It is important to know how to look after your espresso machine and keep it running at high standards if you want to have a quality beverage. While there are some general rules that need to be followed, different types of espresso machines will require specific maintenance procedures.
Semi-automatic, super automatic, lever or pod espresso machines, are all having different characteristics and if you stay informed you will be able to prolong the life of your espresso machine and enjoy it a lot more.
Why should you clean your espresso machine
When preparing a good espresso, the quality of water and the quality of coffee are very important and you can’t compromise when it comes to these two components. For a quality espresso, minerals are not what counts the most.
More important than miners is the temperature of the water which should be close to boiling parameters but not reaching them. A great water temperature to obtain a quality espresso is 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit and the extraction time should be around 20 to 25 seconds. A longer extraction time will result in a not satisfying espresso drink.
In time, minerals from the water will build up in the boiler, the internal tubes and the portafilter of your espresso machine and that will have a negative effect on the pressure level which will, ultimately, cause uniform extraction and poor-quality espresso.
This is why it is important to clean your espresso machine constantly by using professional products such as a descaling solution. Just as important is to not leave water sitting in your espresso machine if you are not using it for too long because this will create rust and deposits that will make the cleaning process even harder.
If your beverage is having a funny taste, different than it used to be when you first started using your espresso machine, a cleaning session is required but you should never wait so long to do it! When your coffee already starts to taste bad, it means that you are past due for a real cleaning and you shouldn’t get to that point!
How to maintain your semi-automatic espresso machine “healthy” for a long time
Semi-automatic espresso machines are some of the most popular ones in the industry but they also require a cleaning schedule in order to work properly and provide quality types of coffee. When you are cleaning your semi-automatic espresso machine, you will need to do daily, weekly and sometimes yearly cleaning procedures but once you get used to it, there is nothing to worry about.
First of all, on a daily basis, you will need to check the portafilter to make sure there are no coffee grinds stuck on the rim which could become a problem over time if you will choose to ignore this step. This is important to protect the gasket from getting worn out and it will save you some money in the long run as well.
Also, after every use, take the portafilter out to clean the filter basket and the shower head before using the espresso machine again. Keeping your semi-automatic machine clean of dust and other types of dirt is also important, so wipe it daily to avoid unwanted marks or spots.
When it comes to the weekly cleaning process, this will be more complex but if you respect the daily cleaning routine you will not have any problems doing the weekly one. Every week make sure you remove the group head upper shower screen, gasket seal, portafilter and filter basket from the semi-automatic espresso machine and put them in a container along with some special cleaners or descale products and let them soak for around one or two hours.
Descaling your espresso machine is a separate step from cleaning and you can do more than just adding some descaling solution in your water every week.
To properly complete a descaling process, dissolve the descaling agent into a full reservoir, then pull the solution into your boiler by running one cup of water out of your steam water wand. Close the steam knob and turn off the machine for around 20 minutes in order to allow the descaling solution to work. After the 20 minutes are passed, run about a quarter of the reservoir out of the steam wand and turn off the machine for another 20 minutes.
To finish the process, flash the remaining water and run a reservoir or two of clean water through the machine.
This complete cleaning ritual will clean all the bacteria, old coffee remains and oils and will decalcify your espresso machine parts preventing coffee from building up on the shower screen as well.
On a monthly basis, you should look at your machine with a critic eye and see if all its parts are working properly and make sure that nothing needs to be replaced and once a year you should take it to a repair center for a professional cleaning and maintenance checking that way you are sure everything is taken care of.
Super-automatic espresso machines and their cleaning secrets
Super automatic espresso machines are so convenient and easy to use that cleaning them might not seem a priority but it is. Just like in the case of semi-automatic espresso machines, the super-automatic ones need daily and weekly cleaning steps, and there is no way of getting around them if you want to enjoy your coffee at high quality every morning.
The idea is simple: you have to clean all components used when you are making your coffee every day. Dump and rinse the dregs box and drip tray, cleaning the wand, clean all the components of the automatic milk frothing and finally making sure that everything is clean off coffee and milk so that your espresso machine will be ready to make you great coffee again. If you do this on a daily basis, let’s say after the last time you use your super automatic espresso machine, you can be sure that your coffee maker will have a long life.
On a weekly basis, you can use a special cleaning solution to soak your espresso machine components in and make sure that there are no deposits or coffee and milk stains that will get calcified in time and damage its functioning. Just like you would do for a semi-automatic espresso machine, check out its parts on a monthly basis and take it to a repair center once a year to make sure that everything is working properly. Occasionally, you can descale your machine by using the same steps explained for the semi-automatic espresso machines.
Lever or pod espresso machines
These types of espresso machines are perfect for personal use and they don’t require so much cleaning. You can use coffee pods to ease your job. However, even with lever or pod espresso machines, it is recommended to clean their components at least once a week.
You can do this by simply taking the lever or pod espresso machine apart and washing each component individually with specific cleaning solutions to make sure that no coffee deposits are left inside and no calcification is going to happen over time. Since these espresso machines are mostly made for personal use, cleaning them at least weekly is important mainly for your health as a consumer and also for the quality of the coffee.
General maintenance tips for your espresso machine
The following steps should be done in case you decide it is necessary but try to be objective when you observe them and don’t skip a step if you don’t consider it is safe for your espresso machine. They useful mostly for semi-commercial/prosumer machine owners.
- Every three months replace your gaskets and shower screens
- Every six months rebuild your steam assembly, rebuild water tap, replace the anti-suction valve, clean the boiler level probe and remove body panels to clean the built-up dust
- Every year try to replace your pressure safety valve, replace the waste pipe and the sight glass and check for steams or water leaks.
Your espresso machine can be your best friend if you take care of it properly and enrich your morning routine every day by offering you your favorite beverage. But to obtain all these advantages form it, you need to stay informed on how to look after your espresso machine and how to help it to make the best coffee for you. It is a mutual kind of relationship and, the more you love coffee, the more you will love your espresso machine.