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How do I clean this thing?
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Discussions > Espresso > Machines > How do I clean...  
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petuniaii
Senior Member


Joined: 15 May 2007
Posts: 187
Location: Mississippi
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Silvia
Grinder: Macap M4, Zass 161, Baratza...
Drip: Melitta cone, Aeropress
Roaster: air popper
Posted Tue Jul 10, 2007, 1:54pm
Subject: How do I clean this thing?
 

I've read about how to clean an espresso machine in an article on H-B.com.  (click here)  However, it comes with this caveat re: descaling: "the details of this are machine dependent. Refer to your owner's manual..."  Fine, no problem, I thought, since my machine supposedly comes with a pretty good manual.  Then said machine arrived, and all it says about cleaning is to flush with water!  Oh, and wipe the grouphead.  Not a word about detergent of any kind, not a peep about descaling.  Obviously, this is not going to cut it.

One reason I haven't just rushed out & bought the first packet of likely-looking stuff is because of a thread
started recently by SJM, who was concerned about how to clean her aluminum portafilters.  Mine is aluminum, too.  So can you not clean aluminum with just anything?

Meanwhile, I have no idea what the innards of my machine are made out of - aluminum, plastic, steel, or catgut.  :P  The fact that it's a thermoblock, and that I can't seem to find out exactly what a thermoblock IS, is for another thread.  What I do know is that after about a month of use, my PF isn't so shiny anymore, my steam is weak, and I'm scared to think of what's building up behind the grouphead.  Suggestions, please?
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SJM
Senior Member


Joined: 17 Nov 2004
Posts: 1,719
Location: CA
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: SAMA (2), Maximatic, Cremina...
Grinder: K-10PB, Rancilio MD-50
Vac Pot: no like
Drip: no like
Roaster: HotTop   Huky en route
Posted Tue Jul 10, 2007, 2:16pm
Subject: Re: How do I clean this thing?
 

Hi Lee, SJM here.
Take a deep breath.  

And then tell us what espresso machine you have.  It makes a difference how you treat it, because different machines have boilers made out of different metals.

Here's a good reference that I just found today, by the way that will tell you quite a lot about different kinds of boilers and boiler materials.

http://www.coffeeco.com.au/articles/july2002.html

Susan
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petuniaii
Senior Member


Joined: 15 May 2007
Posts: 187
Location: Mississippi
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Silvia
Grinder: Macap M4, Zass 161, Baratza...
Drip: Melitta cone, Aeropress
Roaster: air popper
Posted Tue Jul 10, 2007, 4:48pm
Subject: Re: How do I clean this thing?
 

Oops, I forgot to update that in my profile... it's a Hamilton Beach Cafe Cappuccino.  

Thanks for the link.  I'm going to go home and see if I can digest this.
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Bott
Senior Member


Joined: 16 Apr 2007
Posts: 193
Location: USA
Expertise: I love coffee

Posted Tue Jul 10, 2007, 10:01pm
Subject: Re: How do I clean this thing?
 

The Hamilton Beach website lists Customer Service: 800-851-8900  for the US.  Have you tried calling them?
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ChicagoSandy
Senior Member
ChicagoSandy
Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 1,192
Location: SW Coast of Lake Michigan
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Quickmill "La Cora,"  Silvia
Grinder: Mazzer Mini, Rocky DL
Vac Pot: Presses, Aeropress
Drip: postnasal, Technivorm
Roaster: Behmor, I-Roast2, SC/TO
Posted Wed Jul 11, 2007, 1:41am
Subject: Re: How do I clean this thing?
 

I'm sorry if this is going to sound snarky, but the more you read the posts on this forum, the more you will realize that "Hamilton Beach" is not among the more prestigious names in the espresso machine industry.  This is borne out by the fact that it is generally available for well under a hundred bucks. (Cheer up--at least it's not a "steam toy"). Technically, because you have a pump machine, what you should get is espresso, but only in theory. The fact that your portafilter is aluminum indicates that the materials used in the machine are probably less than optimal. (An aluminum portafilter is flimsy--and though it heats fast it will not hold heat as well and as evenly as brass. And the portafilter is too small to hold enough finely ground and properly tamped coffee to produce actual espresso with crema). I have had to try to make espresso with this machine at a friend's house--if you use enough coffee and grind it finely enough and tamp as hard as most good home machines require, the machine will stall and the portafilter may even suddenly loosen because it can't handle the pressure; if you use less coffee (per instructions) and grind it more coarsely and/or tamp it more loosely or not at all, you will get thin watery brown stuff gushing out into your cup.

