Do you love espresso but hate the clean-up? Never fear!
This blog post will give you all the tips you need to clean your espresso machine quickly and easily.
So pull out your espresso machine and let’s get cleaning!
How to Clean an Espresso Machine?
Step 1: Read Your Manual
If you don’t have your manual go get it.
It’s probably in the box along with the cord to plug your machine into an outlet.
If you’ve already read it read it again!
Many espresso machines require that you descale every 3-6 months.
Descale means removing mineral deposits that form inside the machine which can affect taste or damage key components of your machine like water pumps and boilers.
Your manual will provide specific instructions for how to do this safely and correctly.
Let’s take a look at what should be one of yours…
Troubleshooting Tip #1: If your espresso is coming out very bland (lacking flavor) but otherwise seems okay descale your machine.
Troubleshooting Tip #2: If your espresso is coming out with an acidic taste check if you need to descale.
Troubleshooting Tip #3: If your espresso machine only works periodically or only produces steam then check the pressure inside the boiler and make sure it’s between 1-1.5 bars of pressure (15 psi).
This can be done using a home gauge that reads pressures in bar/psi.
Step 2: Remove Gauges From Front Panel
This step is optional but highly recommended even if you don’t have gauges blocking your view or are not bothered by them.
I’ve seen some manuals that recommend removing gauges every time you clean your machine but I think this is overkill.
Remove these gauges only if they’re blocking the area where you want to clean or you feel like it’s necessary.
Troubleshooting Tip #4: If your steam wand sputters out water then remove meters and gauge (if equipped) and check for mineral deposits (calcium carbonate).
Step 3: Disassemble Chamber
If the boiling chamber has built up inside of it take the chamber apart.
I use a small screwdriver to remove any clamps holding the pieces together.
All parts are not dishwasher safe.
You can soak them in vinegar or run them through the dishwasher (top rack) but don’t use harsh chemicals that can leave behind residue or remove the machine’s warranty.
Only soak what you will be cleaning at that time and only run items through the dishwasher if they are actually dishwasher safe.
Troubleshooting Tip #5: If you’re steaming milk for lattes and cappuccinos then your machine needs to reach higher pressures of up to 7 bars (102 psi).
Check out this article on why higher pressure is important.
Step 4: Clean Boiler Portafilter with a vinegar-soaked rag
Remove group head from the portafilter.
Place coffee ground side down in portafilter basket.
Fill it halfway with white vinegar.
Let soak for several minutes while you clean other parts of the espresso machine.
Empty vinegar and rinse portafilter with water.
Tilt to remove any excess water while keeping coffee ground inside of the basket.
Make sure the group head (where portafilter connects) is completely dry before inserting into the bushing/brewing chamber or it will drip out everywhere when placed under pressure.
Step 5: Clean Chamber Lid
If your machine’s chamber lid has mineral deposits use a rag soaked in white vinegar to wipe away mineral deposits (calcium carbonate).
If you don’t see any calcium carbonate proceed to step 6.
Troubleshooting Tip #6: A common reason for high-pressure problems is sediment stuck in brew chamber ports or screens.
This could be due to the machine not being descaled regularly or it could be due to mineral deposits.
Descaling your machine regularly is important because sediment stuck in brew chamber ports can keep the machine from reaching its full pressure potential.
Step 6: Clean Boiler Portafilter with Dishwasher Soap-Filled Rag
If you do see calcium carbonate then I recommend using a dishwasher-safe cleaning brush/rag soaked with dishwashing soap (I use Dawn).
If the model allows remove gauges and meters first (so you don’t damage these sensitive components) before removing the portafilter from the boiler.
Place portafilter on the third rack of your dishwasher set to the hottest water setting without using heated dry.
Making sure all seals are intact and secure before running the dishwasher or cleaning will not be thorough.
Troubleshooting Tip #7: If your machine dies after 5 minutes of steaming then you probably need to replace the pre-infusion chamber.
This is an easy DIY fix and can save 0-700 over buying a new espresso machine.
Step 7: Remove Steam Wand
Before assembly remove hot water spout and froth enhancer (if equipped).
Use a rag soaked in vinegar to remove mineral deposits from inside and outside of steam wand/hot water spout.
You should also use this opportunity to disinfect the top where milk pitchers sit during steaming.
Replace components into their respective areas after they’ve been cleaned.
Wipe dry with a cloth before using again.
Troubleshooting Tip #8: If you have a hard time removing your steam wand then apply vinegar to teflon tape and wrap it around the sticking area before reassembling.
Step 8: Clean Steam Wand
If you see calcium carbonate inside of steam wand trim use a dishwasher-safe cleaning brush/rag soaked with dish soap (I use Dawn) to clean off mineral deposits.
You can also fill the rag halfway with vinegar and close the end before dunking it into boiling water several times to fully saturate the rag.
Wring out as much excess water as possible (will help avoid spraying vinegar everywhere when inserting back into the machine).
Insert knurled nut first and make sure it is seated securely down by wiggling slightly.
Attach knurled nut and tighten clockwise by hand as far as possible (you will need a wrench or pliers to fully secure) before attaching steam tip/spout.
