How Do How Do I Get The Most Out Of My Espresso Machine?

I've recently invested in a home espresso machine and I absolutely love having fresh espresso at home. I want to get the most out of my espresso machine and I was wondering what steps I should take to ensure that I get consistent results when I brew, and what steps I should take to protect and maintain the machine.

So you probably did not like cleaning your room when you were kid, do not like doing the dishes now, nor do you really feel like cleaning your espresso maker. It is time to change your perspective. Ask not what your espresso maker can do for you, but what you can do for your espresso maker! After all, at your request your espresso maker creates really really hot water, has lots of muscle to produce all that pressure necessary for brewing espresso, and on top of all this it makes the most delicious tasting liquid time and time again and all on your behalf. Cleaning your espresso maker on a regular basis is simple, easy, and a way for you to give back to something that truly gives you so much. It is kind of like a spa day for your favorite kitchen appliance. Plus, if you do not clean your espresso maker on a regular basis your espresso will taste yucky.


Some Good Reasons Why You Have to Clean Your Espresso Maker

Espresso MakerImagine you spend your hard earned time and money on some high quality fresh whole bean coffee only to run your espresso maker as usual and be rewarded with nothing more than a bitter and flat shot. Your first instinct may be to blame the beans. After all, you have been running shots for months now and got the method down! However, you have bought these beans before and know they are capable of producing truly rich and creamy shots. So what went wrong?

Most likely, the quality of your beans was tainted by impurities in your espresso maker. Coffee beans are filled with oils that when left to run through a clean espresso maker they add body and flavor to your shot of espresso. Overtime, these oils are bound to stick to the inside of your espresso maker. They emulsify and hold on tight to your water screen, filter basket and portafilter. Before you know it, the oils have multiplied and are plugging the holes in your filter basket and stymieing the flow of your portafilter spout.

Keeping your espresso maker clean is the key to insuring that the natural flavor and texture of your coffee beans are preserved while also insuring all waterways and filters in your espresso maker are free and clear paving the way for an even and balanced extraction. Furthermore, by maintaining and protecting these waterways and filters from blockage and buildup you extend the life of your espresso maker. Not a bad trade off for just a wee bit of work on your part!


Day to Day Cleaning of Your Espresso Maker

While your espresso maker pretty much runs itself, it does take a bit of easy day to day maintaining. After each use, you will want to complete the following actions to insure your espresso maker continues functioning to the best of its ability and producing excellent espresso.

  • Cleaning Espresso MakerAfter brewing, dump spent grounds from your portafilter
  • If you own a small home machine, rinse portafilter with water from the brew group
  • If you own a prosumer espresso maker, rinse portafilter with water from the hot water dispenser
  • Check filter basket for residue and make sure it is clear before replacing
  • Run water through the shower screen and scrub with a group brush
  • Empty the drip tray at least every other day
  • Purge frothing wand by running steam through in order to dispense any milk residue
  • Wipe frothing wand with damp rag to remove milk residue (nobody likes crusty milk)
  • Wipe the exterior of your espresso maker to make it look pretty

Note: Never use dish detergent on your espresso maker as it will leave behind residue that will harm the taste of your espresso.


Week to Week Cleaning of Your Espresso Maker

Depending on what type of espresso maker you own, your week to week cleaning and maintenance will vary. For those of you enjoying the functionality and efficiency of a small home use semi-automatic espresso maker, your weekly cleaning requirements are minimal. To insure optimal brewing you will want to complete the following:

  • Simply soak the machine's shower screen, filter basket, portafilter and steam wand in a shallow bowl with an approved espresso machine cleaning solution or with white vinegar and water.

Really, that is all you need to worry about. See, cleaning your espresso maker is less painful than you may have thought and you will be duly rewarded for all your efforts the next time you pull a shot!

If you are the proud owner of a powerful and professional prosumer style espresso maker, your weekly cleaning is a bit more involved. However, I promise after going through the process once you will find it is a piece a cake!

The process is called backflushing and it is only required on espresso makers that have a three-valve system. Backflushing basically involves cleaning out the shower screen, brew group, and the three-way valve. The three-way valve in a prosumer espresso maker opens and releases pressure which washes over the coffee and deposits it into the drip tray after a shot has been brewed. Backflushing takes advantage of this pressure by blowing a cleaning agent up into the espresso maker's internal brewing components.

This process will remove deposited coffee oils which if left will make your espresso taste bitter or even rancid. It also prevents coffee from building up in the showerscreen which can lead to a restricted water flow.

The following steps with have you backflushing your espresso maker correctly and promptly!

  • Start by removing your portafilter's filter basket and replacing it with a blind basket (a filter basket with no holes)
  • Place ½ teaspoon of designated backflush cleaner or white vinegar into the basket
  • Place the portafilter with the blind basket back into the brew group and hit the pump!
  • Leave pump running about 20 seconds. When you hear the pump go quiet, it means the necessary pressure has built and you can turn off the pump
  • Next you will hear the sound of fast moving water as the cleaner is forced up the brew group, through the 3 way valve and emptied into the drip tray.
  • Sweet! You've backflushed! But you are not quite done, you must repeat this process sans cleaner several more times until the water that is dispensed into the drip tray runs clear, letting you know that the cleaning agent has been removed from your espresso maker.

Remember, you only need to backflush your espresso maker if you own a prosumer machine. Most home use espresso makers do not require backflushing nor do they recommend it. For the majority of semi-automatic espresso makers without three-way valves, you simply need to soak your portafilter, filter basket, and steam wand as we mentioned earlier.


Month to Month Cleaning of Your Espresso Maker

Okay, stay with me here, we are almost finished in our quest to keep your espresso maker in tip top condition! We explored daily maintenance, weekly maintenance, and now it time to talk about long term care. Every couple of months your espresso maker needs to go through a cleaning ritual known as decalcifying. As the word implies, decalcifying refers to removing the calcium deposits that have built up in your espresso maker over the last couple of months. This process does not take a lot of effort on your end; however it makes a world of difference for the longevity of your espresso maker and the quality of your brew.

DescalerYou must decalcify your espresso maker every 3 months or so due to mineral build up in the internal components of your machine. This build up is a natural occurrence caused by minerals found in the water you use for brewing. Especially true if you are using tap water, you may even get some mineral build up from filtered water which contains trace amounts. While filtered water minerals help add body and flavor to your espresso, they will attach themselves to your espresso maker. If your espresso maker contains an internal charcoal water filter and if you change this filter about every two months, you will not need to decalcify. For an in depth look at decalcifying, click here.


Your Espresso Maker Now Loves You

So your espresso maker requires a bit of tender love and care. It is okay. You love the espresso your machine makes and your espresso machine loves making fantastic espresso when it is clean, free of minerals, and all shiny on the outside!