average. The following are signs that indicate your beverage dispenser may need replacing:

Water Leaks: If water leaks through the bin seal or manufactured chassis, this may indicate a leak in the line or rupture in the corner seal. This could be an indication that the unit has reached the end of its service life.

Aging Unit: Many beverage dispenser components, such as valves, can be replaced. It also is possible to upgrade and refurbish these units. But if the equipment had been in operation for 10 years or more in a high-volume application, it’s more than likely time to replace the unit as a whole.

Appearance: Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If they notice an older, self-serve unit at the front of the house, how will that affect your sales? In this case, it’s important to keep up appearances.

Changing Menu: A common issue when purchasing beverage dispensers is buying too small or too large a dispenser for the necessary volume. When the beverage menu changes or expands, foodservice operators should re-evaluate whether the dispenser can meet the restaurant’s needs. If the operation requires more capacity consider whether a larger unit or additional dispenser would be most appropriate.

Once you’ve checked these items off your list, keep your beverage dispenser in tip-top shape by regularly following cleaning procedures. This will help ensure the quality and taste of beverages isn’t compromised.

Beverage dispensers can be merchandising tools especially when used in the front of house for self-service applications. For this reason, it’s important that these units are properly cleaned and maintained. Foodservice operators can perform daily, weekly, and monthly tasks that will help keep your beverage dispensers operating at an optimal level, while ensuring a long service life. Keep in mind that unit needs may vary, and manufacturer’s recommendations should be followed.

On a daily basis, staff should remove the nozzles and diffusers and soak them in warm, soapy water. At the end of the day wipe down exterior surfaces with soap and water to remove any build-up and/or spills. Refrain from using cleaners with high chlorine content on stainless steel, as they may cause rust. Regularly flush and clean water lines. And finally, each month, clean and wash ice bins.

How to Clean and Maintain your Commercial Ice Cream Machine

There are two things I love: England and ice cream. They fairly go hand in hand considering former British Prime Minister, Margret Thatcher, helped create soft serve ice cream during her time as a food scientist.  I like my ice cream smooth and creamy, no hard frozen chunks of toppings for me to crack a tooth on. Enter the underdog of summer treats – soft serve ice cream.

I know most people prefer hand-dipped ice cream because it offers a larger selection of flavors. However, I’ll argue that when done right, a cone filled with sweet creamy vanilla beats any fancy flavor you can think of. Plus, I think you get more ice cream with soft serve.

Enough about me; how do you guarantee you’re doing the soft serve thing right? Regular cleaning and maintenance of your commercial ice cream machines, that’s how!  Regular cleaning and sanitization of ice cream machines helps ensure food safety. One drop of that heavenly mix will create a haven for bacterial growth. Before you start, research local health codes for cleaning commercial ice cream machines. Most will require a daily or twice weekly disassemble and clean. After that, follow these four simple steps for cleaning and maintaining your machine. The result? Sweet, smooth ice cream worth of The Iron Lady.

Completely empty the machine: Start by emptying any unused mix from the freezing chamber. Wipe out any impacted ice cream that has hardened out of reach of the scraping blades. Ensure that there is a clear pathway for water to pass through the machine completely.  Flush it a few times until the water comes out clear.

Take it apart: Get out your owner’s manual and locate all of the parts that are suggested for removal when cleaning. Completely disassemble the ice cream maker, removing any detachable parts that come in contact with the ice cream. Commercial machines have dispensing handles and tips that come in contact with fingers and ice cream regularly. These tips and handles should also be disassembled and removed during every cleaning session.

Soak + Scrub: Pour a mixture of hot soapy water into the freezing chamber of your machine. Many ice cream makers now come with a wash cycle setting; run this if your ice cream maker includes this feature. If it does not, a kitchen scrub brush with a handle is recommended to clean all of the inner moving parts. Once finished, drain your machine of all soapy water and flush it again with clean hot water to remove all traces of soap. Next, place all of the parts into a tub of more hot soapy water. Add a tablespoon or so of bleach to kill any remaining bacteria and allow the parts to soak for 30 minutes, or until the water has cooled. Rinse all parts in clean water and allow them to dry on clean towels.

Reassemble : Finally, wipe down your machine and parts with a clean, dry towel and reassemble your machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Additional best practices for ice cream machine maintenance include keeping the condenser coil clean. If the coil has a buildup of grease and dirt, you’ll need to use a degreaser and then wash the coil off. When you wash the coils of your commercial ice cream machine, be sure to cover the condenser fan motor and any other electrical components that might get sprayed. Note if the coil has a build-up of dry dust and lint. The best way to clean that is to wash it thoroughly with water. Also, open the side and back panels of your commercial ice cream machine and inspect the inside for debris.

Finally, check the drive belts and make sure they’re in good condition and adjusted to the correct tension, and make sure the drive pulleys are aligned correctly. You might want to keep spare tune up parts like o rings, seals, gaskets, food-safe lubricant, sleeves, bushings, and beater blades. These things will wear out and will need to be changed every three to six months.

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