Troubleshooting Tip #9: If your steam wand is always leaking then you probably need to replace the pre-infusion chamber.
For more information on this DIY fix see Step 7: Remove Steam Wand (above).
Step 9: Clean Boiler Feed Tube with Espresso Brush
Wet espresso brush with vinegar and clean around boiler feed tube from top-down until the tip of brush reaches feed tube inside of brew chamber.
Wipe up any stray water droplets with a rag before reassembling machine parts.
Make sure the entire surface area is dry before closing the lid or any residual moisture could damage the machine.
Troubleshooting Tip #10: If you have a hard time removing your steam wand then apply vinegar to teflon tape and wrap it around the sticking area before reassembling.
Step 10: Clean Drip Tray Drain Holes
If your drip tray has a build-up of mineral deposits in the holes at the bottom use a bent wire coat hanger to clean them out.
Alternatively you can soak a rag with vinegar and place it inside the drip tray before turning on the machine to make hole cleaning easier.
Put some small items (like dry rice) inside rag soaked with vinegar if they are blocking the hole from getting completely cleaned out or just replace the entire drip tray if necessary.
You can also use this same method to clean out the drain hole in your drip tray reservoir.
Troubleshooting Tip #11: If you have a watery espresso flow then it probably means that steam pressure is too high.
This could be because there’s too much mineral build-up on your boiler components or if you’ve been using dishwasher soap instead of a special “Espresso Machine Cleaner”.
Also check for ‘thermal siphon’.
Soak a rag with vinegar and wrap it around the top section where the portafilter attaches before turning on the machine to help alleviate this problem.
Step 11: Empty Drip Tray Reservoir
If you have a hard time removing the reservoir beneath the drip tray pour two cups of white vinegar into the bottom well until it reaches just beneath the top lip.
Place frame back on top of the unit and wait 15-20 minutes to loosen residue before trying again.
Troubleshooting Tip #12: To get the best results from your automatic milk frother make sure you’ve primed it by pouring in 1/2 cup of cold milk before turning on the machine.
Also if you are using more than one type of milk (i.e.
nonfat and whole) then use separate pitchers for each or keep some distance between them when they’re sitting inside the carafe while steaming.
Step 12: Clean Automatic Milk Frother
Remove froth enhancer (if equipped) and hot water spout (if equipped).
Use a rag soaked with vinegar to remove mineral deposits from inside tubing near the end of the froth enhancer and around the hot water spout.
Optional: Use a vinegar-soaked rag to clean the milk carafe inside and out (be sure the carafe is completely dry before inserting back into the machine).
Step 13: Clean Automatic Milk Frother’s Hot Water Dispensing Nozzle
Remove the nozzle from the automatic milk frother by pulling it straight up.
Soak nozzle in a jar of vinegar using tongs brush or rag until the white residue is dissolved.
Rinse thoroughly with warm water before reassembling.
Troubleshooting Tip #13: If your espresso comes out too fast then you probably need to squeeze the coffee puck between grinds during the extraction process.
Do this by placing a special blind filter basket normally used for steaming directly on top of the coffee puck and gently pushing down with your finger until you hear the first sign of espresso coming out.
After flipping the handle back to starting position wait for a second or two before squeezing again.
If the problem persists then either increase grind size slightly or decrease the dose slightly the next time you’re making a shot.
Step 14: Clean Steam Wand
Remove froth enhancer (if equipped).
Use a rag soaked in vinegar to remove mineral deposits from inside tubing near the end of the froth enhancer and around the steam wand tip’s small orifice.
Optional: If necessary use cotton swabs dipped in vinegar to clean crevices at the topmost part of the frothing aid located inside the wand — be sure not to damage the rubber seal when reassembling.
Troubleshooting Tip #14: If you have trouble creating a stable milk froth for cappuccinos and lattes then try priming the steam wand by allowing a small amount of water to shoot through it before trying to create a milk-frothing action.
Step 15: Clean Steam Wand’s Safety Valve
Remove safety valve from steam wand tip by gently twisting in a counterclockwise direction.
Soak the valve in a jar of vinegar using tongs brush or rag until the white residue is dissolved.
Optional: If necessary use cotton swabs dipped in vinegar to clean crevices inside the hole that the safety valve screwed into — be sure not to damage the rubber seal when reassembling.
Troubleshooting Tip #15: When making a double shot the coffee may come out twice as fast.
To counteract this effect turn off the steam switch and wait for 15 seconds between shots.
Step 16: Clean Steam Wand’s Safety Valve’s Pin
If necessary use a toothpick or pin to remove any small particles clogging the safety valve’s pinhole.
Also check to make sure the spring clip below the pin is present and not damaged before reassembling.
Troubleshooting Tip #16: When steaming your milk too vigorously you’re causing a lot of air bubbles to form inside resulting in a less-than-ideal final product — albeit still tasty!
So when making a cappuccino or latte try turning down the steam pressure dial from its highest point.
If this still doesn’t solve the problem then try quickly pulsing steam switch on and off to create larger bubbles instead of a steady stream of air through the wand tip.
