How To Clean & Maintain Your Coffee Machine
We are going to talk about how to look after your coffee machine, and whether that is a domestic machine or a commercial machine. There’s so many similarities between the two, but how you care for them and the time frames that you will actually use chemicals can vary.
So we want to break it down a little bit so that you can get good information on when and how much you should be using these chemicals.
We want to break it down into three areas:
- Pre-cleaning: Filtration
- General cleaning: Maintenance
- Servicing your coffee machine
These three different items will really affect how your machine is going to produce a beautiful cup of coffee, how it’s going to affect the longevity of your machine and how it will actually affect your espresso, and how it will work.
When it comes to water filtration, it is very important to get the right type of filter for the water that is actually going into your coffee machine. We would advise giving some sort of water test before you start to look at what kind of filtration you are going to use.
Go out and get yourself a water test kit so that you can actually assess things like your PH, the chlorines, chlorides, the salts, and any metals that are appearing in your water. Then you know what you are going to target when you use a filter to ensure great water quality for your coffee but also longevity in your machine.
A lot of people say that they can’t have a water filter at home. So they get a jug which has a little filter in it, or they might have one of those ceramic style water chillers with a little filter in them. Now they are great for drinking water, but when you look at coffee machines, some of them are made of copper and some have stainless steel in them, there’s other metals in there that we need to help take out of the water to ensure that machine is going to last.
When it comes to commercial machines, we need to do a lot more analysis but also have a far better quality of filtration to ensure that we are tackling that higher volume of water.
So what do you do commercially?
Use the pure tech twin system units, one focuses on sediment and the other focuses on all the other little nasties that are in the water. They have a pressure gauge to know when that filter is full of all the chemicals that have been taken out of the water. Once that pressure is low we know we need to change it.
The hard thing a lot of people don’t quite understand is to be able to change that water filter at the right time. So we urge you not to let them sit in there for a couple of years. If you can, do it regularly. Maybe when you do your smoke alarms, change your water filter. Being preventative is going to be far better than trying to cure it on the other end.
How can you assess whether your filtration is working in your domestic machine?
The simplest thing - if you’re a little bit handy, make sure your machine is turned off and de-steamed. If you take its big nut out to have a look, there’s a lot of green and blue all over it, which means you haven’t been attacking the right chemicals or the minerals that are in your local water.
So advise then moving on to the next stage which is descaling that we are going to come back to, but you’ve got to change that water filter to tackle the exact things that are causing that buildup.
This is where we start to look at the brewing of coffee and keeping your machine clean. You’ve got to have an espresso cleaner to clean your brew head. A lot of people skim on how much they use this chemical?
Every time you use it, you need to use the full scoop. It’s one teaspoon. There’s a lot of myths that you just get a tiny little bit essentially on a teaspoon and pop it in, that’s going to do nothing to clean your coffee machine.
This applies whether it’s a domestic machine or an individual head commercially. You’ve got to use a lot of that chemical. If you don’t have any, get some straight away and keep on top of how you clean, there’s always some great instructions on the side of those containers.
How often do you use your espresso cleaner?
The best tip we can give you is every time you put a new bag of coffee beans into your grinder, you need to clean your machine. So if you’re a 12oz a week, a month, or fortnight, or a 1lb person, or 2lb, you’ve just paid some decent money for a beautiful bean, you don’t want to put that in a machine that’s going to be full of oils and build up from the pervious bag.
Make sure you do your roaster a favor and you get to taste the beautiful taste of the beans that we provide you with. So you’ve been keeping up to your cleaning, and you’re doing it ready for the next bag of beans that you’re going to put in.
How do you know you are doing a good job?
In domestic machines:
- Take the handle of your machine out.
- Use a little flathead screwdriver to take the shower screen and the seal out. Your particular machine may have a little screw in the middle, you simply undo it and this should all fall out (just be careful they will be hot if you’ve just turned your machine off).
When you take the shower screen out, if you barely see through if you hold it up to the light because it will be full of coffee oil to the point it’s actually more like a carbon, so this means there has been nowhere near enough coffee cleaner being used to attack this oil.
Therefore, when you’re extracting your next coffee, all you are doing is picking up all that terrible flavor, making that into the water mix that’s then going through your fresh beautiful coffee.
Go ahead and give it a good clean. If it looks really bad, then you definitely need to buy yourself a new shower screen. If the seal is quite hard and you can crumble it in your hand, then you need a new seal, it’s not going to have enough pressure to be able to provide that water through. It’s better to replace the shower screen and the seal at the same time.
How often should you use your espresso cleaner in commercial machines?
We say, everyday!
If you are going to use any more than 2.2 pounds of coffee a day, you've got to clean that machine everyday.
If you get any spare time throughout the day when you’re not making any coffee, pop in the blind basket, give it a bit of a flush up in that head, you’re going to help get rid of some of that coffee grind and oil that sitting in there and that’s going to make sure that you’re making beautiful coffee throughout that day for your customers.
How often do you descale your machine?
The best answer we can give you is look after your machine so you don’t have to descale it. Ensure to have great filters, ensure you’re using a good espresso cleaner and doing it regularly, because maintaining a machine is going to be far better for the longevity of your machine, the taste of the coffee you’re going to have, and all the working parts in the machine.
Prevention is far better than cure. We can’t stress that enough. If you’ve undone the nut on your machine and you’ve got all this green scale and build up, that’s what the descale is trying to get rid of.
If you’re just using a liquid mix, it’s not going to attack a big lump of that, so you do have to get in there and scrape it often, and really attack it. That’s probably something a commercial service tech should be doing for you, but if you do find a little bit of it, you could use your descale liquid and that will start to help your machine.
Definitely that will give you an understanding of how bad your filtration is, go back and fix your filtration and then hopefully you don’t get too much build up throughout your whole machine where it does break down and you’ve got to take it in for some costly repairs.
So if you’re going to descale your coffee machine, we’re going to give you this word of warning: It is an acid! It can burn your hands or it can get in your eyes, so be really careful. But the other thing is if you leave it in there too long, it can eat away your elements, wreck your boiler, and break other parts that shouldn’t be in contact time for long periods without that kind of acid.
People have used vinegar and other things as well, and that’s exactly the same issue. You can’t leave it in there for a long amount of time, it will literally eat your machine from the inside out.
Be careful, and if you do put it there, make sure you get it out, flush to make sure that before you make your next coffee you’re not drinking descale liquid.
Do you need to descale your commercial machine?
No, your coffee roaster or machine supplier or service tech should be looking after that for you. They should be making sure the great filtration is in place to ensure you don’t have those buildups.
What we do find commercially is where there’s a lot of building works going on whether they are cutting up pipes, building apartments, or whatever, there’s a huge change in the water quality that occurs, that’s when you need to make sure that your water filters are changed far more regularly and they are attacking the specific things that are happening in your area, because that’s where we do find the biggest amount of breakdowns occur when the construction is happening locally to your business.
These are our three areas that allow you to keep your machine in tip-top condition:
- Pre-cleaning which is going to be your water filter.
- General maintenance which is going to be your espresso cleaner
- Servicing using your descale.
Hopefully that gives you an overall picture on how to look after your machine so you get beautiful coffee at home or in your cafe.
If you’ve got any questions make sure you shoot us one in the comments below. We’d love to answer them.
Happy coffee brewing!