Every professionist knows that the so-called “tools of the trade”, especially who own a super automatic espresso machine, are one of the most important elements needed in order to make a good job. Well, coffee making is not an exception.
In this case, the tool of the trade is the espresso machine.
You will never make a good coffee if your best automatic espresso machine is dirty or hasn’t been checked for problems in a while. There are various parts in a machine, and each of them requires different attentions and habits. Let’s see what the most important rules are.
The Coffee Grinder
Some people, when confronted about their lack of cleaning of the espresso machine, (especially when is a fully automatic espresso machine), say that the coffee residues give espresso a great taste. This couldn’t be further from the truth! If you look at (and smell) a portafilter after it hasn’t been cleaned in a while, I’m sure you will agree.
Coffee, in fact, contains lipids, which tend to oxidate and have a sour taste that will make an espresso taste anything but good.
The coffee hopper and dispenser need to be cleaned regularly with an odorless alcoholic sanitizer that makes the lipids melt and doesn’t need to be rinsed afterwards. You will only need to use a paper towel or a soft cloth to dry it.
You mustn’t use abrasive sponges nor put the hopper in the washing machine, as the aggressive detergents would ruin it.
The grinders are also a fundamental part of the cleaning process. Coffee particles are often deposited between the knives and reduce the distance between the discs (or cones, according to what type of espresso machine you are using, be carefull especially with automatic espresso machines), and therefore the size of the grains of coffee coming out of the grinder, whose grain size affects the quality of the espresso.
Those encrustations tend to oxidate and damage the espresso: how can we remove them? Detergents and water cannot be used; you should use food starch with good absorbent properties for oils and fats and grind them like you would coffee.
This maintenance work must be done at least weekly, but you should do it twice a week if you want to make sure your espresso never acquires an unpleasing aftertaste.
The Coffee Dispenser
Particular attention must also be given to the components of the coffee dispenser, including the shower, the filter and the portafilter.
The oils contained in the coffee deposit inside this parts, they are carbonised and turn black. This has an awful effect on the espresso, which acquires a bitter taste, typical of something that has been burnt. The residues also leave the dispenser and sometimes they end up in the cup, leaving an horrible black dust on the bottom of it.
For these reasons, those elements must be cleaned everyday, using a specific detergent with good emulsifier properties and that is very easy to rinse.
How can you clean the dispenser parts? First of all, you need to remove filters and portafilters and put them in warm water with detergent for fifteen minutes. No matter if in the best home espresso machine review, they said to let the machines does the work, this isn’t correct.
In the meantime, you should brush the seals and shower heads, and then clean the showers using a very small dose of detergent (3 to 5 grams) into the blind filter and activating the pump 10 seconds on, 10 seconds off, for five times. This will allow the cleaner to not only clean up the shower head but also the entire circuit and the solenoid valve. You should then use the same procedure (but without detergent) to rinse until the foam disappeares completely.
Then you can rinse the elements you had put in the water, using warm water for the portafilters and cold water for the filters, which are made of steel and won’t suffer from the temperature change.
Again, never use abrasive sponges.
If you clean everything well, you won’t even have to throw away the first coffee you make; but you still can, just to be sure!
The Steam Wand
The steam wand is the final component that has to be cleaned regularly.
Milk, in fact, when heated, forms annoying incrustations when it touches steel elements like the steam wand.
On the outiside nozzle of the wand, these incrustations may cause the growth of bacteria.
The steam wand should be cleaned after each use with a clean the steam wand after each use with a damp cloth, before and after each cycle of milk frothing, and rinse frequently. While being a good practice, this is not enough to ensure the efficiency of it.
To remove external and internal residues, you should use a specific detergent that dissolves these deposits.
This reduces the risk of bacterial growth, increases the quality of the steam supplied which is very important for the micro texture of the cream.
In order to also clean the internal parts of the steam wand, simply insert it in a solution of cold water and detergent and operate it for seven to ten times.
You can rinse using the same procedure, but with just water.
Don’t worry if you see dark residues coming out – it only means that your steam wand was particularly dirty and really needs to be cleaned more often!