November 2, 2018

How to Clean & Maintain Your Espresso Machine


You can’t serve good coffee if your espresso machine is dirty or in need of repair. Cleaning and maintaining your equipment should be one of your top priorities if you own a coffee shop – it makes hundreds of coffees every day.

Depending on the model, espresso machines have a lifespan of 8–10 years, as long as you take good care of them. Increase the lifetime of your machine with these tips from the experts.

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The espresso machine is at the heart of any café. Credit: Victoria Arduino

How Often Should I Clean & Maintain An Espresso Machine?

Your maintenance schedule should include regular check-ups and the annual replacement of some parts. By replacing small parts on a scheduled basis, you may be able to avoid corrective maintenance – something that could lead to a closed café while the machine is being repaired.

To avoid getting to this point, make sure you have a cleaning and maintenance routine. Let’s look at what the experts recommend.

Pulling espressos during the Barista Skills Workshop at the PDG Micro Coffee Festival 2016.

Daily Habits

David Mejia of Suministros AgroIndustriales, in Honduras, tells me that “good habits on the part of the operator or barista are an important factor: you should clean as you work” (translated from Spanish). Here are some tips based on his suggestions:

  • Always wipe down the steam wand after using it. You should also purge the wand before and after use. This will prevent obstructions from dry milk and buildup of bacteria.
  • Flush the group head before each round of espressos: oils from the coffee and old grounds can add undesirable flavors to your shots.
  • Keep your cleaning cloths fresh. Replace them two to three times a day. Make sure they’re laundered at high temperatures and with detergent.

Always wipe the steam wand after using. Credit: Victoria Arduino

Get into the habit of cleaning your machine properly at the end of each day. The routine should include the following actions:

  • Do a full backflush: scrub the group heads with a machine brush to loosen and remove coffee grounds, and then use the coffee machine detergent and blind filter. Repeat this until the water coming out is clear. David also recommends pulling several espresso shots afterwards, to eliminate any possible detergent flavors in future espressos.
  • Clean the steam wand: remove the tip and sit it in a mixture of warm water and detergent. Daniel recommends allowing the wand to sit in this solution “for at least 20 minutes or, if possible, overnight”.
  • Clean the draining hose: this will help you avoid any clogs or buildup of coffee grounds that could block drip-tray drain lines.  
  • Make sure to clean the portafilters, filter basket, and drip tray.

Pull espresso shots after backflush to eliminate possible detergent flavors. Credit: Julio Guevara

Every Few Months

Diana Patiño is the owner of Kumo Laboratoria de Café in Mexico City. She tells me that every one to two months, her staff members change the shower screens and portafilter baskets to prevent leaks between the portafilter and the group head.

You should also be aware of your water quality. If you have mineral-heavy water, you could end up with a calcified steam tank. To avoid this, schedule regular machine decalcification with your distributor or manufacturer. Diana says that in her café, they drain the steam tank of their machine every six months to ensure good performance.

Maintaining the shower screens and portafilter baskets help prevent leaks. Credit: Victoria Arduino

Annual Duties

Once a year, you should replace these small parts before they become a big problem:

  • The steam and hot water valve or rings
  • Shoulder bolt shims
  • The expansion valve (this will prevent leaks and temperature loss in the tank)
  • The anti-suction valve
  • The brew actuator bearing
  • The waste pipe
  • The portafilter baskets (this may not be necessary, but take the time to check each year)

Replacing all these items may seem expensive. But it’s cheaper than a closed coffee shop while you get repairs.

Check your portafilter basket before they become an issue.

Which Cleaning Products Should You Use?

Check your espresso machine manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning products. Using the wrong product for your machine could cause damage or buildup. Also be aware of whether you need all the products you see on offer. If you don’t have hard water, you may not need descaling products, for example.

Some people use vinegar and water to clean in an environmentally conscious way, but if you try this, be sure to rinse thoroughly to avoid any vinegar notes in your espresso. In fact, with any cleaning product, it is important to rinse well and avoid serving your customers a spoiled drink.

A clean and functional espresso machine is vital.

When setting up your staff schedules, make sure to include time for maintenance services and daily cleaning tasks. Make a note in your calendar when your monthly and annual checks are due so that they don’t pass by without you noticing.

Espresso machine maintenance isn’t the glamorous part of the coffee business, but it’s one you can’t ignore. If you want to serve tasty espressos that will keep your customers returning, you need to look after your machine.

Enjoyed this? Check out What You Need to Know Before Buying an Espresso Machine

Perfect Daily Grind

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