Most of the time when we speak to aspiring home baristas, the following three questions are the likeliest:

  1. What espresso machine should I buy?
  2. What grinder is the best?
  3. How easy is it to maintain a home espresso machine and how much does it cost?

Since we have answered the previous two, we will dive into the third. Properly caring for an espresso machine, the caliber of which we sell at Clive, is pretty easy. It all comes down to:

Preventative Maintenance

Water

The single biggest issue we see in the tech department of Clive Coffee is scale buildup due to poor water quality. It will substantially shorten the life of the machine and cause costly repairs. 

Nip this potential in the bud by using only filtered, softened water. It is shockingly easy to do. First, always test your water. You may believe that because you have a whole home softening system that you are in the clear. That is not always the case. Total water hardness should be between 35-85 ppm. 

For both plumbed-in and reservoir machines, we recommend this water softening and filtration system. Either install it in-line with your machine or under the sink to fill a pitcher of water. For $160 it is life-long insurance against the single biggest cause of failure. 

Daily Maintenance

We recommend a quick water backflush every day you use your machine. In our offices, we keep the single or double spouted portafilter loaded with a backflush blank at all times. Once we are done for the morning, a quick flush and wipe down of the dispersion screen. I am particularly OCD, so that also means wiping the rest of the machine as well - but not necessary. 

Time: 10 seconds. Cost: $0

Every 6 Weeks

Full clean time. For this interval, you will remove the dispersion screen, and soak both that and your portafilter basket in a solution of Cafiza or Full Circle Cleaner. Scrub your group with a brush and do a full detergent backflush. Check out our blog post if you'd like in-depth instructions for backflushing and cleaning.

Time: 5 minutes. Cost: $0.60

Every 6 months

Every six months it is important to clean your grinder and your steam wand (if you use it). Two products make this extraordinarily easy: Rinza and Grindz. You can do both without these products, but it does make it easy and quick. Simply soak your wand in Rinza and run a small amount of Grindz through your grinder. It is also the right time to check the filter on your water softening system and if necessary, replace

Time: 5 minutes. Cost: $60

Every one year

At the year mark, it is a good idea to replace your group gasket and screen. It is a simple way to keep your espresso pulling well deep into your ownership. 

Time: 30 seconds. Cost: $15.95

Total Annual Maintenance Costs

Time: About 6 hours. Cost: $30

(or $142 if you need to soften your water)

Long-Term Replacements

Depending on the machine, there may be replacement parts that are necessary during the first 5 years of ownership, which would vary based on the amount of use and level of care in the above. All of these items can be replaced with a low-to-moderate level of comfort using basic tools. Costs for these items usually range from $100 to $200, and we would estimate that only one would need to be replaced, on average, in the first five years ownership. 

 Time: 2 hours. Cost $200

7 comments

  • @Steve Pitt: Our manufacturers are generally making their maintenance recommendations based on commercial use (even for non-commercial machines) because that’s where the majority of their expertise is. Descaling is kind of like using a flamethrower to get a rat’s nest out from under your house. It’s not an ideal solution, but if things get out of hand it’s worth the immediate damage to avoid even worse damage. Our recommendations are entirely based around avoiding the scale buildup in the first place because descaling, by necessity, is strong enough to eat away at the metal inside your machine and can even leave metal scraps in your tubing. If we can avoid that (which we can) then we don’t have to pull out the flamethrower. This is MUCH more difficult in commercial use where you have untold gallons of water coursing through the machine each day. Even with soft water, this makes serious scale buildup an inevitability.

    Charles with Clive Coffee on

  • Regarding your comment to Stephen Hoff, I read that ECM recommends descaling in their Classika Product Manual. Quote: “A regular descaling of the machine is recommended in order to avoid calcification and expensive repairs.” This is followed by detailed instructions for that descaling. I own an ECM Casa V and I see these same instructions in my Product Manual. ECM is saying there may be damage if you don’t descale but Clive Coffee says there may be damage if you do descale. Very confusing!?

    I also see that ECM also has their own brand of descaler.

    Steve Pitt on

  • @Stephen: What with that TDS reading is essentially ideal for the wellbeing of your espresso machine, so you’ll likely never get scale buildup in your machine. Descaling is actually quite harmful to the internals of an espresso machine, so avoiding it by using soft water is the way to go!

    Charles on

  • What are your thoughts on descaling? I make my own water to about 55ppm (starting with distilled water adding epson salts and baking soda). The machine that I have is an ECM Classika. I run roughly a pound of coffee every two weeks or so. Should I descale, and if so, how often and is there a preferred method to follow?

    Thanks,

    Stephen Hoff on

  • Response to Lori: Hi Lori! We recommend using the Ratio Coffee Maker Wash with a Chemex brush – both available on our site. And if you need a new carafe we have those as well!

    Dani on

 

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