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Espresso Machine Maintenance

Priming Pump Espresso Machines

Machine Maintenance & Cleanliness

Backflushing Espresso machines with 3-way valves

Cleaning espresso machine group screen, handles and baskets

General Notes on Descaling Superautomatic Espresso machines

Descaling Single Boiler Espresso machines

Descaling Saeco Superautomatic machines

Descaling Jura Superautomatic machines

 

Priming Pump Espresso machines

HOME MANUAL STYLE SINGLE BOILER PUMP ESPRESSO MACHINES
It is imperative that the very first thing to do to a new home espresso machine is prime it (or one that has been returned from service). This is because all machines are shipped without water in the boiler. The main practical reason for this is to prevent damage from freezing during shipping. Without water in the boiler, the heating element can be quickly damaged from heat stress with no water (or sufficient water) in the boiler.

1. Fill the water reservoir up with fresh, cold water. Important: make sure all hoses are submerged and free of kinks or other obstructions and that the inlet hose reaches to the bottom of the reservoir if so designed .
2. Make sure all switches are in the OFF position. Plug machine in.
3. Turn steam knob open. Place container under steam wand.
4. Turn machine on. IMMEDIATELY turn coffee/brew switch on, or the Hot water Switch if so equipped.
5. The pump will sound noisy initially but should quieten down within 10 sec. or so. The water level should start to drop in the reservoir.
6. Close the steam valve once water starts to flow out. Turn the coffee/brew switch (or hot water switch) off once water flows out of brew head. The espresso machine is now primed. Continue to run about a cup of water through the boiler and the group to thoroughly flush the system prior to using the first time
7. VERY IMPORTANT! Shut machine off after 1 minute if water does not appear. Wait 5 minutes for machine element to cool down. Repeat. Check for leaks (water under machine). If the espresso machine won't prime, contact us for further instructions.

It is always good practice (but not a requirement) to prime espresso machines after steaming milk. Anytime the machine has not been used for some time it is also advisable to quick prime the machine. Just open the steam valve and turn the coffee switch on until water flows out. Alternatively, turn on the coffee switch and let water flow through the brew head (this has the benefit of rinsing the showerhead).

We know people who have an espresso machine but don't drink coffee. However, they do use the machine for making great hot chocolate or chai tea drinks. For these folks, it is vital that they prime the machine often, because steaming uses water from the boiler, but does not replace it. Only making espresso (or priming) keeps the boiler fully charged with water.

HOME SUPERAUTOMATIC ESPRESSO MACHINES

1) Fill the water reservoir up with fresh, cold water. Plug machine in. Power the machine up

2) Generally, most digital machines will say "Ventilate", or some similar message, if the machine is not primed and requires priming.

3) If you have a non-digital machine, usually a red light will flash. However, the flashing light can also indicate another "malfunction", so ensure that all doors are closed, brew groups in tight, water reservoir filled and in place, bean hopper filled, dregs drawer in tight, drip tray pressed in tight, etc. Otherwise you may not be able to proceed to the next step, since the machine will not operate at all if all the parts are not in place.

4) Place a 8 oz. minimum sized container under the steam wand.

5) If you have a non-digital, single boiler system simply turn the steam knob wide open, which should engage the pump and prime the boiler. Run a cup of water out into the container. Yuor machine should be primed.

6) If you have a double boiler system (digital or non-digital) you will need to first press the hot water button, and then open up the steam valve to prime the machine. The pump should engage and within 10 seconds or so water should flow out the steam valve and into your container.

7) If the machine will not prime after several attempts, the machine will most likely need to be serviced professionally. Some common reasons why a new machine will not prime are: pump-airlocked, plugged water meter jet orifice, damage in steam valve system, cracked water line from residual water freezing during shipment.

Espresso Machine Maintenance & Cleanliness

The purpose of cleaning your espresso equipment is to achieve better control of the brewing process and to obtain the freshest taste in coffee. By cleaning your equipment on a regular basis, you can help save on replacement parts and increase the life expectancy of your equipment. The following procedures should be followed on a regular basis:

1) Give the steam wand a quick "shot of steam" after frothing your milk (use a clean moist washcloth over the hole to prevent a mess). Then use the moist cloth to clean the steam wand immediately. If the milk has dried, use a plastic pot scrubber to clean the wand. Or soak the steam wand in hot water to remove any caked-on milk. Use of steel wool scouring pads will eventually remove the chrome plating. Clean the steam jet hole with a pin, paper clip or a similar tool.

