How to Clean Coffee Machine

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know until very recently that you should clean your coffee machine at least once a month. Now don’t get me wrong – I removed the old grounds and washed out the pot and filter but that was as far as it went.

A little while ago, I stumbled across an article online about the importance of cleaning your machine which made a lot of sense. Over time, limescale, dust and coffee bean debris can accumulate in your machine. This nasty stuff gets washed into your coffee every time you brew which as well as making your java taste bad, can pose a hygiene hazard.

What really shamed me into action was a reference to a US study which identified coffee makers as one of the top 10 germiest places in the average home

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There are lots of different coffee makers in UK homes these days with filter machines, capsule machines and espresso machines being the most popular. Some machines have a cleaning light which will alert you when your machine needs a scrub, and some will apparently even clean themselves! I’ve put together a simple guide with some tips and tricks on how to clean coffee machines of all descriptions.

I have a very simple Russell Hobbs filter coffee maker which I’ve had for such a long time that the company doesn’t even make it anymore. It doesn’t have any fancy self-cleaning functions or performs any other tricks. The good news is that simple machines are quick and easy to clean and you don’t need any special cleaners or equipment.

How to Clean a Drip or Filter Coffee Maker

All you will need to clean your filter coffee machine is one clean disposable filter and a large bottle of distilled white vinegar.

  1. Fill up your machine’s water reservoir with a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar.
  2. Put the pot in place, turn the machine on and let it run as if you were brewing coffee. When the cycle is complete, you definitely won’t want to drink this brew!
  3. Tip it out, and run the cycle twice more with just plain water to eliminate any traces of vinegar from the machine.
  4. Throw away the filter and rinse out the filter basket. You should also wash out the coffee pot and lid with warm water and washing up liquid.
  5. This is a good time to wipe the top and outside of the machine.
  6. That’s it! Now all you have to do is remember to do it again next month!

Many filter coffee pots are dishwasher safe, but it is better to hand wish the lids. If you regularly wash your coffee pot in the dishwasher, you will probably notice that in time, the liquid measurement marks on the outside will eventually wear off. For this reason, I prefer to wash my pot by hand in warm water and dish soap.

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How to Clean an Espresso Machine

If you’re a real coffee connoisseur, then maybe you are lucky enough to have one of these bad boys at home. If you do, you probably paid a lot of money for it and you’ll want your investment to last. Regularly cleaning your machine will give it a longer lifespan and keep your coffee tasting great.

If you use your machine daily, then once a month is usually enough to thoroughly clean the machine but the smaller parts like the portafilter, basket and milk steamer and jug should be cleaned more frequently.

Before cleaning your espresso machine, check with the manufacturers’ instructions and guidelines as makes and models can differ.

Most espresso machines come with a specialised brush tool for cleaning. If you don’t have one of these, it may be worth investing in something like the Redecker Espresso brush which is ideal for getting into the small spaces of your machine to clear out coffee grinds and other debris.

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Cleaning the Portafilter and Basket

The portafilter is the small cup with a handle that you fill with coffee grounds and click into the group of the machine. The basket is the metal filter that goes inside the portafilter. These two parts of the machine should be properly cleaned once a week and always empty out the old grounds from the portafilter and rinse it immediately after use.

To clean the portafilter and the basket, remove the basket and use a brush like the Redecker Espresso brush to clear any coffee grounds from both parts. Rinse with warm water and dry with a soft towel.

Cleaning the Group and Gasket

The Group is the fixture into which you click the portafilter. Inside the group is a rubber ring called a gasket. Carefully use the brush to loosen and dislodge any debris from the gasket and group.

You will see a screw on the underside of the group which you can loosen with a small screwdriver. This will allow you to remove the screen from the group and clear out any coffee grounds or dirt. Make sure to clean both sides of the filter and then replace it (the right way up) and tighten the screw.

Back Washing Your Espresso Machine

Backwashing is a process of filling your machine with hot water and allowing it to rinse through. This removes coffee grains, oils and any other debris that can accumulate.

  1. Most espresso machines come with a blind disc, (a solid basket without any holes) which fits into the portafilter for cleaning purposes.
  2. To backwash your machine, insert the blind disk into the portafilter and click it into place in the group.
  3. Turn the group on and run it for ten seconds as if you were making a cup of coffee.
  4. Then take out the portafilter and empty it. Rinse and repeat.

If you use your machine on a daily basis, you should backwash it once a week.


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Deep-Cleaning Your Espresso Machine with a Specialist Detergent

You should thoroughly clean your espresso machine about once a month using a specialised espresso machine cleaner like Urnex Espresso Machine Cleaning Tablets or Powder.

  1. To deep-clean your machine, fill a sink or basin with water and dissolve a cleaning tablet or powder in the water in accordance with the manufacturers recommended quantities.
  2. Remove the portafilter and basket, the screen from the group and the milk steaming wand and let these soak overnight.
  3. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry before replacing in the machine.
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How to Clean a Capsule Coffee Machine

The coffee capsule market has really taken off and as a result, there are hundreds of capsule coffee makers available. As each machine is slightly different, it’s a good idea to check the manufacturer’s recommendations before you clean your machine.

  1. The process for cleaning most capsule or pod coffee machines is more or less the same.
  2. Always unplug your machine from the mains and make sure it has cooled down before you begin.
  3. You usually won’t need any special cleaning products other than a good quality washing
  4. Remove the water tank, limescale filter, drip catcher and any other removable parts of the machine and clean gently in warm water and washing up liquid.
  5. Rinse and dry with a soft cloth before replacing in your machine.
  6. Wipe down the outside of the machine with a soft damp cloth and you are done. That’s it!

Unsurprisingly, you can now buy capsules of coffee cleaner for your capsule coffee machine. Caffe Nu Coffee Machine Cleaning Capsules are single-use capsules which contain an organic and biodegradable formula that will clean your machine in just two minutes. The capsules come in packs of five and work in any machine that is Nespresso compatible.

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How to De-Scale Your Coffee Machine

If you live in a hard water area, limescale can be a big problem for any kind of coffee machine but there are a number of products available to deal with this.

Ecozone Coffee Machine Cleaner and Descaler is a 2-in-1 product which you can use in any kind of coffee machine. The non-toxic formula works overnight to clear limescale and blockages without any chemical residue. There’s no nasty odour and it doesn’t affect the taste of your coffee.

Ecozone is allergy friendly, environmentally friendly and cruelty-free. One 500 ml bottle is enough for 5 treatments. Depending on the water in your area, experts recommend descaling coffee machines roughly every 2-3 months.

Ecozone comes with clear instructions on how to use the product in drip and filter coffee makers. To descale an espresso machine, consult the manufacturer’s instructions for the correct process.

Ah, coffee! I couldn’t live without it, but did you know that Finnish people are the world’s biggest coffee drinkers, consuming a massive 26 lbs of the stuff per capita every year! How do they ever sleep? I hope this article has cleared up any questions you had about how to clean coffee machine.

Enjoy drinking that next brew from your sparkling clean machine!


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Claire has been in the cleaning industry for over 15 years. She's worked numerous jobs including both domestic and industrial cleaning. Her most recent role has been head of product testing for a major cleaning supplier. Following the birth of her second child, Layla, Claire has set up Cleaning Mentor to help people become better at cleaning, saving time and money.

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