Whole Latte Love Blog

Time to Spring Clean Your Espresso Machine

by Jessica Pavia Updated: March 30, 2022 9 min read

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Spring is nearly here — thank goodness. We’ve lost an hour of sleep, sure, but it will all be worth it as the sun stays out later and inspires us to get cleaning. Your espresso machine or coffee maker does a lot for you every day, and only requires you to gussy it up every now and then for increased longevity. To keep your machine running like new, make sure to include machine maintenance with the rest of your spring cleaning!

We know this can feel a bit overwhelming and daunting at first. Do I use tablets or filters? Do I need both? How will I know when to use them? If you own a super-automatic machine, then you already know how incredibly efficient it is for brewing coffee and espresso drinks with the press of a button. However, their ease of production does mean they require some extra care when it comes to keeping them clean and protected. But don’t fret! It all comes down to having a schedule and plan of action.

The same goes for semi-automatics and prosumers. However, since there’s no built-in grinder or milk frothing system, they’re a bit easier to maintain when it comes to cleaning. Of course, you want to use something like the Urnex Café Sprayz, which is great for semi-automatics too, but especially for maintaining the stainless steel and drip trays on your espresso machine. Finally, we have grinders. If you notice your coffee hasn’t been tasting like it usually does, it might mean you need to clean yours. Ultimately, you should be cleaning your grinder a bit after every use — a quick brush around where static keeps grounds clinging to your machine. But when it comes to a more in-depth clean, you want to really get in those burrs and under the hood.

Below you will find some common questions we hear or anticipate we might be asked when it comes to all the plethora of cleaning and maintenance products we carry. Hopefully this will help clear up any confusion before we move on to in-depth looks at each product we carry organized by brand!

What is Backflushing?

Backflushing is perhaps the most important part of any semi-automatic or prosumer maintenance routine. It’s used to clean the entire brew group — shower screen, gasket, and holding plate — by using a cleaner like Cafiza that breaks down coffee oils and helps loosen up any grounds that may have gotten stuck.

Backflushing is also used to help clean the solenoid valve, this is the valve that opens when the brew switch is returned to its normal position. It provides a channel for the pressure to be redirected through and deposits the water into the drip tray via the decompression duct. This valve can also get covered with coffee oils, etc, so backflushing is essential to helping keep it maintained. 

What is Descaling?

The cleaning tablet's cousin has to be descaling your machine. But what exactly is the difference? At its core, both using a cleaning tablet and descaler work to remove debris from your coffee and espresso machines. A descaler, however, is focused specifically on removing limestone, which is essentially what’s left behind by hard water. Your machine’s heat helps draw these minerals out, ultimately being deposited on the surfaces of metal. While it doesn’t have much of an impact on your coffee’s flavor, it does affect your machine’s longevity. Scale can block water passages and reduce the efficiency of heating, and if it gets bad enough water flow will be blocked entirely. 

Why Do You Need Water Filters?

Let’s be honest here: if you don’t have good water, you won’t have good espresso. There’s simply no way around it. The water filters collection block below plug right into your machine for easy filtration. They will both improve taste and protect your machine against limescale buildup.

What are Milk Cleaners? Are they Cleaning My Milk?

When it comes to super-automatic machines, especially super-autos with built-in milk systems, they need to be regularly cleaned up. These cleaners are specifically calibrated to break down milk solids that soap and other cleaners are unable to.

How Are Cleaning Tablets Different From Descalers?

Using cleaning tablets is a great option when it comes to maintenance. They’re an easy, one-stop solution that you can just pop into your machine. But how are they different from descalers? And do you need both? Cleaning tablets are for the brew unit and the spouts that the coffee travels through. As it makes its way to your cup, espresso inevitably leaves behind oils and other deposits that the tablets clean out. Descaler, on the other hand, is focused on removing calcium and mineral buildup from inside the boiler and water lines. So in essence, they have the same purpose but focus on different parts of the same machine.

Maintenance Products by Brand:

Gaggia

  1. Gaggia Coffee Clean Tablets: When it comes to Super-Automatics, you can trust Gaggia. These tablets are calibrated to remove built up oils, grease, fats, and other brewing debris with ease. Simply drop one of the six included tablets into your machine according to its brew group cleaning cycle. These tablets are biodegradable and nontoxic, so you can restore your machine to its peak performance — trust us, you’ll taste the difference.

