How to clean your portafilter espresso machine – and keep your coffee tasting great
A short and simple guide to cleaning your espresso machine
If you’ve invested in a portafilter espresso machine, then you clearly love good coffee. And after months or even years of use, the machine should still make coffee that tastes as fresh as it did on day one. However, when you make an espresso, it leaves behind residues such as the coffee’s natural oils or small particles, which then remain in the machine. These need to be removed. Here, we talk about the different steps involved: What is the correct way to clean my portafilter espresso machine? How often do I need to backflush the machine? And which cleaning agents should I use?
A barista’s routine: The daily clean
If you drink coffee every day, then you should clean your espresso machine every day, too. Or at least the parts that get dirty quickly. To keep the outer casing of your portafilter espresso machine sparkling clean, simply give it a wipe with a microfibre cloth. Keeping an eye on the steam wand and drip tray is particularly important. The latter should be removed from the machine after the last espresso of the day and then washed in the sink.
After each use, the steam wand should be wiped with a damp cloth and then turned on briefly to release some steam. Milk residues are, of course, much easier to remove when they are still fresh.
It is also important to “flush” before and after making an espresso – i.e. to flush some water through the brewing unit without a portafilter (see image). This rinses away remaining coffee grounds from the group head. Please also make sure you thoroughly “flush” the machine again shortly before switching it off.
The weekly clean: Backflushing and cleaning the wand
Once a week, your machine needs a more thorough clean. Here, you need a blind filter (also known as a backflush disk, backflush basket or blanking plate) without holes for the portafilter and special cleaning powder or cleaning tablets. First, clean the brewing unit with your cleaning brush. Then put a small amount of the cleaning agent and some water into the blind filter, wait until the agent has dissolved, and lock in the portafilter. Next, run the machine for a few seconds until pressure builds up, and then stop. Repeat this process about ten times. This washes out the brewing unit, and the cleaning agent removes coffee oils and residues. Then, rinse the portafilter with water, lock it in again and repeat the process another ten times with clean water to ensure that no cleaning agent remains in the machine. You can lift out the basket beforehand with a spoon or the blind filter. To reinsert it, simply place it again in the portafilter and screw it back in.
Tip: Pour away the first espresso you make after the weekly clean.
It’s also important to clean the espresso machine’s portafilter and baskets: place these in some hot water mixed with special cleaning powder and leave them to soak for 15 minutes or overnight if necessary. Please note: the cleaning agent can attack the portafilter handle, so be careful not to leave that in the water.
When everything is rinsed and dried, then put the parts back together.
To remove any crust on the steam wand, soak the wand in a cup of water once a week – preferably mixed with a specialist steam wand cleaner. Simply release pressure from the wand 5–7 times and then repeat the process with clean water.
And don’t forget…
• Replace the portafilter gasket around every six months.
• Depending on water hardness, you should descale your espresso machine every 12 months. It’s best to ask your espresso machine dealer about this.
• And finally: please be sure to observe the maintenance intervals recommended by the manufacturer.