2) Flush the group head by turning on the pump for a few seconds, without the portafilter in place, after the last coffee session of the day (this has the added benefit of always ensuring the machine is fully primed).

3) Remove drip trays and clean them. (They can be put in the dishwasher, occasionally, top rack only if plastic, otherwise they may morph into interesting but unusable shapes from the heating element).

The cleanliness of the Espresso machine portafilter and brew baskets is one of the most overlooked cleaning rituals regarding home espresso machines (commercial establishments too; - we have seen way too many restaurants where the only time the handles are cleaned is when we do it after the machines break down - sometimes years!). The reason to clean is obvious - all that beautiful fresh espresso and crema flows through the group assembly before it lands in the cup! Popping the filter basket out of the portafilter handle occasionally will tell you how often to clean - if it looks dirty, clean it!

Espresso Machine Backflushing

HOME PUMP MACHINES WITH 3-WAY ELECTRO VALVES (Silvia, Gaggia Baby, Gaggia Classic, etc)

Caution: DO NOT, we repeat, do not backflush espresso machines that don't have a 3-way electrovalve. Cleaning solution may enter the boiler and possibly damage it or "contaminate" the water. Besides that, there is no benefit to backflushing a non 3-way valve machine. Just give the group screen, baskets and handle a good cleaning as described below.

Note: All espresso machines with 3-way valves will have some sort of drain line going into the drip tray.
Once every couple of hundred shots of espresso (1 - 3 months) or so, you may backflush the system to ensure optimum tasting espresso and to prolong the efficient operation of the 3-way valve system. The reason to do it more often rather than less often is to improve the freshness of your espresso. The 3-way valve itself will survive several years of non-cleaning abuse before it decides it has had enough. For the VERY particular minded a weekly cleaning may be OK, but generally a monthly or longer schedule is perfectly adequate. It is much more practical and important to keep the screen and portafilter clean (see below).

So why backflush? Because the 3-way valve allows left over coffee to drain "backwards" from the "coffee puck", through the valve and out into the drip tray. This relieves pressure and makes for a drier coffee puck (less dripping). But that fresh espresso dries onto the inside of the screen area and the valve itself and soon becomes old stale espresso. By cleaning on a regular basis you will ensure that your lovely fresh espresso is not tainted by last seasons (or worse, last years) flavours!

Materials required: Ascor Clean Express, Stainless steel blind filter basket or Backflush disk, Group cleaning brush, plastic bowl or cup, sink and running water.

1) Start with a warm or hot espresso machine (products work better when warm).

2) Pop out the single or double basket from the portafilter handle, and pop the stainless steel blind filter basket in . If you have the rubber backflush insert, place it into the bottom of the double portafilter basket so that it makes a good seal (rubber disk must be used with the double basket).

3) Using Ascor Clean Express (or similar espresso machine detergent), place a 1/2 teaspoon in portafilter. If you wish make up a slurry or paste with a bit of warm water first. Insert portafilter in machine then cycle pump 10 seconds on, 5 seconds off, 5 seconds on. Then off. Turn machine off.

4) Wait 10 minutes or longer. Drain tray should show some foamy, dirty brown detergent mixture. This is normal and good (that's the old coffee oils dissolving out).

5) Note: If backflushing has not been performed for a very long time, repeat entire operation again with fresh cleaning solution. You may also wish to remove the screen and soak it separately, since the screen may be partially or fully plugged up, preventing efficient backflushing.

6) Now put a bit more cleaning solution in your basket and replace it loosely in the grouphead so that it will leak out around the sides when the pump is turned on. Run the pump while loosely wiggling the handle around to clean out the area around the rubber seal. This can be a bit messy, so make sure you have a old tea towel handy. Using the group brush, give a quick scrub around the sealing area and repeat the procedure.

7) Now rinse the solution from the portafilter, re-insert into machine. Run pump once more for 10 seconds on. Now turn off. Remove portafilter and run pump for 5 seconds or more into plastic bowl or cup to rinse out screen and group area. Thoroughly rinse the portafilter under warm water and rinse the drain tray.

8) Using some old stale coffee you just happen to have hanging around, make up an espresso shot and then discard it, to complete the cleaning process and to ensure that no cleaning agent ends up in a shot meant to be consumed.

