Cleaning the espresso machine is necessary, but without understanding why it’s necessary, procrastination can easily creep in.
We know roasted coffee contains oil, this oil is known as “caffeol” and is the substance that helps produce the silky crema on top of your espresso.
While we love crema, it's important to know that the oils in coffee can wreak havoc on your espresso machine if they aren’t cleaned out regularly. Here's why:
The oils from coffee, as they age, have something of a sticky resin quality, this is especially evident when you’re cleaning your espresso machine after a long period of neglect. If you’ve ever cleaned out your portafilter when it’s been dirty for a while, you’ll have noticed the staining and sticky texture of the oils in the basket.
These same oils can be extremely hard on the solenoid valve when left to age and solidify.
A solenoid valve is a three way valve with one entrance and two exits which are controlled via a piston. Water flows into the valve and exits into the shot. Once the shot has finished, pressure is released through the second exit, bringing coffee residue which coats the piston on its way out. This coating will age, get sticky, build up, and eventually can block or break your solenoid valve.
The cleaning tablet that we use to backflush through the espresso machine contains a chemical that softens the coffee oils, allowing a hot water flush to wash them away. However, these tablets are not necessarily made to soften a year's worth of built up coffee oils. It’s important to keep up with cleanings to ensure each cleaning has a maximum effect.
Solenoid valves are known for blocking up easily from scale and corrosion. Generally speaking, they don't like being placed in a hot environment, which is why they are one of the espresso machine parts that most often malfunctions.
Dalla Corte’s placement of the solenoid valve is unique because we have positioned it in a way that will avoid overheating. If you clean your Dalla Corte machine regularly, you should have a long lasting solenoid valve, and a long lasting machine.
While there are other parts of your machine that will benefit from regular chemical cleanings, the solenoid valve is the component that will most frequently affect the functionality of your machine if cleanings are neglected.
By cleaning your espresso machine regularly, you not only get the best flavours from your coffee extraction, but you also safeguard the longevity of your machine.