The reason your manual tells you just to "flush" to clean is that's about as much as you can safely do without damaging the parts.  By "flushing," they mean running several cycles of water, period, through the machine till the water comes out clear.  It might seem a good idea to gently descale with a weak solution of a citric-acid-based cleaner like Barista, Cleancaf,filtered lemon juice or a pinch of sour salt, but not too often. Better to follow the manual's advice and just flush often with good clean filtered water. The other bad news about aluminum is that it'll eventually discolor, pit and corrode (and collect some mineral scale). There's a reason you shouldn't cook acidic foods in aluminum pans--the acid will darken aluminum and perhaps even leach some of it back into the food. For the same reason, take it easy with descaling. If I were you, I would use bottled or filtered water to minimize the formation of scale, and flush the machine as recommended between uses. Note: "flush" in a machine like this does not mean "backflush:" it lacks the solenoid valve necessary to make backflushing safe and effective (and they probably don't make a blank filter for a teeny aluminum portafilter anyway.

You are going to want to save up for a decent burr grinder (if you don't already have one) and spend at least $170 (sale price) for a Gaggia Carezza--58mm brass portafilter, and though it has an aluminum boiler rather than a thermoblock or a brass boiler, with a good grinder, fresh beans and a good tamper you'll make very good and REAL espresso. Skip any impulse to buy anything labeled "Krups" or "DeLonghi," either as a machine or grinder.

Sad to say, but your drip coffeemaker probably makes better all-around coffee than your "espresso" machine makes espresso.

 
Sandy
www.sandyandina.com
-------------------
Life's too short to drink lousy coffee, play crummy guitars and write with ballpoint pens.
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petuniaii
Senior Member


Joined: 15 May 2007
Posts: 187
Location: Mississippi
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Silvia
Grinder: Macap M4, Zass 161, Baratza...
Drip: Melitta cone, Aeropress
Roaster: air popper
Posted Wed Jul 11, 2007, 1:01pm
Subject: Re: How do I clean this thing?
 

Bott Said:

The Hamilton Beach website lists Customer Service: 800-851-8900  for the US.  Have you tried calling them?

Posted July 10, 2007 link

 I haven't, but I guess that's the next logical step.  I've had enough unenjoyable experiences with customer service/tech support to generally try other things first.  But yeah, I should probably give them a try.

Sandy, you don't need to apologize for snark!  :)  I'm well aware that HB is not exactly in the high-end espresso business.  I did check it out via the reviews and forums, and the verdict seemed to be that it was a machine capable of making espresso, but that was about the best that could be said, and it would take a lot of fiddling with.  Since that still sounded a lot better than the steam toy I currently had, and since I was getting the machine for free (but only that specific machine), I went for it, buying a refurb Virtuoso grinder at the same time.  I saw it as a way to dip my toe in the water without risking much; at worst, I figure I'll end up having learned a lot.

About the portafilter:  from what I've read it's actually 58mm, although I haven't verified this yet.  It's cast aluminum and comes with a double basket.  I actually haven't had any trouble getting crema, although the quantity & quality of it could certainly be better.  

Point taken about using acidic cleansers on aluminum.  That leaves the problem of what to soak the PF in - I can see the bottom leading to the spouts starting to darken, and it bugs me.  There's also the question of whether the innards of the machine are made of aluminum or something else, and to find that out I guess I will need to call Hamilton Beach.
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ChicagoSandy
Senior Member
ChicagoSandy
Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 1,192
Location: SW Coast of Lake Michigan
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Quickmill "La Cora,"  Silvia
Grinder: Mazzer Mini, Rocky DL
Vac Pot: Presses, Aeropress
Drip: postnasal, Technivorm
Roaster: Behmor, I-Roast2, SC/TO
Posted Wed Jul 11, 2007, 2:30pm
Subject: Re: How do I clean this thing?
 

My 58 mm tamper didn't fit in the portafilter of my friends' HB--the narrow end of a crappy plastic tamper and a cheap aluminum one did, however.  But when I tamped and used 2 7-gm scoops of finely ground Red Line, the machine first stalled and then blew the portafilter off its moorings!  Best I could get from it crema-wise was a thin pale gold ring around the cup's rim that dissipated quickly.

