Cleaning and Caring for Your Coffee Maker or Espresso Machine
When was the last time you cleaned your coffee maker or espresso machine? Did you know that there’s more you need to do to clean your equipment than just descaling and washing the accessories with dish soap. There’s actually a few bits of regular maintenance that your equipment needs, but let's start with the basics.
Descaling your machine is one of the most well known maintenance procedures that coffee and espresso machines need. What is descaling, actually? Well, to get the best tasting coffee, you’ll want to use water with some amount of mineral content (though it should be filtered, of course). As water passes through the various parts of your coffee maker, espresso machine, hot water kettle, or other piece of equipment it will cause mineral buildup.
Descaling is the process of using a solution to remove that mineral buildup. While you can use vinegar, this can be hard to purge from the system once it removes the buildup. We usually recommend a solution like Dezcal, which is 100% safe, effective, and won’t leave as much behind that could affect coffee taste.
One common misconception is that you only need to descale espresso machines and drip coffee makers. In reality, you also need to descale stovetop espresso makers, electric kettles, and other metal coffee equipment that comes into contact with water on a regular basis. How often should you descale? This is a tricky question. A safe starting point for most equipment is at least once per year, but you should really follow the guidelines in your manual. Many machines also have some kind of notification system to tell you when it's time to descale.
Descaling takes care of the limescale and other mineral buildup that comes from water flow, but there’s another important element to account for with coffee equipment: Oil. If you’d held some darker roasted coffee beans you know that they contain natural oil. These oils are important, and contribute to the taste and body of your coffee. That said, oil also tends to coat your coffee equipment, and when it gets stale it can affect taste as well.
You don’t need to clean your entire coffee maker for this but you do need to clean all of the parts that come into contact with the coffee itself. This means descaling the basket and pot for your drip brewer, the portafilter for your espresso machine, the brew group from your superauto, and even your Chemex or pour over dripper. You’ll want a specialized product like Biocaf Cleaning Power for your slow brewing equipment, and you can generally just soak it.. For superautos your manual and machine warnings will tell you when it's time to clean the brew group and what to use to do it. Finally, you’ll want to backflush your espresso machine with detergent using the blind portafilter basket every week or two depending on use.
Last but not least, there’s milk systems. If you have an espresso machine it’s important to remember to purge it every time you use it. On top of that, you can clean it with a product like Rinza. The methods vary for this, but if you follow the instructions on the packaging and your user manual you’ll be able to keep your milk system fresh and gunk free.
Cleaning Your Grinder
Your grinder is one of the most important parts of your coffee making setup, and needs cleaning too! That oil we talked about above also builds up in your grinder. If left uncleaned, it can lead to your grinder’s motor seizing up from the buildup. The good news is that standalone grinders are easy to clean. It’s worth running some Grindz through your grinder every few months to keep the chamber and grind shute clean. It’s all worth disassembling it (if this is possible) and soaking the burrs in some of the cleaning solution mentioned above.
If you have a superautomatic espresso machine your options are a little bit more limited. For starters, you’ll want to avoid oily beans. We have a section of superauto friendly coffee that’s perfect for preserving your grinder. The reason for this is the oil buildup and the fact that you can’t disassemble the grinder for cleaning. Instead, the buildup will lead to the grinder seizing and failing. This is usually not covered in the warranty as the manual will direct you to avoid oily beans with a visible sheen. What you can do to help is use some Supergrindz. This is a version of Grindz specifically formulated for superautos. It’ll help keep your machine in tip top shape.
So there you have it, a rundown of cleaning and maintenance tips to help you with your new gear, and to start the new year fresh! Check out our whole selection of coffee cleaning products for help keeping your equipment clean.