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  • Buying Guide: Superautos

    Interested in espresso? Looking to cut pod coffee out? Still want the simplicity of push button operation? It sounds like you need a superauto!

    We've talked about superautomatic espresso machines at length here. So much so that you probably already know what these machines are. As a refresher, a superautomatic espresso machine is a machine that uses whole bean coffee to deliver delicious espresso based drinks. They are sort of like "cafes in a box." The trade-off is that no automated process can truly outdo a skilled barista on professional equipment. With that said, a superauto machine on your kitchen counter is an incredible convenience that can still provide a tasty morning does of caffeine. Superautos also cut down on the waste generated by pod machines, though they don't make drip coffee. There are a number of factors to think about when selecting a superauto. We'll touch on these things as we go through this guide to buying your first machine, or upgrading!

    First Machine

    For your first machine it's hard to argue against the Philips Carina. Getting into espresso for the first time is an expensive endeavor that the Carina makes a lot less scary. This is a simple to use machine that may seem light on features, but is actually a fantastic value. You can control dose (the amount the machine grinds for each shot) volume, and pull shots of espresso, long, coffee style lungo shots, hot water for americanos, and steamed milk. These are the core functions of any superauto espresso machine, so to have them surfaced like on the Carina is a boon. Add to all of this the easy to use AquaClean filtration system, and you've got an affordable winner of a beginner machine. Just remember to buy a filter with the machine!

    One thing that is important to note about the Carina is its panarello steam wand. This means that you'll need to manually hold a pitcher of milk up to the wand to steam it, like on a semi-auto machine. For many, the promise of automatic milk steaming is why they want a superauto in the first place. If auto steaming is a make or break feature for you, consider checking out the Philips 3200 Latte Go. This machine is just like the Carina in many ways, but includes a carafe based steaming system for automatic steaming.

    The other great thing about the Carina is it'll help you understand exactly what you want out of your next machine. Maybe you'll settle on the idea that more control over the shot is key for you. In this case, you may want to upgrade to a semi-auto machine. Maybe you like the superautomatic nature of the Carina, but you don't need the milk steaming. In this case, upgrading to something like the Jura A1, which brews espresso only, may be the perfect solution.

    Upgrading to a New Machine

    If you're looking at upgrading from an older machine and have a budget of over $1,000, consider the Jura E6. The E6 produces some exceptional espresso thanks to Jura's P.E.P. brewing system and is a definite upgrade from an interface perspective. Using its vibrant screen and simple button system you'll be able to set dose, temp, shot length, and milk volume for your drinks. One-touch cappuccinos with the E6's automatic siphon system are a delicious option as well. Finally, the maintenance tools on the E6 are really something. The comprehensive software is great at reminding you to rinse, clean, and descale the machine.

    The only real negative on this machine is the lack of milk control that you get. While the cappuccino foam that the siphon system on the E6 creates is decent, it just can't do lattes. This may be a dealbreaker for some folks. If that's you, then it's worth taking a look at the Miele 6350.

    The 6350 offers great milk texture for lattes and cappuccinos, delicious coffee, and is easy to operate. It's expensive, but justifies its price with extra features like a hot water spout, brew group light, and a a spill-proof drip tray. It's an easy recommendation for anyone looking at buying the last machine they'll need.

    Stay tuned for more buying guides focused on drip brewing and semi-auto espresso machines!

  • Brew Methods and Flavor Profiles

    We've talked at length about how to get started with different brewing methods. Sharing tips on brewing coffee is kind of our deal! An important piece of the puzzle that's often skipped though is helping you decide how you want to brew. There's more than a few factors in choosing a brew method, which we'll be sure to detail over the next few weeks. Today we're talking about an easy one: Flavor! Here we'll dig into the flavor profiles of each brew method to help you understand what you might like. This should also inform the types of coffees you might enjoy in each method.

    Drip

    The simplest, most common starting point for most people is a good ol' drip brew. While the principle here is the same as in pour over, drip brewing is distinct because we assume it's coming out of an electric brewer. To that end, we'll cover pour over in a separate section.

