You've bought the fresh specialty coffee. You've dialled in your espresso to perfection. You've textured velvety milk and poured a masterpiece that stacks up against the best cafe in town. But why does the coffee still taste disappointing? CLEANING!
Let's go over some of the more important cleaning routines, and how often you should do them at home. As always the best way to ingest this info is in video format.
20% Coffee Discount Code: 6weekbootcamp
Shot to Shot Cleaning
Now there are some parts of cleaning that we do every shot. Whenever we finish an extraction, we take the portafilter out, and knock the coffee out into the knock box. We also then give the portafilter a good wipe down with a dry cloth. This ensures that the basket is clean of any used coffee grounds, but it also dries any oils to make sure the next extraction will run through the coffee grounds nice and evenly.
If we look up at the shower screen after an extraction, you can also see some coffee grounds sitting on the screen. This is due to coffee from the coffee puck expanding when water is first added at the start of the extraction. So after every extraction, we need to run water through the group for a couple of seconds to remove this coffee.
End of Day/After each Session
Although we have been really careful when dosing our portafilter to make sure no coffee is sitting around the edges of the portafilter, coffee can still end up in the group head and around the group seal. So, after the end of each coffee making session, it’s a good idea to give this area a quick clean too. You can use a group brush like this one, and a clean damp cloth to wipe around the group head.
It’s also a good idea to take your basket out of your portafilter and give both a rinse, to make sure there’s no build up in between the basket and the portafilter spouts. Run them under the hot water of the group head and give them a wipe.
Once a Week
Now for home use, I recommend doing a backflush once a week. This involves an Espresso Backflush cleaner as well as a blind basket. The blind basket has no holes in it, so when this is used the water can’t push through the basket, and is instead forced back up into the group head. Add a little bit of backflush cleaner, I usually say a little fingernail’s worth just for a visual guide.
Put the cleaner into the blind basket, and then lock the portafilter in. Start your machine and you will hear the pump start running. Run for about 4-5 seconds and then turn it back off, you’ll see the water flush out. At this point there is cleaner up in the group head, and I usually let it sit here for 30 seconds just to dissolve the coffee oils that are sitting up in the group. After this repeat the 4-5 second running another 4 times.
After you’ve run the backflush 5 times, take the portafilter out and rinse the dirty water. I usually run this rinsing for about 10 seconds so that the water coming out of the group is nice and clean again. Then replace your portafilter and run the backflushing again but this time just with clean water - this will make sure there’s no cleaner up in the group. After these 5 times you should notice that the water in the group head is nice and clean. If not, run a couple more water only backflushes and it will be clean.
Depending on your machine, it might be easy to take off the shower screen too. For home use if you’re backflushing weekly, then you’d only really need to do this once a month. Some of them have a little screw in the middle of the shower screen, and others just lever off. Carefully unscrew or lever off the shower screen and make sure you keep track of all the parts, give the group head a good wipe around, and you can rinse the shower screen in running water.
Water is IMPORTANT
The last but really important thing I want to touch on here is the water you’re using. Water is MASSIVELY important for coffee, and especially for the longevity of your espresso machine. You need to make sure that your water has no impurities, but also has been softened if the water from your tap is considered ‘hard’. If your water supply is hard, when it heats up under pressure in your coffee machine’s boiler, the calcium precipitates out and coats your boiler and other parts of the machine in scale. Over time, this will clog your machine, and make it hard for the machine to operate as normal. You can buy descaler to run through your machine and lower the scale, but you are MUCH better off eliminating the problem with the water to begin with.
In cafes, a lot of places with hard water go to the trouble of completely purifying the water with reverse osmosis, and then remineralising the water with minerals that are good for espresso. That’s obviously fine when you’re making hundreds of cups a day, but for your home machine you’re probably not going to invest that much money on your filtration.
If you’re really keen on getting quality water for espresso, I’d recommend checking out Third Wave Water. They create sachets of minerals that you add to distilled water to create a balanced water profile for your brewing. I sell the espresso profile and filter coffee profile, and I’ve used them for a couple of years to dramatically improve my brewing at home.
The other water filter which is getting a big mention is the Peak water filter. It has been a couple of years in development and is about to be released. I’m definitely going to get my hands on one to play around with so subscribe to the YouTube channel if you haven't ready to keep an eye out for that.
I hope that you’ve really enjoyed the 6 Week Home Barista Bootcamp so far, and honestly clean equipment plays a MASSIVE role in consistently great coffee. It’s such a shame to put all the effort into making coffee with great beans, only to be let down by dirty equipment.
If there’s still something that you’re not sure on, make sure you hit me up with a comment, as for the final week next week we will be going back over the whole bootcamp to summarise things and also answer the questions you’ve asked along the way.
If your coffee supply is running low and you haven't yet used the discount code, you can use code '6weekbootcamp' when you check out for 20% off your next coffee purchase.
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