How to Clean an Espresso Machine the Fast and Easy Way

If you want to keep brewing the perfect espresso shots, you need to learn how to clean an espresso machine the right way. Here's how to clean it in under 10 minutes!

There’s nothing better than a great shot of espresso that you’ve brewed yourself. But brewing the perfect shot of espresso involves a lot of factors. People go to extreme lengths to pull the perfect shot, from using the best beans to getting the finest grind and from dosing the perfect amount to tamping at the right angle and with even pressure. The list goes on and on. But a commonly forgotten factor is regularly cleaning the espresso machine. Do you know how to clean an espresso machine the right way? Or in under 10 minutes?

Built-up coffee grounds that clog the group head can change the taste of your espresso shot. If you’ve noticed your espresso tasting more bitter or have even been seeing a grainy texture, it’s time to clean your machine. Don’t worry if you have no idea how! We’re here to teach you how to clean an espresso machine in under 10 minutes, how to deep clean your machine a few times a year and the easiest way to maintain cleanliness between cleanings.

An espresso machine is a great investment for coffee lovers and addicts. Keeping your espresso machine clean and functional will help it last longer and brew tastier shots. Here’s everything you need to know to keep your espresso machine clean:

Tips to Keep in Mind

how to clean an espresso machine
  1. Regularly rinse your espresso machine. This isn’t just espresso machine cleaning 101, it’s a good general rule to follow for all appliances and electronics. Wiping down or rinsing your appliances after every use will shorten the amount of time you have to spend deep cleaning later. No need to go super in depth here. Just rinse out the leftover coffee grounds from the portafilter, rinse the filter and wipe down the rest of the machine. Aim to remove any visible residue. This step will only take you a minute or two.
  2. Start a deep cleaning habit. You might hate deep cleaning your machine, but if you love espresso, it’s worth it. Deep cleaning involves taking apart your espresso machine and putting elbow grease into cleaning every single part. You’ll only need to do this about every six months, and remember, it’s worth it. Sticking to a deep cleaning regimen will make sure you keep pulling the best espresso shots.
  3. Invest in some good cleaning tools. To speed up the cleaning process, invest in some good cleaning equipment. We go more in-depth on what cleaning equipment you should have below. The most basic tool you need is a good group head cleaning brush. You’ll be able to scrub all the nooks and crannies of your espresso machine.
  4. Fight buildup with white vinegar. Distilled or white vinegar is a natural miracle cleaning product when it comes to your espresso machine. It’s also great for cleaning other appliances. White vinegar easily removes buildup and grime without leaving any of its own residue behind. All you need to do is add about 3 oz of vinegar to 20 oz of water and let it run through the espresso machine. Next, run clean, filtered water through to flush out any lingering vinegar. This is called back flushing.
  5. Backflush your machine regularly. Back flushing is an important step in keeping your espresso machine running properly. You can back flush easily by running hot water through the machine (or with vinegar, like in the step above). To keep your espresso machine in the best shape, back flush after every use or a minimum of once a week.

How to Clean an Espresso Machine in Under 10 Minutes

how to clean an espresso machine in under 10 minutes

Even if you wipe your espresso machine down every day and make an effort to back flush, residue is still going to build up. Giving your espresso machine a quick clean 2-4 times a month can make a huge difference in thetaste of your espresso shot and how long your machine lasts. Don’t reach for any dish soap or regular detergent when you clean, though! Here’s how to quickly and easily clean your espresso machine the right way:

  1. Unscrew the basket and the portafilter. If you’re not familiar with espresso machine parts, refer to your machine’s manual or check out our guide. Used coffee grounds get stuck most often in the basket and portafilter. Your espresso will start to taste bitter and the machine can rust if you don’t regularly rinse these parts. Don’t throw them in the dishwasher, though! Simply rinse them under hot water until all residue is gone and let them dry on paper towels before putting them back.
  2. Scrub the seal. The seal or gasket is the part that connects the basket and filter to the espresso machine. It’s where you unscrewed the basket and portafilter from. Coffee grounds get stuck at the top of the seal. Using a small brush (an old toothbrush works), rotate it around in circles until the residue is removed. Dip the brush in hot water and a little white vinegar to help remove residue.
  3. Remove and clean the screen. The screen or sieve is held in place by a screw, so you’ll need a small screwdriver to remove it. After you’ve removed it, take your cleaning brush or a cloth and wipe down the interior. Run hot water through the screen to remove any residue before putting it back on.
  4. Back flush your espresso machine. Now that you’ve cleaned some of the basic parts, put everything back on and back flush. You can back flush with hot water or add a little white vinegar to the water. You can also back flush with a powerful espresso cleaning powder like the one we recommend below. Turn your machine on and let the hot water pass through to flush out any leftover residue.
  5. Clean the steam wand. If you’re a fan of making cappuccinos or lattes, it’s important to keep your steam wand clean. A buildup of residue on the steam wand can effect the taste of your final product. All you need to do to clean it is turn the wand on for a few seconds and then wipe it down with a cloth. Try to do this step after every use. To deep clean your steam wand, invest in a steam wand cleaner. It’ll help you clean inside of the steam wand where mineral deposits get stuck.
  6. Wipe down the entire machine. The last step is to take a damp cloth and wipe down the entire espresso machine. Don’t use any harsh dish soaps or detergents. You can wipe it down with just a damp cloth or add a gentle cleaning solution like white vinegar.

Espresso Machine Cleaning Tools

how to clean an espresso machine | tools you'll need to clean an espresso machine

Fresh Cup

If you want to really learn how to clean an espresso machine, invest in some cleaning tools. Handy cleaning tools make it easier to keep your espresso machine in good shape. If you don’t want to buy cleaning tools specifically for an espresso machine, you can use a few simple household items instead. At the very least make sure you have white vinegar, a cloth or rag and an old toothbrush. Here’s a breakdown of the best cleaning tools to invest in for cleaning an espresso machine:

  1. Espresso Machine Powder. White wine vinegar works greatto back flush your machine, but there are also some great espresso machine powders on the market that work over time. This cleaning powder by Cafiza is designed for back flushing espresso machines and removes every trace of residue. It also works well for cleaning other espresso machine parts like the group head, valves and machine lines.
  2. Steam Wand Cleaner. Yes, wiping down your steam wand regularly is easy, but when you want to deep clean it, invest in a steam wand cleaner. This handy brush from Pallo removes mineral deposits in the inside of the steam wand and features heat-resistant bristles. You can also use this brush to clean other hard-to-reach nooks and crannies on your espresso machine.
  3. Brew Clean Tablets. Brew clean tablets like these from Cafetto make it easy to clean the gasket. Just pop one of the tablets in the gasket and run hot water through it for five minutes. It will clean your brew basket, severs, air pots and coffee pots.
  4. Group Head Brush. If you’re only going to invest in one espresso machine cleaning tool, get a group head brush. You’re machine’s group head needs regular cleaning to keep brewing perfect espresso shots. The Zig Zag brush from Rattleware helps you easily clean your group headwithout even touching it. It has an angled design and a hollow in the back of the handle to help measure the right amount of cleaning powder.

Espresso Machine Maintenance

Aside from regular cleanings, maintenance should be a top priority if you want your espresso machine to keep running smoothly. If you use your espresso machine every single day, it may need to be serviced every 3-6 months. To service your espresso machine you’ll need to:

  1. Replace your group gasket.
  2. Replace your shower screen.
  3. Test all switches.
  4. Test the group head and water boiler quality.

Every six months to a year you may also want to:

  1. Replace the anti-suction valve.
  2. Clean the boiler level probe.
  3. Remove all body panels and vacuum/clean any dust that’s built up.

For more maintenance tips and to learn how to DIY espresso machine repairs, stay tuned for our guide on to how to fix your espresso machine yourself. You’ll learn how to troubleshoot common espresso machine issues and parts without calling a handyman.