    Drip coffee is perhaps the most balanced brew method in terms of flavor. Typically if a coffee isn't specifically brewed for espresso, it'll at least taste fine in a drip brew. That means you're going to be getting lots of standard chocolate notes and any earthier flavors in the coffee. On the flip side, drip brewers can sometimes obscure lighter floral or fruit notes. To this end, the very best coffees in a drip brew are going to be well balanced blends and single origins.

    Press

    Press brewing is an immersion style method that lends itself to big, bold flavors. This results in a body and flavor profile somewhere between drip and espresso. Where drip presents smokier notes and chocolate flavors, press brewing will really amplify them. This means that you'll get an extra strong cup of coffee out of a press without going all the way to the syrupy espresso consistency.

    With that said, sometimes brighter single origins will actually be better as espresso than in a press. We really recommend doubling down on those perfect medium, or even slightly dark, roasts if you're brewing press.

    Pour Over

    Pour over is the taster's choice for trying out coffees. We use this method whenever we test coffees here at SCG. This is because pour over tends to be the best brew method for separating flavors. When we say separating, we mean that complex roasts come across as open as possible when brewed as a pour over. This is most noticeable with light coffees that feature floral and fruity notes. If you're trying to understand why a roaster listed pink bubblegum or jasmine in the tasting notes, this is the method to use.

    The trick with pour over is the number of variables. Where press and drip brewing are pretty simple, it's often difficult to re-brew the same pour over twice. This is because water flow rate, minor temperature variations, and timing all tend to vary from brew to brew. This can make it hard to stay consistent, but just means it takes some practice!

    Espresso

    Espresso brewing is one of the most complex methods to use, but also very repeatable once you've dialed in a roast with your setup. Pressurized brewing from espresso tends to extract the sweetest, richest pieces of a coffee's flavor. The result is a syrupy body that is easy to pull too bitter or sour. If you're someone who thinks they *don't* like espresso, there's a good chance you've had it brewed poorly! A good espresso should be smooth, sweet, and very chocolatey. On top of all of this, adding steamed milk or foam and a syrup or two to an espresso creates a rainbow of delicious concoctions!

    While some prefer the super dark traditional Italian espresso roasts, there's actually a wide range of coffees that are great for this brew method. Round, simple blends can make a great espresso, but so can super light, tea like single origins. To get the very most out of the brew method, we recommend juicy, berry notes and classic chocolate flavors. This is the best way to start with this brew method!

    There are plenty of other interesting brew methods we will approach in future articles, but these four should get you started!

  • Super or Semi?

    Superautomatic and semi-automatic machines have similar names but ultimately work quite differently. If you're a regular reader you already know the difference between them. For the uninitiated, a superauto handles everything from grinding the beans to steaming your milk. All you have to do is press a few buttons and maybe hold a pitcher, otherwise the machines does it all. On the flip-side, semi-automatics are a little more hands on. While they don't requires you to manually pump water in (we'd call a machine like that a manual machine) they do require you to grind and tamp the beans yourself. They also require you to steam milk yourself for lattes or cappuccinos.

    So which one's for you? If you're new to espresso, you may jump to assume that a superauto is the right option. While that's absolutely the right call for any users, there's reasons to take a closer look.

    Superautos

    The superauto customer is someone who simply wants good coffee quick. Maybe you like a range of drinks, maybe you're laser focused on getting the best latte or americano. In either case, if your concern is convenience, superautos are the way to go. These are machines that don't require finesse to operate and can brew coffee just a few minutes after being plugged in. There are considerations, of course, you won't want to use especially oily beans, for example. Superautos also can struggle to produce very hot drinks due to the nature of their design.

    In any case though, if you are more concerned with quick coffee than learning the ins and outs of espresso, these machines are for you.

    Semi-automatics

    Semi-automatics definitely require more work than a superauto. While there are grinder/machine combos, you'll probably need to buy a separate grinder at some point if you get into semi-autos. These machines also have a real learning curve. Dialing in a tricky single origin to taste good on your semi-auto can be very challenging. It can also be tough to learn to steam milk at first, as there is technique involved. The thing you do get out of semi-autos though, is control.

