How To Clean An Espresso Machine: From Gunk to Greatness

By Evelina •  Updated: 04/23/23 •  10 min read

Maintaining a clean espresso machine is essential for consistently producing great-tasting coffee. In this article, you’ll learn how to effectively clean your espresso machine, ensuring it stays in tip-top condition and delivers delicious brews every time.

From descaling with vinegar to using specialized cleaning tools, the process is simple yet crucial for your machine’s lifespan and performance.

Get ready to elevate your home espresso brewing experience by keeping your machine in perfect working order!

Why It’s Important To Clean An Espresso Machine

Importance to clean your machine

Keeping your espresso machine clean is crucial for several reasons.

First and foremost, regular maintenance ensures that your coffee maker continues to produce great-tasting espresso consistently. 

Over time, oils and residue from coffee beans build up inside the machine, which can affect the flavor of your beverages. Cleaning your espresso machine helps prevent the formation of these residues, creating a better experience for both you and your customers.

If you are a barista or a café owner, you also need to maintain a hygienic environment for your clients. A clean espresso machine prevents the growth of bacteria and mold, which can lead to health issues for your customers. Your reputation as a professional and high-quality café relies on the cleanliness of your equipment.

Furthermore, proper maintenance extends the lifespan of your espresso machine. By regularly cleaning its various components, you can prevent clogs, blockages, and other issues that may cause damage to your machine.

This ultimately saves you money in terms of repair costs and the possibility of having to purchase a new coffee maker.

Lastly, a well-maintained espresso machine is more efficient, using energy and resources more effectively. This not only saves you on utility bills but also contributes to a more sustainable business model.

Daily Cleaning Process

Daily Cleaning Process for espresso machine

Cleaning The Portafilter And Basket

First, remove the basket from the portafilter. Use a nylon brush or a scrubby pad to dislodge coffee grounds from both the portafilter and the basket.

Rinse the basket and portafilter with hot water to remove any remaining residue. Finally, dry the items with a clean towel before reassembling them.

Cleaning The Group Head And Screen

After each use, you should clean the group head and screen. Begin with a simple flush to remove loose grounds and oils. Then, use a group head brush to scrub and loosen any remaining particles or residue.

After that, backflush the group head with an espresso machine detergent and a blind filter. Repeat this process until the water coming out is clear.

Cleaning The Steam Wand

Steam wands must be cleaned regularly to prevent the buildup of milk leftovers+. After each use, wipe the exterior of the steam wand with a damp cloth to remove residue.

Next, purge the steam wand with hot water, to clear any remaining milk inside. For a deeper clean, use a steam wand brush to scrub the inside and remove any stubborn residue.

Cleaning The Drip Tray And Reservoir

It’s important to keep the drip tray and water reservoir clean to maintain the quality of your espresso. Empty the drip tray daily, rinse it with hot water, and scrub away any residue before returning it to the machine.

To clean the water reservoir, empty the tank and rinse it with hot water. Replace the water with fresh, filtered water to ensure the best-tasting espresso.

Backflushing And Descaling

Backflushing Process

Backflushing is essential for keeping your espresso machine’s components clean and free of coffee oils and debris. To begin the backflushing process, follow these steps:

  1. Remove the portafilter and empty it. Replace the filter basket with a blind basket or a cleaning disc to block water flow.
  2. Insert the portafilter back into the group head and lock it in place.
  3. Add a small amount of espresso machine cleaning powder to the blind basket.
  4. Turn on the pump for approximately 20 seconds or until the pump gets quiet, indicating the buildup of pressure. Switch off the pump to release the pressure.
  5. Repeat the process of turning the on and off the pump several times to ensure effective cleaning of the group gasket, dispersion plate, and shower screens.
  6. Remove the portafilter and rinse it thoroughly with plain water. Replace the blind basket with the regular filter basket and run a few plain water brew cycles to clear any remaining cleaning solution from the group head.

Descaling Process

Descaling your espresso machine is crucial to remove mineral deposits and prevent limescale buildup, which may affect the machine’s performance and taste of your espresso.

Here is a step-by-step guide to descaling your espresso machine:

  1. Prepare a descaling solution using a commercial descaling solution, white vinegar, or a mixture of citric acid with water. If using vinegar or citric acid, ensure a 1:1 ratio with water (e.g., 1 cup water with 1 cup vinegar).
  2. Turn your machine off and empty the water reservoir. Fill it with the descaling solution you prepared.
  3. Place a container to catch the solution under the steam arm or nozzle, then turn on the machine, allowing the solution to run through the steam arm and boiler for approximately 5 minutes.
  4. Pause for 15-20 minutes, allowing the descaling solution to take effect.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the reservoir empties.
  6. Fill the reservoir with clean water and run the entire contents through the machine to rinse out any remaining descaling solution. You may need to do this twice to ensure there are no traces of the descaling solution left.

