A good cup of coffee is affected by many factors, one of which is the cleanliness of your coffee machine. Any built-up oils and grime can taint the flavour of your home brew, and leave your coffee tasting bitter. So, if you want great coffee, you’ve got to do the dirty work and make sure your machine is clean at all times.
There are three main types of espresso coffee machines – manual, capsule/pod and automatic – meaning there will be some parts that exist on some models and others that don’t (fewer components to clean, woohoo!). With some coffee machines costing $5,000 or more, it’s in your interest to keep it clean and working for as long as possible.
Coffee Machine Terminology
Before we dive into the cleaning process, here are some coffee machine parts you need to know about:
Portafilter: is a filter basket with a handle that holds the coffee grounds and locks into the group head.
Group head: is the permanent metal attachment at the front of the machine to which the portafilter attaches to. It transports hot water out of the machine into the portafilter’s filter basket.
Shower screen: sits inside the group head and disperses the water to ensure it spreads evenly over the filter basket, which is holding the coffee grounds.
Knockbox: is the container (plastic or metal) with a rubber bar across the middle that collects used grounds from the portafilter.
On-board hopper: is the container that holds your coffee beans until you’re ready to grind them.
Now, let’s dive into the cleaning process.
Anything that is used in the process of producing espresso coffee should be wiped frequently to remove grinds and oils that are left behind. It’s recommended that if you have an automatic machine, to clean it every day and rinse it after each drink.
- Wash any removable parts
- Wipe down the outside of the machine with a soft damp cloth
- Empty the drip tray and wipe it down
- Wipe down and purge the milk frothing wand
- For manual machines, remove any traces of coffee from the portafilters and rinse thoroughly
- Remove the filter basket from the portafilter and wipe it with a clean cloth.
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The machine should be cleaned more thoroughly around three to four times a month with a cleaner.
- Clean each component: thoroughly clean the housing, water tank and drip tray with a wet cloth when required. Never use solvents or abrasives on the outer machine surface. With some coffee machines, the spout outlet can also be removed for ease of washing
- For pod-style machines: empty the used pod receptacle by sliding the container out. Never put your hands into the capsule shaft
- For manual-style machines: empty your knockbox, which is the part that collects used grounds from the portafilter
On a monthly occasion, it’s recommended to clean the internal parts of your coffee machine by following a process called ‘backflushing’:
- Backflush: requires you to run a cleaning cycle (if your machine has one) or back-flush (for three-way-valve systems) using a coffee machine cleaner. This will help to remove any oils and grime built up in the internal piping of the group heads. Follow up with a rinse cycle (if available) as coffee cleaners are typically quite strong and you don’t want to be left with residue inside
- Cleaning portafilters: for manual machines, clean the portafilters by removing any traces of coffee and soaking each component (including the filter basket and shower screen) in a bucket of cleaning solution, then rinsing off with water. After, wipe out the filter basket with a clean cloth
- Cleaning shower screens: depending on your unit, the group head shower screens may be secured by a screw, which you’ll need to remove to clean away any grime build up. You can use a toothbrush to help remove any coffee grounds. The group head’s rubber seals should also be wiped with a cloth to remove ground coffee build up
The video below demonstrates this particular step in detail:
- Descale the coffee machine (by following your manual)
- Soak the group head, shower screen and portafilter in coffee machine cleaner solution
- Clean the on-board hopper with a damp cloth
- If your coffee machine has a stainless-steel design, you can use metal polish to finish
- If your machine features a coffee grinder, brush grounds from around burrs
Can I clean removable parts in the dishwasher?
Most brands don’t recommend that you clean removable parts in the dishwasher as it can decrease the lifespan of the components. Instead, handwash each part or soak it in coffee cleaner solution.
What if the used capsule container is over-full and has become jammed?
In this situation, coffee machine manufacturers recommend trying to loosen the container by shaking it lightly. Don’t put excessive force onto the lever or handle to avoid damaging the machine.
We hope you’ve found this guide helpful and will make the recommended steps above part of your routine. Keeping your coffee machine in tip-top shape could help enhance your coffee results, so you can enjoy a great cup of coffee every time.