Sunday, March 3, 2013

Test - Urnex Cleaning Products

I have wanted to do a review of cleaning products for a while now since the value of cleaning is so important!! 
Searching the web a bit, leaves me with the impression that Urnex is the biggest contender on this particular market. Others provide some products, but not to every single bit of equipment in the home baristas tool kit. At least not supplied in Denmark ! This is in my opinion what Urnex can provide. And there for Urnex products will be the foundation of this test and review. 

This is what Urnex has provided: 

Cafiza - for back flushing and regular cleaning of oils. 

Grindz - for cleaning your burr grinder without taking it apart. 

Wipz - a wet Wipe with a special formula designed to remove coffee oils and milk proteins. 

Dezcal - a powder to descale 

Rinza - tablets to dissolve in water, to clean milk frother system or steamwand. 

Urnex history
“Urnex Brands, Inc, was founded in 1936 to help the roasters and brewers in Manhattan deliver delicious coffee to demanding customers.
Almost immediately, the enemy of true coffee flavor became clear: oily buildup on equipment made fresh coffee taste bitter, and couldn’t be easily cleaned off. The solution was the original Urnex® Urn & Brewer Cleaner™. It came in small, hand-filled envelopes, each printed with the motto Urnex still uses today: “No More Bitter Coffee.”

First look
The products are delivered in plastic cylinders, sealed in the top; they fit easily inside a cabinet. The materiel is robust, and they won’t break if they are dropped or encountered. I have a small son, and I noticed that there is no children safety in any of the lids. That’s a thing to keep in mind. I’m sure it can’t be healthy. 
The instructions on the side are very simple and easy to understand. 
Furthermore Kaffe Mekka provides safety instructions along with the products, in case of contamination and other safety precautions.

It can be a little difficult to get a clear view of how good these products are, when testing on well maintained machines as mine.
Therefore I have taken in my grandmother’s cheap espresso machine, never cleaned or descaled. In three years been running on very hard tap water. This machine is not functional anymore because of the way it has been used.

Before starting project “cheap trashed espresso machine”, I have tested Grindz and Wipz in my every day coffee brewing.

Usually I use parboiled white rice to clean my grinder. They can be a bit hard on the burrs, and the noise is very loud. After trying Grindz I have come to the conclusion that they get thru the grinder a lot easier, and it seems that they are much gentler to the burrs and engine. Grindz doesn’t leave as much left over powder inside the machinery as rice, and what’s left is defiantly easier to vacuum than the rice powder. With that said, I must admit I can’t see a significant difference in the cleaning of the burrs using Grindz instead of rice. The rice option is a much cheaper solution, but I think in time Grindz is more convenient and gentler.

Wipz is a wetwipe with a formula specially designed for removing coffee oils and milk.
The Danish distributor Kaffe Mekka claims that ones you have tried Wipz you can’t get thru your daily coffee routine without them.

I have been using the napkins everyday now, in every way possible. I have tried letting the milk stay on the steamwand, leave the coffee stains on the table, cleaned my hopper and used it instead of a damp cloth for regular cleaning.
The key word here is convenience. There is nothing that any other wet wipe or wet piece of textile can’t do just as good as Wipz. But, Wipz does it faster; my estimation is that Wipz is 50-60% time saver in average. It is really convenient, just take a new napkin from the box, clean and throw out. I have also tried using the same napkin from start to finish with no problem. Especially when doing several AeroPress sessions in a row, Wipz comes in super handy because you don’t have to wash the AeroPress every time, just wipe it over and all oil and bitterness is cleaned of. I would think that Wipz could be essential in a caf├ę, but in the home barista setup it might be bit overkill. By all means if you have the money, and like the convenience buy them, they are super handy. Can I live without them now that I have tried? I believe so.

I will review the rest of the products when trying to relive my grandmother’s espresso machine. 

From the pictures shown, it is pretty clear that a thorough cleaning is needed. I tried starting up the machine, it took more than an hour before it was warm, and the steam and hot water tap function  didn’t work, no flow at all.

I started by cleaning the shower screen with regular soap, the result were almost none existing. I put all the pieces I could disassemble from the group in a bowl, soaked it in boiling water and one teaspoon of Cafiza.

 I left it there for ten minutes, and scrubbed it only with a brush. 

The results were very satisfying, I didn’t put much effort in to it, and it came right off. 

A machine like this can’t be backflushed, there for I stuffed the holes in the portafilter, added another teaspoon of Cafiza, mounted the handle and ran just enough water thru, to make the group soak. I left it there for ten minutes. The group and entire surface were clean with only a wipz napkin afterwards.

I removed the steamwand, left in a bowl with one tablet of Rinza and soaked it in boiling water. I left it for ten minutes. The result doesn’t really show in the water, but something has happened. Before I couldn’t blow any air thru, after cleaning I can get a little thru, and after putting a paperclip thru the hole, I got full passage. 

Now its time to descale.

I followed the instructions. After one session, I did another three. It was necessary, and I ran thru Dezcal until the water didn’t look dirty anymore. I also had to remove the steamwand several times while descaling, because all sorts of dirt and scale clogged up the hole.

Second session water

I am amazed how good these products are. No need for rubbing and scrubbing, simply soak the parts and clean with a stiff brush. When backflushing my own machine regularly I can clearly see, the first three flushes are containing lots of oils and color.

 Dezcal seems to do some kind of magic, which no one can compete with; both my grandmother and I tried several descaling products, also some made for coffee machines, but with no luck. Following the instructions left me with a scale free machine. It took some tries though.

Rinza did help a little, but mostly it's my impression, that Dezcal made the biggest difference to the steamwand. I think that soap and a paperclip would do just as good, on a small home machine. But on fully automatic machines and automatic frothers, a product like Rinza would be essential. Unfortunately I haven’t had the possibility to try it out.     

When using Grindz, it only takes a small flush of coffee, after vacuuming to get the grinder up and ready again, with the burrs spotless.  

To be reasonable I haven’t tried many other products made specific for this purpose, but compared to what you have at home there’s a huge difference. If you look aside that this is a poor quality machine, it is as good as new. Heats up in no time, and the steam function is as good, as it can be with the hardware inside.

I can defiantly recommend Urnex products. I know my grandmother can too.


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