Can anyone recommend a method for cleaning the clogged holes in a "Basket" of an espresso machine Portafilter? I had this problem with both DeLonghi and Saeco home espresso machines.

For example, in Care of Saeco Pressurized Portafilters (regarding Saeco Manually Pressurized Portafilter) they caution against using metal pins.

Any suggestions of methods or cleaning materials?

  • This is an awfully specific question. Is there any way to make it applicable to a broader audience?
    – BobMcGee
    Commented Jul 4, 2011 at 22:40
  • Rephrased to be more general
    – Itamar
    Commented Jul 5, 2011 at 9:54
  • What is the basket made of? A hot acid bad is usually good for this kind of thing, but there are some materials which react badly to it, e.g. aluminium.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jul 5, 2011 at 13:41

6 Answers 6


I alone on the planet seem to have solved the endless problem of cleaning the fine holes of an espresso portafilter, or a Moka express fine steam filter. None of the liquid or abrasive cleaning apps work, period. Instead, in the past, one had to use a pin to poke out the minute holes — task so laborious and hopeless than most espresso and Moka machines in the world are hampered by limited filtration.

No longer. The pin-holes are plugged with coffee fibre, which burns. Place the filter over a gas flame, either side, for 10 minutes, tapping it with tongs occasionally, and bingo... A CLEAN FILTER. All the minute coffee fibre plugs burn or pop out. Best to use a small coffee pot rack on top of your smallest hob gas burner for this. And metal tongs.

Will I be knighted for this?

  • 2
    Chad, you are a genius. This worked great and took no longer than 5 minutes. Far more effective than soaking or pin-pricking, and no need to buy a new basket. I salute you.
    – user8562
    Commented Jan 4, 2012 at 20:51
  • 1
    Chad's method of roasting the gunk out of the holes worked amazingly well...and quickly. I took the filter off the heat and clanged it on the tile and thousands of tiny burnt dots rained down. Almost all of the holes were clear. thanks, Chad!
    – user11522
    Commented Sep 10, 2012 at 23:23
  • @Mike welcome to the site. We prefer answers to offer new information on the question; if you liked an existing answer, the proper way of showing your appreciation is to upvote it, making it more discoverable and giving its author reputation. As you yourself don't yet have the reputation required, I converted your answer to a comment this time.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Sep 10, 2012 at 23:53
  • 1
    Wow this worked amazing on a Cuisinart - I held it over a grill flame for like 3 minutes, heard some hissing, then ran inside, through it in the machine and let it fly and right through the first time.
    – PW Kad
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 23:09

I would let the basket soak in a hot water ( just from the tap ) bath of Cafiza for about 15 minutes to dissolve the coffee oils. If the problem is scale buildup I would try a soak in a citric acid bath, about 2 tablespoons to 1 liter of water. Of course a good stiff brush could do the trick too with both the methods described here. An old toothbrush maybe.

I would also recommend getting on a routine cleaning schedule. I do a complete espresso machine and grinder cleaning about every 4-5 weeks and it keeps some of these problems from happening. Once you get into the habit of doing it and develop your own personal system it is not too hard to keep up, and you learn a lot about the internals of your machines, which can come in handy if you want to mod or need to do repairs.

Here is a pretty good how-to on cleaning the portafilter and basket link

  • BTW--I've found that a toothbrush is a very good "stiff brush" for this purpose and easily reaches the holes from either side. Commented Dec 11, 2011 at 2:22
  • 1
    Cafiza is good stuff but from experience it needs more than 15 mins if the thing is blocked: I'd recommend soaking in several changes until no more brown stuff comes out.
    – onedaywhen
    Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 10:51

If the clogging is a result of mineral deposits, soak the "basket" in vinegar for a few hours. Then use a wooden toothpick to gently dislodge any deposits.


The Chad Evans method worked. I had no idea how much coffee sludge I had that was visible at the bottom of the portofilter. I thought this was a small rubber ring or something! It easily crumbled out with a gentle touch with a dental tool.

I did not want to damage the finish so I chickened out after 4 minutes of cooking over a flame. This successfully fully opened one passage of the portofilter. I am soaking the whole thing over night in espresso cleaner to see if that will free up the other side, but I have a feeling I will be cooking it again to free up the other side.


There are special detergents for dissolving the coffee oils that are usually used for backflushing portafilter machines. Search for Coffee Clean or Puly Caff


I am at this moment using hot vinegar and after soaking in that for a while, adding baking soda, getting lots of coffee residue out!

  • How hot should the vinegar be? Do you use just vinegar or is it mixed with water? If so, in which proportion?
    – J.A.I.L.
    Commented Nov 13, 2012 at 8:55

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