Listed below are some tips to make sure your cleanliness (or lack of it) is not affecting your ability to achieve great coffee results:
- Remove and clean the filter basket and wipe the inside of your porta filters clean many times a day. The frequency is up to you, but the more often the better.
- Rinsing your portafilter in-between shots might seem like a good idea with the above point in mind, but the extended drip time resulting from the rinse often leads to a messy, dripped upon workspace. Wipe the basket clean and dry in between shots, and adhere to the above as often as possible.
- wiping the shower screen with a cloth before purging water through the group head for every shot. This creates more consistent behaviour from the water displacement for which the shower screen is intended.
- Following on from the above, always purge between every shot to remove any excess powder in the group head. Set up a volumetric button for this function and you will have hands-free purging.
- Clean your shower screens on a daily basis by (if you can remove them) removing, wiping, rinsing and re-attaching them before back flushing with chemicals. Be warned, if you’ve never done this to your espresso machine before, the mess within will appear horrific. In the long run it’s worth doing this every day, as the particles you’ll find up there need to be physically wiped away and will not always dissolve with the use of coffee cleaner. This means you’ll be re-brewing old coffee for every shot if you let that stuff build up!
- When removing the shower screen for cleaning, take care that you don’t lose the shower screen screw and be sure to screw it back on finger-tight. The last thing you want to do here is double-thread the screw.
- Back flush with chemicals at the end of every day. If you’re worried about this, use fewer chemicals, but keep it up! Make sure you reattach your shower screen before back flushing to prevent pushing any errant coffee particles back in to the water jets of your group head.
- Purge your grinder. Whenever you’re changing coffees, finishing a shift or shutting a grinder down you need to find a way to remove all the coffee from inside the grinding chamber. Our weapon of choice at the Antico Coffee is a sweet, sweet commercial vacuum, although you will more commonly find plungers (not the filter coffee type, more the toilet/drain unclogging type) used on the grind collar once the hopper has been removed.
- Manually remove the build-up of coffee particles in your drip tray by wiping them up, as opposed to flushing them down the drain line. This will help prevent the drain line clogging, which is the last thing you need during an epic coffee rush. Be sure to run a jug of water down your drain line every day to help prevent blocking.
- Purge your group heads fully every day (using about 1.5 litres of water per group), to prevent stale water being used in the brewing process and ensure you’re pumping fresh stuff on top of your espresso.
Cleaning is only part of the picture, but creating a pristine environment for brewing will only enhance the quality of your results. Systemise as much of the above as possible and you’ll remove cleanliness as a variable which affects your results.
Coffee Grinder Cleaning
We at Antico Coffee believe Coffee is the most important part of our business and yours too. So it’s important to ensure that all parts of the coffee making process are regulated and that means your grinder as it plays just as big of a part as your barista and coffee machine!
Oxygen and heat
Coffee is an organic, perishable product which degrades when exposed to air and heat. The longer coffee is left inside a grinder where it is exposed to both heat and oxygen, the worse it’s going to taste and behave. The vast majority of grinders will also recirculate coffee for long periods of time, meaning you’re never quite getting 100% freshly ground coffee without the occasional cleanout.
Grinding mechanics and technology
Grinders break down coffee in ways that you may not expect. Adjusting your grind size to ‘finer’ or ‘coarser’ changes the size of the particles from smaller to larger, but the resulting particles are never uniform in size. They all differ, but to put it simply, what we actually get out of a good grinder is a few large particles, a majority of particles in our target range, a bunch of tiny particles (fines) and then everything else in between.
Super-fine particles are the main reason to keep your grinder very, very clean. Being very small, they are more susceptible to the degrading effects of oxygen and heat, and due to their size and oil coating, will often end up stuck in hard-to-reach places in the grinder. Over time they will form a crust of badness which smells and tastes uncomfortably like charred peanuts. Sadly everything tastes a little like charred peanuts with a never-cleaned grinder, but I hope you never test the theory. Keep your grinder clean and be free of this madness!
How much should I clean and how often?
It’s one of the age old questions; but how clean is too clean? With coffee, the answer is that you can never be too clean — but there’s no need to stress. You need to clean as much as you’re willing and as often as you can, and the rest depends on the level of quality control you are aiming for. Here’s the grinder cleaning schedule we employ for our training grinders, to keep them in prime condition:
Daily/after each use:
The coffee chute is sealed off and excess coffee is ground.
- Make sure you grind off as much as possible during this step, to avoid excess coffee being inside the grinder or coffee beans sitting on top of the burrs for the next step.
Turn off the power.
Remove hopper.Coffee is removed and sealed in a bag.
-Remember to keep your unground coffee sealed off and in a cool, dark place to keep it fresh. Avoid your refrigerator though. If it’s a manual dosing grinder, the blades are plunged.
- This is the step that cleans inside the grinder and is where you’ll get the biggest benefits. You’ll need to source a ribbed toilet plunger to do this (for the love of god, don’t grab the one in your toilet right now!) The plunger should sit flush over the blades and seal over the collar. Plunge away, and make sure you’re catching the coffee which flies out (otherwise it’ll go everywhere). When plunging, you are removing a small portion of the grinds within the grinder. You’ll need to put the hopper back on and activate the grinder for a few seconds. Then repeat the above step a few times to get it really clean.
If it’s an auto dosing grinder, grab a vacuum:
- Use a nozzle attachment for your vacuum.
- Put the hopper back on, expose the grill where the coffee drops out and hold the vacuum to it.
- Activate the grinder to thoroughly remove all the coffee, and persist until you can only see metal around the grill. Be aware, some vacuums won’t handle this well and using a commercial vacuum is recommended.
Wash your hopper to remove all the chaff. Make sure you thoroughly dry the hopper before putting it back on the grinder.Reassemble the grinder and wipe out the dosing chamber with a damp cloth.
This is enough cleaning to see a measureable result in quality, as it stops the old grind inside the grinder from sitting there, releasing its oils, going stale and being reused. What it doesn’t address is the build-up of fine particles. To get these out, we need to disassemble the unit.
For the brave and/or knowledgeable, disassembling the grinder is recommended at regular intervals (weekly to monthly), but it’s best you learn how to do this from someone who’s already experienced at it, at a time when you can absorb all the important details necessary for reassembly.
If you haven’t cleaned out your grinder to the degree outlined above, give it a shot and reap the benefits of cleaner tasting coffee!