Backflushing is the cleaning process that is used to clean the brew group, shower screen and the three-way valve. This procedure can only be completed on espresso machines that have a three-way valve. The three-way valve is a small valve which releases and discharges the water pressure off of the coffee and drops it into the drip tray once the brewing process has finished. When you backflush your espresso machine you take advantage of the pressure release to send cleaner up into the machine’s components.
The backflushing cleaner product will eliminate any coffee deposits that result in your coffee tasting bitter. The backflushing technique reduces the likelihood of coffee clogging up on the shower screen and it can eventually build up and cause damage to the machine. One way that you will know that coffee is plugged up onto the shower screen is when you start to notice little high-pressure streams of water coming from the shower screen which limits the water flow.
Next, you should remove the shower screen and hold it up to the light for further inspection, you will be surprised at how any of the water can get through at all. The cleaner you purchase for the backflushing process should come with instructions, however, here is a guide on how to effectively backflush your espresso machine.
- Take out the filter basket from the portafilter and apply the backflush disc. The backflush disc could either be a filter basket that has no holes in (also known as a blind basket) or a rubber disc that covers the holes of a filter basket.
- The next step is to add around 0.5 tsp of the backflush cleaner into the filter basket
- Then you will need to put the portafilter in the brew group and turn on the pump.
- Once the pump is turned on you should wait around 20 seconds before the pump will stop making any noise and go very quiet. Once this occurs, you know that the pressure has been increased. This can be determined using the machines hydraulic pressure gauge, if fitted. When the pressure has been built up, you will need to turn the pump off.
- After you turn the pump off you should hear a ‘woosh’ sound, this happens when the cleaner gets transferred up into the brew group than past the three-way valve and into the drip tray. You should continue this procedure until the foam that is coming into the drip tray is clean.
- The next stage is to detach the handle and rinse the handle of any cleaner that is still on the surface. Then you should apply the handle back onto the machine and then backflush again without using cleaner, just water.
- Finally, detach the handle and turn the pump on and off a couple of times to allow the cleaner to get rinsed out of the brew group. Running the brew group continuously for 30 seconds with no group handle fitted will help rinse the group valve, head and shower plate.
Backflushing Commercial Espresso Machines
Any commercial coffee machines should be backflushed regularly. When espresso machines are used in commercial settings such as coffee shops they should be backflushed at the end of each day. However, for home coffee drinkers one or twice a week would be acceptable.
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