Cleaning Your Espresso Machine

These instructions are intended as a guide to help you maintain your espresso machine in good working order. They apply mainly to the conventional domestic manual espresso machines rather than automatic machines which contain electronics with pre-programmed cleaning and descaling cycles.

Keeping your machine clean:

  • prevents oily deposits spoiling the taste of your carefully made espresso;
  • helps keep your machine in good working order; and
  • is important for good kitchen hygiene.

Every Time You Make A Coffee

After every cup of coffee you should clean the milk wand thoroughly with a damp cloth and release some steam to expel any milk and clean the nozzle holes. If you are not going to make another coffee for a while we recommend you empty the grounds from the filter basket, rinse it with some water from the group head, wipe with a damp cloth, replace, and run some water through it to rinse out any remaining coffee from the spouts. If you leave coffee grounds in the filter for a long period they can get baked on and become difficult to remove.

Daily Routine

Wipe the chassis of the machine with a damp cloth or neutral cleaner to remove splashes and coffee grounds.

On machines with professional group heads (those that have a pressure release mechanism such as the E61 group head on the Isomac Millennium) you should carry out the backflush procedure using a blind filter (a blind filter looks similar to an ordinary filter but it has no holes). Insert the blind filter into the filter handle, run water through the group head and at the same time jiggle the filter handle to rinse the water around the shower-screen and the seal on the underside of the group head. Then tighten the filter handle, run water into the group head for about 10 seconds, and release the pressure as if you had just finished drawing an espresso shot. Repeat this last step (building and releasing the pressure) 3 or 4 times to rinse any residues out of the pressure release mechanism.

Daily/Weekly Routine

Machines with professional group heads need to be cleaned regularly using cleaning tablets or powder. We would recommend using a cleaning tablet or powder every 30 uses or so, or at least once a week. The procedure is identical to the backflushing procedure described above except you need to place the cleaning tablet or powder into the blind filter before tightening the handle. It is recommended that you wait about 30 seconds between each backflush to allow time for the cleaning tablet or powder to dissolve and disperse the coffee residues. After 3 or 4 backflushes thoroughly wash all traces of the cleaning tablet or powder from the blind filter and repeat the backflushing process with plain water. Using an angled nylon brush carefully clean all remaining coffee grounds and residues from the underside of the group head paying particular attention to around the seal.

Dissolve another cleaning tablet or sachet of powder in a plastic or stainless steel bowl to soak the filter baskets and handles. After soaking for a while scrub them with a stiff bristle nylon brush to remove stubborn coffee residues (wear gloves to protect your hands from the cleaning chemicals). Thoroughly rinse the filter baskets and handles before using them again.

Thoroughly clean any milk residues from the steam wand and clean the inside of the wand using a fine pipe brush. You may also choose to use one of the cleaning products designed to help remove milk residues.

Every 3 to 6 Months

You will need to descale your machine every 3 to 6 months depending on the hardness of the water you are using in your machine. Even if you use filtered water you will need to descale your machine occasionally to remove traces of limescale from pipes, valves, and the boiler. If you are not already using filtered water then we would recommend that you do - even if you live in an area with soft water a water filter will still remove impurities and improve the taste. The harder the water is the more often you will need to descale your machine. Water test strips can be used to find out how hard the water is in your area.

We would recommend that you use a citric acid based descaler (such as the Urnex one available in our products section). This is designed for use in espresso machines and any traces that remain after the descaling process are harmless. You can also use distilled white vinegar but this tends to leave a lingering taste and smell.

Empty the water reservoir and fill with an appropriate amount of descaling solution. Run the machine to fill the boiler and pipes with the descaling solution. If you have a heat-exchanger machine it is important to run water through both the hot water wand and the group head as they have independent pipes and sections in the boiler. Run some of the descaling solution through the hot water wand and group head, and on professional machines also use the backflush procedure to run some of the descaling solution through the pressure release valve. Leave the machine switched on with the descaling solution in it for about half and hour, and then empty the water reservoir and refill with clean water. Flush the clean water through the boiler, pipes, steam wand, hot water wand, group head, and pressure release valve - you will probably need to use 1 or 2 full reservoirs of clean water. When you are satisfied that the boiler and pipes are full of clean water make at least one cup of coffee and throw it away. You can also use PH test strips to check that all the descaling solution has been rinsed out.

The descaling procedure may vary depending on the type of machine and the descaling product being used. The procedure outlined above is intended as a rough guide but you should always follow the instructions from the manufacturer of the machine and the descaling product where available.

On some machines with a heat exchanger you can empty the boiler by switching the machine off (after it has been running at operating temperature) and then open the hot water tap - the steam pressure will force hot water out of the boiler and it will not refill because it is switched off. This can help speed up flushing the descaling solution from the machine after descaling.