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How to Clean Your Home Automatic Espresso Machine Properly


If you want your fancy automatic espresso machine to keep producing tasty coffee, then you need to clean it out properly. Not quite sure how to manage this? Don’t worry – here is your ultimate guide to making sure that your machine is clean and well-maintained. Let’s begin!

Cleaning Cycles – Semi-Automatic vs. Super Automatic Espresso Machines

The first thing you need to be aware of is that there are different degrees of automatic with espresso machines. These fall into semi-automatic, fully automatic, and super automatic.

In some cases, fully automatic and super automatic are used interchangeably. In other instances, super automatic espresso machines have even more “automatic” functions than the fully automatic ones.

These distinctions are important because some automatic espresso machines are equipped with cleaning cycles. With semi-automatic machines, you may or may not have a dedicated cleaning cycle – this will all depend on the make and model of the machine.

In the case of fully automatic machines, there will be a dedicated cleaning cycle. However, it won’t be automatic and will exist as a separate function. This means that you will have to activate the cycle for it to begin cleaning the machine.

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Last, but not least, there is the super automatic espresso machines. With these, the cleaning cycle will start up by itself. The machine will often go through the motion once it is powered on and once it has brewed a shot or more of espresso.

Once again, this automatic cleaning cycle will depend on the precise make and model.

Keep in mind that these cleaning cycles have limited functions. As a result, it doesn’t matter how often the cycle is engaged, you will need to clean your automatic espresso machine from top to bottom. The only difference is that you will have to clean out your espresso machines less frequently.

How Often Should You Clean Your Espresso Machine?

This brings us to another important point – how often should you clean your automatic espresso?

Well, the answer depends on two factors. First, does the espresso machine have a self-cleaning cycle? And, how often do you use your espresso machine?

If you have a super automatic espresso machine, you may only need to manually clean it once a week or a few times a month. At any rate, you will still be required to thoroughly clean it out at least once a month.

With semi-automatic espresso machines, you may need to clean it daily or whenever you brew your espresso. In the case of fully automatic machines, you may only need to clean it once a week, although this will depend on the model.

Naturally, the more often you use your espresso machine, the more often you will need to clean it. This is true for fully or super automatic espresso machines as well.

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What Cleaning Solution Should You Use for Your Espresso Machine?

Your automatic espresso machine is an expensive and complex piece of equipment. As such, you need to choose your cleaning solution carefully.

Some instruction manuals may give you an idea of which cleaning solutions or powders to invest in. It is a good idea to get these as you can be absolutely certain that they are safe to use in the machine.

If there aren’t any such recommendations, then make sure to specifically use products that have been designed to clean espresso machines. You will probably need two types of cleaners:

  • Degreaser for milk carafes and brew units
  • Descaler for the rest of the machine

Descaling products are available as powder, liquid, or tablet. Your user manual may recommend you to use one product over the other. If not, you can use any option. Just be aware that liquid is the easiest solution, and tablets come after this.

Cleaning Out Milk Components

When cleaning out carafes, frothers, and more, always used a degreaser that has been specially designed for automatic espresso machines. While rinsing it out with water will work, only a suitable degreaser will remove any oils present in the machine. In turn, this can prevent clogs.

Can You Use Vinegar to Clean Your Espresso Machine?

Vinegar is a popular cleaning solution. It isn’t uncommon to use vinegar to clean out standard coffee machines such as percolators.

However, you should never use vinegar to clean an espresso machine, particularly an automatic one. You may end up damaging various parts. Not to mention, using vinegar as a cleaning agent may void any warranty that you have. You simply shouldn’t take the risk.

Which Parts of Your Espresso Machine Need to Be Cleaned?

There are three main parts of the espresso machine that need attention.

First, there is the brew unit. This is the part that is most affected by coffee bean oils. As such, it will need to be degreased thoroughly. Then, there is the pannarello as well as any other component that comes into contact with milk.

Finally, you will need to descale the espresso machine from the inside. This is because limescale can begin to build up. Flushing this out can ensure that the machine doesn’t get clogged up and that your coffee continues to taste good.

The Cleaning Schedule for Your Automatic Espresso Machine

Here is a breakdown of when and how you need to clean your automatic espresso machine:

Daily or Every Couple of Days

The two main components that you need to clean as you use them or every couple of days are:

  • dreg drawer
  • drip tray
  • Steam wand and milk frother

Dreg Drawer

As the name suggests, this is where your coffee dregs are dumped once they have been used for your espresso. If the dreg drawer is sizable, you may feel comfortable allowing it to fill up for a few days before cleaning it out.

Nevertheless, it is a good idea to clean out the dreg drawer every time you use it or at least every other day. This is especially important if you don’t use the espresso machine all that often and forget about undertaking this task.

Why is it so important to clean out this component regularly?

Well, the main reason is that damp coffee grounds are the perfect breeding ground for mold. Therefore, if it isn’t cleaned out in a timely manner, you aren’t just compromising the taste of your coffee, but also your health.

So, try to empty out the dregs every time you use the machine or make a habit of doing this every other use. Throw the coffee grounds out, wash them (if possible), and dry them with a paper towel before replacing them.

Drip Tray

Some models have drip trays equipped with sensors. These will let you know when the drip tray is full and needs to be emptied out. If your espresso machine doesn’t have this feature, it is a good idea to empty it out at least once a day. This is something you should do if you drink several cups a day.

For the most part, simply tossing out the water from the drip tray is enough. Every now and then, though, you may want to flush it out with warm water. This will help get rid of any coffee residue that may have gotten stuck there.

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If you aren’t planning on using the machine any time soon, place it on a drying rack to dry out thoroughly. Of course, replace it before using the machine.

