Clean Your Espresso Machine

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What You'll Need
Espresso brush or firm toothbrush
Clean, damp towel(s)
White vinegar, citric acid, or commercial descaler

Espresso machines are increasingly affordable, making it easier than ever to get that morning jolt of classy caffeine. Clean yours correctly to maximize the healthy life of your equipment and protect the subtle flavors of your daily breakfast beverage.

Cleaning Solution for Your Espresso Machine

There are three good options for a cleaning solution—vinegar, citric acid, and commercial descaling products.

White vinegar combined with water is a great natural household cleaner. The best ratio to use is 25 percent vinegar to 75 percent water. You can also pick up some citric acid as a powder and mix it with water (two and a half teaspoons for each cup of water).

If you choose a commercial descaling product, read your espresso machine’s manual to make sure it's safe to use.

washing an espresso machine

Back Wash Your Machine

The first step in the cleaning process, it's a good idea to back wash at least monthly, especially if you use your espresso machine once a day or more.

The blind filter is the solid filter plate that can prevent water from running through your machine's portafilter (the handle you fill with ground espresso). Make sure the water tank is completely full, then insert the blind filter into the portafilter and run the hot water as you regularly would when making a drink. Run this function for five seconds, then let it sit for ten seconds, then release the water into the drip tray.

Fill the portafilter with a cleaning solution that's safe for your espresso machine. Repeat this process several times in order to get all the solution out of the mechanism. This step is meant to remove oil, residue, and coffee grounds that may have built up over the previous month.

Brush the Basket

Now, remove the basket from the portafilter to thoroughly clean it. If you use a regular spoon, the basket should easily pop out without too much force. For this step, you may want to invest in an espresso brush. These can typically be found for $10 or less.

If you don’t have one on hand, you can use a different scrubby brush or even a firm toothbrush for the job. Run the basket under moderately hot water (don’t make it too scalding—you’ll want to be able to hold your hands under it comfortably). Under the water, scrub the basket thoroughly until it's sparkling clean and free of grime or debris.

brushing out an espresso holder

Clean the Shower Head

The shower head is the metal filter that dispenses servings of espresso into your cup. Use the same brush as in the previous step to clean the entirety of this piece under hot water. Neglecting to clean this part can cause your espresso to taste bitter, as it’s not uncommon for coffee grounds to get stuck here.

Clean the Steam Wand

Another vital piece of any espresso machine is the steam wand, which is responsible for heating and frothing milk to give your coffee that creamy, decadent topper. This is another piece that needs frequent cleaning. Every time you use it, wipe down the steam wand with a damp cloth to stop milk from burning and sticking to the outside of it. Neglecting to do this will result in a build-up of dry milk that's incredibly hard to clean off.

To give your steam wand a more in-depth cleaning on a monthly basis, use a pin (some espresso brushes have one included on the back) to clear out any build-up in the spout.

Wipe Down the Whole Machine

To finish the job, wipe down your whole machine with a clean, damp towel to catch any splatter, dust, or other residue or debris that can negatively affect the taste of your espresso.