If you find your espresso doesn’t taste as fresh as you’re used to or you’ve spotted leakage in the group head, it could be time to backflush your machine.
Thankfully, it only takes a few minutes. Let’s go over the details.
- Not all espresso machines can be backflushed. However, you can backflush E61 machines and those with a three-way solenoid valve.
- You can backflush an espresso machine using clean water every 10 shots or daily. You can also do it once a month or every 50 shots using cleaning detergent.
- You will need a blind filter to perform backflushing
What Is Espresso Machine Backflushing?
Backflushing involves cleaning by forcing hot water and detergent through the brew group to remove rancid coffee oils and residue from the group, shower screen and three-way valve.
What Types Of Espresso Machines Can Be Backflushed?
Backflushing isn’t necessary on every espresso machine. Indeed, it should only be performed on machines with a three-way solenoid valve, which alleviates excess pressure from the brew group after brewing.
E61 group head naturally has a pressure valve, so they can all be backflushed. Most prosumer machines benefit from backflushing to improve coffee flavor.
Certain high-end machines have a touch-of-a-button backflush, but for others, there is more of a process. However, it is easy to perform.
Here are some examples of popular semiautomatic machines and whether you can backflush them.
- Neither the De’Longhi Dedica nor the De’Longhi Specialista has a three-way valve. If you try to backflush these machines, you could damage them as pressure has nowhere to go.
- Most Breville machines have a backflush function.
- The Gaggia Classic Pro and Rancilio Silvia can be backflushed.
If your machine comes with a blind filter, you will know backflushing is supported. However, if you’re unsure if your coffee machine has a three-way valve or should be backflushed, refer to your manual before proceeding.
What Do You Need To Backflush Your Espresso Machine?
To perform the task, you’ll need a backflush disc, often called a blind filter. You’ll also need some espresso machine cleaner. We recommend the Umex pressing machine cleaning solution.
How To Backflush Your Espresso Machine
We’ll demonstrate how to backflush two popular espresso machines for home baristas at different price points – the prosumer-level Lelit Bianca and the more entry-level Breville Barista Pro.
Backflushing E61 Espresso Machines
Empty the drip tray, fill the water reservoir and fully heat your espresso machine.
2: Insert Backflush Blind Basket
Place your backflush disc into the portafilter.
Tip: if you struggle to remove the regular filter basket, try easing it out with the edge of the backflush disc, or use a portafilter basket ejector tool.
3: Add Detergent
Add around 3g (half a teaspoon) of backflushing detergent to the portafilter.
4: Activate The Brew Cycle
Lock the portafilter into the group and brew lever, then let it run for 10 seconds. You will see the pressure rise in the brew pressure gauge. However, nothing will emerge from the spout.
Tip: once the 10 seconds have elapsed, lower the lever, and you will see soapy foam or brown liquid emerge from the relief into the drip tray. This is expected due to the backflush cleaning and dissolving coffee oils in the machine.
5: Rest And Repeat
Wait for five seconds and repeat the process. Do this five times. After the final time, remove the portafilter, rinse the detergent and flush the group led with clean water.
6: Run Five Rinse Cycles
Lock the portafilter back into place and repeat the process, this time only using water. Use the same timings as before. I.e., ten seconds on, five seconds off.
As you continue the cycles, you’ll notice the discharge becoming less soapy and clearer. Ideally, the water will be clear and pure by the final cycle, meaning the machine is ready to brew again. If the water is still soapy, repeat the cycle one or two more times.
Tip: It’s a good idea to brew a sacrificial espresso shot following the backflushing process to ensure everything is clean.
Note that the brew lever may be somewhat stiff or squeaky after backflushing a machine with an E61 group head. This is normal, and the issue will usually resolve itself after brewing a few shots because the new coffee oils will lubricate the components.
7. Clean the portafilter and the screen
Don’t forget to clean your portafilter! Add a teaspoon of detergent to a bowl of water, soak and brush the portafilter. It will be as clean as it is new.
Backflushing The Breville Barista Pro
The Breville Barista Pro and Breville Barista Express are much-loved domestic espresso machines. Each also allows backflushing for better quality. The backflushing process is similar for both machines, but the ways to begin backflushing mode differ.
Place the single-shot filter basket into the portafilter and add the rubber disc that comes with the machine.
Position a cleaning tablet or 1/3 teaspoon of cleaning powder in the center of the disc.
Empty the drip tray and ensure the water tank is full.
Lock the portafilter into the group head.
For a quick backflush, press the 1-cup button to activate a brew cycle, allow it to run for 10 seconds, and press the button again to stop. It will then discharge water into the drip tray.
Use the auto-flush function, the machine will repeat the process automatically several times.
When the auto-flush function is complete, remove the portafilter, remove the left of detergent and water, and run several shots with water only to clean out the remaining solution in the group head.
Tip: Select the flush function in the menu for a deep clean using the Barista Pro and press the 1-cup button. With the Barista Express, ensure the machine is off, then press the single and double shot buttons and power buttons simultaneously. Each cleaning takes longer but will run a few cleaning cycles.
How Often Should You Backflush Your Espresso Machine?
The frequency varies depending on how often you use the machine and the ground as some beans are oilier than others.
Generally, you should do a backflush every 10 cycles with water. So, if you call one or two shots daily, backflush once a week. Then, backflush with detergent monthly with regular use or every 50 cycles. You can also use a brush to wipe your shower screen and group gasket.
Backflushing will help your shots taste better and extend the machine’s longevity.
Backflushing is a long way from being the most exciting aspect of espresso brewing. However, it is necessary if the machine allows it, particularly to continue enjoying the best quality shots.
Thankfully, it is not a difficult process, nor is it time-consuming, meaning you can soon get back to enjoying pulling your – hopefully more flavourful – shots.