How To Clean An Espresso Machine

How to clean an espresso machine

Your espresso machine works hard to create rich, creamy, and flavorful cups of caffeinated goodness. But all this hard work takes its toll, clogging up parts and preventing your machine from doing its job. 

If you want your coffee to taste great every time, you need to clean your espresso machine regularly. If you have a proper maintenance schedule, you’ll avoid that dreaded bitter taste and acrid smell that accompanies an espresso made in a machine that’s desperate for a good clean. 

In this guide, we’ll explain more about why you need to clean your espresso machine and how to do it. We’ll also offer general maintenance tips to ensure your machine functions smoothly, cup after cup. 

The Importance Of Cleaning Your Espresso Machine

Like any kitchen appliance, your espresso machine needs regular, thorough cleaning. Besides the fact that it’s simply the more responsible and hygienic thing to do, cleaning your machine will prevent coffee oils from building up and contaminating the quality of your cups. 

Every time you use your espresso machine, oils from the ground-up coffee beans accumulate inside it. Over time, they become rancid, causing an acrid, bitter flavor to develop in any fresh coffee you brew.

You might think that because your espresso machine doesn’t get used as frequently as a barista’s, it doesn’t need to get cleaned as often. However, this is not the case. In fact, low usage gives those coffee oils unobstructed time to become rancid, amplifying the need for a deep clean. 

How Often Should You Clean Your Machine?

Different elements of your machine need different cleaning schedules. For example, you should clean the steam wand after every use because milk turns rancid far quicker than coffee. 

However, it’s important to recognize that there are two different types of cleaning: deep cleaning and maintenance

Deep cleaning involves a full purge of the machine, using a chemical pill to flush out any residual oils and cleanse the system as a whole.

Maintenance involves cleaning the steam wand after every use (yes, every single one) and wiping down the external surfaces of the machine with a warm, soapy cloth. This will keep it looking fresh and prevent stains from developing from leftover coffee grounds. 

The regularity with which you use your machine plays a big role in how often it should get deep cleaned. Roughly speaking, your machine should be cleaned once every week, with maintenance implemented every day or two. 

The Equipment Needed To Clean Your Machine

There are a few different ways to go about cleaning your machine. But to get the best results, you’ll need the following equipment:

  • Backflush detergent or chemical pill 
  • Blank portafilter basket 
  • A clean microfiber cloth
  • Clean kitchen sponge 
  • Deep glass or metal bowl to soak portafilter in 
  • Steam wand brush 
  • Group brush 
  • Dairy cleanser 

Together, these tools will help you keep your espresso machine pumping out delicious, smooth coffee while simultaneously extending its shelf life. The better you take care of your machine, the longer you will be able to use it—and the better your coffee will taste. 

Understand The Different Components Of Your Machine

Espresso machines are fairly complex home kitchen appliances that comprise multiple different parts. To clean your machine in the most effective way possible, it helps to understand what all the different components are, as well as what their individual roles are. 

The average espresso machine is comprised of the following parts: 

  • Group head – the main element of the machine. This is where you insert the portafilter. 
  • Portafilter – the spoon-like object you place your ground-up coffee beans into. 
  • Group screen/shower – filters water out of the machine and into the group basket. 
  • Hot water tap – siphons boiling hot water into the portafilter. 
  • Power switch – controls whether the machine is on or off. 
  • Pressure gauge – indicates both pump operation and boiler pressure. 
  • Grinder – grinds up the coffee beans. 
  • Steam wand & tip – used to steam and froth milk. Complete with a porous tip. 
  • Bean hopper – contains coffee beans and feeds them into the grinder. 

Depending on your make and type of machine, the components you use may look different. However, this is the standard assortment of components for an espresso machine. 

How To Clean Each Of The Components 

Cleaning your espresso machine is a fairly straightforward process. Any external elements, such as the steam wand, bean hopper, switches, and portafilter, can be kept clean with machine-safe detergent, warm water, and a fresh microfiber cloth. 

However, when it comes to the machine's internal workings, more intensive cleaning is required. You can use chemical pills or machine-safe detergent to backflush the drain pipe and ensure no residual coffee oils are left to deteriorate the inside. 

Once your machine is flushed out thoroughly, some people recommend pulling a few espressos and discarding them to remove any leftover chemicals from the system. 

All removal parts of the machine can get carefully wiped down and allowed to dry before reassembling. 

Bonus: Regular Maintenance Tips

When it comes to everyday use, there are certain maintenance practices that every espresso machine owner should know. Here are some of the best: 

  • Dump out used coffee grounds after every shot 
  • Rinse out and dry the filter basket 
  • Wash the portafilter after every use 
  • Clean the steam wand after every use 
  • Wipe down the exterior of the machine with a warm, clean cloth 

These actions should be taken every time you use the machine. That way, you’ll prevent damage, keep it looking beautiful, and avoid drinking nasty-tasting coffee. It’s also a good idea to keep a microfiber cloth on hand specifically for your machine, making sure to keep it fresh at all times. 

Espresso machine maintenance isn’t exactly the most fun part of having one in your home. But it’s an important labor of love that will keep it in optimal condition for longer. And we all want coffee that tastes like an experienced barista made it, right? Keep your machine clean and well-maintained, and you’re well on your way to that cafe-perfect cup. 

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Parker Russell is a coffee professional and the founder of Black Ink Coffee. As an expert in the field of coffee roasting, cupping (professional Q-Grader) and brewing, Parker has established Black Ink as brand that fuels the grind of dreamers.