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In the September/October 2009 issue, writer Amy Zavatto shows you how to make six espresso drinks like a pro. Of course, part of mastering the art of espresso is choosing the right equipment and taking care of that equipment. So once you’ve picked out your perfect machine using the tips we provide in the magazine, be sure to follow these simple steps to keep your precious workhorse in stellar condition.
1. After each use, wipe down your portafilter and group, keeping them clean and free of debris.
2. After dumping your coffee grinds and wiping the portafilter and group, run a few ounces of water through the group to make sure the perforated basket is clean.
3. Sweep any leftover grinds out of your grinder using a small brush (a skinny trim brush from the hardware store will do just fine).
4. Your machine should come with two removable “baskets” (the little inserts that go inside the portafilter)—one that’s perforated, which is used when you make coffee; and one that has a solid bottom. Remove the perforated basket and insert the solid one every night (assuming you’ve used your machine that day) to “backflush” your machine with water, a procedure where you activate your brew lever and allow water to run for a few seconds at a time in order to flush out any debris and oils that have collected in the group.
5. Purge your steam wand after every use, and then after the last use of your machine every day, soak the wand in hot water and detergent for about 15 minutes. Afterward, purge the wand again and wipe it off.
1. Use a detergent to clean/backflush your machine. And not any ole detergent—you have to have the kind specially made for espresso machines (such as Cafetto, Urnex or JoeGloe). The good news is you only used a small amount for each cleaning, so one bottle will last you practically forever, and usually costs less than $20. Note: Backflushing is not appropriate for all machines, so be sure to check your owner's manual to verify whether this method is suitable for you. For a helpful video demo of how to backflush an espresso machine, click here.
2. Mix together some coffee detergent and hot water and soak your portafilters and baskets for about 30 minutes, or more if they're especially dirty. Remove them from the solution, scrub them well and rinse and wipe them off.
Even if you're using flitered water, you should descale your espresso machine on an annual basis to get rid of calcium build-up that can eventually damage your machine and impact your espresso flavor. Urnex makes a descaler that costs around $8.
Check out our list of coffee tools and gadgets.