A clean machine is a happy machine. Taking care of your machine is vital to ensure you get the best out of it and not only will cleaning keep your keep your coffees tasting great, it will also keep it in the best working order and save on maintenance and repair costs in the long run. Below are a some tips to keep your machine nice and clean.
Cleaning the basket
Leaving the spent coffee in the machine allows for more of the coffee oils to make their way into and around the grouphead (where you put the handle in), which leads to off flavours and if allowed to build up, can cause other issues.
Preventing this is a simple matter of removing the group handle from the machine once you have made your coffee and knocking out the spent coffee (often called the puck) and wiping out the basket.
Purge and wipe steam wand
This is a simple matter of wiping down the wand with a damp cloth then opening the steam knob for a second to release steam to blast out any milk that may have made its way in there.
This should be done immediately after steaming milk, not after you’ve poured your beautiful latte art, not after you’ve had your first sip, immediately. The sugars in milks solidify quickly in the presence of heat, so the small amount of milk left on the wand and steam tip combined with the residual heat from steaming the milk will quickly form a layer if not removed straight away.
Solidified milk can cause blockages in the steam tip, causing a decrease in steam pressure or a full blockage and is one of the most common causes we find when people complain of lack of steam pressure or no steam at all.
Backflushing is the process to keeping your brew water path nice and clean. It forces water back through the grouphead and cleans it out. The grouphead gets a buildup of coffee oils inside it and while a small amount is good and helps lubricate the valves in there, too much has a negative effect on flavour and the buildup of coffee oils can cause some parts to wear quicker and depending on the design of the machine, also cause blockages. For a commercial machine, this process should be done with a backflushing cleaning powder daily but for a home machine, once every couple of weeks with the powder is a good general rule. For backflushing instructions, see here. (link to backflushing instructions)
When doing your backflushing process every couple of weeks, it’s also a good habit to get into to pop the basket out of your portafilter, pull out the water tank out (if you have a removable one) and give all a good wash.