Removing And Cleaning Components

Cleaning Components of espresso machine

In this section, we will focus on removing and cleaning essential components of your espresso machine to ensure its longevity and optimal performance. Following these steps will help you maintain your machine in top condition.

Removing And Cleaning The Group Screen

First, turn off and unplug your espresso machine to ensure safety. The group screen is an essential part of the brewing process, as it’s responsible for distributing water evenly over the coffee grounds.

Over time, the group screen can become clogged with coffee particles, which may negatively impact the taste of your espresso.

Start by removing the portafilter and filter basket. Locate the group screen, which is usually held by a screw or just pressure. If necessary, consult your manufacturer’s instructions.

Once the group screen is removed, soak it in a cleaning solution, like a mixture of warm water and baking soda. Use a nylon brush to gently scrub away any debris. Rinse thoroughly with warm water and set aside to dry.

Removing And Cleaning The Steam Wand Nozzle

The steam wand nozzle is an essential component for producing well-textured milk for beverages like cappuccinos and lattes. Over time, milk residue can accumulate on the nozzle, affecting its functionality.

To clean the steam wand nozzle, first, remove it from the steam wand arm according to your machine’s specific instructions.

Soak the nozzle in a cleaning solution, and again use a small brush, to scrub away any milk residue inside and outside the nozzle.

Rinse thoroughly with warm water and allow it to dry before reassembling.

Removing And Cleaning The Reservoir And Tank

Begin by removing the water reservoir and tank according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Empty any remaining water and inspect for visible mineral deposits or scale.

To remove these deposits, fill the reservoir with a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar or a descaling solution. Let it soak for at least 30 minutes, or as recommended by the manufacturer.

After soaking, scrub the tank and reservoir with a soft, non-abrasive cloth or a nylon brush to remove any stubborn deposits. Rinse the components with clean water multiple times to remove any residue before refilling with fresh water.

Reassemble the machine and run a few water-only cycles (around 10 seconds each cycle) to ensure everything is properly rinsed before using your espresso machine again.

Weekly and Monthly Cleaning Tasks

espresso machine parts for brewing

In addition to daily cleaning rituals, it’s important to pay attention to weekly and monthly cleaning tasks. This ensures that your machine stays in top-notch condition and consistently delivers great-tasting espresso.

For weekly cleaning, follow these steps:

For monthly cleaning, it’s necessary to perform a more in-depth process:

Tips For Keeping Your Espresso Coffee Machine Clean And Efficient

As a coffee enthusiast or a barista, keeping your espresso machine in top shape is crucial to enjoying delicious and consistent results.

Regular maintenance will not only improve the taste of your coffee but also extend the life of your coffee maker. Here are some tips to help you maintain your espresso machine’s cleanliness and efficiency:

1. Develop a daily cleaning routine: At the end of each day, make sure to clean the machine’s exterior, drip tray, and steam wand. Use a damp cloth to wipe down surfaces and a brush to thoroughly clean the group head and portafilter. This practice will prevent the buildup of coffee residue and milk proteins.

2. Perform a weekly backflush: Backflushing is a process of forcing water and cleaning solution through the machine to remove any trapped oils and grounds. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use a suitable espresso machine cleaner to properly backflush your coffee maker.

3. Descale your espresso machine regularly: Over time, minerals from water can accumulate inside your espresso machine, affecting its performance. To prevent this, descale your machine using a specialized descaler or a mixture of water and white vinegar. The frequency of descaling will depend on the hardness of your water and the machine’s usage.

4. Replace worn-out parts: Inspect your espresso machine for any cracked or damaged components such as the group gaskets and shower screens. Replace these parts as needed to ensure optimal performance and prevent leaks.

5. Monitor the grinder: Your coffee grinder is an essential part of brewing excellent espresso. Routinely check its sharpness and cleanliness, and adjust its settings to maintain the preferred grind size.

By following these simple practices, you can keep your espresso machine clean and efficient, allowing you to enjoy the best possible coffee experience.

Final Thoughts

By now, you should have a solid understanding of how to clean and maintain your espresso machine properly. Regular cleaning not only ensures great-tasting espresso but also extends the life of your machine.

Remember, a well-maintained espresso machine is essential for brewing delicious coffee consistently. By following these steps and making cleaning an integral part of your espresso-making routine, you’ll be able to enjoy the full potential of your espresso machine for many years to come. 

Happy Brewing!


Evelina’s passion for coffee could never been hidden. Having worked as a barista, she learned the true value of the coffee bean and its secrets. As she continued to evolve as a barista, so did her knowledge, techniques on making different coffee blends and most importantly how to operate every kind of gear when it comes to coffee. Having a degree in biomedicine and being a barista, allows her to provide our community with in-depth knowledge surrounding the topics of coffee.

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