Having an espresso machine is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a coffee addict.
However, to ensure your coffee machine's longevity and your brew's quality aren't compromised, you need to learn to backflush it regularly.
Regular backflushing prevents the build-up of nasty coffee oils and other residues, and I have the perfect guide to take you through it right here.
Here’s What You Need Before You Start Flushing!
Interestingly enough, not all espresso machines are capable of being backflushed! That means you’ll need some specific equipment to get started:
Espresso Machine Backflushing Made Simple (Step-By-Step)
If you’re looking for the right way to backflush your espresso machine, follow these simple steps:
- Insert blind filter/blind basket, adding up to half a teaspoon of backflushing detergent specifically-designed for this purpose. Lock the portafilter into the group head.
- Activate brew cycle for 10 seconds, letting the machine release pressure (almost like you're pulling a shot). Repeat this process 5 to 8 times, depending on how grimy the group head is.
- Remove the portafilter, activate brew cycle, and rinse the portafilter with a stream of water from the group head. Stop cycle.
- Insert the blind filter, locking the portafilter into the group head. This time, you’ll use a clean blind filter without any cleaner. Repeat step 2 to rinse, ensuring all soapiness is gone.
- Pull a shot of espresso, discarding it. This removes any possible detergent residue. Trust me on this one. Do not drink this first shot!
- Soak all filters and the metal part of the portafilter (avoid submerging plastic handle) for 30 minutes in a teaspoon of Biocaf powder per 31 ounces of hot water.
- Rinse with water and put filters back (only for detergent backflush).
Why Bother Backflushing Your Espresso Machine?
To backflush your espresso machine means to clean out the shower screen, brew group, and three-way valve (if applicable).
This three-way valve opens up, releasing water pressure from coffee grounds and depositing it into a drip tray.
During the backflush process, we use the pressure release to push cleaner into the brewing components. The cleaner gets rid of rancid oils that can seriously make your coffee taste nasty.
It also keeps coffee grounds from plugging up the shower screen. This is not only inefficient but can seriously affect the longevity and performance of machines.
How Often Should You Backflush An Espresso Machine?
It would be best if you did a water backflush at least once a week, without any cleaning chemicals.
To flush water through and rinse portafilter is quite easy and quick to do and will make a big difference in machine performance.
For every 200 shots of coffee or so, you should perform a thorough clean on your espresso maker with either the tablets or cleaner detergent.
As you can imagine, commercial machines in a busy cafe will require much more frequent cleanings.
Tips For Backflushing Popular Espresso Machines
How To Backflush Breville Espresso Machine
- You’ll need a rubber disc/blind filter and espresso machine cleaner. The exact process may vary a bit, depending on the Breville model you have.
- Prepare the Machine - Empty the dip tray, ensuring the water tank is full.
- Prepare the Blind Basket - Place a single-wall filter basket into the portafilter, then put the blind filter inside. This keeps any water from coming out during the process.
- Place the Cleaner in Basket - You can choose to use either cleaning powder or tablets. If you use cleaning powder, don’t use more than half of a teaspoon.
- Run the Backflush - Insert and lock the portafilter into the group head, pressing the brew button to start the brew cycle. Yours may have a brew pressure gauge, where you can refer to the pressure build-up. For the Breville Barista Pro, first press the menu button, then select "backflush."
- Repeat - Repeat these steps until the soapy water comes out clean into the drip tray.
- Clean Water Backflush - Then do a few runs of just clean water. After this, remove portafilter and rinse out any remaining cleaning solution.
How To Backflush Rocket Espresso Machine
- Place Cleaning Tablets in Portafilter Basket - For a Rocket espresso machine, remove portafilter from the machine and the group head, placing 1-2 cleaning tablets into the portafilter basket. Insert them into the slot on the group head (do not push down).
- Clean the Brew Head - Pull the lever on the portafilter’s side, wait for a few seconds (at least 10), then pull it down.
- Repeat this at least 8 to 10 times for 10 seconds each.
- Clean Brew Head with Brush - Remove the portafilter from the slot, then clear it. Take a Pallo brush, cleaning the brew head free of any debris or residue. After, use the lever on the machine's side. Pull the lever up, and the water flow will go into the drip tray.
- Repeat - Add portafilter basket into the brew head, pulling the lever up and waiting for a max of 5 seconds, then pulling it down. Repeat this 10 times for 5 seconds each.
- Brew - Take a cup, hit the brew button, wait until it fully brews, then discard it. This ensures that all water that comes into contact with the cleaning solution has been discarded.
Common Espresso Machine Backflushing Questions
What happens if you don’t backflush an espresso machine?
If you don't backflush espresso machines, the solidified, rancid coffee oils, limescale, and other debris can get trapped in the brew head resulting in unsatisfying espresso shots.
What is the difference between backflush and descale?
Descaling cleans the water system, removing any calcium or other mineral deposits within the machine. Backflushing removes coffee oil residue and build-up on the brew head.
When should backflushing be done without detergent?
You should be backflushing at least every day or two, to ensure no build-up occurs. Even better, try backflushing with just water after your last shot of the day. This kind of maintenance is simple yet will help the machines' systems perform more effectively.
If you’re brewing any kind of espresso, you have to know just how important backflushing is.
Once you do it the first time, it’s pretty easy to get the hang of, and you can start using detergent every other week or so. Enjoy!