Article Feedback: Espresso Machine Cleaning - Why, How, and When

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HB
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#1: Post by HB »

Cleaning isn't glamous, but necessary! This article by Dave Stephens, Nick Griffith, and Chris Tacy explains why cleaning must be a regular part of your barista duties, how to perform them with step-by-step instructions, and when these cleaning duties need to be peformed. In doing so, you remove one impediment standing between you and great espresso. More...

Below is startling proof of how bad it can get. Bleech!

Image
Poorly maintained portafilter (left) compared to new portafilter (right)
Dan Kehn

Dogshot

#2: Post by Dogshot »

HB is a great resource, and a good article about machine cleaning is very thoughtful and handy. Thank you!

I have a question - the advice about hourly cleaning leaves me wondering who the article is geared toward; hourly does not really have any meaning at all in the home environment, which started me wondering whether a weekly detergent backflush schedule might also be unrealistic for the home user? Chris' (of Chris' Coffee Service) cleaning FAQ recommends that the home user who makes 2-6 espressos daily would want to do a detergent backflush every 4-6 weeks. He goes on to warn that improper or too frequent detergent backflushing can lead to problems.

I want a spotlessly clean machine at all times, so which advice should I follow? Any idea what specific problems detergent backflushing could lead to? I don't want to have to wait until my coffee tastes bad to determine what my cleaning schedule should have been, and I don't want to risk damage to my machine.

Thanks for your help and comments,

Mark

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HB (original poster)
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#3: Post by HB (original poster) »

Dogshot wrote:I have a question - the advice about hourly cleaning leaves me wondering who the article is geared toward; hourly does not really have any meaning at all in the home environment, which started me wondering whether a weekly detergent backflush schedule might also be unrealistic for the home user?
Below is an excerpt from the article:
PureArabica wrote:Hourly? Yes! Hourly! You probably never thought about doing anything to clean your machine every hour, but did you know that coffee oils go rancid after 45 minutes? So, every shot you pull, hot espresso is rolling over those nasty oils and particles, picking up that bitter flavor (oil is oil soluble) and putting it right in your cup! This applies if you pull 1,000 shots an hour, or one double every hour. Get that oil out of there!

At the end of each session, perform a "wiggle rinse" to wash away grinds from the dispersion screen, and then do a quick clean water backflush. Every hour you should scrub the inside of the portafilter and the portafilter basket. I like using a Scotch-Brite pad myself, but any tool that will get the job done is fine. And since you've got the portafilter off, clean the shower screen and gasket with a group brush.
The operative phrase is "at the end of each session," and yes, I follow Nick's advice (except of course a bottomless portafilter obviates the need to scrub it).
Chris' (of Chris' Coffee Service) cleaning FAQ recommends that the home user who makes 2-6 espressos daily would want to do a detergent backflush every 4-6 weeks. He goes on to warn that improper or too frequent detergent backflushing can lead to problems.
Ask five home baristas about their cleaning regime and you'll get five slightly different answers. Four to six weeks is the longest interval I've heard reported; weekly doesn't seem excessive to me, though I have stretched out to as long as three weeks when the machine was lightly used (feeling guilty). I recommend something closer to weekly, or 30-50 shots, whichever comes first.

The chemical backflush removes all the oils and the lever on E61s may squeak for the first few extractions, which may have motivated Chris to add it to his FAQ (I can imagine him getting dozens of e-mails each week from buyers complaining of "squeaky levers" :?). I suppose one could argue that excessive chemical backflushes could dry out the gaskets. Since I don't run my machines 24/7 and have given up manhandling the lock-in of the portafilter, gaskets last a long, long time (then again, reviewing as many machines as I have in the last two years, my perception of how much use a particular machine has seen is fuzzy).
Dan Kehn

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malachi

#4: Post by malachi »

Vendors have a vested interest in suggesting less customer self-servicing of any sort. That being said, IMHO there is no such thing as "too frequent" cleaning.
"Taste is the only morality." -- John Ruskin

Dogshot

#5: Post by Dogshot »

Thanks a lot guys. I give my machine a water backflush every day, and after 2 weeks I did my first detergent backflush. Lots of brown gup, so more frequent cleaning is clearly justified. I will be implementing your suggested schedule.

