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Coffee Lovers Guide to Cleaning Your Coffee Machine

Are you sick of your local Starbucks barista spelling your name wrong again? Maybe you just don’t want to have to go through any social interaction to get your caffeine hit before work. For those who just want to get a boost as quick as painlessly as possible, a Coffee machine can be your best friend in the morning. But if you want your coffee to take care of your sleepiness, you need to take care of it. With so many kinds of machines, it can be hard to know which one to clean.

Types of Coffee for Your Coffee Machine

To decide what machine you use, you firstly must know which coffee you think you’ll most likely be using. It’s a toss up of taste, convenience and enjoyment. The three main ways of having coffee are either Freshly ground coffee, pods or beans.

Freshly ground coffee is probably the most common way to have coffee at home, with a bunch of convenient ways to brew it. Most stores will sell freshly ground filter coffee as well as espresso. It’s a good mix of convenience with the vast array of machines combined with taste due to the countless variants to fit any taste.

Most commonly for ground coffee, you’ll be using filter and drip coffee machines. These machines can be automatic, which normally have a very simple process and little learning curve, getting your coffee into that mug as quick as possible. However you can get creative with your filter and drip methods of preparing coffee with manual drip stations, so there is scope for creativity.

Fresh beans, however, are what the coffee aficionados swear by. Beans offer you the best, freshest and truest coffee taste but at a cost of prep time and cost. If you go down the beans route, you’ll obviously need to invest in a grinder or a machine with a grinder built in. If you just want to make coffee hectically before your commute, that’s another thing to clean and prep.

Pods are the new kid on the block, offering a speedy barista-esque experience. The coffee inside is an espresso blend, allowing you to try and replicate coffee shops at home with ease. Possessing a great variety of pods which is growing year by year, you can experiment with new kinds of flavours at ease. They have very little time and virtually zero skill investment making them ideal for a casual drinker.

Are Coffee Machine Pods Recyclable?

One of the big issues with pods is disposal. Quite a lot of types of pods are difficult to, if not impossible to recycle. This makes quite a few machines very terrible for the environment. This should be a factor that you take into account when you’re deciding on a pod coffee machine if you’re environmentally conscious. Coffee capsules are the biggest culprit, being made from plastic. A Nespresso coffee machine will give you the option of sending back the pods for the company themselves to recycle, and other companies working on recycling friendly pods. The issue is quite a heated topic, with Hamburg banning the pods from sale.  

Types of Espresso Coffee Machine and How to Clean Them

So what kinds of machines make espresso coffee and what are the popular brands? There are more manual kinds of coffee machines, with a pump. This isn’t recommended for beginners are it takes a lot of skill. After that there is the semi-automatic variant with a portafilter (where you put the coffee with the handle) and no inbuilt grinder. This gives you the most control with your coffee, allowing you to mix the water to coffee ratios. Here you can use a separate grinder to grind fresh beans or use packaged ground espresso beans.

For those with ease being the primary factor, there are automatic and super-automatic espresso machines that grind your beans for you and brew everything automatically. Here you just choose the kind of coffee you want and push a button. These however are the pricey options, here is where your Nespressos have their top tier models. They can start from around £300 and soar above £1000.

Cleaning changes depending on your machine due to the different mechanisms. Sadly, the more expensive bean-to-cup machines require the most upkeep. Thankfully they have appropriate warning lights and systems in place to let you know it needs cleaning and care usually. For example, all machines will indicate when descaling is needed.

To clean the products you will have to remove the internal parts, where the machine brews the coffee. This differs a little from machine to machines. If the machine doesn’t automatically add milk to the coffee, the steam pipe used to froth the milk also needs cleaning.  Keep the outside clean with a damp cloth and either use a brush or run steam through for a few seconds for the inside.

More traditional coffee machines will require a different approach. These traditional machines have a brew head, where hot water is dispensed into the coffee at pressure. This will need to be cleaned and flushed through with water. Alongside this, you’ll need to undertake regular unblocking of the filter baskets which is where you put the coffee dependant on the grind size of the coffee.

Most importantly, you must check that the portafilter and filter are clear. Using pins will often do the trick. If you are using a grinder alongside the machine, using a specialist brush to clean it will keep you making the freshest coffee. Barista Barn sells these as well as brushes to clean your steam pipes.

Types of Pod Coffee Machine and How to Clean Them

There are no a massive variety of pod coffee machines on the market. All the big brands like Nespresso coffee and Lavazza coffee make their own variants. The differences in what they all do aren’t as massive as other coffee machines, but the main issue is what pods work with them. Here is a quick infographic to show you what works with what coffee machine.

cleaning your coffee machine

Continuing the theme of ease, pod machines are very low maintenance. They usually only really need regular flushing through with water which will clean the internal parts as well as regular descaling. This alongside general cleaning on the external parts to keep everything fresh. Some machines come with different accessories such as a milk frother, which will need to be cleaned as mentioned before.

Types of Drip Coffee Machine and How to Clean Them

Some coffee lovers favourite, however, is to use drip coffee machines, such as the automatic kind of drip coffee machines. These are the kind of you associate with American Diners where you can keep topping up a cup of joe. There’s a massive variety of these with all sorts of new bells and whistles, but often times the old ones work just as well.

These machines are definitely for the casual coffee drinker though, there are some really elaborate unautomated versions of drip coffee machines. There are elaborate mechanisms that look almost out of a science experiment. These allow coffee lovers to get a change from espresso and really experiment with different methods.

These can include cone coffee makers, where the cone-shaped filter drips into a pour over unit. There are both electrical and automated versions of this. The most upmarket version is the Chemex Brewer, which is sold by Barista Barn!

There are also vacuum coffee makers where there are two chambers, where the top chamber is a glass container with a stem for coffee grounds and the bottom is basically a stovetop to boil water. Cold brews are also created through the drip method. Barista Bar sells a variety of high-end drip coffee makers to check out.

Cleaning these kinds of coffee machines mostly involve cleaning the filter method for the drip mechanism. Either use a filter paper on top, remover that and lightly clean or deeply clean the filter. As mentioned before, regular descaling is essential.

Descaling Your Coffee Machine

You’ve seen it mentioned in every cleaning section before, so let’s get to how important descaling is. Most people neglect this vital cleaning stip. One in five never descale their machine, and the same number only do it once a year. Most manufacturers will void the warranty if descaling isn’t done, as it’s just impossible for it to last if you don’t!

One thing that affects the frequency in which you will need to descale is hard water. Hard water has a higher mineral content and these minerals build up over time in your machine. Descaling is simply removing the build-up of the minerals. This means if your water is ‘soft’ or you use filtered water, descaling won’t be so regular for you. Despite this, you’ll be looking at doing it a couple of times a year at least.

There’s not a hard and fast rule as to when you should descale if your machine doesn’t remind you to. Some indicators could be that the coffee firstly just tastes a bit off. There will be visual clues too, as a chalky white residue will begin to build up.

To descale your machine you must first clean and empty your coffee machine, making sure the grounds have been cleared away from the chambers. Make a cleaning solution that is equal parts white vinegar and water. Pour this solution into the water chamber, making sure to fill it to capacity. Then you run half a brew cycle, do this by just running a cycle and turning it off halfway through. At this halfway point, let it sit for an hour. After that hour you just finish the cycle. Once that is done rinse out the appropriate parts and run a water cycle a few times to get rid of that smell or taste.

If your machine is entirely manual, such as some of the drip coffee methods, be sure to clean the appropriate parts with this solution. Don’t forget to leave it to soak in the solution and really break down those minerals. This makes sure you coffee lovers can keep having great tasting cups of coffee all year round.

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