Schaerer has completely revised the cleaning system in its professional coffee machines and released a new technology that removes direct interaction between the operator and cleaning agent, making handling errors a thing of the past.
The cleaning of professional coffee machines can be messy, inconvenient, ineffective, and even forgotten, largely impacting on the flavour and quality output of coffee. While many brands have established internal and automated cleaning systems over the years to curb such obstacles and store cleaning agents for a certain period of time, Schaerer decided it was time to rethink everything it knew about the cleaning process.
Since 2019, Schaerer and its development team of 15 people have worked hard to change its cleaning process by automating it to the extent that no staff involvement is required for up to three months. This is achieved with just one cycle of the ProCare cleaning system each day.
“System cleaning is basically no longer an issue for our customers,” says Laurent Häfliger, Project and Life Cycle Manager at Schaerer and part of the Schaerer ProCare development team.
“One of the main goals is that staff will get more time to do the important work such as taking care of their customers. Thanks to the automatic function, which can also be programmed, cleaning can also be conducted outside of operating hours and annoying down times during the peaks can be avoided.”
The compact, add-on module, available for the Schaerer Coffee Soul, and Soul 10 and 12 machines, automatically feeds highly concentrated alkaline and acidic cleaning agent to the machine, and supplies it for up to 100 fully automatic cleaning cycles.
“We set ourselves a target of 90 days or cleaning cycles based on rough calculations of how much cleaning powder can be stocked in the space provided, [but] during our tests, we found that we could do 100 cleaning cycles, and 100 is always better than 90,” Häfliger says.
“The whole idea behind ProCare was to minimise the number of interactions between the operator and the coffee machine that have nothing to do with drinks preparation.”
For each cleaning cycle, the optimal amount of powder solution needed is dissolved in water. Häfliger says this was one of the greatest challenges in developing this new system. As such, Schaerer involved a renowned supplier, which makes the cleaning tablets for Schaerer coffee machines.
While Schaerer could have opted to store cleaning tablets in a magazine and have them dispensed automatically, the manufacturer opted not to, citing that it would still demand human intervention to refill the magazine with new tablets, or to completely replace the empty magazine with a full one, thereby creating wastage from the disposed plastic magazine.
“Anyone who has ever done this knows how tedious it can be,” Häfliger says.
Rather, he says the powder mixture in the ProCare bag means Schaerer can produce a large amount of cleaning agent with relatively low weight. It also saves space during storage and transport, and saves on logistics costs and environmental footprint. In liquid form, it would be the equivalent of two, six-litre canisters next to the machine, instead of the two, 600-gram bags now used in the Schaerer ProCare system.
Once the cleaning agent is dissolved, the highly concentrated solution created at the top is suctioned off, diluted with water, and fed into the machine. A sensor continuously checks the dosage and water is added in a controlled manner to make sure that the optimum concentration is achieved.
“Employees no longer have to spend time filling dosing systems with tablets. When the powder is used up, the empty bag is simply removed and a new one is put in. This makes handling really easy for staff,” Häfliger says.
A warning on the machine screen indicates when the cleaning agents are running low, and a second warning alerts when Schaerer’s ProCare Pouches are empty. In the future, this information will be transmitted via Schaerer’s Coffee Link digital platform.
Häfliger says the Pouches are at the heart of the whole system and are used in multiple functions, acting as a container for transportation and space for dissolving cleaning powders.
“We worked quite some time on this process, and we are proud that we were able to place this patent for registration,” he says.
The only other time staff need to physically intervene with the cleaning system is in the “last mile”, by manually connecting the hose between the machine and the milk container to the Schaerer ProCare module. The hose is then cleaned automatically.
Mid-year, Schaerer plans to expand the Schaerer ProCare for machine descaling.
“We have already created the foundation here by stocking the acidic cleaning solution, because acid dissolves all mineral deposits, so limescale as well as milk stone or magnesium,” Häfliger says.
Schaerer Product Manager Felipe Quintans adds that although cleaning systems already installed in Schaerer coffee machines work very reliably, such as the UpTime! decalcification cartridge, the system doesn’t enable the longevity of continuous, automated cleaning as the Schaerer ProCare does. With this new module, it also eliminates the risk of users manually adding too much or too little cleaning agent which can shorten the service life of the machine.
“Customers have informed us of these challenges and their feedback has confirmed that our decision to push ahead with the development of the Schaerer ProCare was the right one, especially considering that the industry is increasingly facing staff shortages or high staff turnover,” Quintans says. “This means that ensuring that new staff are adequately trained or that a small number of employees carefully carry out all the work steps under time constraints is getting harder and harder. With the Schaerer ProCare, our customers have at least one less worry, since the cleaning process is completely taken out of the hands of employees.”
The desired time for system cleaning can be programmed individually. The entire process takes just under 15 minutes.
Quintans says another incentive driven from market demand, was to help reduce the service requirements of self-service coffee machines used in offices or public areas, such as airports.
“The goal here is to reduce service work on the machines done by staff, thereby saving on staff deployment and travel costs,” Quintans says.
Especially in times of increasing staff shortages and high fluctuation, Quintans says it is getting harder to make sure that employees carefully carry out all work steps under time constraints or that new staff are adequately trained. This is where the Schaerer ProCare comes in and creates a high level of reliability.
The Schaerer ProCare cleaning system was first presented to the public at the Internorga 2022 expo in Hamburg as a “showcase”. Quintans says it was a great opportunity to gather market feedback. Additional feedback was established from Schaerer’s housekeeping staff at its Zuchwil offices in Switzerland when the system was connected to Schaerer’s office coffee machines. The result, as the company had hoped, was entirely positive. To attest the effectiveness and quality, further tests conducted with independent laboratories were carried out.
The Schaerer ProCare cleaning system will launch to market in Q2 2023. Häfliger expects it to appeal to convenience outlets that frequently change operators or operators not on site. He hopes users of the ProCare system will see just how simplified the cleaning process can really be.
“As our slogan says: “Worries down. Added values up,” Häfliger notes, which in this case embraces increased hygiene, comfort and savings in time and cost.
“At Schaerer, we want to guarantee quality not only on the first day, but for as long as possible. This refers on the one hand to the best quality in the cup, but also to the longevity of the hardware components. And with the ProCare we can help our customers to keep this quality up with less effort,” he says.
For more information, visit www.schaerer.com/en/coffee-machines/procare/
This article was first published in the May/June 2023 edition of Global Coffee Report. Read more HERE.