Thanks for the great article and advice, and for allaying my concerns.

Mark

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Psyd
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#6: Post by Psyd »

Some of us, in our busy lives, forget the very basic method of improving our espresso experience. Clean the machine. There are those that would never neglect this, of course, and this is not meant for you. This is for those that are 1. too busy, or 2. tell themselves that they are too busy.
The oils that build up on screens, PF gaskets, brewheads, PF's, and baskets can contribute a world of nastiness to your cup. Old grounds and oil build-ups on the grinder can do the same thing. "But, I only make two or three doubles a day at the most!", I hear you protest. It isn't (all) about how much of the oils and debris are left on the machinery, but how long. Constant use, all day, has a bit of a cleaning value in and of itself, but increases buildup, so pro's clean their machines every day (or should!).
HB's like ourselves should adjust our cleaning procedure accordingly. Clean out the chute after every grinding, clean out the group and the PF after every pull. I'll flush, and PF wiggle every shot, taking the basket out of the PF to rinse and wipe down both, and backflush and take the brush to the group once or twice a week. Once a month, or every coupla weeks depending on usage and travel schedule, I'll backflush with a bit of espresso machine cleaner and soak the PF's and baskets in a bit as well. I take this time to wipe the machine down really well, scrub the drip sink and screens, and to disassemble the burrs on the grinder to clean that out well.
Can't figure out what your schedule should be? Use your head, specifically the pointy part at the front. If it smells like coffee, you're probably doing alright. If it smells stale and rank, you're due for a cleaning. Keep an eye, er, nose on your gear after cleaning, smelling it every time you use it. It'll gradually (depending on use and time) start to be a bit offensive. You'll want to endeavour to schedule cleaning sessions a bit before this starts to happen.
It's the easiest variable in the making of great espresso to control!
Espresso Sniper
One Shot, One Kill

LMWDP #175

IMAWriter
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#7: Post by IMAWriter »

Dogshot wrote:Thanks a lot guys. I give my machine a water backflush every day, and after 2 weeks I did my first detergent backflush. Lots of brown gup, so more frequent cleaning is clearly justified. I will be implementing your suggested schedule.

Thanks for the great article and advice, and for allaying my concerns.

Mark
I PF wiggle after EVERY shot (it's only water). and water backflush after every 2-3 shots...and before I put Anita to bed...frequent water backflushes have no dire consequences. I have no brown goop that way...
When you do a chemical (Cafiza, Joe Glow, etc) back flush, just be sure to read the directions carefully.
Rob
LMWDP #187
www.robertjason.com

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Dogshot

#8: Post by Dogshot »

After these original posts, I started to use the Pallo tool to rinse the screen, then PF wiggle, then water backflush after every shot (or set of shots). I usually detergent backflush every 2 weeks or so, which I just the other day realized was not frequent enough. I still get some brown gup when I do the detergent backflush. Maybe some groupheads are more prone to gup builid-up than others.

Mark

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espressme

#9: Post by espressme »

...split / merged from Espresso Machine Cleaning 101 by moderator; also see Espresso Machine Cleaning Digest...




Hello Cannonfodder!
That was a great article. The new "related topics" at the thread bottoms has aided me to learn a lot more!
What about the cleaning of, and then separately describing the de-scaling of other types of machines. old LaPavonis etc.. Are the cleaners the same?
I look forward to a very good thread.
Thanks in advance!
richard / espressme

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cannonfodder
Team HB

#10: Post by cannonfodder »

There are many threads that discuss descaling in detail. Descaling single boiler levers, such as the La Pavonie's, are incredibly simple. You just overfill the boiler with descale solution, power it on and let it heat. Turn it off and let it sit for a few hours (depending on the amount of scale), then dump out the solution and rinse. If scale remains, then repeat until clean.

How do you descale a non-reservior machine, ie. Vetrano?

Water, Scaling and Descaling with HX machines? (simplified)

Jim Schulman's Insanely Long Water FAQ

WholeLatteLove has a video of how to descale a Rancilio Silvia

And La Pavoni specific Warning: Filthy Images! How to Descale a Lever?
Dave Stephens