Steam Wand and Milk Frother

These need to be cleaned with every use. Unlike with water or even coffee, when milk dries, it forms a thick residue that can clog up various components. The longer it is left like this, the harder it is to clean. Not to mention, bacteria and fungus can grow on any surface that has been exposed to milk.

After each use of the steam wand, use a damp cloth to wipe down this feature. You should also run water or steam through the spout to dislodge any milk that may be remaining. If the steam wand has a pannarello over it, remove this and clean it out.

If your machine is equipped with an automatic frother, you will need to clean the internal components as well. This involves placing the frothing tube into a container of water. Make sure to place an empty container under the spout. Then, turn the frother on. This will allow the water to flush out the milk.

Clean Every Week

It is important to clean out the brew unit at least once a week. Now, the manner in which you clean this brew unit will depend on the type. There are two types of brew units – removable and non-removable.

With many automatic espresso machines, the brew unit is rinsed out automatically – regardless of whether the unit can be removed or not. This may happen at least once every brewing cycle. Even with this function in place, you will still have to clean out the unit more thoroughly.

For removable units, remove the brew unit and hold it under running water. Do this until you don’t see any leftover coffee grounds. If you notice some residue or build up, you can use a cloth to brush it off. Make sure to be careful and gentle when doing so.

Set the unit on a drying rack to air dry. Replace it before using it.

With non-removable units, all the cleaning is done internally via a cleaning cycle. Thus, you will have to use either a cleaning tablet or solution. With tablets, you may need to place it where the grinding component is. In the case of liquid, you may need to add it to the water reservoir.

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for both the cleaning solution as well as the espresso machine before proceeding.

Once you have chosen the cleaning cycle, you will probably need to add the tablet or the solution. Once again, the exact procedure can vary from one machine to another so make certain to follow the instructions properly.

After activating the cleaning cycle, place a large container under the spout. This will catch all the water and debris that flows out. Depending on the cycle, you may need to empty out both the container and the drip tray a few times before the cleaning cycle comes to an end.

When the cleaning cycle is over, brew at least one or two consecutive shots of espresso. Make sure to throw these away – grounds included. This will ensure that the cleaning solution is flushed and you won’t have to worry about contaminating your cups of coffee.

Clean Every Month

You will need to descale your espresso machine around once a month. This isn’t always the case, though. The exact schedule will depend on the model recommendations, how often you use the machine, and whether or not it is hard or soft water in your residential area.

For instance, if you live in an area with hard water and/or you use your machine quite often, it is a good idea to descale the machine at least once a month. This can prevent build up as well as a host of other issues.

If not, you may be able to go up to 3 months at a time before needing to descale your machine. Your manufacturer’s instructions may provide a bit more insight here.

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With fully automatic and super automatic machines, you should have a dedicated cycle for cleaning. Also, always use a descaler that is specifically designed for espresso machines. Remember to follow the manufacturing instructions for both the descaling solution as well as the espresso machine.

For almost all machines, you will need to place the descaling solution in the water container. If it is an automatic cycle, then you can just engage the cycle and have it run through. Here, you will simply have to place a large container under the steam wand.

If the cycle isn’t automatic, you will need to lift the steam wand and allow several ounces of water to run through into the waiting container. Then, wait for a few minutes so that the solution can properly descale the machine.

Once you have done this, lift the steam wand once more and let several more ounces of water run through. Pause again and then repeat this motion again. You will need to continue this until all the water in the tank is emptied out.

When the water container is empty, refill it with water and run the entire steam wand until the water has been emptied out once more. This will ensure that there is no residue left.

Postponing the Descaling Period

Unlike other cleaning tasks, it is possible to avoid descaling your espresso machine like clockwork. This is because you can take steps to cut down on the chance of lime scale building up in the machine.

The easiest way to do this is to use bottled water for your espresso machine. This water is often treated so that various substances are removed. Another option would be to use water that has been passed through a water filter – or you can simply put one on your kitchen tap.

If your espresso machine has a built-in water filter, this will not be an issue for you. The filter will take care of the minerals, ensuring that they don’t reach the rest of the machine.

If this feature exists, the manual will instruct you to descale on the machine on a less frequent basis. You may be required to clean or swap out the filter every now and then, though.

The Top Tips for Cleaning Your Automatic Espresso Machine

Here are the main guidelines to follow to keep your automatic espresso machine in the best condition possible:

Pay Attention to Instructions

This bears repeating! Remember, it doesn’t matter how many espresso machines you have owned in the past, as each one is different. You shouldn’t presume that you know how to clean a particular make and model.

Always read the cleaning instructions that come along with every model. This will outline the components as well as what can be removed and cleaned and what you shouldn’t touch.

You should also be aware that each cleaning cycle is different. As such, you may have to carry out specific tasks according to each individual cycle. Follow these and you will be able to prevent any mistakes or accidents.

Use Appropriate Cleaning Solutions

Most instruction manuals for espresso machines will recommend what cleaning solutions or products to use. In some instances, this will come directly from the manufacturing company.

Regardless of the expense involved, it is a good idea to follow these recommendations. Keep in mind that if you use another product or cleaning solution, the warranty may actually be voided.

So, if something does go wrong either while cleaning the machine or at another point, the company may absolve itself of blame. Then, you will have to fix the issue yourself with no guarantees.

Clean on Schedule

Finally, make sure to clean the machine out according to the schedule. This can save you a world of hassle in the long run. Not to mention, it will result in better-tasting espresso as well!

This is what you need to know about how to clean your home automatic espresso machine. Follow these guidelines and you will be able to handle the task perfectly.

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About the author


Samuel is a coffee lover and a writer. He's travelled extensively throughout Southeast Asia and has soaked up the sun, the culture, and of course - the coffee. He loves to write about his experiences, and he hopes to travel even more in the future.

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