Monthly Archives: March 2019

How do you keep your espresso machine clean?

In a day to day operation of a cafe, the barista [if they are professionally trained] will definitely clean the grouphead by back-flushing them with specially-formulated detergent.

But how often do they give the shower screen a proper scrubbing?

Shower Screen from below

The water you use to brew espresso will pass through the shower screen just before it came into contact with the coffee ground. Imagine your shower screen that is dirty and lined with rancid oil and coffee stains from months ago. It is no surprise your coffee leave a bad taste in your mouth.

But more often than not, when you look at the screen from below, the screen looks clean. That’s because the outside is fairly easy to clean. Just using hot water and a heat-resistant brush will make the external looks good.

It has been a standard practice for a properly trained barista to clean the grouphead everyday with espresso machine grouphead cleaning detergent. And if they do a thorough cleaning everyday that include back-flushing the grouphead with detergent, the grouphead including the shower screen will be up to standard for months. But some may asked, do we need to totally remove the shower screen to clean the inside of the screen?

Here are a few examples of the shower screen used for 4 months.

Dirty Shower Screen
[#1: 4 months without back-flushing with special detergent]

In Figure #1: This is a shower screen on a machine where the grouphead was not cleaned nor back-flushed with detergent. They did clean them with a brush and hot water but did not use the appropriate detergent. While from the outside, it looked clean and shiny, the underside (or inside) of the shower screen is very dirty, stained with thick rancid oil and clogged with fines from the coffee ground. Every time when espresso is extracted, the water have to pass through the fines and rancid oil before coming in contact with the fresh coffee ground. The resulting espresso is a mixed of fresh coffee flavor [assuming you are using fresh roasted coffee] and stale and rancid coffee oil accumulated over the months.

Fairly clean shower screen
[#2: 4 months usage but cleaned everyday by back-flushing with detergent]

In Figure #2: This shower screen on the machine where the grouphead was cleaned and back-flushed everyday with detergent. Here, you can see a very slight stain of light brown but not visible clogging of the shower screen by fines. The impact of bad flavor cross contaminate from stale and rancid oil to your fresh coffee ground will be minimal.

Properly cleansed Shower screen
[#3: Removed from grouphead and properly cleansed]

What would KF Chan recommend? Do you need to remove and clean the shower screen every day? I would say it is not necessary to remove the shower screen for cleaning every day. I would recommend to remove the shower screen every 3-4 months, with the maximum of 6 months interval if you are lazy.

You pay good money for fresh roasted coffee beans. Make sure the taste is not compromised by dirty espresso machine.



[Want to start your own cafe?]

What’s the difference between espresso and coffee beverages

Are you planning to start a cafe? There will be a lots of questions you need to answer. What machines to get? [VBM Espresso Machines or Anfim grinders] Where to buy from? Buy new equipments or used equipments? Concerns about warranty, staffing, costing, menu etc. That will be dealt with in another post.

Let’s talk about the coffee itself. Especially the espresso. Is it something to pay attention to?

While openly, no café in the third wave settings will say they do not focus on espresso, it is entirely uncommon for any café to have espresso order exceeds 10%. Most would dipped below 3% as an estimate. And for that reason, many cafés under-prioritized the espresso making process. Some, totally don’t care about espresso at all.

 In some café (eg: MyEspresso Cafe), the brewing of espresso is one of the top priority EVEN when orders of espresso is in the low percentage. A properly calibrated grinder paired with a capable espresso machine, a reliable digital scale and properly monitored brewing temperature are crucial to ensure a quality-approved espresso brewed for all coffee beverages. And let’s not kid ourselves, good coffee and espresso do not get brewed on their own (Unless you are on a Starship in the United Federation of Planets). A professionally trained Barista is a MUST.

Jonathan Archer
[Captain Archer of the Federation Starship USS Enterprise ordering coffee. Wondered if Michael Burnhum have as good coffee on Star Trek: Discovery?]

 Some favourite beverages: Americano, Chilled Latte, Iced-latte, Latte and Affogato are directly related to our properly calibrated espresso. But some would ask, “is it because of the location?”. Would that determine the requirements of customers? Would a café in Subang Jaya (USJ 21/11) or a café in Bangsar or a café in Cheras be different in customers’ expectation of the espresso?

 Well, to a certain extent, yes. Demographic does have some roles to play. Some areas, customers do not like their coffee or espresso to be acidic. Some don’t like if their espresso is bitter but some actually likes them a bit on the bitter side. Some likes them fruity and some likes their espresso earthy. And some horror of horrors like them burnt and ashy. But mostly these are the influence of the bean itself and how they are roasted. Be happy that you do not need to please every preference nor should you. Regardless of the beans and roasting profile, proper calibration during brewing or extraction of espresso will bring out the best in them.