If you are planning to keep an espresso machine in storage for longer than six months, you run the risk of your machine deteriorating if you do not prepare it for storage in the right ways.
The risks posed to your espresso machine by being stored away from long periods of time include:
- Unflushed coffee grounds stuck in the machine going rancid and affecting the taste of all future coffees your machine produced
- The corrosion of internal pipes from moisture pooling within them.
- The jamming of unlubricated mechanisms when you start using your machine again
- The warping of pipes due to rapid fluctuations in temperature
All these risks can be mitigated by making sure that your espresso machine has been deep cleaned, rinsed, descaled and (if it is an automatic machine) properly lubricated prior to storage, and that it is stored in appropriate conditions.
We will now go in more detail about how to do exactly this.
1. The deep cleaning of the “coffee contact points” of the machine
You need to make sure that all coffee grounds are removed from your espresso machine before it goes into storage because when ground coffee gets to a point of extreme rancidity it can create an ammonia smell that is very hard to get out of your machine.
You should therefore deep clean all parts of your espresso machine that come into direct contact with ground coffee.
What these parts are depend on whether you have an automatic or semi-automatic espresso machine. If you are unsure about this, just ask yourself: “Do I have to load up each shot of espresso I make individually?”
If the answer to this question is yes then you have a semi-automatic espresso machine, if the answer is no then you have an automatic espresso machine.
Semi-automatic espresso machine: deep clean the group head
For semi-automatic espresso machines, the part of the machine that needs to be deep cleaned of coffee is the group head. This is the part of the machine that you connect the coffee filled portafilter to when you make an espresso.
To deep clean the group head, you need to first remove it. The group head is usually attached using a screw in the centre of it. You will need to take this off using either a screwdriver or allen key.
Once you have unscrewed the group head you will notice that its underside is coated in a sticky brown coffee residue. To remove this residue soak the group head in a half and half solution of liquid quartz and water. You will also want to clean the area where the group head was removed. This is best done with a toothbrush and warm water.
Once the group head is clean, rinse it with water and reattach it to the espresso machine.
It’s worth pulling a shot with no portafilter attached to make sure that everything has been fitted correctly. You can find an instruction video on how to clean a group head here if you need a more visual guide.
Automatic espresso machine: deep clean the brew unit
Since automatic espresso machines process the coffee within the machine, the part of the machine that requires deep cleaning is the brew unit inside the machine.
In most automatic espresso machines, the brew unit can be removed from the side of the machine. Just unscrew the panel at the side of the machine (again with a screwdriver or allen key) and open it up. The brew group sits in the centre of the machine, and there is usually a button that says “push” in the middle of it. If you push this the brew unit will click out of the machine and you can remove it. You can find a video of someone removing a brew unit from an espresso machine here.
Once the brew unit is out of the machine you should clean every part of it with warm water and a brush. The area inside the espresso machine where the brew unit was removed will also be caked in coffee grounds and this needs to be cleaned with a brush as thoroughly as possible as well.
The brew unit also needs to be lubricated to minimise the potential deterioration of its rotating parts when in storage. You can find a video on how to clean and lubricate a brew unit here.
Although specialised lubricants are available, vaseline will do the job as it is food safe.
Again, once you have reinstalled the brew unit you should programme the machine to brew a shot without loading it up with any coffee to make sure everything has been put back together correctly.
2. Descaling the machine
Since it is impossible to completely get moisture out of the internal pipes in your espresso machine, limescale will inevitably build up in these pipes when the machine is in storage.
You therefore want to minimise this by descaling your machine and then flushing it out with distilled water.
To do this, fill your water reservoir with half a litre of water and one tablespoon of citric acid and pull as many shots of espresso as you can of this solution (make sure your machine is free of any coffee grounds before you do this).
Once the water and citric acid has gone through the machine, rinse your reservoir and fill it up with half a litre of distilled water and repeat the process. This will make sure that the moisture inside your machine is as free from minerals as possible and will not scale your pipes.
There are a lot of articles online saying that you can descale your espresso machine with white vinegar. While this does work, it will void your machine’s warranty, so avoid doing this if your machine is still under warranty.
3. Removing any external pipes from the machine
You want to remove as many pipes as possible from your machine prior to storing it as removed pipes can become completely dry.
While it’s not worth the trouble of digging inside your machine to try and remove pipes, you should unscrew and remove all the external pipes from your machine. Semi-automatic machines in particular usually have a milk wand and water pipe on its exterior.
Once you have removed these pipes it’s worth soaking them in a solution of liquid quartz and water for 15-30 minutes. Dry them thoroughly and tape them to the outside of your machine.
Fewer external pipes will also make your machine more compact and easier to store.
4. Selecting the best storage conditions for your espresso machine
Espresso machines are pretty durable since their parts have to operate under high temperatures and pressure.
They are not, however, designed to be in cold conditions and their internal pipes can warp if they go from very cold (below 8 degrees Celsius) to warmer temperatures.
You should therefore store them in a place that will not ever get below zero degrees Celsius. The vast majority of our storage units are underground, meaning that temperatures rarely get outside of the 16-19 Celsius range.
If you would like to chat anything storage over with our excellent team just call us on the FREE phone number above (free for mobiles as well as landlines).
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This article was written by Oli Baise, former barista and owner of coffee blog Drinky Coffee.