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If there’s one tip that’s handed out by nearly every coffee guru you’ll ever ask, it’s “keep your machine clean”. While we tend to think of coffee as an extraction, it’s actually an emulsion – a mixture of oil and water. The flavor in coffee comes from the oils in coffee beans. Those oils tend to cling to everything, and can become rancid quickly. In addition, water leaves residues in your coffee machine as well – lime and mineral deposits that can not only taint your coffee flavor, they can clog your machine and eventually destroy it. Establishing a regular schedule of maintenance and cleaning for your espresso machine will ensure that your coffee always tastes its best, and your machine will always be in tip top condition.
A new machine will come with instructions for maintenance and cleaning, and those are the instructions you should follow. However, if you got a real bargain at a yard sale or on eBay and it didn’t come with instructions, these general directions will get you started in the right direction with a basic manual pump espresso machine.
Every Time You Use It
Remove the filter basket and knock out the puck (the spent grounds). Rinse the basket with water from the group head. Wipe it with a damp cloth, then replace the empty filter basket on the group head. Run water through it to remove any coffee remaining in the spouts.
If You Use Your Espresso Machine Daily
An espresso machine that sees daily use needs daily care. One of the most important parts of your daily cleaning routine should be backflushing the group head. If your machine has a pressure release valve, also known as a three-way solenoid, it’s especially important to backflush regularly because it tends to suck some coffee back into the valve when you divert the steam pressure. Here’s how to do the backflushing procedure.
1. Insert a blind filter into the portafilter handle and put it on the group head.
2. Run water through the group head to rinse off the seal and the shower screen. Jiggling the handle while the water is running will help with the process.
3. Tighten down the filter handle.
4. Run water through the portafilter handle.
5. Release the pressure.
6. Repeat the water running and the pressure release three or four more times.
Weekly Cleaning Routine for Your Espresso Machine
If you have an espresso machine with a professional group head, you’ll need to clean it regularly with a commercial espresso machine cleaner. There are a number of professional cleaning solutions on the market that are ideal for this because they are formulated to be powerful without being toxic.
1. Insert a blind filter into the portafilter handle.
2. Put a cleaning tablet or one dose of cleaning powder into the blind filter.
3. Follow the backflush instructions above, but wait about thirty seconds between flushes so that the powder/tablet has time to dissolve.
4. Remove the filter and rinse it thoroughly to remove all traces of the cleaning solution.
5. Put the blind filter back in place and backflush again with plain water.
6. Clean away the remaining coffee grounds from around the group head with a nylon brush.
7. Soak the filter handle and basket in a bowl of water in which you have dissolved a cleaning tablet.
9. Using the cleaning solution, scrub the filter handle and basket with a nylon brush and rinse.
10. Clean the steam wand with a pipe brush.
Every 3-6 Months – A Full Scale Descale
Even soft water can leave some deposits of lime and other minerals on your machine. The scale builds up on the walls of the boiler and other metal parts of the machine and can adversely affect the flavor of your coffee, making it taste stale or worse. You should descale your machine using the instructions below or those that came with your machine.
1. Turn the machine off and empty the water reservoir.
2. Fill the water reservoir with a measured amount of descaling solution.
3. Run the espresso machine to fill the boiler and pipes with the descaling solution.
4. Let the machine run to run some solution through the group head and hot water wand.
5. Backflush the group head.
6. Let soak with the machine turned on for thirty minuts.
7. Empty the water reservoir again, rinse well, refill with clean water.
8. Repeat the above steps to rinse the machine, letting it run through at least one reservoir tank of water to be sure you’ve removed all traces of the solution.