Foodservice Equipment Reports
Back Story Maintenance Tips

BACK STORY: Steamer Story

Some equipment problems are common in kitchens across the country, popping up time and again. So, when Jonathan Riffe, Branch Manager at Hagar Restaurant Service, Dallas, received a call to repair a faulty steamer at a local church, he immediately had a hunch as to what might be keeping the unit from powering on. What he found was a bit more complicated than expected.

“When our tech got to the site, he instantly found one of the internal steam hoses had cracked,” Riffe explains. “And this had caused steam to spray into the control compartment.” The steam quickly shorted out several vital and expensive components, causing the unit to go down.

Inspecting the hose, the tech found heavy scale buildup inside; it had coated and stiffened the hose to the point where it cracked. “This much scale inside of a steam hose is very uncommon,” Riffe says. And it prompted the technician to follow the hose to the unit’s boiler. It too was severely coated with scale. Clearly, someone unfamiliar with how a steamer works—maybe a well-meaning parishioner—had made no accommodations for filtering or conditioning the water supply to the boiler, exacerbating the rate of scale buildup.

“After we talked to the customer, it became clear that no one at the site knew anything about the proper maintenance of the equipment,” says Riffe. “Routine maintenance to descale equipment that heats water—particularly in areas where the mineral content of the water is high—is essential to keeping it up and running. And even in a limited-use facility like this church, the effects of scale due to a lack of maintenance can be catastrophic.” Once a piece of equipment is this far gone, it’s hard to determine whether or not the equipment is a total loss or can be repaired—few boilers can survive that much damage. Alas, the church’s steamer was beyond repair; parishioners will raise funds for a new one. On the positive side, this customer now knows to better investigate and communicate its equipment maintenance needs and has set up preventative maintenance program for other equipment in its kitchen.

Any equipment that heats water, including steamers, steam tables, combis, coffee and tea brewers and the like, will develop scale. It’s not an issue unless it’s left unattended. Filters to remove mineral content from the supply water help, but planned and periodic descaling is essential. You can prevent expensive repairs and worse, total equipment failure, by consulting with your service provider.

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