I would clean the darkened aluminum portfilter the same way you'd clean a non-coated or non-anodized aluminum pot or pan. (Brillo or a green Scotch-Brite cloth with a little dishwashing liquid or mild abrasive like Bon Ami--but don't expect miracles).  Don't soak it--it'll pit. Some cheaper pumpers use stainless steel portafilters, but till you move up to heavy cast brass you won't be able to preheat and hold the heat in well enough to maintain a proper and stable temperature.  (An anodized--like Calphalon--aluminum PF could weigh more and wouldn't darken or react with acid, but nobody'd want to buy a machine with an already dark gray portafilter or pay what it'd cost).  Those 58mm pro-style cast brass PFs you'll find on Gaggias on up can weigh as much as a pound (as should a good tamper, too).  Trust me--try 'em and you'll never settle for less!

Oh, and I was a newbie too--over the years I went from blade grinders to cheap (Krups) burrs to real grinders (first Pavoni PGB, then Solis Maestro Plus, Rocky, and Mazzer; and from steam toy to cheap Krups thermoblock to Starbucks-branded Saeco/Estro pumpers to a (BAD mistake) Capresso Ultima "semisuperauto" to a Silvia to finally a Livia 90A (which I programmed for different water volumes).  Still own the Solis (for drip/press/Aeropress), Rocky (for decaf or to take to parties) and Mazzer (current workhorse) grinders; as well as the Silvia (again, to take to parties) and the Livia (again, my main machine).  So I have been through all the steps on the path to the good stuff!

 
Sandy
www.sandyandina.com
-------------------
Life's too short to drink lousy coffee, play crummy guitars and write with ballpoint pens.
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petuniaii
Senior Member


Joined: 15 May 2007
Posts: 187
Location: Mississippi
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Silvia
Grinder: Macap M4, Zass 161, Baratza...
Drip: Melitta cone, Aeropress
Roaster: air popper
Posted Wed Jul 11, 2007, 3:41pm
Subject: Re: How do I clean this thing?
 

ChicagoSandy Said:

My 58 mm tamper didn't fit in the portafilter of my friends' HB--the narrow end of a crappy plastic tamper and a cheap aluminum one did, however.  But when I tamped and used 2 7-gm scoops of finely ground Red Line, the machine first stalled and then blew the portafilter off its moorings!  Best I could get from it crema-wise was a thin pale gold ring around the cup's rim that dissipated quickly.

Posted July 11, 2007 link

That's weird.  How long ago/how old was that machine?  Maybe HB started making a different model?  I only weighed the ground coffee a couple of times - it came out at 16-17 grams.  The rest of the time I just put two slightly rounded 2-tbsp scoops of beans in the grinder.  I usually get about 1/16 to 1/8-oz of crema, though I haven't been checking the crema volume that closely, and it doesn't last long.  It was pale at first, but then looking at some of the pics here reminded me what it SHOULD look like - going hotter with the water got it looking a bit better.

I admit I'm still rocking the plastic tamper :o, partly because I want to confirm the PF size before ordering a real tamper, and because I'm not sure what shape base to get (flat, Euro curve, etc.).  But it is way too small, so I've had to get a little creative.

The closest I've come to stalling was an interesting accident.  I'd tried some really dark beans, and they were nasty - the pour was WAY too fast, so I ended up taking the grinder from 2 or 3 all the way down to 0, and even tamping at 40 lbs. it was still a little fast.  Didn't taste too good either.  So I went back to my lighter beans, but forgot to reset the grinder.  "What the hell," I thought, and pulled anyway (don't remember how I tamped).  Yeah, it took a long time for anything to start coming out, but when it did it looked more like the pics of the "good stuff" than anything else I'd made.  One ounce in 40 seconds, and what killed me what that it really didn't taste bad!  

Hmm, if there's really no good way to get the coffee residue out of the bottom of my PF, I guess it's just one more reason to go bottomless.
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ChicagoSandy
Senior Member
ChicagoSandy
Joined: 29 Jan 2005
Posts: 1,192
Location: SW Coast of Lake Michigan
Expertise: I love coffee

Espresso: Quickmill "La Cora,"  Silvia
Grinder: Mazzer Mini, Rocky DL
Vac Pot: Presses, Aeropress
Drip: postnasal, Technivorm
Roaster: Behmor, I-Roast2, SC/TO
Posted Thu Jul 12, 2007, 12:32am
Subject: Re: How do I clean this thing?
 

It was 2 yrs. ago, but it may have been an older model (my friends got it as a wedding gift). I'm pretty sure the PF diameter was between 49 and 53mm.

 
Sandy
www.sandyandina.com
-------------------
Life's too short to drink lousy coffee, play crummy guitars and write with ballpoint pens.
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