If you want perfectly tasting espresso, you should ensure that the espresso machine you use for extraction is clean and well maintained. An unkempt and dirty espresso machine will also have a shorter lifespan, and it may lead you to hate espresso for reasons that you can easily avoid. These article highlights tips from our experts on how to clean an espresso machine for excellent tasting coffee.
Read our complete guide about How To Make Espresso
- How an Espresso Machine Works
- Step-By-Step-How to Clean An Espresso Machine Guide
- How Often Should I Clean & Maintain an Espresso Machine?
- Which Cleaning Products Should You Use?
- Wrapping it up
How an Espresso Machine Works
An espresso machine is not easy to understand, especially for someone buying to use it for the first time. Before you learn how to use the machine, it is crucial to understand the parts that play the essential roles in expressing your espresso. One of the most popular espresso machines is semi-automatic. Below, are the important elements of an espresso machine, and the different ways they work to extract espresso.
Just as the name suggests, this vital part of the machine is a filter that contains your ground coffee beans. Hot water with the ideal temperature and pressure passes through the portafilter to give you the desired espresso texture.
A tamp helps compress the ground beans and restrict water from flowing through them without dissolving as much solid as possible.
A good espresso machine comes with at least 9 pressure bars that provide the force that extracts coffee. The bars have 130 PSI, which is four times higher than the pressure of a car tire.
Water and Pump
Another common feature in an espresso machine is water. Water supply into the machine is from a direct connection to a waterline or from a reservoir where you pour the water. Some of the espresso machines in the market utilize both the direct link and a reservoir.
During the extraction process, one of the most commonly used jargon is dialing in, which means adjusting some parameters to get the best espresso extraction. Some of the things that may need dialing include the number of ground coffee beans you use, the size of the grind, and tamp. Dialing is not a straightforward process, which means you need to practice more to get it right.
A boiler helps to get water to the ideal temperature conducive for the right extraction. A one-way valve feeds the boiler with water for the collection and heating process. Semi-automatic espresso machines come with three types of boilers, namely, single, dual, and heat exchange.
The group head is the place that locks the portafilter into place for the final stage of extraction.
In summary, an espresso machine uses pressure that forces hot water through ground coffee beans. The water comes from inside a sealed vessel that heats it to high temperatures that help to build up enough pressure to extract espresso.
Step-By-Step-How to Clean An Espresso Machine Guide
If you run a busy coffee café, you should ensure that you wash the espresso machine daily. You can also do the same during shifts if the café is bustling. If you use the espresso machine, once a day or regularly, cleaning it every couple of days or weekly will keep it looking good and increase its lifespan.
During the processing of espresso, the group head collects lots of particles and coffee oils. Nothing you do to prevent the group head from collecting the oils and particles makes it essential to clean it daily.
How to clean the group head:
- Start by removing the portafilters
- Use a cleaning brush to brush off coffee particles
- Use blind baskets to replace the brewing baskets of the portafilters
- Add a teaspoon of the right espresso machine cleaning detergent to the blind baskets
- Insert the portafilters back to their place
- Connect the water supply the same way you would if you are brewing espresso. Keep the water on for the next ten seconds
- Pause the water supply for about three seconds and start it on again
- Continue the same trend four times
- For the second time, remove the portafilters and rinse off the cleaning powder
- Rerun a brush through the group heads to ensure that they are free from any lingering coffee particles
- Once you are confident that the group head and portafilters are clean, put then back together again
- Run the parts through the 4 by 10-second cleaning procedure one more time
- Detach the portafilters from the group heads one more time and rinse the latter with clean water
Note: the first 4 by 10 seconds with a pause of 3 seconds is to clean off coffee oils stuck on the group head during the brewing process, while the second phase is to get rid of any lingering cleaning powder in the group head.
Like the group heads, portafilters also collect lots of particles and coffee oil, so you should clean them too daily to get the best quality espresso brew.
How to clean:
- Lift off the portafilters from the group heads to a sink or metal bowl
- Dose the sink or metal bowl with the portafilters with a tablespoon of an espresso washing powder
- Immerse all the port filter's metal parts with hot water. Ensure that the plastic parts are not underwater as they may corrode.
- Allow the parts to rest in the water for between 10 and 15 minutes
- Remove the baskets and portafilters from the water and use a brush and hot water to clean them
- Return the baskets to the portafilters. After that, return the portafilters to the group heads and allow them to rest overnight.
Group Head Shower Screens
The shower screens' work is to spread water evenly to the coffee ground beans on the portafilter. They are in contact with the ground beans, which lead to an accumulation of dirt very fast.
How to clean:
- Unscrew all the screws that hold the shower screens to the group head to remain with the screws, metal plates, and shower screen.
- Immerse all the parts in a mixture of hot water and an espresso washing powder
- Allow them to soak for between 10 and 15 minutes
- Rinse and brush them
- Repeat this regularly, if possible, do it daily.
