I'm a very new Barista, only since March.
The woman who trained me (minimally) claimed that we should never, ever clean the portafilters?
Is she wrong? Won't all this old discharge from hundreds of shots effect the espresso?
I find the company I'm working for worries too much about quantity and out put vs. true quality as far as espresso goes. (This among other problems)
Just looking for some guidance!

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hi andre thanks for the comment on my page, if water is "spurting out of them all willy nilly" the group gaskets may need changing or the group itself may be damaged, any ideas on when they were last changed? another good indication of the gaskets needing replacement would be when you lock the portafilter in it would not rest a 90 degrees it would turn further than normal and feel "loose".

Shadow said:

Also a quick brush on the screen/group gasket area between extractions helps with flow pattern/cleaner flow. Don't forget backflushes with plain water throughout the day as well.  

Graeme Duhamel said:

can't believe what im reading. cleaning every part of the machine meticulously is a religious ritual for baristas everywhere and wherever it is not these people should not pride themselves with a professional title. what is the company you work for? they must be aware that with great coffee comes great responsibility and if they want to be known as the place to go they must be willing to learn and even be taught by passionate employees like yourself. I would be proud to have somebody like yourself in our place.

Joseph Robertson said:


It sounds like your screens should be pull out and soaked. Most machines have a single screw holding the screens up in the group heads. If you are not clear on this find another barista / friend who works for another business and see if they can help you with this. From your comments it sounds like your staff is not very savoy on this. Depending on your daily traffic and shots pulled the screens should be pulled and soaked in cleaning solution on a regular basis. Sometimes every 3 days if you real busy.


Andre Guimond said:

Thanks folks! I scour the portafilters every time I wrok, no one else is...:( Trying to get people on board with me...

Any suggestions on Grouphead cleaning? SOmetimes the water spurts out of them all willy nilly when I dose them empty, what should it look like coming out? Thanks!

Jessica Elle Bee said:

Green scrubbie and baking soda, at LEAST twice a day!

While I applaud the thought and enthusiasm... this actually sounds like more than necessary.

Consider what's being removed when selecting a cleaning tool. An aggressive abrasive is appropriate for old, black, hardened, caked-on oil... frankly its about the only thing that works. However if you're only talking the span of a couple of hours, you're looking at a relatively soft, extremely thin coat of fresh oil. A quick soak in Cafeiza, maybe a scrub with a group brush, followed by a rinse and a quick pass with a cloth should be sufficient.

I save the green scrubbie for only the most extreme cleaning jobs because it is aggressive enough to remove a little brass. You can always tell when someone uses it, because you end up with lots of little scratches on the surfaces you've cleaned. Seems to me like these scratches would give the filth something to grab on to, making things get dirtier faster. Kinda like lightly sanding something you want paint to stick to.

A better choice for the tough stuff is a brass bristle brush - it'll remove the crud without damaging the brass.

For light-duty jobs, stick with the blue scrubbies or a plastic bristle brush... its all you need.

The portafilters go in fine, just when rinsing the portafilter of purging the group head (I believe its called) water can sometimes come out small spurts in different directions and its bubbles and doesn't always come down evenly.

Brady said:

While I applaud the thought and enthusiasm... this actually sounds like more than necessary.

I agree. While I'm only pulling three to six doppio a day, I clean my PF's after each session and use only a microfibre cloth.
If you clean up the PF's really well, and then knock the baskets out of them two or three times a day to wipe out the build up (preferably when is slows down, so that they sit waiting for the next set of customers clean rather than baking on old oils), they should stay really shiny and nice. Having to use an abrasive is usually a sign that they're not getting enough regular attention.
And if you soak them in Cafiza, or any otehr commercial coffee oil solvent cleaner, make sure to keep the plastic out of the solution. Sometimes it will discolour or weaken the plastics, harden the rubbers, or dissolve the adhesives keeping the handles on.
And test some of whatever you use on the chrome parts before you commit, too.

as joe suggested before your shower/dispersion screens may either be loose or theres a build up behind and they need scrubbing and soaking.

Andre Guimond said:

The portafilters go in fine, just when rinsing the portafilter of purging the group head (I believe its called) water can sometimes come out small spurts in different directions and its bubbles and doesn't always come down evenly.

Agreed with previous posters.  Make sure that the screen is clean inside and out.  Also make sure that any jetbreaker or shower plates are clean.  Also, shower screens should be replaced a couple of times per year, perhaps its time to replace them.


