The best bean-to-cup coffee makers can make wonderful espresso – and they often require surprisingly little maintenance.
Little is not the same as none though. If you don’t clean, descale and maintain your coffee machine, it’s more likely to break down. Build-up within the machine can also start to affect the taste of your coffee.
This is why many people love their new coffee machine – but can’t understand why it produces worse espresso over time.
Don’t let your expensive bean-to-cup coffee machine get to this point. Here are some tips for keeping your machine running smoothly with minimal effort.
Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions
As you know, bean-to-cup coffee machines grind a new batch of beans for each coffee. This is why espresso from these models tastes so fresh.
The downside is that bean-to-cup models require a bit more maintenance than capsule machines. You don’t need to manually clean them after every use – many machines have an automatic rinsing function to prevent build-up – but a small amount of time spent cleaning can make a coffee machine last a lot longer.
Fortunately, the top manufacturers (such as Delonghi or Melitta) provide detailed instructions on how to maintain their machines. That’s why we always recommend reading the maintenance section of a manual before you use the machine.
Many bean-to-cup coffee makers also have warning lights and notifications when you need to complete certain cleaning tasks, such as descaling.
Tip: If you lose your coffee machine’s manual, you can always download a digital copy from the manufacturer’s website.
Make Use of the Machine’s Built-in Cleaning Programmes
Nearly all bean-to-cup coffee machines come with both cleaning and descaling functions.
The cleaning programme usually runs hot water through the machine to prevent ground coffee from clogging the pipes. You’ll usually be prompted to use this cleaning mode, and need to place a cup under the spout so the cleaning water doesn’t fill the drip tray.
Some bean-to-cup machines also come with separate cleaning tablets. If your machine requires these, you’ll need to purchase replacements and use them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Descaling programmes are particularly important for a coffee machine – especially in hard water areas. Limescale build-up inside a coffee machine can reduce water flow, increase the noise of the machine, cause leaking from the spout and affect the taste of your espresso.
Each machine has a different process for descaling. In most cases, you fill the water tank with a combination of descaler fluid and water, then activate the machine’s built-in descaling program. Once the program has finished, the machine will run through a rinsing programme to make it safe to use again, so always refer to the manual and fully complete the process.
You’ll need to use the right type of descaler, otherwise you could damage the inside of the machine. Some machines only allow proprietary descaler, while others permit more common chemicals. Make sure you read the manual carefully and only use the approved descaler.
Some machine also include a water filter. Aside from a more consistent taste, these can help prevent limescale build-up.
Note: Failing to regularly descale the machine, or using the wrong type of descaler, can invalidate the warranty.
Keep the Steam Pipe Clear
If your bean-to-cup coffee machine has a steam pipe for milk frothing, it can become blocked if you don’t clean it. Bacteria can also grow inside the pipe, which could be potentially dangerous.
For this reason, always use a cloth to dry the exterior after making a cappuccino or latte. Then run steam through the pipe to get rid of any potential build-up. Some machines may also have removable parts that need to be cleaned manually.
Manually Clean the Brew Group
While automatic cleaning programs can greatly reduce the amount of maintenance required to keep your machine running, they can’t do everything.
Ground coffee, for example, can often become stuck in the brewing unit. When this happens, you’ll need to manually clean inside the machine.
This is why the best bean-to-cup coffee machines have brew unit that’s easy to remove and clean. Some also include tools for quickly getting rid of coffee build-up. We always consider how easy a machine is to clean in our reviews, as no-one wants to spend more time cleaning than necessary!
Create Reminders for a Consistent Cleaning Schedule
We often have the best intentions when it comes to maintaining a new gadget. It’s easy to lose track of when you last cleaned a coffee machine though (we’ve all done it!)
That’s why we recommend setting recurring reminders for when you need to complete the various cleaning tasks.
This can be as simple as keeping a pad of paper next to the coffee machine and noting down the date of your last descaling program or manual brew unit clean. Or, if you want to be more organised, a task app on your phone that sends automatic reminders can make it less likely you’ll forget.
How often you need to clean your machine depends on several factors, including the model and the amount of coffee you make. Again, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for a more accurate guide to how regularly you need to use both automatic and manual cleaning functions.
Bean-to-cup coffee machines require surprisingly little maintenance considering they produce fresh espresso from whole beans. You still need to rinse, descale and manually clean parts of the machine to keep it running correctly though.
While this can seem like a chore, proper maintenance can prevent break-down and ensure your espresso tastes as good as possible.
How often you need to clean your coffee maker depends on the model and how frequently you use it. Every machine is different, so it’s vital to read the manual thoroughly before you start making coffee.