How to Clean Your Coffee and Espresso Machines - Top Tips

Clint Doerfler
Clint Doerfler
Updated: May 5, 2022
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Do you want your coffee to taste as good as it smells? Of course you do.

Keeping your coffee maker clean is more important than you might think; and a crusty machine is one of the primary reasons for bad-tasting coffee and espresso, clogs, and/or breakage.

If your machine is clogged, then your pump is working overtime; like trying to blow a golf ball through a garden hose. Not good.

In this post, we’ll cover how to clean your coffee and espresso machines, if you own both. If not, just read the part that applies to you.

Reasons Your Coffee Tastes Bad—You Need a Lean, Clean, Coffee Machine

My Dad has always said, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”, and I believe coffee is no exception.

Aside from your coffee to water ratio, there are a lot of things that can affect the taste of your coffee and impede the performance of your coffee maker, espresso machine, or Moka pot, and having a dirty machine is one.

ALL of the following factors affect your coffee maker and espresso machine:
  • How often you descale it (or don’t)
  • How often you use your machine
  • How old your machine is
  • How hard the water in your area is – Don’t know? Check out this page for some easy methods of determining your water hardness
All this contributes to how well your coffee maker or espresso machine performs, tastes, and how long you can expect it to last.

But how often should you be performing a machine cleaning, and how do you know when it’s time for a deep cleaning (i.e., descaling)?

How often should you clean or descale your coffee maker and espresso machine?

If you only use your machine a couple times per week, every 60 days should suffice. However, if you have a little bit of a habit, 30 days is recommended.

See our daily and weekly cleaning tips below for keeping up with the long-term maintenance.

Keeping up with a brief, routine cleaning schedule will help extend the life of your coffee maker (or espresso machine) and it will give you the best tasting coffee and espresso possible.

Step By Step: How to Clean Your Coffee and Espresso Machines

Below, we’ve outlined each cleaning routine into daily, weekly, and monthly sections. Within each of those, there’s a method for your espresso machine and a method for your drip coffee maker.

Grab your cleaning solution. Let’s get into it.

Daily Cleaning—The Ritual You "Should" Attend

Daily Tasks to Keep Your Espresso Machine Clean:

  1. After you’re done making your cappuccinos or lattes for the day, discard all coffee grounds or use them for composting if you’re into that (they are a great source of nitrogen).
  2. Rinse the screen on the group head, portafilter, and basket (making sure all the holes are clear). Also, purge and wipe down the steam wand. I do this after making every espresso.
  3. At the end of the day, wash the portafilter and basket with a dish brush and unscented dish soap, so you don’t impart any soapy flavors into your next brew.
  4. Hand dry or allow all parts to air dry before reassembling.
  5. Wipe down the exterior of your machine with a clean, damp washcloth.

Daily Tasks to Keep Your Drip Coffee Maker Clean:

  1. Clean out and discard or compost the coffee filter and grounds.
  2. Rinse the basket out with hot water to remove any loose, leftover grounds.
  3. Wash the basket with a dish brush or washcloth using unscented dish soap.
  4. Wash out the carafe with warm, soapy water.
  5. Dry the carafe and basket or allow to air dry.
  6. Wipe down the coffee maker’s exterior with a clean, damp cloth.

Weekly Cleaning

Weekly Tasks to Keep Your Espresso Machine Clean:

  1. If your espresso machine has a three-way valve, perform a backflush procedure weekly (or as recommended) to remove any buildup of coffee oils and grime that accumulate on the shower screen, group head, and three-way valve. This ensures the best tasting espresso shots.
  2. If your espresso machine doesn’t have a three-way valve, don’t attempt a backflush process. Instead, simply soak your portafilter, basket, and steam wand in a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water (or descaling solution), then wash with warm, soapy water. You will probably have to occasionally disassemble your group head to clean the shower screen manually. Refer to your manual on this.

Weekly Tasks to Keep Your Drip Coffee Maker Clean:

  1. A weekly cleaning for drip coffee makers isn’t usually necessary if you’ve been keeping up with the daily cleaning. However, when using your machine more than once or twice per day without properly cleaning it between uses, consider performing the monthly maintenance (see below) more often.

Monthly Cleaning (Descaling)—Probably the Most Important of All

Monthly / Bi-Monthly Tasks To Keep Your Espresso Machine Clean:

  1. Decalcify your machine once every 30-60 days, depending upon usage, in order to keep it running smoothly. This removes calcium and hard water deposits that build up in the boiler and inner workings of the espresso machine, making your espresso taste unpleasant and rancid. Use a descaling solution made for espresso machines or a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water (this also makes a good cleaning solution). Be sure to cycle the solution through your steam wand and hot water outlet (if applicable). If your machine has an integrated charcoal filter system and you’re regularly changing the filter out like you should (every other month), you can perform decalcification less often.
  2. We also suggest performing the backflush procedure during this monthly maintenance. This ensures a clean group head, shower screen and group head—for excellent espresso.
  3. After you’ve cycled all the mixture through your espresso machine, thoroughly rinse out and wash your water reservoir, portafilter, and basket. Wash all these components by hand with warm, soapy water. Run a full tank of fresh water through the machine, ensuring all traces of vinegar are gone.

Monthly / Bi-Monthly Tasks To Keep Your Drip Coffee Maker Clean:

Once every 30-60 days, perform the following:
  1. Clean your coffee maker with a mix of white vinegar and water. The ratio of vinegar to water will vary with each model, so see your manual. Here are some general guidelines:
  2. Pour a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water into your drip coffee maker’s water reservoir.
  3. Run a regular brew cycle with the basket in place, but no filter.
  4. Dump out the vinegar concoction, once cooled.
  5. Run two pots of clean water through your machine to remove any residual traces of vinegar.
There ya go! After you know how to properly maintain your espresso and coffee machines, you can enjoy perfect coffee and espresso at home every day.

Bottoms Up!
Clint Doerfler
From a very young "growth-stunting" age, Clint Doerfler has had a deep-rooted love for coffee. As a result, he founded Coffee Gear Gurus® to share his passion for incredible home brewed coffee with others. When he's not watching true crime shows with family or playing music, he's devoted to helping fellow coffee feins make amazing coffee at home - regardless of their experience.
This article was last updated: May 5, 2022

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