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Maintaining Super Automatic Espresso Machines

Maintaining Super Automatic Espresso Machines
Category: Maintenance and Care
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Comments: 2 [Read/Post]
Synopsis: Taking care of your espresso machine is absolutely vital to protect your investment and ensure yourself great drinks for a long time.
Maintenance for
Super Automatic
Espresso Machines

Taking care of your espresso machine is absolutely vital to protect your investment and ensure yourself great drinks for a long time.  Nothing damages a machine faster than lack of care and any problems caused by not maintaining the machine are not covered by any warranty so repairs could end up being costly.  There are three main things that you will need to take care of:

  • Cleaning coffee oils

  • Cleaning milk

  • Descaling

None of these things are particularly difficult but they can be a little time-intensive on some models.  Keeping in mind that this is food equipment you're dealing with, it is easy to understand how important cleaning is.  Dairy products can dry and clog systems and will also start to grow bacteria in about 3-4 minutes at room temperature.  Coffee is a fruit and so can grow mould and also clog systems.

Check out our cleaning supplies maintenance guide.

There are different procedures involved for different models so we strongly recommend reading your user manual.  Some machines have automatic cleaning and descaling cycles so you may not have to perform the steps as indicated, but this is a general guide to help you understand what's needed.

Cleaning Coffee Oils

After the coffee is ground, it drops into a brew unit (or brew group) where it is tamped and where the water will run through it.  When it is finished, the brew unit dumps the grounds in the form of a round "puck" into the waste container.  With each cup, small amounts of coffee are left in the brew unit, where they build up and affect the taste of subsequent shots, as well as start to clog the parts inside the unit.  In particular, there is a screen that tends to get clogged if not cleaned often.  Many machines allow you to rinse the brew unit, sometimes automatically and usually after the machine has heated up to operating temperature when you first turn it on.  This is a nice feature as it helps to daily clear some of the grounds from the screen.  There are two types of brew units - removable and non-removable.  On top of this daily rinsing, it is suggested to do a cleaning approximately once a week.

Removable brew units are very easy to pop out of the machine and clean with running water in your sink (none of these parts are ever dishwasher-safe).  Just rinse away all the coffee that you can see, especially on the screen and use a brush or cloth if you need to.  While cleaning, take a look at the O-rings on it.  If any of them appear to be loose or damaged, get them replaced. 

Non-removable brew units are tucked away inside the machine so they will have to be cleaned internally.  Each manufacturer has its own brand of cleaning tablets and generally these type of machines have automatic cleaning cycles started through the digital menu.  Follow the instructions carefully for your machine but, typically, after you start the cycle it will ask you to insert the cleaning tablet (usually into the grinder bypass). Then it will start running water into the brew group with the tablet and every few minutes release some out of the coffee spouts and into the waste container.  Have a large container under the spout to catch the dirty water and be prepared to empty water from the waste container and drip tray a couple of times (the machine should pause the cycle and alert you to do this). 

After cleaning, brew a couple of shots to re-season the components and toss them in the sink before making one to actually drink or before turning off the machine.

Cleaning Milk

If your machine has a steam wand, be sure to wipe it down with a clean, damp cloth immediately after every single use so that the milk doesn't have time to dry.  Also run a little bit of steam or water through the wand to clear any milk that may be in the tip.  Many steam wands have a type of sleeve (pannarello) over them that can be removed and cleaned more thoroughly. 

If your machine uses an automatic frothing device, there will be a little more work involved in cleaning because the milk actually goes inside these devices so there are internal components that will need to be cleared of milk residue. 

It is recommended to rinse these devices immediately after use. If the machine has an external attachment with a tube system and does not have an automatic rinse feature, simply take the free end of the milk tube out of the container of milk you are using and put it into a container of water and then turn it on so that it sucks the water through and out the spout - have something ready below the device to catch the water.  You can also buy milk cleaning solutions that you would mix with water and draw through the system or take the device apart (usually a few small pieces) and clean it well in your sink.  Sometimes it is difficult to see small dried bits of milk but they could still be clogging the system and reducing the steam power if not removed.  If you see any loss of power on the machine's steam system, it is almost always because of dried milk (or scale issues, discussed in the next section).

Some machines have completely internal milk parts (you actually put milk inside the machine).  With this type of system, definitely get the milk cleaning solution and frequently run the cleaning cycle (it should be automatic on any machine with this type of system).  Rinse the systems out periodically through each day and take apart all the pieces that are removable and clean them manually every day that they have been used.


Mineral deposits from your water will build up inside the machine on all the components that are in contact with the water.  Harder water will deposit more minerals than softer water and so you will have to descale your machine more often if you use hard water.  Bottled spring water or well water in particular can be extremely hard so we recommend not using it at all but if you have to, descale your machine on a monthly basis.  Average water should require descaling every 3 or 4 months.  If your machine has direct plumbing, get a softener/filter in the water line to help prevent scale build-up as it is more complicated to descale these machines so you won't want to have to do it too often.  See our Water pages for more information.

To descale, you will need a special descaling solution (also known as decalcifier).  Never use vinegar on an espresso machine, though it performs the same function as when you run vinegar through your drip coffee maker, it can actually damage espresso machines.  Most machine manufacturers have their own brand of descaling solution but you can also buy more generic brands but always be sure it indicates espresso machine use on the bottle.  Some manufacturers use a powder solution and some are liquid.

Put the necessary amount of descaler into your water tank and fill the rest of the tank with water.  Put a large container under the steam wand to catch the solution as it goes through.  Some machines have automatic cycles that you can now initiate through the display.  If not, open the steam wand and run about 5-6oz through into your waiting container.  Then you will typically wait several minutes to let the solution work inside the machine.  Some models need you to turn the power off during this period.  Be sure to follow the instructions in the user manual.  Then turn on the steam wand again and run another 5-6oz through and then wait several minutes again.  Keep following this pattern until the tank is empty.  Remove the tank and rinse with fresh water, then fill it with water and run the entire tank through the steam wand to rinse out any residual descaler from the system.  

Comments on Maintaining Super Automatic Espresso Machines

Espresso Planet 25/10/2013 14:28
Good question.
It will not remove scale from your boilers and valves inside the espresso machine. It will remove calcium deposits from inside of automatic frothing devices.
Milk cleaning solution is formulated to remove bacteria and calcium deposits from inside automatic milk frothing systems. While calcium is similar to scale deposits inside boilers, I would not use the milk cleaning solution to descale your espresso machine.
Use a product such as Durgol to descale your espresso machine.
John B. 25/10/2013 11:06
Will adding milk clean solution to the milk jug of my superautomatic machine also remove scale.

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