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. Fortunately for most super-automatics cleaning and maintenance is just as simple.
The same goes for semi-automatics and prosumers. However, since there’s no built-in grinder or milk frothing system, they’re a bit more hands-on 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. Speaking of Urnex, we offer a robust catalog of their specialty cleaning products for espresso machines and coffee makers, and highly urge you to check them out!
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. You can also run some Urnex Grindz through to clear out stale coffee. 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. With an estimated 92-98% of espresso and coffee being water, water filters like those expertly crafted from our friends at BWT allow you to get the most out favorite drinks by providing clean, flavor-enhancing water.
BWT Water Filters like the Bestmax, Bestprotect, and Besttaste help you create the perfect cup of coffee by improving the quality of the water you use when brewing. With a BWT filter in your machine, you can to extract the best possible flavor while also helping to protect the planet by reducing your footprint.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- M61 Tablets: We’ll say it again: tablets are your best friend when it comes to machine maintenance. They are just so easy to use! These M61 Tablets from Urnex are no different. Each 4g tablet dissolves easily in water and is formulated with cationic surfactants to ensure effective cleaning of steam wands, valves, and tubes. These can be used on auto-frothers and steam wands. For the former, you’ll run the entire solution through your frother. For the latter, simply soak the steam wand and then purge.
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.
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?
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.
- Gaggia Brew Group Service Kit: As the name suggests, this is the official kit for cleaning and maintaining your Gaggia super-automatic’s brew group. In it, you’ll find one tube of lubricant, one pipe cleaner, and three differently sized brew group O-rings. Use the lubricant to help your machine’s mechanical elements slide without friction, which will increase their longevity. Replacing your machine’s O-rings is a pretty common step in maintenance, so having one on hand is a really smart move (don’t want to be caught with a leaky machine in the morning!).
- JURA 3-Phase Cleaning Tablets: If you’re looking for more than a clean, these JURA 3-Phrase Cleaning Tablets are a fantastic option. The three phrases are: cleaning, care, and protection. For step one, activate one of the 25 tablets by running it through your Super-Automatics rinsing cycle. This will break down and remove built up residues like coffee oils that were leftover from the brewing process. Once the tablet finishes removing any remaining debris, they will leave behind a protective barrier that will continue to help reduce buildup until you get around to the next cleaning. Finally, the new third phrase: another layer of protection against mineral buildup.
- CLEARYL Water Filter: While there are a lot of versions to choose between — Smart Water Filter, Smart Min Filter, and Smart Pro Water Filter — one thing remains the same: they filter out limescale, heavy metals, chlorine, and other impurities. The CLEARYL Smart Filters use Radio Frequency Identification (RFI) technology for use in JURA machines that use the intelligent water system. It also uses the “up-flow” principle, which only filters the necessary amount of water for each beverage so you don’t let any leftover filtered water sit. CLEARYL filters also reduce water hardness up to 75 percent while also removing various undesirables. The filter will leave beneficial minerals like fluoride or magnesium in your water!
- JURA Descaling Tablets: Coming in a count of either nine or 30, these JURA Descaling Tablets are a great addition to your maintenance routine. Think of them like dish detergent pods: throw three into your machine’s rinsing cycle and watch it get to work.
- Milk System Cleaner Mini Tabs: Making sure your milk system is clean is a vital step in machine maintenance — not just for your machine’s longevity, but for your health. These tablets from JURA are phosphate-free and work with your machine’s automatic cleaning program so you always have the right amount of cleaner removing milk fats and proteins leftover after steaming. They will also work to keep any parts related to milk preparation clean and hygienic. This is a refillable product that originally comes with 90 mini tablets.
- DeLonghi Milk Cleaner: Much like all the other cleaning tools, the purpose of the DeLonghi Milk Cleaner is to protect your machine, its frothing system, and remove built up residues. The milk cleaner is formulated for any and all DeLonghi automatic frothing systems, which makes your buying process really straightforward. Keep your frothing carafes and steam nozzles clean, safe to use, and hygienic because why wouldn’t you? Protecting the system’s performance is a great added bonus.
- DeLonghi Coffee Care Kit: This is a five piece kit, including a bottle of EcoDecalk, Eco MultiClean, a water filter, water hardness testing kit, and cleaning cloth. For information about the EcoDecalk, revisit the bullet point above and for the MultiClean, look below. The water filter works to remove contaminants and impurities from your water to reduce buildup, and is compatible with: ESAM6900, ECAM (all), EC860, EC680, EC685, BCO430, and COM530. The water hardness testing kit is a great resource to determine when a descaling cycle is in order. Finally, having a cloth in your repertoire of maintenance is the gift that keeps on giving, especially when your machine is made of stainless steel features.
- DeLonghi EcoDecalk: If you’re not into tablets, then the DeLonghi EcoDecalk is a great liquid option. Given its “Eco” name, you can bet this product is 100 percent lactic acid from high quality raw materials of plant origins. Meaning, as it cleans, it won’t leave any weird chemical aftertastes. But the environmental nod doesn’t end there! The bottle is also made of 50 percent recycled plastics and packaged in boxes made from FSC certified paper. You can either purchase the DeLonghi EcoDecalk as two 3.4oz bottles or one 16.9oz bottles. Not all cleaning products can work on both semi-automatic and super-automatic espresso machines, but this one can! So get busy removing that grime.
- ECM Polishing Cloth: If you’re looking to keep your machine gleaming, then the ECM Polishing Cloth is up to the task. With its lint-free and streak-free finish, this cloth can be used either dry or slightly damp to refresh and revive the appearance of your favorite machine without using any extra chemicals. The difference it makes after just one use will make you wish you had one sooner!
- ECM Barista Towel: For the home barista looking to keep their workspace clean, the ECM Barista Towel is a must-have. This German-made, ultra-absorbent towel is designed to soak up liquid quickly and easily, making it ideal for cleaning stainless steel housing, steam wands and portafilters without the need for chemical additives. Make sure you have one on hand for your next coffee prep session!
- ECM Grinder Cleaner: ECM's Grinder Cleaning Powder is specially formulated to help keep stand-alone coffee grinders clean and running smoothly. This food-safe, natural cleaner is specifically designed to help keep grinders clean and free of built-up coffee oils, flavors, and odors, as well as improve the flavor of your coffee. Regular use will result in a longer life for your grinder and reduce maintenance needs; who doesn’t want that? Please note that this product is NOT suitable for Super Automatic machines!
Note: This item is NOT suitable for use with super-automatic machines. It is ONLY for use with stand-alone grinders.
Made of food safe, natural products, ECM's Grinder Cleaning Powder is designed to eliminate built up coffee oils, odors, and flavors from the burrs and casings of your grinder. Regular use of the cleaning powder cuts down on the necessity for maintenance and improves the flavor of your coffee and the longevity of your grinder.
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.