How To Clean Your Espresso Machine

First, let’s just cover who this article is aimed at. We’re talking about commercial espresso machines here, not domestic machines or fully automatic units. If you have a commercial machine with portafilters and group heads, then read on. Please bear in mind that you should always consult your manufacturer handbook in the first instance, this guide is simply to highlight the importance of keeping your kit clean and give you some hints and tips on how to go about it.

Why clean your equipment at all?

It’s pretty simple really, coffee beans contain oils which are what creates a lovely crema on the top of your espresso. Unfortunately, the same oil also leaves a residue on your filter basket, portafilter, group head – anything it comes into contact with. Brass surfaces are particularly prone to attracting a film of oil and therefore, this residue needs to be removed.

What happens if I don’t clean my machine?

The first thing you’ll notice is that your coffee won’t taste very good. It will deteriorate to the point where it’s undrinkable, no matter how good your beans are or how good a barista you think you are. What goes into the cup should be the best coffee you can produce, and this won’t happen if old coffee oil residue is being dragged through the machine when brewing. Additionally, the holes in your filter baskets will block, and you could in time be storing up a major failure in your espresso machine.

Filter Holder

How often do I need to clean the machine?

Before we cover the routine cleaning of the machine, let’s just make sure you’re looking after it while it’s in use. You should purge and wipe your steam wand off after every use to prevent milk bonding itself to the steam arm or solidifying inside the pipe. Milk is a breeding ground for bacteria and so the steam arm needs to be kept spotlessly clean at all times.

Cleaning Procedure

You should be cleaning your espresso machine at the end of each session. Again, ensure you read this in conjunction with your operating instructions.

First, remove the filter basket from the portafilter and install a blind insert. Pour 1 level teaspoon of espresso cleaner powder into your portafilter and insert it back into the machine. Use the brewing switch and run the machine for approx 5 seconds. Stop the brewing cycle for a few seconds and then repeat it twice more (each time you stop the cycle, you will hear the cleaning solution backwashing the group head and pipe work). When the cleaning cycle has finished, remove the portafilter and rinse the powder from the machine by pressing for a double espresso. Rinse the portafilter thoroughly under the hot water tap before replacing back into the machine. Rinse the portafilters well under the hot water tap to remove all cleaner before replacing them back into the machine. Remove the filter baskets from the portafilters and place them into a container of warm water with 1 teaspoon of espresso cleaner powder and leave to soak overnight. Rinse well with cold water in the morning.

Equipment Troubleshooting

Problem

Shower plate/diffuser is blocked with ground coffee.

Action

Replace the filter basket with a blank filter basket.

Wipe the group head diffuser with a wet cloth.

Place the basket-holder back into the group head and turn the coffee switch on.

After a few seconds, loosen the basket holder so that the water is allowed to run over the sides. Continue the process of loosening and tightening for around 15-20 seconds.

PLEASE NOTE: This process should be carried out after every 150 coffees per group head.

Problem

The internal system of the group head needs cleaning due to ground coffee and lime scale build-up.

Action

Replace the filter basket with a blank filter, and add quarter a teaspoon of powder destainer into the basket.

Put the basket holder back into the group head and press the coffee switch on for approximately 10 seconds.

Press the coffee switch off and watch the residue dripping out of the valve, which is situated just behind the group head. Keep switching on and off until the residue from the valve is totally clear.

PLEASE NOTE: This process should be completed daily, generally at the close of business. Remember to run a coffee through each group head after cleaning in order to prime the machine ready for serving to guests.

Problem

Filter basket holes blocked due to lime scale and burnt coffee build-up.

Action

Place the filter baskets in a bath of powder destainer overnight, and rinse thoroughly with boiling water before use.

Hold the basket up to the light and make sure the size of the holes is uniform.

Problem

Coffee may pour over the sides of the basket holder.

Action

Remove the diffuser and shower holder with the aid of a screwdriver.

Pick out the gasket with the aid of a fine screwdriver. If the gasket has hardened or cracked it must be replaced.

Problem

The handle of the basket holder needs to be pushed too far to the right

Action

Replace the gasket as instructed above.

Problem

Water coming out of the diffuser is dividing into separate jets.

Action

Repeat the actions for problems 1 and 2.

Steam arm

Problem

Every time milk is frothed, the steam arm becomes covered in milk.

Action

The steam arm should be wiped immediately with a wet cloth each time it is used.

Problem

A milk crush has formed on the steam arm.

Action

Place the end of the steam arm in a cup of hot water.

Leave to soak for 10-15 minutes, then wipe the residue off with a wet cloth.

Cover the spout with a thick cloth and open the steam knob to maximum.

Allow the steam to come out for five seconds, let any residue pour out then switch off the steam.

To recap, the following should be performed on a daily basis:

– Strip down group handles and clean internally and externally (dishwasher safe).

– Place a bank filter into the group handle.

– Place the handle in the machine and flush for 15 seconds using the manual switch.

– Remove and place ¼ teaspoon of espresso machine cleaner in the blank filter.

– Insert in the group head and flush with the manual switch for 15 seconds.

– Repeat the process.

– Turn the machine on and off repeatedly watching the overflow pipe at the back behind the group head. Repeat the process until water runs clear.

– Wipe the seal and shower plate with a soft cloth.

– Repeat the process on the other group-heads daily.

– Before service please ensure you pull off one shot of espresso from each group head to ensure all residue of powder is removed.

– Outer Casing: Wipe over with a soft cloth and hot water then dry immediately with a paper towel. Do not use any chemicals on stainless steel surfaces.

– Steam Wands: only use soft cloths. If solid milk is involved, soak in a cup of water (or soda) for ½ hour maximum, then wipe off. NEVER USE A SCOURER OR KNIFE.

– Drip trays: remove and clean in sink/dishwasher

– Grinder: wipe over (as the machine).

– Reminder of coffee shelf life: Beans 7 days, Ground 1 hour

– Bean hopper: clean with water and clean cloth. Ensure it is DRY before replacing beans.

– Most of the accessories can be placed in the dishwasher (milk jugs, 7g scoops) but please do not place the thermometers in the dishwasher as they will become damaged. Rinse in warm, soapy water in the sink.