SINGAPORE: In 2004, when brothers Phil and Cedric Ho started Highlander Coffee to supply coffee machines to establishments, they also offered options to loan the machines.
Mr Phil Ho recalled an incident in which a steakhouse decided to lease a fully automatic coffee machine, which does everything from grinding coffee to brewing the beverage.
“Instead of keeping the brand new machine in the bar area, it kept it in the kitchen where it was hot and moist,” Mr Ho said.
“When we took back the machine, we found cockroaches inside it. It was moist and comfortable, like a resort for them.”
The issue of cockroaches making a home inside coffee machines was highlighted in a Guardian article over the weekend. It described how a couple in the UK found their S$2,200 De'Longhi contraption infested with baby cockroaches. The article quoted one manufacturer as saying "cockroaches inside coffee machines is a reality. A disgusting reality".
Closer to home, pest exterminators and coffee machine suppliers said the problem is more common at food and beverage outlets and office pantries, and rarely occur in espresso machines for home use.
FULLY AUTOMATIC MACHINES ARE A "RESORT" FOR COCKROACHES
Mr Ho said his company has ceased the loan of coffee machines to establishments, and only sells them now.
According to him, cockroach infestations are limited to establishments that use fully automatic machines, rather than the professional espresso machines seen at many cafes. This is because fully automatic ones operate using thermoblock technology instead of having boilers.
“Those machines used by professional baristas are very unlikely to have cockroaches because the boilers inside are huge and very, very hot,” Mr Ho said.
“Any cockroach that lands on one of the metal pieces inside will probably be fried. But the fully automatic ones do not have boilers, and are not very hot. So the cockroaches will go inside, make a home and have a good time.”
Based on his experience, many hotels use fully automatic coffee machines, although some boutique hotels do purchase the bigger boiler-type machines from his company. Fully automatic machines are also commonly placed in office pantries.
“If the office pantry is not well-designed and is moist and not well ventilated, I suspect you will also find cockroaches inside those machines.”
AMERICAN COCKROACHES IN HOMES TOO BIG TO HIDE INSIDE COFFEE MACHINES
A servicing agent for a home coffee machine brand said it had never encountered the problem of cockroaches inside its machines before.
Indeed, two local pest control companies Channel NewsAsia spoke to said the problem is far more common at commercial establishments.
AntiCimex Southeast Asia said that while the company has not seen cockroach infestations in home coffee machines, it has treated machines at food and beverage outlets.
PestBusters also confirmed that coffee machines are one of the common areas its staff inspect as part of their pest management services at food and beverage outlets. He suggested that around 40 per cent of the commercial coffee machines that they check are infested.
“German cockroaches are commonly found at F&B outlets and they are small enough to hide inside these coffee machines,” its director for technical and client services Eugene Surendra said.
When asked why coffee machine infestations in homes are rare in Singapore, Mr Surendra explained that the commonly found species of cockroaches in homes here is different.
“In countries like the US and UK, where it’s colder, these German cockroaches may be dwelling in homes,” Mr Surendra said.
“But in Singapore homes, American cockroaches are more common. Not only are they too big to hide inside these machines, but the environment inside a coffee machine is also not something they would prefer.”
MACHINES INSPECTED AT LEAST ONCE A MONTH AT ESTABLISHMENTS
PestBusters said it inspects coffee machines at its clients’ establishments at least once a month. Once an infestation is detected, it will get the outlet to call in the coffee machine’s servicing technician to dismantle it. That is when a gel bait is applied with a syringe directly where the infestation is.
“Cockroaches that consume the gel will be killed directly, but there is also the secondary poison, when other cockroaches that feed on the dead cockroach will also be poisoned,” AntiCimex's general manager of merger and acquisitions Andrew Chan said.
To ensure that coffee machines are free from infestations, Mr Ho said they should be placed in well-ventilated areas such as on the bar countertop instead of in the kitchen. He said staff should also avoid placing leftover food in the vicinity of the coffee machine.