    Controlling the brewing process with a semi-auto gives you a lot of options. You can really pull specific notes out of lighter roasts, or get extra hot milk. You can make your cappuccinos as dry as you'd like, or, with machines that have PID controllers, control brew temperature. All of this definitely results in a more hobbyist angle. With all of that said, after some practice, making drinks on a semi-automatic machine gets much quicker. Before you know it you'll be brewing with speed and confidence.

    Of course, none of that matters is if you're mostly looking for a quick caffeine fix, or a simpler drink. It's also important to note that superautomatic technology has come a long way. While it's still hard to replicate the work of an experienced barista on expensive machines, they're getting close. You can get incredible good coffee from a superauto, it all comes down to your desire to tweak and control the process!

  • All About Portafilters

    We've talked plenty about the differences between baskets in the past. This means you probably already know that a pressurized basket helps mitigate grind quality in espresso brewing. One thing that can be far more noticeable on first glance though is portafilter type! It's not always clear what a "standard" portafilter is, what about sizing? Materials? Spouts?

    It's confusing!

    But we're here to help. Read on for some portafilter basics that'll put you in the know.

    Spouts

    Spouts are one of the most notable features of a portafilter. The spouts on a portafilter are designed to direct the flow of coffee into your container. Single spout portafilters are generally used when brewing for one, whereas with a double spout you can brew into two glasses at once. But that's not all that having a double spouted filter can help with. One of the keys to ensuring even extraction with espresso is producing an even tamp. Keeping the grounds level in your portafilter is important, as then water flows through the puck evenly as well. A double spouted portafilter can help you identify an even tamp. If you brew into two shot glasses from a double spouted filter and they contain equal amounts, voila! You know you've achieved an even tamp. For even more accuracy, enter the bottomless portafilter.

    You've probably seen gorgeous shots of perfectly colored espresso pulling directly from the portafiler's screen. This is possible with the use of a bottomless portafilter. These filters remove the spouts, and metal bottom entirely. Instead, without a basket inserted these portafilters look like a ring. Using a bottomless portafilter can help you see exactly where your tamp may be uneven. If the espresso meets in the middle into a single stream, you know you have that perfect tamp. Plus, it looks pretty!

    Material

    Material is a factor in portafilter design, but may not be as imperative as you think. The biggest and most important thing imparted by material is durability. A good portafilter should last you years, so whether its all stainless or chrome-plated brass, a durable metal is important. Some lower end machines may come with plastic lined filters that could chip and wear over time. Stainless, on the other hand, won't nick or scratch easily. Chrome-plated brass tends to fall somewhere in the middle, offering longevity and strength but at a greater risk of scuffing than stainless. Material can also impact ergonomics, as heavier metals might cause more strain if you're constantly operating the machine.

    There's also the importance of heat conduction. If the bottom of your filter is less warm than the top, it means the water passing through it could lose temp as it passes through the grounds. This is a granular detail, but hobbyists will want to control for every variable. For E61 groupheads, which actively heat the portafilter, this means that a stainless steel filter will stay hot as long as the machine is on. With that in mind, for machines that rely on water flow to heat the portafilter, chrome-plated brass is a more heat conducive material.

    Size and Ergonomics

    There isn't a huge difference between portafilter sizes. It's true that 58mm filters tend to have slightly more even pressure distribution through the puck. This is because a thinner, taller filter will see a greater pressure difference from the top of the puck to the bottom. However, this is such a granular detail that it has little bearing on actual brewing. Instead, size has more to do with ergonomics and part availability. It's much easier to find 58mm portafilters of different materials and styles that are interchangeable than with 54mms. Since 58mm filters are generally "industry standard" in commercial coffee, you can usually find them after-market. This means you'll be able to find options with different spouts, materials, and handles.

    You'll also be able to utilize a wider range of accessories and grinders easily with a 58mm filter. Most espresso grinders with portafilter hooks are generally designed with 58mm in mind, and will offer a better fit.

    All of this, of course, its a moot point without a stand out machine. While it's fun to drill into the specifics of portafilter design, the most important parts of your coffee set up will always be machine and grinder!

