Espresso Machine Cleaning Tips and Considerations
You already know that in order to get great espresso you have to start with good beans.You know that frothing milk is a huge part of making sure your drink is perfect. You might even know how valuable cup warmers are because they don’t shockhot espresso like cold ceramic does. You’re full of important espresso knowledge.
But did you know the taste of tomorrow’s espresso really depends on how you clean the machine today? Really, it does. A lot of people don’t give a lot of thought to how important cleaning the espresso machine is to the enire process, but you can go from a totally fancy and fully functioning machine to a paperweight pretty quickly if you aren’t making sure its parts are getting a good once over either by you or by a self cleaning mechanism.
By the way, cleaning an espresso machine is also called descaling. You only need to do a full descale once every few months or longer, but there are some quick clean-up processes you can do in the interim.
One of the most important places to be cleaned is the inside of the machine that you can’t actually see. I mean, that’s where all of the magic happens. But if you think about it, those mysterious magical machineries are kept out of sight and out of reach so you don’t hurt yourself or burn yourself on them. So how do you get to them to clean them?
Well, if they got dirty making espresso, the same places can get clean by having a cleaning agent run through them. Be sure to check with the manufacturer before pouring anything other than water into your machine, but a vinegar/water mix is a good non-chemical cleaning option. The company may have other suggestions as well.
Cleaning The Frother
The part on any espresso machine most likely to get clogged and gunky is the frothing wand. Milk curdles on its own without a lot of help from us, so you want to make sure that doesn’t happen with your espresso machine. Obviously, you want to wipe down the wand with a safe cleaner. Taking it off and actually washing the whole thing is actually a good thing to do as well. That can be a little more technical, and you’ll want to make sure not to lose any small parts, but if you’re fairly handy it isn’t too difficult to accomplish.
Another good tip most people don’t know is that you can fill your frothing container with water and let the frothing head sit in it if you don’t have time to clean it right away. That will stop the build up from forming and buy you some scrub time later. It’s actually a good thing to do on a regular basis anyway, and it doesn’t hurt the machine.
Don’t Lose Your Head
One of the more complicated cleaning processes, which you don’t have to do every single time, is to remove the brew head and scrub it and its removable pieces. Coffee grounds build up on these and will actually block the brew head over time, so you want to make sure you’re removing any gunk from it fairly regularly. You may need a screwdriver or a tool the manufacturer gives you to remove the brew head, and you’ll have to remember how it all came apart so you can put it back together. Don’t avoid doing this just because it seems out of the ordinary or tedious. It can keep your machine alive.
Wet Cloth Duty
Even if you’re just going after dust, giving the machine a once over with a damp cloth will make sure the outside of the machine doesn’t get covered with milk buildup or steam gunk. As a bonus, it will also get rid of the pesky dust particles that can end up in your drink.
The capsule machines work entirely differently than full-sized machines, so they require a somewhat different set of cleaning procedures. Some of the machines have a built-in process, and all you have to do is hit a few buttons. Otherwise, you can go with running water and vinegar through it to get rid of the build up and gunk without using harsh chemicals. Before you start this type of cleaning process, read through the manual! Most of these machines have a button combination that can be pushed to get it to do the work itself.
There are places you may forget to check for buildup, so make sure you’re getting all the spots as often as is convenient. Things like the drip trays often get overlooked, but they get a whole lot of overflow that sits nestled beneath your espresso cup. Take off the grate and wipe out the reservoir beneath it. Never leave unmanned coffee behind.
When All Else Fails, Water Is Your Friend
If you’re not sure how to clean your machine and you don’t have time to follow up with the instructions or the manufacturer, running water through all the pieces and parts is not a bad idea. Basically, do everything like you would if you were making your espresso and frothing your milk, but just do it with cool water, and it will reach all the buildup. Unfortunately, you won’t be rewarded with a delicious drink out of this run of the espresso machine, but it will make it so there are many more delicious drinks still to come.
Another option for those who really don’t want to worry about cleaning the machine? Super-automated. It will do it all for you except wipe off the exterior and remove the grounds. You’ll pay for it, but it’s pretty convenient.