Nothing is better than the smell of fresh, strong coffee first thing in the morning.
Except, maybe, the smell of fresh, strong coffee that you didn’t have to leave home to get.
In order to avoid the crowds, many people are forgoing their favourite cafes and are instead investing in a fully automatic espresso machine for their kitchen.
And when I say invest, I mean it; a high quality espresso machine can easily run into the thousands of dollars, so if you decide to make the purchase, you’re going to want it to last.
Most of us who drink coffee do so on a daily basis, perhaps multiple times per day when the machine is conveniently in the next room. In order to get the longest life out of an espresso machine, regular cleaning is vital.
After assembling, the thought of taking it all apart again to clean it out is a daunting task. Luckily, there are some easy things you can do after each use to keep your machine running smoothly, that don’t involve digging out the owner’s manual.
Here are the top three by-products of espresso making that could affect the quality of your machine if ignored.
Coffee Bean Oil
Fully automatic espresso machines, or super automatic, as they are sometimes called, do all the work for you. They grind the right amount of beans, brew and filter your drink and then dispose of the waste for you.
Those shiny little brown jewels called coffee beans look that way because they’re covered in an oil. As the ground up coffee makes its way through your machine, it leaves behind trace amounts of that oil wherever it goes.
Over time, that oil build up can clog up the pipes and tubes inside your machine and turn rancid, producing that bitter taste and smell associated with less reputable coffee shops.
And what’s the point in buying an expensive espresso machine and high-quality beans if the taste is going to be ruined by poor maintenance?
Your machine is also equipped with what’s called a dreg drawer, and it’s where the used coffee grounds are stored after a cup is made. Leaving old coffee grounds in the drawer can cause mold to grow, so it’s a good idea to get into the habit of emptying it every day, even if you don’t make enough coffee to fill the drawer every day. If you garden, used coffee grounds make an excellent fertilizer.
It should come as no surprise that the milk needs to be cleaned out after each and every milk drink made. Simply wiping the steamer wand and running clean water through your autofoamer after each drink will prevent harmful bacteria and mold from growing inside. A more thorough cleaning of the pipes and tubes can be done once a week, which will be explained a bit later.
Finally, you will need to deal with the limescale that will inevitably build up on your machine from boiling water. Consuming limescale won’t necessarily make you sick, but it will negatively alter the taste of your coffee. Not only that, as limescale builds up in the tubes and pipes, it will cause them to narrow. Narrowing of the pipes means that water takes longer to heat up and that the machine will need to work harder, shortening its lifespan. You can buy descaling fluid specifically for espresso machines and simply run it through the machine once a month.
Taking the Whole Thing Apart
Unfortunately, there’s no way around it; every once in a while, you will need to completely disassemble your fully automatic espresso machine and give the brew group a thorough cleaning. Consult your user manual to ensure it’s done properly, run the parts under warm water (do not use cleaning or solvent) and let them air dry on a clean, dry towel. Wait until parts are totally dry before referring to your manual on how to put it back together again.