Remove the basket from the portafilter using a spoon, which should make it pop out easily. Run the basket under hot running water to wash off any build-ups and oils.
You need to keep the steam wand clean at all times to prevent milk from burning. Cleaning the steam wand is easy as all you need is wet cloth to simmer it for about 10 minutes. Wiping with a hot cloth will wipe away any burnt milk stuck on the wand. Do not use metal tools to scrape off burnt milk stuck on the steam wand, as they will cause abrasions that will lead to more burning.
During the brewing process, grinder burrs are in constant contact with coffee beans, which is why you should keep them clean at all times. The burrs are some of the espresso machine parts you can use cleaning beans such as Grindz that glides effortlessly along the burrs to remove stuck particles and coffee oils. It takes about 30 seconds to clean off the dirt, which is enough to provide your grinder with a much longer lifespan.
Using the grinder beans for daily cleaning may not be enough for the maintenance of your grinder. You should also open all the grounder parts occasionally to clean up any leftover coffees stuck inside. If you fail to do this, the grinder may be stuck during a brewing process. A wooden stick and a brush will be sufficient to clean up the leftover coffee particles and oils.
It is essential to clean the portafilter spouts every week to remove coffee oils and other build-ups. Unscrew the spouts and immerse them in hot water with an espresso machine cleaning powder. Allow them to soak for between 10 and 15 minutes before rinsing. Once you are through with the cleaning process, brush off any leftover detergents, and screw the spouts back to their position.
How Often Should I Clean & Maintain an Espresso Machine?
Regular cleaning and maintenance of your espresso machine are essential as it prolongs its lifespan and provides you with high-quality espresso. You should ensure that you have a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual maintenance routine.
Daily cleaning and maintenance
Daily maintenance should include the following procedures;
- Purge the steam wand before and after use and ensure that you wipe it clean after each use to remove build-ups and dry milk obstructions. After the end of the day, soak the steam wand in warm water and detergent for a thorough cleaning.
- Prevent coffee oils and unwanted flavors from getting to your espresso shots by flushing the group head before brewing a round of espressos.
- Always launder all your washing clothes with detergents and at high temperatures to avoid contamination and keep them fresh. It is advisable to replace them about two or three times daily.
- Use a machine brush to remove build-ups on the coffee heads, and then carry out a backflush using a blind filter and detergent. After the water gets clear, you can run a few espresso shots to eliminate leftover detergent flavors.
- Clean the portafilters, draining hose, filter basket, and the drip tray
Every few months, carry out cleaning all the parts of the espresso machine to help prevent leaks and clogging. Every six months, drain the steam tank to prevent calcification, primarily if you use mineral-heavy water for brewing espresso. Finally, ensure that you replace some of the essential parts of the espresso machine annually before they cause any problems. Some of the elements to consider replacing include;
- Anti-suction valve
- Brew actuator bearing
- Expansion valve
- Hot water and steam rings or valves
- Portafilter baskets
- Shoulder bolt rims
- Waste pipe
Which Cleaning Products Should You Use?
Many of the espresso machines come with instructions cleaning procedures and the best products to use. It is vital to follow the instructions and recommendations to avoid machine damage or coffee residue build-ups. Even though you get advice on the products to use, it is crucial to determine whether you need to use them all.
Some of the most common and available cleaning reagents are water and vinegar. Whatever cleaning products you use, ensure that you rinse all the parts thoroughly to avoid different flavors getting into your espresso.
What is the Difference Between Descaling and Cleaning an Espresso Machine?
One of the assumptions many people make is that descaling and cleaning are the same things. However, the two address different issues in the maintenance of an espresso machine. Descaling is the removal of mineral build-ups from the machine. The descaling process involves mixing a specially formulated solution and adding the mixture to the water reservoir.
The process cleans up the reservoir allowing you to make a clean cup of espresso. On the other hand, cleaning removes coffee oils and built-up residue from all the parts of the espresso machine, using warm water and a cleaning detergent.
What is backflushing?
Backflushing is removing coffee oil build-up on the brew head of a semi-automatic espresso machine with a 3-way solenoid valve. Backflushing helps to improve the taste of your espresso shot by allowing water to flow through the brew head without any dirt or oil build-up.
After how long should descaling take place?
According to De'longhi, the frequency of descaling your espresso machine will depend on usage frequency and water hardness. Descaling for non-automatic machines should be after 300 coffee-brews or as soon as the original machine performance goes down.
Wrapping it up
Cleaning and maintaining your espresso machine is not one of the most exciting parts of preparing your favorite caffeine brew. However, it is one you cannot put aside or skip. A clean machine helps you to enjoy an espresso in its authentic taste and flavor.
If you are running a coffee business, ensuring that your machine is clean, always is a sure way of having your customers come back for more. If you do not keep up with regular cleaning and maintenance, you will have bad coffee and a machine that will not last long. If you are brewing espresso from your home's comfort, you should also ensure that your machine is clean and well maintained for excellent tasting espresso.
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