  • Introducing Your Family to Craft Coffee

    Hey coffee fans!

     

    It's the holiday season, and for many folks that means lots of time with family and friends. One of the joys of these kinds of gatherings is being able to share your favorite treats of the season! We know that sometimes it can be tough to "sell" grocery store coffee drinkers on fancier stuff. It's why we thought we'd offer some tips for sharing your favorite coffee with your favorite people this Holiday!

    Start slow

    Look, we would all love for our family to understand how delicious a bright, floral shot of espresso can be. This is also a pretty challenging leap from the less flavorful coffees they might be used to! We recommend starting small by going for an old fashioned drip pot of coffee. Prepare it before they arrive and offer it to them without feeling like you have to explain what you brewed. Lots of complicated information can be overwhelming and lead to your test subj... We mean guests, jumping to conclusions about what they're drinking.

    Leave the bag near the brew

    Specialty coffee usually features some beautiful bags. You might already do this, but if you don't, leave that pretty package next to your brewer! Anyone passing by might be enticed to pick it up and ask about it. Once it's a question, it's easier to share info on the coffee you've brewed.

    Keep it simple

    While we'd love for you to sell your family and friends on a challenging natural process single origin, you might want to keep it simpler. Stick to a blend that offers some classic coffee notes, plus a little bit extra. Options like our SCG Holiday Blend or Bluebeard's Snowbeard fit this bill nicely. If they like the coffee, then you can suggest they try more adventurous roasts. This ties in with using a simpler brew method like a basic drip brewer. We're sure your guests will appreciate a bit of familiarity!

    Branch out into pour over

    A very eye opening thing to a lot of coffee newbies is their first pour over. This is a brew method that is perfect for understanding the intricacies present in many coffees. After your guests have tried a more complex roast than the basic grocery store coffee they may be used to, exploring it further as a pour over could really open them up to craft coffee.

    Spread it out

    Don't try to go all in on this in one visit. After a morning pot of drip, offer a pour over at the next gathering. Coffee is still coffee! Too much at once can lead to a bit of an overload for newer coffee drinkers. That can be unpleasant and off-putting in the long run.

    Most importantly...

    Don't be a snob!

    Lots of people have a perception of craft coffee as a snobby thing to enjoy. Many folks think all coffees taste exactly the same and coffee as a hobby is a wasted effort. Rather than argue with a person like that, the best thing you can do is meet any dismissal with humor and humbleness. Not everyone likes coffee for coffee's sake!

  • Superauto Milk Steaming Systems

    There are a lot of different ways that superautos handle milk steaming. While the end result is your morning latte or cappuccino, how you get there has an effect on the final product. Here’s a rundown of some of the milk systems you might run into while browsing Seattle Coffee Gear!

    Panarello

    Panarello steam wands work a lot like the kinds of steam wands you find on semi-automatic espresso machines. The difference is that these wands are designed to direct steam in your milk in such a way that less finesse is required compared to a standard steam wand. While you do have to hold the milk up to the wand to do the steaming, these devices also let you decide how hot you’d like your milk. This is useful for superauto owners because one of the complaints some people have about these types of machines is milk not being hot enough. On the other hand, the whole point of superautos is to make the whole process automatic, so you'll have to decide for yourself if you value control more than convenience. Take a look at the Philips Carina for an example of a Panarello system.

    Siphon System

    Cappuccinotores and other siphoning systems pull milk through a tube into a steam chamber within the machine. From there the milk is delivered to your cup. These systems are easy to use and convenient, but they can require a bit of extra cleaning and don’t offer much control over the process of steaming the milk. Since milk is drawn into the machine, it's hard to get all the way in and clean the inner-workings of the steam system by hand. Luckily most siphon systems feature a cleaning cycle that makes it easy to run a cleaning agent through the system to clean out any gunk. Another thing to keep in mind is that siphons don't always handle alternative milks or cream easily. You should make sure your machine will be able to heat something other than milk if you use an alternative. The Miele line of superautos uses a siphon system.

