When you love coffee as much as I do, nothing can ever come between you and your brew — except bitter-tasting coffee.
Don’t throw out your bag of coffee beans just yet! The real culprit may not be the coffee you’re using, but your coffee machine.
When your coffee is starting to taste more rancid than roasted, it’s time to give your espresso coffee machine a deep cleaning. This step-by-step guide will show you how to descale a coffee machine and give it an intensive cleaning like never before. Let’s get started!
Parts of a coffee machine
It’s important to know the main parts of a coffee machine in order to give it a thorough clean. These are the main components of an espresso machine that need regular cleaning:
- Group head. The group head is a metal compartment responsible for releasing hot water into the filter basket.
- Group handle or portafilter. The group handle is the metal compartment where you put coffee in. Water is released from the group head to the group handle to make coffee.
- Shower screen or portafilter basket. The shower screen or portafilter basket sieves coffee grounds and prevents them from mixing with the coffee beverage. This mesh-like contraption is found in the group handle or portafilter.
- Steam wand. The steam wand heats and froths milk to make different kinds of espresso beverages. It works by releasing steam from the heating vessel into the milk.
- Milk jug. The milk jug is the glass or metal container used for holding milk while frothing.
- Drip tray. The drip tray catches water that is flushed out of the espresso machine.
How often do you clean a coffee machine?
How often you clean your coffee machine depends on how frequently you use it. Give your coffee machine a thorough cleaning when any of this happens:
- Your coffee machine makes odd noises when you switch it on
- The coffee that comes out of your machine tastes different from your usual brew
- It takes longer than usual to brew a cup
- Your coffee machine is producing less cups of coffee than it used to
When you start noticing your coffee machine with any of these issues, it’s time to descale and scrub your appliance.
For daily maintenance, these are the things you need to remember.
- Throw out coffee grounds after each use. Make sure to remove all coffee oils and debris sticking to the surface. Give the portafilter a good rinse under hot water, then wipe its surface to dry.
- Purge the steam wand after every use.
- Wipe away any drips and stains on the coffee machine with a slightly damp microfibre cloth.
- Empty the drip tray when full.
A monthly deep cleaning removes limescale buildup and kills bacteria and mould in your coffee machine. You can stretch out your deep cleaning schedule to once every few months if you don’t use your coffee machine that often. A more detailed guide is shown below:
How to clean your coffee machine step by step:
You will need these materials to give your drip coffee machine an intensive cleaning:
- Mild dishwashing liquid
- Vinegar or commercial descaling solution
- Hot water
- Lint-free cloth
Cleaning tip: When using vinegar as a coffee machine descaler, not just any kind will do. White vinegar is the best vinegar to use when cleaning kitchen appliances. It is a non-toxic way to deodorise and remove limescale and stains.
Step 1. Back flush
Backflushing clears the 3-way solenoid valve to ensure that your espresso-making process goes smoothly. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to backflush your equipment.
Step 2. Clean the group handle and shower screen
Clean the group handle by running it under hot water. For stubborn stains, allow the group handle to soak in a cleaning solution of warm water and dishwashing liquid.
Soak the shower screen in an espresso machine cleaner to loosen residue and dissolve coffee oils.
Step 3. Wash the steam wand
Unscrew the tip of the steam wand and clean it with a pipe brush. Wipe the steam wand to remove milk stains and residue.
Step 4. Wash the milk jug
Wash the milk jug with a jug cleaner to sanitise. Rinse well then allow to air dry.
Step 5. Clean the drip tray
Detach the drip tray from the coffee machine and empty the contents. Clean the tray with a lint-free cloth dipped in warm water. After cleaning, reinsert the drip tray to the coffee machine.
You can now make a fresh cup of espresso from your coffee maker!
How to descale a coffee machine
We recommend descaling your coffee machine every 4 to 6 months, depending on how frequently you use it. Read the manufacturer’s instructions before you proceed with the descaling process.
To descale, pour white vinegar into the coffee machine’s water tank at half capacity. Pour an equal amount of clean water into the water tank then run your coffee machine on its usual brewing cycle.
When you’re done with one brewing cycle, fill the water tank with clean water at full capacity. Run two brewing cycles using plain water to remove the vinegar smell, taking care to use clean water before every cycle.
If you’re not comfortable with using vinegar as a descaler, you can use a commercial descaling solution as an alternative. A commercial descaler can work for both home and commercial varieties of coffee machines — just be sure to follow the instructions on the manufacturer’s manual before you use anything on your machine.
Make your cleaning game as strong as your coffee
A routine deep cleaning will preserve your coffee machine’s condition and ensure that your coffee tastes great every time.
Take it a step further and give your whole kitchen a complete makeover by getting regular professional home cleaning services. With professional cleaners maintaining your kitchen (and home) on a habitual basis, you’ll get to enjoy having your appliances in tiptop shape for a long time.