  2. AquaClean Water Filters: Now, if you have a Gaggia Babila, you’re in luck. These are the one and only water filters for you. Much like the filters above, the AquaClean not only makes your coffee and espresso final product taste better, but it protects your machine as well. Using an ion exchange and micro-porous filtering, the AquaClean removes calcium and other undesirable impurities in your water. Depending on how much you brew and how frequently, this filter may last up to 625 cups — a pretty good deal, right?

  3. Mavea Intenza Water Filters: These water filters are made for Gaggia super-automatic espresso machines, and they’re great at what they do. You can trust these will remove copper, lead, chlorine and other impurities to not only get you a better tasting cup of coffee, but to extend your machine’s health. These filters fit all our Gaggia machines except for the Babila.

Urnex

    1. Urnex Cafiza: When backflushing, you want to always be using Urnex Cafiza or something similar. This is a formulated powder that adds an additional layer of cleanliness by removing residue, rancid coffee oils, limescale, and other impurities leftover from brewing an espresso puck with your machine. Simply spoon a bit into your blind basket before backflushing. You can also use it to clean any metal parts like portafilter screens and filter baskets. However, this is NOT a decalcifier and should not be used as one or put through your boiler.
    2. Urnex Scoopz Brush: The Urnex Scoopz Brush lets you get an even deeper scrub after you backflush and loosen up those impurities. This bright red tool is ergonomically designed so it's easy to get some elbow grease involved when cleaning. It is also angled back a bit to act as a splash guard against hot water that may still be present in the group head. The Urnex Scoopz Brush also has a small scoop built in at the end of the handle to be used in collaboration with the Urnex Cafiza.
    3. Urnex Grindz Grinder Cleaner: Right off the bat, do NOT use these cleaner tablets for super-automatic machines. Mosey on down to the next bullet point if that’s what you’re looking for. These Urnex tablets are food safe and perfect for stand alone grinders. Add a tablet where you typically would coffee beans, and run a grinding cycle. As it runs through the burrs and casings, leftover coffee particles and rancid oils will be gently dislodged. Since it’s totally food safe and made only from edible ingredients, there’s no leftover chemical taste! How often should you use these? We recommend every time you descale, just throw one in there for safe measure.
    4. Urnex SuperGrindz Super-Automatic Grinder Cleaner: These Urnex SuperGrindz tablets were the first safe and effective cleaning tablets for super-automatic grinders, so you know they’re good for their word. They’re food safe, of course, and repel water to get to work without harming your appliance. But what are these tablets for? Use the Urnex SuperGrindz Super-Automatic Grinder Cleaner tablets to remove stale coffee grounds and rancid oils leftover from the grinding process that build up in your burrs. Yuck, right? Simply run with your grinder’s typical cleaning cycle.
    5. Urnex Coffee Grinder Burr Cleaning Brush With Stainless Steel Bristles: If you’re in between descaling cycles, opt for something like this burr cleaning brush for more frequent cleaning. These stiff stainless steel bristles let you really get into those tough to reach places, making burr cleaning an enjoyable breeze. The handle is 7 in long for generous reach, keep your burrs clean of residue and oil. In so many words, this is a must-have for home baristas.
    6. Rinza Milk Frother Cleaner: The Rinza Milk Frother Cleaner from Urnex is a great option for a gentle yet effective daily cleaner. Coming in either an individual 4 oz bottle or case of 6, this cleaner removes any dried, excess milk leftover after frothing or steaming milk. Doing so also eliminates potential health issues that can occur from milk gone rancid. With this product, you want to use it at the end of every business day, just to make sure your machine is ready by the next morning.

Summary

Hopefully, this has provided you with a more streamlined understanding of the steps that go into maintaining your machines. It may seem like a lot, but when you think about all they do for you on a daily basis — hello morning coffee! — having a cleaning routine isn’t so overwhelming. Of course, if you still have questions you can call or take out a ticket with our support team. Or, check over your owner’s manual for insight into what they recommend.

As always, make sure to tag and share it with us! We love to see our products in your setups at home. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to stay up to date with Whole Latte Love!

Jessica Pavia
Jessica Pavia

Jessica L. Pavia joined Whole Latte Love in 2021 as a content writer. Her main job is writing product copy and blog posts, but she dabbles in the dark arts of social media marketing as well. Jessica is first and foremost a creative writer, and hopes to bring that voice and imagination into all her work.