    Carafes

    Carafes generally have you pouring milk into a container that you then plug in to your machine. Milk is pulled from the carafe into a steam chamber, then dispensed into your drink. This method helps to cut down on waste, you can simply store the carafe in the fridge with any excess milk. These systems do mean another item to clean, and often are more expensive than the other options on this list. Otherwise, carafe fed milk systems are a really great option that simplifies your steaming. The Saeco Incanto Carafe features a carafe.

    Hygiesteam

    Hygiesteam is a unique system developed by Saeco for use with Xelsis machines from 2018 onward. This system uses cleaning agents and a metal siphon that self cleans itself periodically to help alleviate cleaning issues. While the siphon can be placed in any container, a specially designed carafe supplied with the machine even combines some of the conveniences of other carafe based systems. Overall, the Xelsis' Hygiesteam system produces some of the best milk we've ever had out of a superauto, largely due to the control you get from the touch screen interface of the machine. Check out Hygiesteam on the Xelsis here.

    LatteGo

    The newest entry to the superauto milk steaming family is Philips' LatteGo. This device looks just like the carafe you might find on other machines, but actually offers something very new and different. Instead of pulling milk through tubing, milk is pulled into a simple steam chamber and poured through a part of the carafe itself. A siphon at the bottom of the device pulls the milk up into a chamber that steam is injected into, but that chamber is part of the carafe instead of the machine. The milk is then poured through a large spout into your coffee. This is a great system that creates excellent texture and can be cleaned and stored very easily. It really combines some of the best elements of different milk steaming systems into one package. The LatteGo system is available only on the Philips 3200 LG for now.

    As you can see, there are a lot of options for superauto milk steaming!

     

     

     

  • Clearing Space: Where To Put It All?

    It's a constant struggle as a coffee fan, where do you put all of your supplies? How do you manage a machine, grinder, accessories, cups, the coffee itself... Sometimes it feels like too much! Here are some ideas for ways to keep down the clutter and manage your coffee making space, from grinders, to drip brewers, to espresso.

    General Tips

    The first thing we recommend is creating a dedicated space. This isn't possible for everyone, but whether it's a kitchen island, a space next to the sink, or the top of a shelf, it helps. Carving out a specific space for your coffee equipment helps cut down on mess and clutter. You also wont have to worry about finding your gear when it's time to get brewing. The biggest consideration in picking your space is access to power and water. This is especially important for an espresso brewer, where you'll need to provide both in steady supply.

    We also recommend dedicating some organizational space to your brewing space as well. This could be a drawer under the counter, a cabinet, or dedicated shelf space below your brewing area. Having a place to carefully and generally store your accessories next to, but without cluttering your brewing space is important.

    Finally, there's storing the coffee beans themselves. We recommend a solution like an Airscape or a Fellow Atmos. These canisters  vacuum seal your coffee, keeping it fresher for longer. It's also easier to scoop coffee from a canister than it is from a bag.

    Espresso

    For espresso setups, having a clear workflow from machine, to grinder, to tamp, to machine is key. You'll want a mat like a this one from Rocket Espresso, and to store your portafilter in your machine. Another tip is to keep a catch tray under your grinder. This way you'll be able to easily clean up any excess grounds and cut down on mess.

    Another big thing to keep in mind is your circuit. You'll want to make sure that running your grinder and espresso machine at once won't trip anything, otherwise you might be in for a longer wait for your morning coffee.

    Otherwise, keeping your grinder, portafilter, and machine close to each other and near needed power, water, and milk will be a huge help!

    Drip Brewing

    For drip brewing a lot of the same principals apply, but you'll also want to be able to carefully weigh out your grounds before brewing. If you're a fan of measuring volume instead of weight, you may want to keep a second storage container handy for excess ground coffee. Otherwise, you might miss your grind amounts and throw coffee out.

    Handy storage options for drip and pourover brewing include this filter holder, it's designed for V60 dripper filters, but can fit other filters as well.

    Keeping a grinder, whole and ground canisters, and filters close at hand should lead to an excellent cup of drip.

    There are other organization tips out there, but all of the above should get you started on curating a space for your brewing. This will help you to enjoy your morning cup with less prep and less cleanup, giving you more time to focus on the coffee!

