Espresso Cleanup
January 16, 2004 6:18 AM   Subscribe

One for the home espresso people: do any of you know of a good way to clean out the grounds that get compacted in the holes of the portafilter basket? I've tried the dishwasher and extended soaking in hot, acidic water, but no luck.
posted by shoos to Computers & Internet (17 answers total)
Hmm... my brother complains of this, but I don't really have the problem.

I can try giving the same annoying advice to you that I gave him - grind coarser, tamp harder (to avoid the grounds being small enough to wedge in the holes).

It might also be worth buying a replacement basket - sometimes the ones that come with machines are pretty crappy, and you might find it's worth doing this (they're dirt cheap anyway).

Might also be worth trying to flush the basket using the espresso machine with no coffee loaded?

On a quick Google, here's an thread with the self-same question
posted by bifter at 6:23 AM on January 16, 2004

the arduous method is dental floss (using the threader). me, i buy replacement baskets.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:31 AM on January 16, 2004

I use a dishwasher brush. Scrub and tamp; those bristles get in each hole and clean 'em up good.
posted by Tacodog at 7:33 AM on January 16, 2004

Old toothbrush works for me. Do it fairly frequently to avoid oily buildup, which not only tastes nasty but causes further buildup.
posted by majick at 7:52 AM on January 16, 2004

Vinegar should also help.
posted by terrapin at 8:53 AM on January 16, 2004

I second the old toothbrush mention, and add that soft scrub works nicely as well to clean out the basket.
posted by annathea at 10:07 AM on January 16, 2004

I use a pin or a needle. I think we're talking about the same filter thing -- metal, grounds go in it, yes?
posted by kmel at 10:15 AM on January 16, 2004

I used to work at Starbucks and we used something called...Sani-Pur, I think. I might be getting the name wrong. You can go to your local S-bux and ask them what they let their portafilters soak in.

(Note: with the new machines they have, some baristas may not know the answer to this....I'm not sure if they still use the chemical or not. Anyone who has been with the company for more than a year or two would have used the old stuff.)
posted by amandaudoff at 10:30 AM on January 16, 2004

I've heard that it's a good idea to run vinegar through the whole thing every once in awhile. I ususally just knock the thing against the sink and run water through it until it clears out.
posted by interrobang at 11:18 AM on January 16, 2004

I've been using a Starbuck Barista machine for the past year, and have had no such problems. This makes me think that either you're doing something incorrectly, or I am...

I'm also using the Starbucks good burr grinder at its finest setting, if that makes any difference.

footnote for those looking to get into espresso: the Barista is your best bang for the buck. It's a rebadged Italian Saeco. I've had mine open, and it's well-built; if there is any issue, it's that the heating block is small, ergo ill-fit for any more than a couple shots. Otherwise, it's an excellent entry into true espresso-making. Likewise for the burr grinder; rebadged, solidly built.

Also, is a good place for reviews and info.

posted by five fresh fish at 11:50 AM on January 16, 2004

amadaudoff said: we used something called...Sani-Pur, I think.

Yes, it's called Sani-Pur, it's like dry dishwasher soap, but it's not worth the price unless you can get it wholesale.
posted by yonderboy at 3:48 PM on January 16, 2004

Urnex Cafiza will get that portafilter brand spanking clean.
posted by Wet Spot at 6:38 PM on January 16, 2004

Well, according to that thread, pins and needles are bad. Live and learn.
posted by kmel at 8:04 PM on January 16, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions. I have tried the brush/toothbrush scrubbing and vineger methods, as well as running the pump without grounds inside, all to no avail. I'm getting the impression that avoiding the problem, by regular cleaning (or replacing), is far easier than fixing it. My cleaning habits have in fact not been ideal.
posted by shoos at 1:16 AM on January 17, 2004

The best way is to soak the filter basket it in Pulycafé or Urnex Cafiza and hot water. It doesn't hurt to remove the filter from the portafilter and soak the portafilter in it as well: a lot of oils get stuck in the pf, giving a bitter taste to your espresso.

If your machine has a three-way valve, you should also "backflush" (see a.c archives for details) regularly with pulycafé, to remove any coffee muck (is that a word?) in your brew group.

Warning! Obligatory question!: 'I hope you have a decent grinder?' ;)
posted by NekulturnY at 1:53 AM on January 17, 2004

Response by poster: By standards, my grinder is probably not completely decent. It's one of those 20$ Braun mill doo-dads. Is that a problem regarding clogging?
posted by shoos at 1:56 PM on January 17, 2004

It's no problem for clogging, it's entirely a matter of taste. Most cheap grinders do not grind fine enough to make "real" espresso (25 ml beverage made with 7 gr of ground coffee at an extraction temperature of 90 ° Celsius in 25-27 seconds -with a 5 % deviation- is the official definition).

A standard a.c reply when somebody asks "what's the best espresso machine for x $?" is: "did you think of a decent grinder?" On an entry level, your grinder should probably be more expensive than your espresso machine.
posted by NekulturnY at 4:19 AM on January 18, 2004

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