When you first dreamed of owning your own coffee maker, you had visions of sitting around with your friends, laughing, joking and sipping some real good quality coffee in the comfort of your own home.
What you probably didn’t sign up for, was taking it apart, getting your fingers in all the fiddly little places and scrubbing parts of a coffee machine you didn’t even know existed.
But if you want your shiny new toy to keep you in great tasting coffee for years to come then this is an essential part, one that you simply cannot skip (unless you can persuade your partner its their job).
Luckily in this article, I will reveal how to clean a coffee machine is simple easy to follow steps, that will make it child’s play.
But before we get to that you need to understand exactly why it is so important to keep your coffee machine in tip top shape.
Why Clean Your Coffee Machine?
If you ask any so called Coffee expert what is essential to brewing a great coffee at home, all will say have the correct machine, using the best fresh whole coffee beans, use filtered water and a few other essentials.
But most of the them will leave out one of the most important elements to great coffee at home, and that is having a clean coffee maker. It does not matter which type of coffee machine you use, if it is not regularly cleaned this will affect the taste and in a bad way.
A regularly cleaned coffee machine will not just provide you with great tasting coffee today, no if you maintain your machine properly, you could be enjoying the benefits for many years to come.
This is not to mention the hygiene benefits of keeping your machine sparkling, I bet you didn’t realise coffee machines are the perfect breeding grounds for bacteria, yeast and mold(1). Yuck..
The Difference Between Cleaning and Descaling
Descaling and cleaning you coffee machine are both considered essential maintenance, but they are not the same thing. Each is a separate task and are equally important.
What is Descaling
Descaling is the process by which you will remove the build up of limescale and minerals from the water that your machine uses.
Limescale and mineral buildup will have a real adverse affect on your machines capability. It will become less efficient as the heating element becomes clogged, the boiler will not function properly and the pressure will be affected as the pipes narrow.
All these factors will alter the taste of coffee, and can cause your machine to fail.
Descaling is a process that you will need to carry out on a regular basis. Different factors such as, if you have hard water in your locality, whether you have a limescale filter etc, will decide how often you need to complete a descaling program.
Some machines will have an automatic descaling process, but some will need to do it manually, you can get more information here
What do we mean by cleaning process
When we talk about cleaning coffee makers, we are referring to the process you should complete after every use or daily. Such as wiping down with a damp cloth, steam pipe, cleaning the water filter, drip tray and removing the used ground coffee etc.
Simple Step by Step Guide to Cleaning Your Coffee Machine
As promised I will break down the essential steps to cleaning all types of coffee machines into an easy to follow step by step guide.
These steps are the basically the same no matter the type of machine you use. Once you have completed the basics, there are a couple of considerations that depend of the type of coffee maker you have, listed below.
These may seem obvious and they are, but nearly 20% of people who own a coffee machine admit to never cleaning it.
Step 1 – Clean any over spill or drip tray
Nearly all machines will have either a drip tray or overflow to catch any excess coffee that may spill. This is the easiest and most obvious thing to keep clean. It will be removable and dishwasher safe. But you could just as easily soak in hot soapy water.
Step 2 – Flush through with clear water
Most modern coffee machines, even entry level ones will have a flush through mode. Some will happen automatically when the machine has been left idle, and some will require you to activate.
Basically all we are doing here is giving it a good rinse through with clean water, this will keep the machines insides in good condition.
It also ensures the next time you use it you will have a fresh tasting coffee, and none of the stale dregs from yesterday.
Step 3 – Empty the ground coffee and filter baskets
If you are using an automatic machine you will have a coffee grounds bin, and some machines will boast just how much used coffee it can hold. It is important you don’t see that as a challenge, just because it an hold a lot doesn’t mean you should wait until its full to empty it.
Similarly if you have a manual espresso machine you should empty and clean the filter basket after each use, so it ready to use next time. it’s tempting to leave it full of used coffee and just do it next time you fancy a brew, but this will make it harder to clean and also encourage mold to grow.
Step 4 – Wipe everything down
I love my Sage Barista Express, not only does it provide me with barista quality coffee, but it looks great in my kitchen.
But it only looks great when its stainless steel exterior is shining. When I forget to clean it, it becomes quite the eye sore, and more of an embarrassment than a machine to show off.
If you have any experience of stainless steel you will know how hard it is to keep shiny. I find it best to wipe it down with a microfibre cloth to remove any streaks.
Step 5 – Clean removable parts
This step does not need to be completed daily and once a week should suffice. This is what I would describe as more of a deep clean.
All coffee machines will have removable parts, and once a week I advise removing them and soaking in hot water or running through a dishwasher if permitted.
This will include the drip tray, brew head, brewing unit, tamper, water reservoir and grounds bin.
Cleaning bean to cup coffee machines
A bean to cup machine has a few extra parts that and processes that other coffee makers don’t, and these will require a little extra maintenance.
Most bean to cup coffee machines will come a control panel that will guide through what is required and when, and some will even take care of themselves. If you have an entry level option then you may just need to refer to the care instructions.
The things to look for particularly :-
Brew group / Brewing unit : As they use fresh ground coffee beans they will suffer a build up over time of the used ground coffee getting stuck in the brew group. Luckily this can be removed and cleaned with a small brush and a good soak.
Steam pipe / Milk frother : Depending on your machine you may have a manual steam pipe which will need to be wiped down after every use. You also need to purge this, by holding a damp cloth over the pipe and opening the steam valve
If you fail to do this, then the tiny little holes that let the steam out will become blocked by congealed milk.
Automated milk frother : If you have a fully automatic bean to cup coffee machine it will have an automatic milk system, and this should be removable to clean, or there may be a special cleaning program for it.
Grinder / Hopper : All bean to cup machines have a built in grinder and bean hopper. They will both be removable for cleaning. For the hopper this is simple, rinse out any old beans and give it a good cleaning. When cleaning the grinder please follow the instructions and make sure the machine switched off before removing.
Pro Tip : Ensure the hopper is fully dry before adding new beans
Cleaning an Espresso Coffee Machine
For cleaning an espresso machine it is important to flush through to keep the pipes and boiler in tip top condition.
Other considerations are keeping the portafilter clean (empty and clean after each use). Apart from emptying the used grounds, it can either be soaked or ran through a dishwasher
Cleaning capsule machines
The main reason anyone buys a capsule coffee machine is convenience and ease. Luckily for them this extends to the cleaning.
As everything happens withing the capsule, you really just need to follow the simple steps above. Just remember to empty the used capsule holder
Cleaning a filter coffee machine
If you have paper filters these need throwing away after each use, however some machines will use reusable ones. Cleaning filters is simple really just rinse them after use to remove the used coffee.
The coffee pot or jug will also need to be ran through a dishwasher or washed with fresh water.
A filter coffee machine is the easiest to look after.
Coffee machine cleaning tips
- Stick to a regular routine
- Empty out the water reservoir daily
- Remove the used coffee daily
- Follow the manufacturers cleaning and descaling manual
What can you use to descale a coffee machine?
You can use either a descaling solution or white vinegar solution. See our in depth descaling guide here
How do I clean my coffee maker without vinegar?
You can use just clean water to flush through your machine if you don’t want to use vinegar. However you can also mix baking soda and water to make a cleaning solution
What happens if you don’t descale your coffee machine?
Descaling your machine is essential, failure to do so will result in limescale build up. This will affect how your machine works, the taste of your coffee and may even kill your machine.