  • Pressurized Vs. Unpressurized - What's the Difference?

    A classic question for new espresso machine customers is what's the difference between an unpressurized and pressurized portafilter basket. The answer is actually pretty simple, but to understand the whole story we need to start with the basics. First of all, the portafilter is what holds the coffee when brewing espresso. It's what you grind, distribute, and tamp in. Water is then pushed through the "puck" of coffee contained in the portafilter to brew the espresso. With all of this in mind, we know that we need pressure to make this happen. That pressure is created when the pumped water meets the finely ground coffee. All of this is why espresso requires very fine coffee, so that there is the perfect amount of resistance as water is pressed through.

    The basket is the insert that holds the coffee in the portafilter. Removed from the portafilter, it looks like a metal cup with holes in the bottom. These holes are what ultimately lets the brewed coffee through into your cup. So where does the pressurized vs. unpressurized terminology come in?

    The basics

    Unpressurized baskets are what you find in higher end machines, and always how professional espresso is brewed. These are baskets that function entirely as mentioned above. In an unpressurized basket, nearly all of the resistance is created by the coffee, not by the basket. When everything is dialed in, this creates the best result, because you're making the coffee and the pump do all the work.

    Pressurized baskets are a little bit different. These baskets use one of a few different methods to artificially add resistance. In some cases, a small chamber with offset holes acts as that resistance. Others designs use a smaller set of holes centered in the middle of the basket to slow extraction. In any case, the result is artificial resistance that slows down the brewing process, giving more time for the coffee to extract.

    So why would you want one over the other?

    As noted above, unpressurized portafilters naturally provide the best extraction, creating the best espresso. With that said, this also takes a very fine grind that is carefully dialed in. This means that you have to spend time on getting everything just right, and have an espresso specific grinder. Unpressurized baskets create less perfect espresso, but are less finicky and can handle a coarser grind. It's up to you to determine where the sweet spot is for you!

  • Choosing a Semi-Automatic Espresso Machine - Part 2

    Last week we took a look at some key factors in choosing a semi-auto espresso machine. This week we wanted to touch on some odds and ends of the espresso machine purchasing process!

    What Else Is There?

    In addition to the core elements we discussed last week, espresso machines can do a little something extra too. Gauges, control mechanisms, types of steam wands, and PID Controllers are all bells and whistles that can add substance or just cost. So what are some nifty extras to keep an eye out for?

    One especially common talking point for higher end machines is PID controllers. We have an entire article devoted to how these devices work, so I won't detail everything. That said, to put it simply, PID controllers regulate temperatures. Instead of a thermostat that waits for water to dips below a certain temperature to activate the heating element, a machine with a PID controller is always monitoring water temps. This makes for much more consistent temperatures, and better espresso when brewing.

    What about pressure gauges? This is a question we get a lot. For example, when moving from the Barista Express to the Barista Pro, they dropped the mechanical steam gauge. This bothered some folks, and it's understandable why on the surface. In reality, a pressure gauge is largely only useful for diagnosing problems in the machine. While it can be fun and reassuring to watch the needle on a gauge jump, they aren't really needed for successful operation. This is a nice to have that won't add loads of cost, but don't discount a machine just because it doesn't have one of these.

    Steam and Control

    Control interfaces, on the other hand, can be make or break elements. While we are confident in the interfaces of the machines that we sell at SCG, not all machines are created equal. Oddly placed levers, bad buttons, or worse, can really hamper your enjoyment of using a machine. Personal preference is really going to play a role in determining what your favorite type of interface is, but know that it's reasonable to consider this carefully when shopping.

    Finally, steam wands and water spouts may be a big deal for you too. Some machines, like the Breville Bambino, feature auto steam wands. These can simplify your steaming process and allow you to focus on dialing in your shots. That said, most will prefer finer control. What's nice is that in most cases you can use manual or auto steaming, so you're not locked in. It's a feature you might want to look for if you're brand new to milk steaming in general. It's also important to consider how much a hot water valve matters to you. If you're a regular Americano drinker, you may want to make sure that your machine of choice has this feature, and not all machines do.