If you find that there is lots of water right at first, then it tapers off, you may be dealing with a machine issue - a partially obstructed jet, clogged screen, or crusted up injector tube (depending on machine construction).  On some machines, you'll know this is happening because you'll hear a little whine for a few seconds after you stop the shot.


If you mean the spitting and sputtering that occurs (along with a crackling sort of sound) due to flash-boil, this will settle down once you've flushed enough water through to cool things down.  This can take 10-20 seconds on super-hot machines that have been idle for a while.

Hope that helps.


Andre Guimond said:

The portafilters go in fine, just when rinsing the portafilter of purging the group head (I believe its called) water can sometimes come out small spurts in different directions and its bubbles and doesn't always come down evenly.

Brady, you are such a guru =)

I am a little confused. I have an Astoria lever (AL2) gas model. How does one clean inside the delivery? The manual is not clear about this, only stating "do not clean with a solid head if you have a lever machine."

Kenneth, that implies that you shouldn't try backflushing a lever machine. The "solid head" part of that statement would mean having a blind filter in the portafilter. I'm guessing a machine such as yours has no 3-way solenoid.


Never used/cleaned a commercial lever machine. I'd recommend brushing the screen/group area often and possibly removing the screens/dispersion discs (if applicable) and giving them a good soak at least once a week.


Maybe somebody with commercial lever experience will offer more help than I can.

You need to back flush and you need to purocaff your portafilters.


Put a little bit of purocaff in a blank basket and turn it on for 5 seconds, off for 10 seconds repeatedly, then while you have the water running on the group head, jiggle the portafilter around to loosen any grinds that have built up around the seal in the grouphead. Soak the portafliters (with baskets, dispersion screens and screws removed, but place those in as well) in a bucket of almost boiling water and a bit of purocaff.  Don't let them sit too long, because it is corrosive to metal. I usually let them sit for 30 mins to loosen the oils. Then use a green scrubbie (not metal based, like steel wool. no no!) and scrub until you can see the shiny metal underneath, usually gold-ish in colour. You won't need to scrub the baskets and dispersion sceens, just rinse them and put them back. Rinse everything thouroughly, and pull a shot before you use the portafilters again (in case any purocaff residual was left in the grouphead/portafilter.)


Coffee oils building up is always hard to clean and detriments the potential that your coffee has - it can make it taste stale, acrid and rancid. The first cleaning will be tough, but every day cleaning will make it easier every time.


Check out puro caff here, and make your boss and co-workers read it. It will make your coffee quality so much better! http://www.purobrand.com/


Andre Guimond said:

Nathanael May said:
Bryan already sort of mentioned this, but if she recommended never cleaning the portafilters, did she also not mention the incredibly important act of backflushing your groupheads regularly? Please let us know if not.

Good grief.

Yea, No one ever mentioned this. i picked it up on my own. The owners feel that the machines are a huge investment and that if anyone else touches them it will end up broken. So actual good cleaning of the groupheads and such rarely happens. The other people who I work with think cleaning the machine is windexing the chromey parts. Sure it looks nice and clean but the coffee its putting out is sub par at best because of the poor cleaning of the group heads and portafilters. Is there anything else you guys think I should know about cleaning the parts? Its hard to clean the group heads when I'm one of 5 people using the maching and I;m the only one back flushing the groupheads, coffee gets caked on the insides of them and its near impossible to clean. Suggestions?


Purocaff may be good, but any type of backflush detergent will work just fine. JoeGlo, Cafiza, Full Circle are all good. Some people use straight TSP or OxyClean. Can't comment on either because I haven't tried 'em.


Backflushing is important for any machine with a 3-way solenoid. Don't know about commercial levers as I haven't used one so I wouldn't try doing it to one.


The "goldish" color you speak of in the portafilter is the brass. That is because the chrome/nickel plating has worn/scrubbed off over time. It is very much OK to lightly scrub screens, dispersion discs and baskets if you use a soft bristle brush. Sometimes a simple soak/rinse isn't enough to remove all the crud.

A neat trick taught to me by one of the heroes at the local espresso maintenance and repair shop:

Really nasty dispersion screens can be cleaned with a gas stove or a propane torch. Hold the dispersion screen in the almost invisible part of the gas flame until it glows red and stops smoking.* After it cools, simply brush off the ash, rinse, and re-install.  It'll change the finish colour of the screen, but it works really well.


*All the caveats about open flame and red hot metal apply, if you can't figure out that you're supposed to be using tongs or pliers or some such and be really careful, maybe you should be buyihng new...

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