Maintaining Your Espresso Machine
Maintaining your espresso machine is an important part of ownership.
We are often asked about how often machines need to be backflushed or descaled, so we will outline the basic maintenance procedure here in order to answer all or most of these questions at once.
The ideal intervals of each maintenance procedure is very much dependent on how often you are using your machine.
For the purpose of this article, we assume that you are brewing between 1 and 3 drinks every day, so please keep in mind that for heavier or more frequent usage your machine will need to undergo cleaning more often.
Also keep in mind that we are trying to talk about these procedures in a general way that will apply to a variety of different machines: you should always check the manual of your specific machine as well for more specific advice on maintenance procedures.
Daily and Weekly Cleaning
The easiest and best way to ensure your machine always make great tasting coffee is to keep your portafilter as well as the screen in your brew group free of any leftover grounds.
A quick wipe after every shot of espresso, making sure the portafilter is dry and clean. A quick rinse by starting a brew cycle in order to push a little water through is also a good idea before replacing the portafilter.
Also, if you are steaming milk it is also important to purge the steam wand to get out any leftover milk residue.
You should also backflush your groupheads regularly. This is done by using your blind basket (which has no holes) and some water (mixed with some backflush detergent if you want).
Backflushing cycles tend to differ from machine to machine so you should consult your machine’s manual. It is recommended to backflush with water every day or two, but you should only have to use detergent every one to three weeks. If you have a busy coffee shop you might need to do a detergent backflush every day, but for a home machine this won’t be necessary.
Scrubbing the grouphead with a brush about once per week is also recommended, as it will root out any clinging grounds and keep the screen even cleaner.
Descaling and Steam Wand Cleaning
These procedures don’t need to be done as often. Steam wand cleaning involves purging any built-up milk gunk from the wand by running a milk system cleaner through the machine. Again, this process will vary from machine to machine so it is best to consult the user manual for your machine for more specific information.
You will not likely need to perform this more often than once every month or two.
And finally, one of the most important maintenance procedures for your machine is regular descaling. In order to do this use a mix of 50% water, 50% vinegar, and run this through the machine until you’ve poured about a cup of water (which will allow the vinegar mix to fill up the insides of your machine.
Now let this vinegar water sit for 20 minutes to an hour to let it work away at the limescale buildup inside your machine. Now run about a quarter of the reservoir through your brew head and steam wand, and then wait for another 20 minutes before running the rest of the reservoir through the machine.
Finally, run two more reservoirs of clean water through the brew head and steam wand in order to clear everything out.
Please keep in mind that some machines should only be descaled by a professional.
Put the name of your machine with the word “descaling” into a search engine in order to figure out if your machine can be self-descaled at home.
In general, your machine should be descaled every three to six months (though this can vary depending on how often you use the machine, as well as how hard your water is).
We hope that this overview has been helpful and set you on the right track to maintaining your espresso machine and keeping it working great for years to come!
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