 

Cleaning the group screen, handle & baskets

Once every 50-100 shots of espresso or so we recommend cleaning the group screen,handle and baskets. The screen will often look clean from the visible, down side, but rest assured that the coffee oils collect on the upper, unseen side. A dirty screen adversely affects the taste of your espresso and can diminish the efficiency of your machine. Remove the portafilter screen with a stubby screwdriver in order to clean it. (Rancilio espresso machines: note carefully the way the water spreader washer above the screen comes out so that you can replace it the same way).

1) Using a suitable container, such as a plastic 1 liter yogurt container, put in a teaspoon of Ascor Detergent (or suitable espresso machine cleaner such as Urnex Cafiza ) and one-third fill with hot water.

2) Put the baskets, screw, water spreader (if so equipped), handle and shower screen in the mixture and let sit overnight or until clean. Stir occasionally to speed things up if very dirty. Caked on screens may need a second application. Occasionally it may be more prudent to just replace the screen. Rinse all items thoroughly and replace.

3) Note: Do not run the pump with the screen removed, since hot boiler water can shoot out in unexpected directions (often forward) and possibly cause a scald.

 

Descaling Single Boiler Home espresso machines

(HOME SINGLE BOILER ESPRESSO MACHINES)

Learn all about Water Hardness and LimeScale

In hard water areas, minerals found in the water (such as calcium and magnesium) will accumulate, and over time affect operation of the espresso machine. Approximately every 3 months (depending on your use and the water hardness - check our chart), clean the machine with our Ascor Decal powder (or other natural citric acid based decalcifying agent).

1. Add one packet of Ascor Decal descaling solution into the water reservoir. Mix thoroughly to dissolve (use warm water for better results).
2. Remove the filter holder and place a cup under the group head and another cup, or other container, under the steam wand to catch cleaning solution.
3. Turn espresso machine on, turn coffee pump on and run approximately 8 oz. of solution through the brew head. Turn machine off and let the machine sit for 15 minutes.
4.Run approximately 8 oz. through the steam wand, and again, turn machine off and let sit for 15 minutes.
Repeat by allowing solution to run alternately through the steam wand and brew head. Turn espresso machine off after each cycle. Repeat process until solution has been run through.
5. Do not leave espresso machine on. Do not wait for the ready light to come on. Do not use the steam switch during this process. Do not allow reservoir to run empty!
6. Rinse reservoir thoroughly with fresh water. Refill reservoir with fresh water. Run half a tank of fresh water through group head, alternating between group head and steam wand.

General notes on Descaling superautomatic espresso machines

Learn all about Water Hardness and LimeScale

As part of normal preventive maintenance, espresso makers should be descaled approx. every 3 months, depending on the volume of use and hardness of your local water supply. If you have a non-digital machine the "hardness setting" of the machine will be pre-set at an average value and not adjustable. After a certain volume of water has passed through the descale light will start to flash. On digital machines, the machine will also be preset at an average value (usually 3 out of a possible 5). It is important to use the hardness test strip that accompanies new machine to determine the correct number to set the machine at for your particular location and water used. If you need additional test strips you may order them from us.

Read our section on water hardness which has Canadian & American hardness charts and a comprehensive list of Canadian cities and their water hardness ratings.

We always recommend the use of soft, bottled or filtered water to extend the longevity of your espresso machine. Distilled water should not be used, as too many of the necessary minerals are missing to make a good tasting espresso.

NOTE: There are many good descaling agents on the market today including Saeco descaler or Ascor Decal.

We recommend using a liquid descaler such as Saeco descaler, since there is less chance of an undissolved particle of powder plugging up a small orifice in the water metering system and causing a potential service call.

Do not use vinegar as this will cause damage to the machine.

Saeco descaler and Ascor descalers are non-toxic, biodegradable and odourless.

FIRST AID: If ingested, drink 2-3 glasses of water. In case of eye contact, flush thoroughly with cool running water for 15 minutes. Remove any contact lenses. Contact physician in either case, then get prompt medical attention. For skin contact, flush with water.

Descaling Saeco Automatic Espresso Machines

1) Fill the water tank with the descaling solution. (1 bottle of Saeco descaling solution to one full tank of water.)
2) Follow automatic descaling instructions as described in manual.

This procedure, when performed as necessary, should help avoid any major descaling requirements and related expenses.

Descaling Jura Automatic Espresso Machines

1) Completely dissolve the contents of one blister (3 JURA descaling tablets) in a receptacle holding 500 ml of water. This may take several minutes.
2) Follow automatic descaling instructions as described in manual.

This procedure, when performed as necessary, should help avoid any major descaling requirements and related expenses.