Espresso machines can produce impressive lattes, americanos, and macchiatos, but as a luxury appliance they require special attention. Proper maintenance and care is key to producing years of satisfactory, reliable espresso drinks. The very first maintenance task to perform on an espresso machine is to prime it. New espresso machines have no water in their boilers, and they will need to be primed before use so that the heating element does not suffer damage. Espresso machines may also need to be primed after steaming milk or after a period of disuse.
How to Prime an Espresso Machine
Fill your espresso machine's water reservoir with fresh, cold water. Make sure all switches are turned off. Plug in the espresso machine.
Ensure the intake hoses are submerged in the water reservoir, and their tips are close to the bottom. Make sure that there are no kinks or blockages in the hoses.
Turn the steam knob so it is open. Place an empty container under the steam wand to collect any liquid from your espresso machine during the priming process.
Turn on the espresso machine. Set it to the "coffee/brew" setting or the hot water setting, depending on the model of espresso machine you are working with.
Close the steam valve once water starts to flow out. Once water flows out of the brew head, turn off the coffee/brew switch or the hot water switch. Continue to run about a cup of water through the boiler to flush the system thoroughly. This is especially important prior to the first use.
If you use your espresso machine for making drinks such as hot chocolate or chia tea, make sure to prime your machine often. Steaming uses water from the boiler, but does not replace it. Only making espresso keeps the boiler fully charged with water, so if you do not regularly use your espresso machine for making espresso, you will need to keep the boiler filled with water by priming it.
If no water is pulled through the steam wand after 30 seconds, turn off your espresso machine, check for blockages in the hoses, and wait ten minutes. Then repeat the steps above.
Michelle Labbe has been writing online and for print since 2004. Her work has appeared in the online journals Reflection's Edge and Cabinet des Fées as well as in Harvard Book Store's anthology, "Michrochondria." She is pursuing a Master of Arts in publishing and writing at Emerson College.