Your Ultimate Coffee Machine Cleaning Guide

Sometimes, it is easy to get too caught up in the working day to remember to clean your coffee machine, whether it is an espresso machine or bean-to-cup machine and for the office, or cafe environment. Forgetting to clean your machine can lead to it suffering leads and getting blockages.

Coffee machines need lots of care and attention to keep them making great coffee. This guide takes you through the many cleaning processes depending on the machine you own.

Cleaning your Bean-to-Cup Machine

Bean-to-cup machines grind coffee beans on demand, and are most useful in the office environment. Most bean-to-cup machines come with a range of indicators and warning light functions to help guide you through routine cleaning, including telling you when the machine needs to be descaled.

Most bean-to-cup machines have a one touch cleaning cycle, that takes up to fifteen minutes. The machine may need a little manual effort every so often, such as cleaning a filter or emptying out the resulting build-up of the automatic cleaning programmes.

Liquidline engineer with Cafetouch 4600 machine

How to Clean your Milk Frothing System

Cleaning your milk frothing system is one of the most important steps of cleaning your bean-to-cup coffee machine. When using the system, it is inevitable that it will build-up milk residue, which sours overnight and can damage the milk circuit if left to stand for too long. There are two types of milk frothing systems; the integrated pipes and the milk canister.

When it comes to cleaning an integrated milk frothing pipe, ensure that at least once per day the pipe is removed, rinsed and soaked in boiling hot water for about 10 minutes to loosen any milk residue. Dissemble all the removable parts, wash them thoroughly and you will be good to go.

With a removable milk canister, carefully remove and disassemble all removable parts. Wash the canister out with boiling hot, soapy water and ensure all parts have come into contact with the milk are washed through too.

How to Clean your Drip Tray and Grounds Container

This is something you will need to do everyday to keep your machine in working order. Some drip trays are fitted with a flotation marker device which indicates when the water is high enough to need cleaning. When cleaning, make sure you take the drip tray in your hands and tip the water out and give it a quick rinse under hot water.

The grounds container often has a large capacity, as they are used as large office coffee machines. Simply tip out the ground coffee, give it a rinse and replace it. Don’t forget to clean your bean hopper out too, with detergent and warm water, and rinsed thoroughly afterwards, for fresh coffee.

Cleaning your Traditional Espresso Machine

Traditional espresso machines require regular cleaning, at the end of each business day. Espresso machines are often used by baristas in busy working environments including coffee shops. They require you to regularly clean the portafilter and brew head to help keep it running well. The brew head is where hot water is dispensed and will need to be cleaned often and flushed through with water.

You will also need to unblock the filter baskets, where ground coffee is placed, if they get clogged up. It is important that you check both the filter and portafilter are clear and unblocked at regular intervals throughout the day.

barista using a traditional espresso coffee machine

Cleaning your Steam Wand

Every barista should clean the steam wand after every single coffee is poured, using a dedicated cloth (use a colour coding system to differentiate between your cloths). At the end of each day disinfect the want. You should also purge the wand before and after use to prevent the buildup of bacteria from dry milk residue.

Use antibacterial detergent to wipe over the exterior of the machine and any other exposed surfaces. Flush the group head before each round of espresso as oils from the coffee and old grounds can create undesirable tasting coffee.

barista frothing milk using a steam wand on traditional espresso machine

How to Backflush an Espresso Machine

You will be required to backflush your espresso machine regularly to keep the machine in optimal condition. The process of backflushing forces water and cleaner back through the systems over a pressure valve to remove any build up and keep the machine in working order.

How Often do you Need to Backflush?

For every 200 shots of coffee you should be conducting a thorough clean with Espresso machine cleaning tablets or powder. When in a commercial setting, then you should be using the cleaner and performing a clean at least once at the end of each business day. The process of performing a backflush is fundamentally the same for all espresso machines, however the process will vary for each so it is important to check your operating manual first.

The Backflushing Process

Step 1:
To begin a backflush, ensure your coffee machine is powered on and is at brewing temperature. Check the amount of water, if it is low then fill with fresh filtered water and ensure the drip tray is empty.

Step 2:
Then, locate the blind filter which is a blank basket you can insert into your portafilter. Measure out the necessary quantity of chemical and place it into the blind filter. Insert the portafilter into your machines group as if you were brewing an espresso shot.

Step 3:
Enter cleaning mode for your machine which will be located on the menu screen. Once cleaning mode has been activated, you will hear your machine begin to cycle the pump on and off which is the forcing of hot water into the filter, to help dissolve the chemical. As it cycles it will force this back through the over pressure valve and gradually flushing it all through entirely.

Step 4:
Once the cleaning cycle is complete, remove the portafilter and ensure all the chemical has been used. If it hasn’t already dissolved, put the machine through another cleaning cycle to get rid of the remaining chemicals.

Step 5:
Rinse the portafilter thoroughly before you brew it again. Your machine is now ready for another round of great espresso coffee!

Descaling your Coffee Machine

Descaling your machine is critical for keeping your machine in good working order and must be performed regularly. Scaling can affect the performance of coffee machines and often its lifespan. Problems that can indicate scaling is required include:

  • Leaking
  • Excessive dripping from the spout
  • Reduced water flow
  • Water flow stops completely
  • The machine fails to heat up properly
  • Unusual noises

How to Descale

Step 1:
Turn off your coffee machine. Take out the water tank, rinse it. Fill up your water tank with water and add a descaling tablet or pour descaling liquid in the water. Wait for the descaling tablets to fully dissolve.

Step 2:
Add the water tank back in the machine and turn the machine on. Start the automatic descaling program if your machine has one. Prepare a cup of coffee without coffee. Allow the descaler to dissolve and wait around 15 minutes.

Step 3:
Prepare another cup and wait around 10 minutes. Repeat this process until the water tank is empty.

Step 4:
Turn the machine off and take out the water tank, rinse it and fill it up with clean water. Prepare a fresh brew and spill out to rinse out the system.

To keep coffee machines in optimal condition you will need to check how hard your water is and how often you use your coffee machine. You will also need to purchase a commercial descaling product, or use white vinegar or citric acid. Check your machine manual to see if there are any suggestions on the best product to use beforehand.

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