    The last thing on the list is, of course, aesthetic. You'll want to love the way your machine looks, because it will likely be a long time before you buy another one!

  • Espresso Machine Maintenance

    One key element of owning an espresso machine is maintaining it. This means regular cleaning and maintenance. We get a lot of questions about how often one should backflush and descale, so we wanted to talk a little bit about that here! We'll start with more frequent maintenance like cleaning the grouphead and backflushing, then get into descaling.

    A lot of your cleaning schedule will revolve around usage. If you brew multiple drinks per day, you'll want to clean more frequently. For the purposes of this article we're assuming you make 1-3 drinks per day. Another thing to note is that we're keeping this general. Most machines, from Brevilles and DeLonghis all the way up to Rockets and Izzos will require the maintenance outlined here. You should, of course, take the guidelines of the manufacturer into account when planning maintenance! We're also catering this piece for those with semi-automatic machines. Superautomatics have more guided cleaning cycles, but we'll talk more about maintaining them in future posts as well!

    Daily and Weekly Cleaning

    One easy to do thing that will keep your machine making great espresso day to day is to ensure that your portafilter and the screen in the brew group is free of coffee grounds. This means giving your portafilter a quick wipedown after every shot, ensuring it is dry and clean. You should also run a quick rinse of water through the screen after each shot before you reattach the portafilter. Simply start a brew cycle and stop it to push some water through. This clears and grounds that may have clung to the screen during brewing. It's also VERY important to purge the steam wand whenever you steam milk! This is as easy as turning the steam on outside of milk after you finish steaming. This will clear any milk that gets sucked back into the wand during steaming. You'll want to be sure to completely wipe off any stuck on milk as well. As always, when handling the steam wand, be careful not to touch a hot wand or the steam it produces.

    You will also want to perform regular backflushing of the grouphead. Backflushing is done by using the blind basket (the one with no holes!) in your portafilter along with a little bit of water and/or backflush detergent. You'll then run a backflushing cycle, which differs from machine to machine (your manual should explain how to do this). It's worth it to backflush with water every day or two, but detergent backflushing is only needed every 1-3 weeks depending on use. A busy cafe might backflush with detergent daily, but this isn't necessary for home use.

    It's also worth using a grouphead brush to scrub the grouphead every week or so. This can free and clingy grounds and keep the screen clean. These tools make this easy, but a used toothbrush or other small, handheld brush can work to clean the screen too.

    Descaling and Steam Wand Cleaning

    The two maintenance items you'll perform less frequently are thorough cleaning of the steam wand and descaling. The former involves using a milk system cleaner with your machine's steam wand to clean out any milk gunk stuck inside the wand. This process can vary from system to system, so refer to your manual and the cleaning product's guidelines to clean it properly! This process should be performed every month or two on your espresso machine. Soaking the steam tips in a cleaning solution like the one above in this timeframe can also keep your steaming system fresh! Just be sure to fully wipe down and purge the wand to ensure no cleaning solution ends up in your latte!

    Descaling is, of course, one of the most important things to stay on top of to maintain your machine. You can descale with a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar, or with a dedicated descaling cleaner. To descale, you'll want to run the water/cleaner mix through the machine until you've pulled through about a cup of water. This allows the mix to fill the boiler and pipes of the machine. Next, you'll shut of the machine for 20 minutes to an hour. This will give the solution time to remove the limescale buildup inside the machine. Next, run about a quarter of the reservoir through the brew head and the steam wand, then shut the machine off for another 20 minutes. Finally, run the rest of the reservoir through the machine, and then run two or more reservoirs of clean water through the brew head and the steam wand. In the end you'll have a freshly descaled machine!

    It should be noted that some machines should NOT be descaled by anyone other than a professional technician. This is true, most notably, of Rockets. A quick search for your machine + descaling should help you determine if its safe to descale your machine at home. This is a process that should be performed every 3-6 months. The main factors affecting time between descales are how frequently you use the machine and the hardness of the water you run through it.

    We hope this look at normal maintenance is helpful for you! By adhering to a simple schedule like this you can keep your machine running in great shape for many years.

     

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