For coffee lovers and skilled baristas, a high-quality espresso machine is a worthwhile investment. However, in spite of the good quality, a machine, it can be ruined by negligence. Failure to keep a clean espresso coffee machine will cause it to wear out faster than normal.
Using it wrongly or for the wrong purpose will also damage it. Over time, it will get a nasty build up if coffee and milk residue, oil and other deposits are left sitting in there. It is important to know how to properly care for your espresso machine.
The easiest way is by cleaning it 🙂
Before cleaning, it is important to ensure that you collect all the necessary equipment.
After every use
Instantly flush the group head: This will help remove any coffee buildup from the machine. It is done by taking out the portafilter after every shot and wiping it clean.
Run clean water in the group head for about 3 seconds: Doing this will remove any oils or minerals left over after the espresso shot.
Wipe the steam wand before and after steaming the milk: Also, place a clean damp cloth over the wand for 2 seconds before and after use. This helps to get rid of milk accumulation in the steam wand.
Note: Failure to do this may affect the taste of your espresso and wear out the machine.
At the end of every day
It is crucial to purify daily in order to maintain a clean espresso coffee machine.
Deep (Special) Cleaning
This is more complex and detailed than daily cleaning. On top of the equipment listed for the daily procedure, you will also need a blind filter (or backflushing membrane).
This comes with the machine. It is a filter basket but has no holes. A backflushing membrane, on the other hand, is a rubber disc that is positioned at the bottom of the double filter basket.
This deep cleaning involves a couple of processes, including backflushing and descaling.
This is a procedure used to clean the group head, shower screen and three-way valve (a small valve that releases water pressure from the coffee and into the drip tray at the end of the brewing cycle).
Note: It should never be done if your espresso machine does not have a three-way valve. If unsure, contact the manufacturer of your espresso machine and ask whether his valve is present.
Backflushing takes advantage of the water pressure to dislodge dirt accrued inside the machine. It also ensures that detergent gets to those hard to reach parts of your espresso machine.
Depending on the frequency of use, deep cleaning should be done at least once a week (or after every 10-20 shots) on every espresso machine. Backflushing is a crucial process that ensures a clean espresso coffee machine.
How to backflush
- 1After the daily cleaning process, install the blind filter or back-flushing membrane pictured above.
- 2Add half a teaspoon of detergent into the basket and replace the portafilter.
- 3Turn on the brew cycle and let it run for about 10 seconds.
- 4Turn off the machine and wait for another ten seconds. This allows the detergent to be forced upward by the pent-up pressure and into the brew group.
- 5Foamy dirt should come out through the three-way valve and onto the drip tray.
- 6Repeat the first five steps until the foam coming out of the machine is completely clean.
- 7Remove the handle and rinse it with clean water.
- 8Put the handle back in its place and do more back flushes with plain water until no foam is seen.
- 9Remove the handle again and rinse the brew group. This is done by turning the pump on with plain water a few times until the brew group is clean.
- 10Lastly, remove the blind filter and replace with a regular coffee-making basket. Brew a shot of espresso to season the machine.
Descaling is the process of removing accumulated minerals in the pipes and valve that flow in the brew head. It can be done as many times as possible depending on the frequency of brewing and the type of water (hard or soft) available for use.
Note: For most home uses, it is advisable to descale at least every six months. However, if the water that you use has high mineral content, monthly or even weekly descaling is recommended.
Before descaling, gather the solutions needed. Read the manufacturer manual to check for any warnings against some chemicals (some companies warn against vinegar).
You will need the descaling solution and plenty of running water.
How to descale
Though espresso machines are different, the general descaling method is the same.
Dilute the descaling solution with water (depending on the chemical).
***If you are using vinegar, dilute with water.
***If you prefer citric acid, dissolve the salts in water.
***If the solution you use is commercial, follow the instructions specified.
- 1Fill up the machine reservoir with the descaling solution (as though you were making coffee).
- 2Run the machine for about 10 minutes to allow the solution into the brew head.
- 3Let the solution run out of the steam wand and valve.
- 4Add more descaling solution and repeat the process until about a liter of water is used (depending on how often you have been descaling your machine).
- 5Rinse thoroughly by backflushing with plain water until it (the water) is clear and odorless.
Failure to descale your espresso machine will cause the heating elements (boiler in particular) to become ineffective. This will be due to the buildup of scales in the pipes and boiler, thus insulating them.
A clean espresso coffee machine can last you a very long time. Keeping it washed is part of the process. Cleaning your espresso maker may be hectic, but it is surely worth the trouble.
Additional read: Looking for a new espresso maker? Here's how to choose!