Keeping your commercial coffee machine clean at all times – as well as your food and beverage preparation areas and customer areas in general – is an absolute must for any coffee shop or catering business. Your licence, your reputation and your customers’ health depend on a fastidious approach to hygiene, and that includes your espresso machine.
How to clean your coffee machine – and how frequently
If flushing and wiping down the steam wand isn’t already absolutely automatic for you, perhaps it’s time for a little barista training refresher course. Fail to keep the steam wand clean and that milk will cake on, build up, and begin harbouring bacteria in just a few hours.
After every use: Purge your wand by opening the steam tap and blasting some more steam through. This matters because a tiny amount of milk is sucked out of the milk jug when you stop frothing; immediately after, use a dedicated cloth (a different colour to the one you use to clean surfaces) to wipe down the wand. Keep your cloth on a clean saucer, and replace with a fresh cloth at least once a day.
Once a day: Check the mini holes are clear at the tip of your steam wand. A clean paperclip is usually just the right size to remove any milk residue; remove, dismantle and clean the wand in a professional cleaning fluid. Don’t use a scourer (if you’re following best practice, there’s no reason you’d ever need to) because over time you’ll wear away the plating and expose the copper beneath, and that’s bad for your customers. Rinse thoroughly before reassembling and reattaching, then purge before use.
Cleaning coffee baskets (also known as portafilters or filter baskets) is a job which an awful lot of baristas don’t do often enough. In an ideal world, you’d scrub and rinse your espresso machine’s portafilters after every couple of coffees. In a high turnover coffee shop, there simply isn’t the time, unless you have multiple spares and can alternate. Every operation has quiet periods, though, and you should aim to scrub and rinse your baskets several times a day.
3 times a day: Remove, scrub and rinse your filter baskets to get rid of coffee bean oil build-up
Once a day: Soak your baskets for an hour, or overnight, in water with some dilute coffee machine cleaning detergent. Leave the plastic handles out of the water or they may become damaged.
Group heads / shower screens
If there’s one thing that’s going to encourage bacteria build-up and a nasty taste for every coffee, it’s failing to clean the group heads of your coffee machine often enough. Coffee beans contain a lot of oil and, without regular cleaning, that residue is going to become ingrained in your shower screens.
Once a day: Run your machine’s backwash programme. Then, remove your group heads – including separating the shower screens - and clean them thoroughly; use a dedicated coffee machine cleaning detergent for the best results. That oily residue won’t disappear from a soak in water alone.
Drip trays and bean hoppers, tampers and tools
Bean hoppers aside, we think all the pull-out sections of your coffee machine, and any barista utensils, should be cleaned as frequently as you find time for it. That means throughout the day at quiet times and a proper wash at the end of the day.
Every day: As often as you can, rinse out your drip trays and all tools and utensils. At a bare minimum, they all need a proper clean daily.
Weekly: Empty your bean hopper and clean with decent detergent. Make sure it’s thoroughly rinsed and dry before you put more beans in.
The machine exterior
Germs travel. There’s not much point in keeping everything else clean if you neglect the surfaces of your machine.
Once a day: Wipe down your coffee machine with an antibacterial detergent. Don’t use the same cloth you use on your steam wand! Always colour code your cloths…
Yes, a daily shower or bath is vital, but we’re talking about clothes and hair hygiene. Wear an apron, but try to avoid using it as a towel. Wash your hands frequently through the day, and certainly after undertaking any non-coffee-machine-cleaning duties, or going to the lavatory. Change your hand towels, tea towels and apron every single day.
Run a regimented cleaning campaign in your coffee shop, and it’s not just the council’s environmental health officers who’ll be impressed. Customers get ever-more vigilant about standards, and showing that you take taste and hygiene seriously will win you loyalty and respect.