There’s no getting away from it. If you want to produce top quality shots from your espresso machine month after month, year after year, you are going to have to keep on top of cleaning. And that means stocking up on quality coffee cleaning products.
Over time, coffee bean oils will build up in your machine and this will affect the flavour of the coffee you produce from it. Another reason why a cup of coffee can taste ‘off’ is if your water reservoir has a build-up of limescale. You might find this a common issue in London or the south east where the water is relatively hard but limescale will build up anywhere if left untreated.
To be the best home barista you can be, we recommend getting in some essential cleaning supplies. We’ve divided these into chemicals, tools and surface protection.
Essential barista cleaning chemicals
There are many different cleaning chemicals marketed to baristas and they can come in powder, liquid or tablet form. This can be confusing so to make things simple, all you really need is something to break down oils (a detergent) and something to remove limescale. It doesn’t really matter what form you buy as long as you follow the pack instructions. Having said that, powder and tablet detergents are usually better than liquid versions for backflushing as they froth up in contact with water, reaching those hard to get at places.
Many people are worried about the potential health effects of phosphates on the body and in the environment so it is worth finding a biodegradable, phosphate-free detergent to ensure your cleaning is as safe and eco-friendly as possible.
A surface sanitiser is also important to keep your kitchen worktop clean and hygienic.
Essential barista cleaning tools
There are two essential types of brush baristas use to keep their coffee machines and working environment clean. The first is an angled brush with stiff bristles designed for scrubbing oils and deposits from the group head.
The second is a straight, soft brush which is ideal for brushing up fine coffee grounds from work surfaces. It is a good idea to invest in some spare tips too, just in case.
If you really want to get specific, you can also buy brushes specifically designed for tasks such as cleaning the burrs of your coffee grinder.
Another essential addition to your supply of coffee cleaning products are blanking discs or blind filters. These are made out of steel or rubber and are placed into your portafilter during backflushing.
Essential barista surface protection
You can make your life as a home barista much easier by doing everything you can to keep your surfaces clean in the first place. A tamper mat is a must and if you have the opportunity, consider installing a knock box or knock out drawer to collect those loose grounds.
Finally, round off your coffee cleaning products with a good selection of microfibre cloths, ideal for picking up fine particles, and general usage barista towels.
How to backflush your espresso machine
Backflushing is an important part of your espresso machine cleaning regime. Your manufacturer’s handbook should provide instructions for backflushing your particular machine but if you don’t have these, here is a general guide:
First, remove the filter basket from your portafilter and place a clean blanking disc inside. Add the detergent, following the pack instructions, and attach the portafilter to the group head.
If your machine has a dedicated backflushing setting, use this. Otherwise, turn on the pump for ten to twenty seconds until you hear the pump go quiet. Switch off the pump. You should then hear a whooshing sound as the detergent is sucked up into the group head. You will see a discoloured foam empty into the drip tray. Repeat three or four times until the foam comes through clean.
Next, take out the portafilter, rinse out the cleaner, reattach and backflush a couple of times with water only. Finally, remove the handle and activate the pump a couple more times to get rid of any detergent still in the group head.