That strong, rich espresso shot wouldn’t be possible without a portafilter. One of the main components of an espresso machine, the portafilter is where your coffee grounds sit as water runs through them to make coffee.
As a result, the portafilter will contain the used-up grounds after pulling the shot, which for the most part, means that cleaning is due. If you’re wondering why and how to clean the portafilter between shots, then keep reading!
Why Clean the Portafilter?
Imagine pulling an espresso shot using a dirty machine, do leftover oils and impurities floating in your cup of coffee sound delicious? I’ll bet you said no.
Of course, you’d be right! Not even the best, most expensive coffee beans can justify or make a shot pulled through a dirty portafilter taste good.
If you’re a coffee enthusiast, then you already know that the thick crema topping your espresso comes from the essential oils in your coffee beans. These oils have an ugly side though; they’re also the reason behind that “off” flavor of coffee that develops after a while.
This rancidity happens when the oils emulsify and stick to the metal water screen (sometimes behind it as well) of the espresso machine. This results in the formation of a film on the filter basket and portafilter.
Shot after shot, this film will build-up to the point it clogs the holes of the portafilter basket and leaves residue inside the portafilter spout. Now, if you could remove such nasty impurities, why wouldn’t you?
Luckily for all of us coffee lovers, these deposits can be easy to remove as long as you opt for regular cleaning.
How Often Should You Clean the Portafilter?
The information above might sound a bit exaggerated to you, especially since it brings about the question “should I clean the portafilter between every shot?”.
But hey, you can breathe a sigh of relief because although we’d prefer it that way, you don’t have to clean the portafilter after every shot you pull. Doing so will certainly make things easier in the long run, but it’s not exactly possible if you work at a coffee shop pulling dozens of espresso shots daily.
In this case, a cleanup every 10 shots or so can be enough.
At home, however, the demand is far less so there’s no reason to leave it dirty. For convenience, consider leaning the portafilter right after pulling your shot and before drinking your coffee - just get it out of your way.
How to Clean Portafilter Between Shots
Now that the questions of “why” and “how often” are over with, it’s time to get your hands dirty!.
Some may skip cleaning between every shot when they’re busy pulling shots back to back, but the majority of professional baristas do some form of cleaning between each shot and wouldn't have it any other way.
In this case, here’s a quick way to get it done:
- Flush the group head immediately after the shot while knocking the used up grounds out. Keep this up until the water runs clear.
- Wipe the portafilter using a clean and dry rag to make sure there are no leftover grounds.
For deeper cleansing, follow the steps below:
- Thoroughly rinse and wipe the basket.
- Take out the portafilter and break it down. This means removing the spouts and disassembling any additional cover the spouts include).
- Scrub the inner surfaces of the portafilter body and the spouts.
- Pour water into a large container, add some of your cleaning powder to the water, then stir to dissolve.
- Place the portafilter parts into the detergent water and let them soak for at least 15 minutes.
- Note: It’s not recommended to submerge the plastic, Bakelite, or rubber handle in the cleaning water. Such materials can be damaged by the cleanser, developing rust over time.
- After soaking is finished, use clean water to rinse all of the parts.
- Scrub once more and then wipe dry with a clean rag.
- If the portafilter spouts are open slot, look closely to make sure that there are no trapped oils lingering behind that the soaking didn't dissolve. If so, scrub it clean using a small round brush.
- Reassemble your portafilter.
As you can tell by now, cleaning the portafilter is crucial to maintaining the delicious, rich taste of your espresso shot every time. It’s important that you know how to clean the portafilter between shots so you get the job done without damaging any parts in the process.