‘A clean machine is a happy machine’. It’s undoubtedly true that machines which are cleaned properly will produce better tasting coffee. Getting rid of all the gunk that builds up in the internal parts of the machine will ensure your coffee tastes its sweetest. It will also reduce the bitterness caused by the build-up of coffee oils. Just as importantly, a well-maintained coffee machine will run more smoothly and last for longer between services, servicing the machine will also be easier and major problems will be less likely to happen (although they still can).
But how do you clean a coffee machine properly? Surprisingly, many baristas (pro or home enthusiasts) haven’t been trained to perform this essential duty correctly. Follow the easy steps below to make sure you’re performing this vital function properly.
Clean your portafilters
The first job is to clean the portafilters. Traditionally, baristas have been trained to soak their portafilters in a bucket of chemicals for ten minutes. Below is a newer method which is faster, easier and more effective at cleaning the inner spout area of the portafilter. Doing this daily will ensure that grime doesn’t build up in those hard-to-reach places.
- Place half a scoop of cleaning chemical in each filter basket.
- Insert portafilters into the group head and dispense water from the group for 30 seconds.
- Remove portafilters and rinse using the water tap on the espresso machine. This step is to remove external oil and soap.
- Remove the basket and wipe it clean all over – both the group handle and basket should be free of oil.
- Use your bench cloth to wipe the group head seals. (Be careful; they’re hot.)
To clean the internal parts of your espresso machine, you need to follow a process called ‘backflushing’. Every time the pump of a coffee machine turns off after making an espresso, the machine draws a bit of coffee and water back inside the group head due to a siphon effect. Backflushing with chemicals helps to remove any oils or grime which build up in the internal piping of the group heads. Coffee cleaning chemicals are typically quite strong products, and we don’t want any residue to be left in the internal part of the machine. For this reason, a rinse cycle backflush is an important follow up process.
- Place half a scoop of cleaning chemical in each blind filter basket.
- Insert portafilters into the group head. (Lock them tightly.)
- Activate the group heads for ten seconds, and then deactivate for ten seconds.
- Cycle the group heads on and off three times.
- Remove the blind portafilters and dispense water from the group head for ten seconds. Then rinse out the blind portafilters.
- Insert clean portafilters into the group heads and repeat the backflush process without chemicals to rinse the insides of your espresso machine.
Clean your group heads
Depending on the manufacturer of your espresso machine, the shower screens of the group heads may be held in place by a screw. If this is the case, you need to drop the shower screen to clean it because grime builds up there daily. In addition, you need to clean the group heads’ rubber seals with a cloth to remove any ground coffee that has built up there as well.
- Wipe the shower screen with your bench cloth.
- Using a screwdriver, remove the shower screen screws.
- Place the screws on the top grate of the coffee machine (so you don’t lose them.)
- Rinse and wipe the shower screens under running water.
- Use your bench cloth to wipe the group-head seals. (Be careful; they’re hot.)
- Re-attach the shower screens to the group head and screw them in until they’re just tight.
We recommend performing the above sequence daily in a café environment, and at least once a week for the home barista. Here’s to enjoying great coffee from a machine that’s in tip-top condition.
For an downloadable version of the above brew guide, click below. Or mention it on your next coffee order as we’d be happy to include this handy little postcard that can sit by your espresso machine.
Note: this article was originally posted in 2017, but has since been refreshed.