Troubleshooting Tip #16: If you’re making espresso but there are no crema bubbles in your cup when the shot is complete then either coffee grinds are too fine or the dose was too low.
Step 17: Clean Brew Group/Group Head
After each use remove the brew group from the machine by pulling it straight up without twisting it.
Soak brew group in a jar of vinegar using tongs brush or rag until the white residue is dissolved before rinsing with warm water.
Optional: Use cotton swabs dipped in vinegar to clean outer edges around the portafilter handle portafilter lip and underneath where the brew group rested.
Troubleshooting Tip #17: If your espresso comes out with a lot of bubbles right after you run the decalcification cycle then either coffee grinds are too fine or water is not hot enough (or both).
Step 18A: Clean Brew Group’s O-Rings
Also called “o-rings” or “gaskets” these rubber rings sit between the brew group and portafilter to form an airtight seal during the extraction process.
Remove all o-rings from the brew group by popping them out using a small screwdriver one at a time.
Soak each ring in a jar of vinegar using tongs brush or until the white residue is dissolved before rinsing with warm water.
Optional: Use cotton swabs dipped in vinegar to clean crevices underneath o-rings and along edges at the topmost part of the brew group where rubber seal contacts metal.
Troubleshooting Tip #18A: If making espresso is taking longer than usual or brewing resistance seems higher than normal then either the brew group’s o-rings need replacing or they are improperly seated — if latter try repositioning them by using a small screwdriver to push each ring back into place.
Troubleshooting Tip #18B: If descaling has not been carried out for a long time there may be lots of scale build-up inside your machine.
This will affect the function of some components as well as overall performance.
You may need to carry out descaling more than once or increase the frequency between each clean.
Step 18B: Clean Brew Group’s Valve
Also called “steam valve” or “steam wand later” this rubber portion stays submerged in milk during the frothing process.
Remove by unscrewing it from the underside of the brew group by turning counter-clockwise with pair of tongs brush or rag.
Soak the valve in a jar of vinegar using the same tool until the white residue is dissolved before rinsing with warm water.
Optional: If necessary use cotton swabs dipped in vinegar to clean interior crevices underneath where the handle was screwed on and around a small pinhole at the topmost part inside which the safety valve fits.
Troubleshooting Tip #18B (continued): If steam seems too cool and you’re not getting much milk foam for your cappuccino or latte then either steam valve’s pin is clogged with scale build-up or the safety valve on top of it is defective.
To fix turn off the water supply to the machine at wall valves.
Twist the safety valve counterclockwise using a rag or small brush attached to the screwdriver.
Blow compressed air through the pinhole side of the valve until water comes out from another side (you will hear it) then reattach the safety valve by turning clockwise.
Re-open wall valves and test machine — if the problem persists call customer service.
Troubleshooting Tip #18C: If the temperature gauge reads too hot after-cleaning cycle then either the brew group’s valve was left open while running the scale has built up inside the machine or the water pump is defective.
To fix simply follow the after-cleaning instructions above for the steam valve again by repeating all steps in Troubleshooting Tip #18B.
Step 19: Clean Exterior Surfaces
Wipe down exterior surfaces with cloth dipped in soapy water.
Be sure to remove all traces of soap before turning the pump on because it may affect coffee flavor.
Troubleshooting Tip #19: If you continuously get wet coffee grounds in your cup during the extraction process then grind coarseness might be set too low or there is residue build-up on grinder burrs.
Clean grinder according to manufacturer recommendations if the problem persists call customer service.
Troubleshooting Tip #19 (continued): If steam is coming out of the hot water spout even when brewing espresso then either brew group’s o-rings need replacing or there is scale build-up inside the machine.
Call customer service for further instructions if necessary.
Step 20: Brew Water to Test Machine
Remove portafilter and insert blind basket; add two tablespoons white vinegar; press down on brew button and run approximately 5 ounces of water through the system in short bursts until you hear the flow of water come to a complete stop between each burst.
Make sure all parts that come into contact with coffee are carefully wiped clean before proceeding next step!
Step 21: Replace Blind Basket with Portafilter
Add two scoops of freshly ground coffee into the portafilter and tamp with firm 30 pounds of pressure (9 kilos) to eliminate air pockets.
Troubleshooting Tip: If the flow of water is still split between pours even after removing emptying and rinsing tank carafe and filter basket; cleaning brew group; descaling; and replacing o-rings in de-compression valve (when applicable) then call customer service for further instructions.
Troubleshooting Tip #20: If there is a crackling or rattling sound when puck of espresso grinds are being compressed by portafilter during the tamping process then either grinder burrs need grinding or piston on brew group is not moving freely enough.
Call manufacturer for any necessary repairs or replacement parts.
Step 22: Brew Espresso
Push the start button and let the machine run until the flow of water has completely stopped between pours.
Make sure to have a cloth handy to wipe down the top edge of the portafilter before removing it from the brew head assembly.
Troubleshooting Tip: If the flow of water is still split between pours even after following all previous steps then call customer service for further instructions.