Can You Make Hot Chocolate in an Espresso Machine?

Espresso machines are expensive yet handy. One saves a lot getting premium coffee at home with coffee grounds. But what if you frequent cafes not for espresso but for hot chocolate. If you do so, you might wonder if making your favorite beverage in such a machine is possible.

You can make hot chocolate in an espresso machine, but it causes wear and tear on the machine, requiring more rinsing and maintenance. Hot chocolate made this way is also too bitter. It is safer and tastier to make chocolate milk in a cup and use the espresso machine to only froth the drink.

In his article, you’ll learn more about the challenges of making hot chocolate in an espresso machine and how to avoid them, so you get cafe-quality hot chocolate at home without damaging your espresso maker.

Problems with Making Hot Chocolate in Espresso Machine

Chocolate Milk Residue in Pipes

The first problem, and the one that causes the most damage to your espresso machine, is the fact that chocolate milk isn’t a self-cleaning liquid. A self-cleaning liquid is the kind that leaves little to no residue. Even espresso and brewed coffee aren’t self-cleaning.

However, their consistency and temperature ensure that little to no residue is left behind in the espresso machine’s pipes. The remainder can be rinsed out by running hot water through the machine. 

Chocolate milk is too thick to leave a minimal residue. Consequently, the pipes that deliver the product from the grounds pocket to the serving outlet end up looking like the inside of a hot cocoa cup after you’re done with it.

The simplest way to avoid this is to keep cocoa, or hot chocolate mix out of your coffee machine. That doesn’t mean you can’t use the machine to make hot chocolate (more on that later). 

But for now, remember that the grounds pocket is only for coffee grounds, especially if you plan to use the machine to make coffee later, which brings us to the next problem.

Chocolate Powder Mixing With Coffee Grounds

If you use the espresso machine to make coffee and want to use it once or twice for making hot chocolate, here’s some bad news: you cannot keep the two beverages separate. Your hot chocolate will taste like coffee (which many don’t mind), and your coffee will taste like it’s mixed with leftover hot cocoa. The latter is impossible to warm up to.

You can, theoretically, move forward with using an espresso maker as a hot chocolate machine, provided you’re willing to run multiple rinsing cycles and don’t want to use it to make coffee. But if you’ve used chocolate powder in your machine, the grounds chamber requires a thorough cleaning, and you’ll still detect hints of chocolate in your coffee.

This is where you think, “well, I guess if I am just having hot chocolate, then my espresso maker is a hot cocoa machine.” There’s a reason why I mentioned that this is true only in theory

More Chocolate Powder Gets Pushed Through

Espresso machines aren’t made to deal with soluble powders. That’s why, when you load one with hot chocolate mix, you end up getting a lot more cocoa powder in your drink than is required. As a result, you have yourself a cup that is too bitter to be worth the havoc it wreaks on your espresso maker.

Knowing this, you can avoid loading the pocket meant for coffee grounds (insoluble) with anything that’s soluble, be it a coffee mix, instant coffee, or hot chocolate. Only grounds that can push against a filter are supposed to go there. You might wonder if making over-concentrated hot chocolate and diluting it after the cup is ready could be a solution.

From a practical perspective, this is a very round-about way of doing something that’s otherwise straightforward. But that’s not to say that making hot chocolate with an espresso maker is not possible.

How to Make Hot Chocolate With an Espresso Machine

You may have noticed that almost every problem associated with making chocolate in an espresso maker comes from the chocolate powder going into the machine. 

In other words, if you can make hot chocolate without loading the machine with such soluble powders, you’ll sidestep all of the challenges above. Follow the steps below to safely make hot chocolate with an espresso machine.

Add Quality Chocolate Milk Mix Into a Cup

As covered above, you will not load hot chocolate mix into the espresso machine. Instead, you will add it to the cup. This gives you more control over how much chocolate powder goes into your drink, and it also keeps the machine safe from deposits and residue.

