Why Do You Purge the Steam Wand? 4 Benefits

Why do you purge the steam wand? Purging your coffee machine’s steam wand helps keep it clean, preventing milk residue and bacterial buildup. This improves the taste of your coffee and protects your machine.

Why Do You Purge The Steam Wand - Baristas hand that turns on the coffee machine to release steam
Purge your steam wand after every use

Have you ever sipped a cappuccino and latte only to find the taste is sour? Or worse, found clumps of milk residue in your drink? This may be the result of improper steam wand cleaning.

It would be best if you purged the steam wand of your coffee machine after every use. This will keep it clean, ensuring that your machine maintains optimal function and your milk-based coffee drinks continue to taste their best.

Learn more about why and how to purge the steam wand below.

Why Do You Purge the Steam Wand?

The steam wand of your coffee machine allows you to heat milk and create foam for delicious cappuccinos, lattes, and other milk-based coffee drinks. Every time you use your steam wand, you should clean it in a process known as purging. This protects your coffee machine.

The steam wand works by emitting temperature-controlled, pressurized steam. This forces air into the milk, creating foam and bubbles. In the process, milk may get in the interior of the steam wand and stick to the wand’s exterior.

Milk may get in the interior of the steam wand and stick to its exterior

You should remove this milk residue immediately, or it will get dry and crusty, making it very hard to clean off. The residual milk can then breed bacteria—which will then get injected into your next round of steamed milk. Yuck! This bacteria is what makes rancid milk taste sour.

Purging the steam wand is also essential to maintaining the lifespan of your coffee machine. Without cleaning, milk and scale deposits from hard water can build up in the steam wand. Long term, this can cause issues like corrosion.

4 Benefits of Purging the Steam Wand

Purging the steam wand of your espresso machine is a quick and easy process. Once you realize the benefits of this simple task, you’ll never skip it again!

Here’s a brief overview of the advantages of steam wand cleaning:

Benefit #1: Avoid bacterial buildup

Residual milk in and on the steam wand can foster bacterial growth if it’s not removed. This can then get into your next round of steamed milk.

Benefit #2: Improve milk taste

Old milk residue that’s been impacted by bacteria can have a sour taste. You don’t want this getting into your coffee drinks and ruining the flavor.

Benefit #3: Enhance foaming capacity

If milk residue is allowed to build up in the steam wand substantially, the device won’t be able to emit a steady, even stream of steam. This will impede foaming ability.

Benefit #4: Protect your machine

By keeping your steam wand clean with regular purging, you can ensure that it doesn’t rust or experience other preventable damage. This safeguards your machine, extending its lifespan.

How to Purge the Steam Wand Correctly

It’s easy to purge the steam wand of your espresso coffee machine

Purging the steam wand is fast and easy—so there’s no excuse not to do it! It only takes three simple steps to get the job done.

1. Gather Your Supplies

You don’t need complicated equipment to purge a steam wand. While you should give the wand a more thorough deep clean daily, purging requires only a clean cloth after each use. Make sure to use a fresh cloth every day, as bacteria can build up on the fabric.

2. Open the Steam Valve

Open the steam valve to allow steam to come out of the wand. This will help push milk residue inside the wand out. You may want to leave a cloth or an empty container under the wand to avoid making a mess. Make sure that your hands aren’t in the way, or you may burn yourself.

3. Wipe Down the Steam Wand

Close the steam valve after five to seven seconds. Then, use a clean cloth to wipe down the outside of the steam wand. Double-check the steam wand holes to make sure they’re clean. When you’re done, there should be no residue left.


  • Aisling O'Connor

    Aisling is an Irish food and drinks writer and journalist fueled by coffee and herbal tea. She followed up her journalism degree with nutrition studies. Find Aisling on LinkedIn.