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Barista Training Basics: How to Backflush a Commercial Espresso Machine

espresso machines

Many factors contribute to crafting the perfect shot of espresso. There’s no doubt you’ve spent time researching the best espresso machines, coffee grinders, and beans for your shop. Whether you have all the equipment you need or you’re still on the search, it’s critical to stay on top of proper maintenance. A high-quality espresso machine is an investment that should serve your café for years to come, but upkeep is required to keep it functioning at its best. We recommend backflushing the machine on a regular basis to improve the flavor of espresso and prolong the lifespan of your equipment. To ensure that each backflush is performed correctly, consider hosting a training session for baristas, keeping the following steps in mind: 

What is Backflushing? 

Backflushing is a necessary part of the cleaning process for espresso machines. It involves sealing the grouphead and forcing hot, pressurized water back through the brew circuit and out the release valve. Backflushing can be done with water or water and detergent to remove and prevent the buildup of coffee oil and debris. If possible, your team should backflush with water at the end of each day that the machine is used. A more thorough backflush with detergent can be done less often, typically about once every other week (with the exception of machines that have E61 group heads, which can be backflushed less often). 

Backflushing Steps 

When the team is ready to backflush the espresso machine(s) with detergent, here are the steps to take for a thorough clean: 

  • Insert the blind filter and add approximately ½ teaspoon of your desired wash (or cleaning tablets for convenience).
  • Activate the brew cycle for 10 seconds, allowing the machine to release pressure. