How to Clean and Maintain Your Espresso Machine

It may seem like a daunting task to have to clean your commercial espresso machine. With all those levers and buttons and knobs, it may look more like a fuse box than a coffee maker. But rest assured that cleaning your commercial coffee machine isn’t much harder than cleaning your drip coffee maker!

Sure, you can dig out your dusty old user manual, complete with typos and instructions that make so sense. Or, you can check out this easy guide on how to clean your espresso machine. We’ll go over how to clean an espresso portafilter, what is backflushing an espresso machine, and how to descale an espresso machine.

What happens if I don’t clean my espresso machine?

If you don’t clean your espresso machine, you risk crappy tasting coffee, bacterial build-up, and the function of your machine. While you’re using your espresso machine throughout the day, espresso grinds, coffee oil, and mineral scale from water intake build up throughout the day. 

Espresso being extracted

 

A lot of things can go wrong if you don’t clean your espresso machine, or don’t clean it properly. 

For one, your coffee will taste stale or “off.” If you’re brewing espresso from a brew head with day-old grinds, through a dirty portafilter, you’ll taste yesterday’s coffee. Not exactly what you’re going for! When exposed to air, moisture, light, and heat, coffee oils go rancid quickly.

Not only that, but you also run the risk of attracting pests. Stray coffee grounds are food to cockroaches, and they can attract mice and rats if you’re not careful. Restaurants and cafes are particularly susceptible to pests. Make sure all surfaces are wiped of coffee beans and grounds, and don’t give pests a reason to stick around. 

In general, having a visibly dirty espresso machine could make customers think twice about ordering coffee off of you.

How to descale an espresso machine

Part of cleaning your espresso machine is descaling. Descaling your machine cleans it, but it also removes mineral buildup in the hot water tanks. If mineral buildup goes unchecked, it can affect water flow and pressure in your machine. This, in turn, will affect the flavour of your espresso. Excess mineral build-up will require a professional to remove, and can even cause your machine to call it quits altogether. 

How often do I need to clean my espresso machine?

To maintain your machine properly and have great tasting espresso at all times, clean your machine at least once a day, at the end of the business day. 

Espresso machine steaming

We’ve broken down the cleaning tasks by espresso machine part.

The portafilters (the filters that screw into the group heads with handles) need to be cleaned spotlessly. Soak them in hot water and dish soap to loosen stuck-on grounds and oil. If you’re worried about a soapy flavour, you can soak them in hot water and Puro Caff.  After they’ve soaked for 10-15 minutes, scrub them vigorously, rinse them, and leave them to air dry.

Pop the basket out first before you leave them to soak in the water to get them as clean as possible. To remove the basket, pry it off with a spoon or a butter knife. 

Backflushing the machine is when you intentionally change the direction of the water flow so the machine can flush the water tank. You do this by using “blind” or “blank” baskets. Unlike regular portafilter baskets with holes, these baskets are solid, forcing the water backwards into the tank. Backflushing removes any scale, coffee grounds or sludge from the inside of the water tank.

To backflush, remove the regular basket from the portafilter, and put the blind basket in. Place ½ tsp of Urnex into the basket, and screw the portafilter into the machine. You’ll want to run 5 cycles, each with 10 seconds on, and 5 seconds off. You’ll likely see dirty, foamy liquid coming from the outlet–that’s normal. After your 5 cycles, remove the portafilter, run some water from the group head, and rinse the portafilter. 

Screw the portafilter back in, and run 5 cycles (10 seconds on, 5 seconds off), this time without the Urnex. Your backflush is complete.

NOTE: Backflushing works on 3-way valve systems. If you have a lever-style machine, backflushing isn’t necessary, and shouldn’t be attempted.

Espresso machine group head

The group heads are the brewers, ie. the part that the portafilters screw into. They’ll be covered in grounds from the day, and will need a good wipe-down and brushing. Using a group head brush, scrub the entire top of the group head while running the water. If the hot water is threatening to splash at you, just turn the hot water off while scrubbing, running it between brushes. 

After you’re done brushing, wipe the entire group head with a clean cloth or paper towel. 

The steam wands are in contact with milk all day, posing the risk of bacteria. Not only this, but if the wands aren’t cleaned regularly, the milk residue can harden over time, affecting the performance of the steam wands. They won’t make barista-worthy microfoam if they’re clogged up. 

To clean them, dissolve a ¼ tsp of Frother Cleaner in a small pitcher with hot water filled halfway. Place the steam wand in the pitcher and leave it to soak for 30-60 minutes (NOTE - Do not leave overnight). In the morning, simply wipe down the steam wands and purge them for 30-60 seconds. 

Espresso machine steam wands

The espresso machine has a tray that collects water and spilt coffee. During the day, this can get quite dirty. It’s important to clean this daily–otherwise it can clog the drain, smell foul, and attract pests.

To clean the tray, simply flush the tray with hot water until all the grounds are gone. You can also manually remove it and rinse it under the sink (just make sure you cover the hole with a damp cloth or you’ll have another mess to clean up!). 

While it’s what’s on the inside that counts, we also believe your espresso machine should look sharp on the outside, too. Make sure the tops of your espresso machine (where the cups and saucers live) and the exterior of your machine are cleaned regularly. Grinds can accumulate on top of the machine, and coffee and milk splashes can be seen on the outside of the machine, facing customers. Your espresso machine is a work of art, so make sure it always looks taken-care-of. 

espresso cup

Maintaining the cleanliness of your espresso machine should be a group effort. An espresso machine that doesn’t get cleaned regularly can make the flavour of your coffee suffer, and it can slowly degrade your machine. Espresso machines are not cheap, and neither are espresso machine technicians. Remember: a stitch in time saves 9!

Looking for more tips for masking tasty espresso? Check out our previous article on how to pull a perfect shot of espresso. If you need more guidance on the ins-and-outs of espresso, book a consultation with us–we’re here to help!

 

Opening a new cafe in Calgary or Edmonton? Need help or cafe consultation?

We are eager to work with people that share our dedication to coffee.  We want to share our passion with you and help you learn to present coffee at its finest in your business.

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Fratello has been roasting coffee for over 25 years, but we are more than just a coffee roaster. Our consultants are experienced professionals that will guide you in all aspects of your business. From initial consultations around opening a new location to getting into the details of selecting products and equipment for your business, you have access to our team of coffee professionals through every stage of your investigative/planning stages......and this is all included when you choose to work with us!

One of our consultants will meet with you to discuss all aspects of your coffee program. We will work with you to recommend the right coffee, the right equipment and the right training. From sourcing great coffee to understanding how to store it best, to roasting fresh on demand and showing you how to prepare it right, we are here for you at every step.

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Our professional consultants draw from backgrounds mixing business experience and an intense passion for coffee. During the consulting process, we get to know your prospective or existing business, what customers you are looking to attract and how you want to prepare the coffee. We will show you the equipment options and advise you on what will be best for your space and expected volume.

Fratello has/does compete locally and nationally at coffee competitions and uses this experience in training our accounts on barista skills. For local accounts we will work with you both at our training area at Fratello and in your business in all aspects of beverage preparation.

We offer on-going training and support including areas such as latte art and alternative ways to prepare coffee by the cup in your café or restaurant. This training is included as part of your relationship with Fratello.

We are much more than just a coffee roaster.  We are a trusted team of coffee professionals that are here to share our extensive experience with you.

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It is very easy to use, so we put together this brewing guide to show you how you can use this in your cafe, home or work place. They are also VERY affordable.  You can find them on our store HERE.

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