If you already have chocolate powder, use it at this stage. But ideally, you should be using a cocoa mix that works for cold chocolate milk as well. That’s because you’re not going to add the chocolate mix to hot milk. You’ll add it to cold or room-temperature milk.

A word of advice regarding cups: please choose a wider cup instead of a narrow and deep variety. The wider cup is a safer choice because this method involves frothing. The relation between safety and frothing is covered later. If you have a milk pitcher used with barista machines, use that instead of a cup.

Add Milk to the Cup

Add cold milk to the cup if you have a chocolate mix that dissolves in cold liquids. If you have a “hot chocolate” mix that forms lumps in cold milk, use room temperature milk. At this point, you might be wondering the reason we’re avoiding hot milk in making “hot chocolate.” 

It might sound ironic, but there’s a practical reason: to buy more frothing time. The colder the liquid, the more time it will take under the frothing arm, and the better hot chocolate you’ll have in the end.

Add Sugar (Conditional)

If the chocolate mix you’re using isn’t a mix at all and is just cocoa powder, you’ll definitely need to add a sweetener as cocoa is bitter. Most chocolate powders have pre-added sweeteners in the mix, so you can skip this step and add sugar later after sampling the beverage’s taste. 

Look at the label, and if it says “cocoa,” look further for “sweetened” or “unsweetened.” If it isn’t sweetened, you’ll obviously add sugar. If the label says “chocolate,” you don’t need sugar.

Mix the Contents of the Cup

But before you froth the beverage, we need to mix the contents in the cup. Take a slim stirrer or a tablespoon to mix the powder with the milk. The colder the milk, the more you can expect to stir the cup’s contents. Once the powder is mixed with milk and stirring further brings no results, you’re ready to froth the drink. 

You might notice that there are powdery lumps in the milk if you’re using a hot cocoa mix instead of a cold chocolate milk drink. But if you’ve stirred enough and stirring further isn’t helping, it’s okay to stop stirring and proceed with frothing.

Place the Cup Under Your Espresso Machine’s Frothing Arm

This step’s separated from the next one only to highlight hand positioning. When you place the cup under the frothing arm, make sure your hand is a safe distance away. 

This is also why I recommended that you use a wide cup instead of a narrow one. With a wide cup, you can make sure the frothing arm is away from your hand by placing it closer to the cup’s edge opposite to your hand.

Froth the Chocolate Milk to Perfection

Given that you’ve followed the steps above, you can froth the drink for a long time. The espresso machine’s frothing arm will simultaneously heat the chocolate milk and make it frothy. 

Here you can judge the drink by your eyes, and when it is sufficiently frothed, you can remove the cup and serve. The only thing worth mentioning here is the possibility of lumps.

If powdery lumps had formed in a previous step in this process, you might have to use a stirrer and re-stir the mix after frothing. This might make the foam settle down and affect the drinking experience, but it will be a step up from consuming a perfectly frothed chocolate beverage with powdery lumps.

Serve With Appropriate Sides

Ever wonder why cafes serve hot chocolate with a home-baked biscuit or a cronut? Because the drink itself is too basic regardless of the method you use to make it. 

It is how you serve hot chocolate that elevates it from a childish drink to a heavenly experience. I recommend serving hot chocolate with Walkers Shortbread Highlanders Cookies or Belvita Mini Breakfast Biscuit Bites.

With Highlander Cookies, the smooth and rich drink gets contrasted against the plainness of flavor and the rougher texture, improving the overall experience. On the other hand, breakfast bites are good if you want something to have after the hot chocolate. It is definitely sweeter than most hot chocolate drinks and sweetens the ending.

Final Thoughts

Espresso machines are too expensive to be worth damaging for a hot cup of cocoa. But they’re also handy enough to level up your chocolate milk to premium cafe-tier hot chocolate. To do so, you must make sure to use only the machine’s frother and not load the espresso maker with chocolate powder. And when you serve hot chocolate, make sure to add a biscuit as a side.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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