Taste your water
Have you ever had a technical problem with your desktop computer? Here's what usually happens. You check all the cords are plugged in. They're all plugged in. Then you hit refresh on the page you were on. Still not working. You try the CONTROL ALT DELETE option. It's frozen. Nothing. You re-install the program you were working on. It takes 20 minutes. But it doesn't work. Finally, you look up a technician's number. You get through to one, and their first question really frustrates you.
"Have you tried turning it off and then on again?"
Well, the crazy thing is, 8 times out of 10 this fixes the problem.
In the coffee van world, the answer to one of your main issues is usually also just as simple. If your coffee doesn't taste right, the first thing you should always do is taste your water. Pour some out of your van tap and taste it. The cold stuff. Not the hot water from the machine!
That might sound odd to a barista who has always worked in cafes, but in the coffee van environment we have a few additional variables to contend with that affect how our water tastes.
Firstly, your water source van vary. You obviously fill the water from a tap. But which tap? Is it always the same one? Because water doesn't taste the same from every tap. The garden tap out the front of my place sends out very different tasting water to the one down at the local servo. Why? No idea, maybe the pipes are rusted at the servo, but it is definitely different. This will affect how my coffee tastes.
Second, the quality of the tank in my van could be impacted. What kind of tank do you have? Is it stainless steel, plastic, something else? What ever it is, it must be safe for storing drinking water. You should check this. Did you buy your van brand new or second hand? If it's an old water tank, maybe there's rust in there? Maybe dirt? Maybe a build up of scale. You should get it checked over by a professional.
Third, what hose do you use to fill the tank? That sounds silly, but trust me, I've thrown out dozens of brand new hoses that give off a really odd, rubbery taste. In fact, most hoses do! Sometimes you have to run water through the hose for 20 or 30 seconds to get rid of the rubbery taste before the water tastes normal, and only then do you start filling your tank. So, before you fill the tank, taste the water coming out of the hose.
Finally, have you replaced your water filter? Check the manufacturers instructions on the filter, and make sure you replace when it's due. It plays a big role not only in making sure your water is clean, but it also helps reduce the build up of scale inside your coffee machine, and hence pro-longs the life of your machine.
Now, what do you do if the water does taste bad? Drain your tank. Turn your van tap on, and open your waste valve, and drain the whole thing. Re-fill, and then repeat if necessary. Make sure the water source is clean, the tank is clean, and the filter is working.
So, remember. Taste your water. Taste it before you put it into your coffee van. And every couple of days, taste it from your van's tap. If there's ever a funny taste in your coffee, taste the water. It seems too simple, but more often than not , it will lead you to the problem straight away.