Group heads and shower screens
During service, clean group heads and shower screens periodically. This is easy to do with a group head brush. Run some water and give the seal a scrub with the brush to loosen built-up coffee mess. Then, use a blind filter and backflush with water. Put the blind filter into one of the group handles, wrap a cloth around the handle to protect your hands from hot water burns, and hold the handle in the group head but don’t lock it. Leave it loose and activate the water so it flushes up around the shower screen and rubber seal inside. Wiggle the handle slightly to ensure all the mess washes out and do this until the water is running clear.
Water backflushing should be done hourly throughout the day (depending on how busy you are).
At the end of the day, start by water backflushing each head before backflushing with cleaner. Avoid using excess cleaner; put about half a tablespoon of cleaner into the blind filter and drop some hot water on it so it begins to dissolve. Carefully lock this into the group head and let it soak for a minute. This process loosens up any oils on or above the shower screen (and saves you always having to remove them).
After a minute, turn the water on and allow it to build pressure for 10 seconds, then turn it off for 10 seconds. No water should be coming out of the head at this point, it should all be pushed back through the pipes of the machine cleaning them as it goes. Repeat five to 10 times, on for 10 seconds, off for 10 seconds.
Next, slide the handle out and you’ll see some of the mess you’ve just loosened from the group head. Rinse this and any residual cleaner off the handle thoroughly, give a quick water flush around the seal to get the cleaner out of there also and then do a final water backflush to clear the cleaner out of the internal pipes. Lock the handle in and turn the water on for five seconds and off for one second (water flushes out much faster). Repeat five to 10 times. This is equally important because residual cleaner will taint the pipes in the same way residual coffee oils will.
After the water rinse the group head should be squeaky clean, ready for tomorrow’s service.
If you prefer to remove shower screens and diffuser heads for cleaning get advice from your machine manufacturer or technician first, because every machine is different and some can be tricky.
Group handles and baskets
To keep group handles clean remove the baskets and soak the handle and baskets in hot water with a scoop of cleaner. (Don’t submerge the black part of the handle in the cleaner as this will slowly ruin the handle.) Soak for 10 to 20 minutes then rinse thoroughly.
But that’s not all… the cleaner only loosens the oils, it doesn’t remove them entirely. Give the handles a good scrub with a green scourer to get the oils off or they’ll just dry there again. The inside of group handles should be a polished yellow or silver colour (unless you have Teflon-coated handles).
Run the beans low toward the end of the day. You don’t want to leave beans in the hopper overnight because they’ll go stale and throwing them away is costly and wasteful. Empty your grinder hopper and grind out anything left in between the blades.
Use a paper towel (dampen if need be) to wipe out the hopper. Soapy water shouldn’t be necessary unless your hopper is really dirty, which, if cleaned every day, won’t happen.
Once the hopper is empty and clean, use a brush to get rid of any loose grind inside the dosing chamber and around the base, then reassemble.
Every surface the milk touches is just as important.
You should never see anything but stainless steel inside your milk jugs. Any yellow or white build-up is milk that has gone crusty and is breeding bacteria which is a serious hygiene risk to you and your customers. Rinse with water regularly during the day and don’t leave leftover milk sitting in milk jugs because it dries up and sticks to the walls. Scrub them with a strong green scourer at least once every day and focus on the spout and curves that might be hard to get to.
If they are quite dirty you can soak them in hot water with a dash of bleach to loosen any build-up so you can scrub it off, and maybe use steel wool instead of a scourer.
At the end of the day, steam arms should look the same as they did at the beginning. Don’t make a habit of letting steam arms build up with milk mess then clean it all at the end of the day. Aside from the hygiene risk of having milk build-up stuck to a warm environment where bacteria thrives, this will also cause blocks inside your steam arm and will drop the steam pressure too.
Make a habit of having a designated cloth for the steam arm. Purge some steam before and after every jug of milk and wipe with your designated cloth. This will keep the steam arm clean all day, meaning no additional cleaning is needed at the end of the day.
If there is build up on your steam arm don’t soak the steam tip in hot water. There is potential for water to be sucked back up into the boiler contaminating the water there, which is a much bigger job to fix. Instead, wrap the steam tip in a damp cloth and turn the steam on. Leave it going for 30 seconds or so to let the cloth get very hot and soften the build-up. Turn off the steam and remove the cloth very carefully. Now try wiping the build-up off and repeat as necessary if it’s not entirely clean yet. But again, purging and wiping every time you heat milk is the best way to keep this clean and working at its optimum.
Now, with a squeaky clean machine you can enjoy a well-earned beer knowing that your espressos will be tasting great tomorrow morning.
Source: Bean Scene Magazine July 2014