How to Backflush and Clean your Espresso Machine

how to backflush your machine

There are many factors that work together to pull a terrific shot of espresso. When shooting for that we often focus on things like getting the right bean, having the perfect grind, dosing the right amount, tamping evenly at the right pressure and the list goes on. Here in Clive’s Tech Department we believe the most forgotten factor in the realization of a delicious cup is the cleanliness of the machine used and how that lends to even extraction and clear taste. Too often when tuning up a machine we look in the group head, roll up our sleeves and prepare to go to battle with the scourge that is 2 or more years of built up coffee grounds, clogging up the inside of a group head and polluting the taste of the rest of our controlled process that is brewing espresso. We’re here to teach you how to spend five minutes with your machine to clean out your group head and improve your home espresso.

The place we want to start is with water and detergent backflushing. We recommend a water backflush on any day the machine is used, but if you can just manage once a week that will be fine as well. Detergent backflushing we recommend about once every other week on all machines except the machines that use E61 group heads, in the case of the E61 group head we recommend once every one or two months.


 Backflushing the Lucca A53 and other Semi-Saturated Groupheads

Backflushing E61-Grouphead Machines

 The steps:

  1. Insert blind filter and add up to 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) of Biocaf wash or espresso cleaning tablets (only use designated espresso machine cleaner for detergent backflush. Cafiza, Biocaf, Full-Circle are common brands). Lock your portafilter into the group head.
  2. Activate brew cycle for 10 seconds and allow the machine to release pressure. Repeat 5-8 times, depending on how dirty your group head is.
  3. Remove portafilter. Activate brew cycle and rinse portafilter in a stream of water from the grouphead. Stop cycle.
  4. Insert blind filter. Lock your portafilter into group head again, this time with a clean blind filter without the cleaner. Repeat step 2 to rinse and make sure no detergent residue is left.
  5. Make and discard a shot of espresso (only for detergent backflush).
  6. Soak filters and the metal portion of portafilter (do not submerge plastic handle) for 30 minutes in 1 teaspoon (6 g) of Biocaf powder per 32 oz. (1 L) of hot water.
  7. Rinse with water and put filters back (only for detergent backflush).

Once you incorporate backflushing into a monthly maintenance routine, the 5 extra minutes it takes to show your machine some love will save both your taste buds and your wallet but even a backflushing routine can’t clean out everything on the other side of your dispersion screen. However, a little scrubbing or a new dispersion screen can make a world of difference in the cup produced by your machine. The process of removing your dispersion screen and cleaning your machine is a simple one that we recommend once a week as a part of maintaining your machine and creating a quality cup of espresso. Below we will explore the removal of the different kinds of screens, cleaning and reinstalling.

clean your espresso machine 2

For a more general and quick and easy guide, check out our Espresso Cleaning & Maintenance blog. Cheers!