Running a coffee shop and being a barista isn’t all pretty latte art and jolly customers handing over fistfuls of cash for frothing cappuccino. Unless you get your cleaning schedule right, sooner or later your local customers are going to notice the taste going downhill and start sniffing around for coffee that smells and tastes the way good coffee should. And as a supplier of leased espresso machines, we hear enough concerns about coffee machine breakdowns and quality of coffee flavour to know that, from time to time, we have to issue reminders of why you should clean your coffee machine frequently and regularly. From limescale accumulation to oily hoppers and components, here are our top tips for cleaning your espresso machine.
6 steps for a more reliable coffee machine
- Water softness. If your coffee shop, pub or restaurant is in a hard water area (and if scale deposits aren’t giving you a clue, you can determine your water quality on your water supplier’s website), you’ll probably benefit from having a water filter installed. Too much limescale in your espresso machine and you could start experiencing problems. Make sure you replace water filters regularly.
- Steam nozzles. It’s barista training 101. Blast some steam through the wand to remove any remaining milk and wipe them with a damp cloth after every use. Got a blockage? A paperclip will probably do the trick, but a blockage is a clear sign you’ve not been purging often enough. Remove the tip of the wand, if you can, and clean and rinse it thoroughly.
- Filter baskets. They need a daily clean, to get rid of any build-up of deposits and coffee oil. A good soak overnight in hot water with a little detergent makes this a really simple job.
- Group heads. Flush them with hot water every day until the water runs clear. Once a week, run a back-flush with suitable detergent. Make sure all detergent is washed away by repeating the back flush with clean water.
- Hoppers and grinders. Unless you’ve left it too long, these may not even need a wet wash. A soft, dry brush will remove most oily deposits so you don’t end up serving coffee with an iffy flavour. Step it up to a damp cloth if need be – or even a full wash – but make sure it’s thoroughly dry before you introduce any fresh coffee beans.
- Full system clean. Most commercial espresso machines have a built-in cleaning programme. It’s not super-speedy, so only ever run it at the end of the day. Build this into your weekly routine.
And remember, as with the taste of your coffee, maintaining your machine can be partly down to the grind. Too fine or packed too tightly, and you’ll find the espresso machine may dispense brewed coffee too slowly. If the coffee is coming through too quickly, your grind may be too coarse.
The reality is that when diagnosing most problems with espresso machines – or any coffee machine for that matter – the fault is often caused through infrequent cleaning. Coffee is seriously oily and that oil needs removing. Take the easy route and you could find your espresso machine breaks down and your customers head elsewhere.
For more detailed tips on coffee machine cleaning, read our earlier article: How to clean your commercial coffee machine.