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Espresso Machine Cleaning 101: Short & Long-Term Care - Barista Warehouse

Espresso Machine Cleaning 101: Short & Long-Term Care

For most cafes, the espresso machine is the lifeblood of the shop. People enjoy the food, the black coffee, and the atmosphere—but it’s the espresso machine that glues all the pieces of the cafe experience together. And yet, many cafes and baristas don’t clean their espresso machine, don’t care for it with the respect it deserves.

And these cafes inevitably face struggles that others don’t…

  • ● The espresso machine loses pressure consistency
  • ● The shots don’t pull the same way
  • ● The steam wand gets finicky
  • ● The machine breaks down and causes a day or two of repairs
  • ● Customers see the mess and start to second-guess visiting your cafe

Sure, it may seem dramatic, but customers who sense that a cafe isn’t clean or well cared for may not feel as comfortable with you serving them consumables—and there are certainly other cafes to choose from.

In this Espresso Machine Cleaning 101 guide, we’ll show you how you can easily implement effective steps into your regular routine to keep your gear working properly, to keep customers feeling safe and comfortable, and to keep your cafe from wasting thousands of dollars on repairs and closings.

The Every Shot Routine

Once the drink is made and delivered, it’s time to go through a simple cleaning routine before you begin making the next drink. This routine should already be familiar to you, but just in case you weren’t trained on it, let’s walk through the steps.

  • Knock out the spent puck. By leaving the puck inside the portafilter, you allow surface fines and oils to attach to the portafilter basket, group head filter screen, and gasket. These build up over time and create inconsistencies with water flow, pressure, and flavour.
  • ● Rinse the portafilter for 1-2 seconds. This purges the filter screen of leftover grounds and oils and gives you a chance to rinse the portafilter.
  • ● Wipe the steam wand. The faster you get to this, the more easily the milk will come off. In fact, it’s best to wipe it immediately after steaming to ensure no milk gunk builds up on it and scares customers away.
  • ● Rinse the milk jug. Get those milk particles out of there easily and quickly. This keeps gunk from collecting inside the jug and takes no time at all.
  • Altogether, you need less than ten seconds to go through this routine. Simple, but the results are a healthy machine and better tasting, non-tainted espresso.

    The End Of Shift Routine

    If you’re in a medium or high-volume shop, you probably need to do an extra bit of cleaning every few hours. You can create a schedule for this routine, but many cafes just establish it as the “shift change” cleaning routine.

    These steps, though they take a little longer than the ones outlined above, go a long way in terms of producing espresso that’s as balanced and rich as it should be.

    The first step is to take out the portafilter and give the filter screen a quick rinse with a clean rag. This dislodges the more defiant grounds and oils, which helps cleans up the espresso flavour.

    The next step is to complete a ‘clean backflush’. Backflushing uses a blank portafilter screen to send pressurized water back into the pipes of the machine to ‘flush’ out coffee particles and oils that go places they’re not supposed to during regular service.

    Here’s how to do it…

    • ● Replace the portafilter basket with a blank screen
    • Insert the portafilter into the grouphead and run the water for ten seconds
    • ● Turn the water off for five seconds
    • ● Repeat three times
    • ● Turn on the water and wiggle the portafilter in the grouphead to dislodge gasket grounds

    After the wiggle step, you should find a handful of grounds floating in your blank portafilter. If you don’t see any, someone’s been extra clean while on machine (nice!). If you do, no worries—now you’ve cleaned them out and are ready for cleaner espresso again.

    The Closing Routine

    The cleaning routines above are certainly healthy for the machine, but they also have a huge impact on the customer experience and espresso flavour. The closing routine, however, is all about treating your espresso machine with the respect it deserves.

    These steps are integral to long-term espresso machine maintenance. They’re so significant, that we suggest you establish serious consequences for baristas who don’t abide by this routine (or one very similar) and follow through on punishment.

    You’ll need a dedicated espresso cleaner for this closing routine. Here are some of our favourites:

    Your chosen cleaner will be used in a couple different steps, so make sure you’re always stocked. They can also be used to clean espresso and coffee stains out of mugs from time to time.

    Let’s dive into the closing routine that you should follow with passionate zeal…

  • ● Detach the filter screen and scrub the grouphead. Use a cleaning brush to scrub all the hard to reach places in the grouphead, like around the gaskets. Keep a slow stream of water flowing so you can rinse off the bush every few seconds.
  • ● Backflush with detergent. Dissolve a cleaning tab or powder into your blank portafilter and follow the backflushing steps robotically. This cleans out the machine’s pipes effectively and gives you a clean slate for the next day.
  • ● Backflush without detergent. Now it’s time to do a ‘clean’ backflush to make sure no cleaner residue remains back in the pipes of the espresso machine.
  • ● Soak everything in cleaner water. Dissolve some cleaner in water and soak your portafilter baskets and filter screens in it to break apart the oils and grounds hanging on extra tightly. Also submerge your steam wand in a dedicated milk cleaner to keep sugars and milk particles from building up inside. 15-20 minutes is usually recommended.
  • ● Rinse and wipe everything. Use clean water and a clean rag to make sure everything is ground-free, oil-free, and cleaner-free. Now you can reassemble the portafilter and grouphead.
  • ● Don’t forget about the drip tray. Take it to the back and give it a good scrub. Chances are, quite a few grounds are hanging out in there.
  • This is not an optional process. All cafe and all baristas need to follow these steps carefully to keep the espresso machine functioning at max efficiency. Shops that aren’t so careful at closing will certainly face issues much sooner than those that abide by this routine.

    The best way to embed these processes into your cafe and baristas is to lead by example. Show your staff that you consider cleanliness a fundamental value of your business. Be the best cleaner on the team and your employees will strive to live up to your expectations—and your espresso machine will be the better for it.

    Previous article How An Espresso Machine Water Filter Will Save You Thousands In The Long-Run
    Next article The Master Coffee & Espresso Grinding Guide For Cafes

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