We often hear our customers complain: 'Our coffee doesn't taste nice, it is bitter, rancid, rubbery or medicinal. Is my machine running too hot? Why can't I get the same clean, round and enjoyable flavour I used to get before'? And our answer is usually: 'When was the last time you've backflushed your group head?'
Often, the romantic notion of brewing an extraordinary espresso at home like the good barista around the corner does takes over other less fun aspects of coffee making at home. The truth is that it isn't a maintenance free hobby. Traditional espresso machines need some TLC to keep pouring out the good stuff, and I never cease to be amazed at how much of an improvement a little scrubbing with a brush can give have in the cup. Far too many people neglect cleaning their machines, but if you want the absolute best coffee you can get, you need to take care of that gear!
Today we focus on 3 simple and easy ways to make sure your machine is being taken care of. We discuss Heat Exchange e61 group head technology here, but most of it is applicable for all commercially oriented semi-auto domestic machines with a pressure release valve. Not sure if this is applicable to your machine? Email our support to find out.
The 3 most important factors affecting the quality of your coffee (apart from the grinder you use, the beans in the hopper and your coffee making routine) are:
1. External Maintenance
Any machine with a release pressure valve will direct all the built up pressure into the drip tray, which will result in a fast increase of what we call "coffee gunk" in and around the grouphead and dispersion screen.
If we don't do anything about it, within few weeks, it can get pretty nasty, even if you backflush regularly. So you need to clean and maintain the grouphead and dispersion screen not to end up with the coffee gunk in your cup.
- Clean the steam wand: after the last coffee, wrap a wet cloth around the steam arm to soften any milk residue. Clean the residue off with a soft wet cloth. Turn on the steam to ensure the steam nozzle holes are clear; if not, clean them out with your Coffee Tool poker.
- Clean the handle: remove the handles, empty the grounds, flush hot water through the filters and wipe with a clean cloth
- Backwash the group head with water: remove the filter basket from the handle, insert the blind filter, lock the handle with the blind filter in place, press the coffee button (or pull the lever handle up) and let it run for five seconds. Repeat the above process five times.
- Clean the surface: wipe the basket with a Barista cloth, remove the drip tray, empty it, rinse and dry clean. Replace the filter basket in the handle. Wipe all surfaces with a clean damp cloth and then with a dry cloth.
Use the Coffee Tool brush to brush out the coffee residue from the inside of the group head and then wipe with a wet. clean cloth
Once a month (or every 1 kg of coffee, whichever comes first)
- Repeat steps 1-2 above
- Place a quarter of teaspoon of backflush powder in the blind filter and dissolve it with a little hot water.
- Press the coffee button (or pull the handle up) and let it run for five seconds then wait for five seconds. Repeat five times.
- Remove the blind filter from the handle, remove the steam nozzle from the steam wand (use Coffee Wrench) and soak handles, baskets, blind filters and nozzle in a container with hot water and backflush powder overnight to clean the coffee oils built up (One teaspoon to 500ml of water approximately - ensuring filters, baskets and metal handle surfaces are covered)
- Stubborn dairy scum can be removed with milk steam solution.
- Replace the blind filter in the handle and perform point 2 with clean water to flush detergent residue from the machine
Once Every 3 Months
It is good to remove the shower screen of your E61 group head once in a while to be able to remove all residue built up on the screen and allow access to your Coffee Tool brush even deeper inside the head.
Use flat head screw driver to release the shower screen tucked in the group head (or unscrew the shower screen if you have traditional head). Soak it with all other metal parts after backflushing.
2. Internal Maintenance
It is important to keep a regular regime of general service to your machine. We recommend general service every 18 months, more frequent if you are a heavy entertainer and do not use filtered water at home. If you haven't purchased it from Di Bartoli or you live outside Sydney, contact us to find out the location of your your nearest certified Technician.
While in service, your machine will undergo a thorough checkup to ensure it is cleaned, descaled, worn out parts replaced and it's tested for pressure and temperature. Click here to find out more about our service department or here for more info on our technical services. In certain cases where the customer lives in a remote area far away from any technician, or if they are unable to transport the machine to the workshop, we will recommend DYI service. Get a DYI Service kit here and ring us for support on how to go about it yourself at home.
Your grinder should not be neglected either. Bring your grinder along when you bring your machine in. We will give it a good clean and if your blades are over 5 years old, they may need to be changed.
3. Use Only Filtered (Soft) Water
Lime scale is the biggest enemy of all coffee machines. Frequently seen in large quantities in our workshop with machines having normal tap water used with it. Out of all user's neglect factors, this is by far the most harmful one and is the main reason for many breakdown cases. Scale gets everywhere inside the boiler, the coffee and water pipes, in the pump, in the group head, coating the heating element and gets on top of other components like solenoids, lever shafts, and gauges.
Using normal tap water will shorten the life expectancy of your machine, will require a more frequent servicing and will increase dramatically your repair bill thoroughly the machine's life.
We also sometimes forget that 95% of coffee is water and what we put in we get in the cup. In addition to hardness, we'd also want to remove sediments like chlorine and magnesium as they alters the coffee flavour. Most filters would also remove heavy metal, rust. dust and microorganism.
Tap water hardness varies in Australia, between the city to the countryside and even in difference suburbs of the same city. We recommend using our Water Hardness Stripes to test the hardness of your tap water and help you choosing the best solution.
Beware of the widely available and easy solution like the Brita counter top jugs as it will only remove a small percentage of the scale. The best solution we see nowadays in the market for domestic usage with a coffee machine is the Aqua pro bench top system that has been designed specifically to deliver soft water for all domestic electrical appliances using water but also deliver clean and tasty water for cooking and drinking purposes. Just remember to change the cartridge every 12 months or when the digital counter is low.
We have a range of water filtration solutions for your plumed-in machine. Browse online or ring us for the best solution for you.
Descaling isn't required often with Prosumer level machines, providing you use filtered water and that you service your machines regularly, as we will descale it for you. However if your machine employs an aluminium boiler like the Gaggia Classic you will need to descale it yourself every few months or follow up the manufacture instruction for frequency if your machine is fully automatic.
Keep your machine clean and your taste buds happy!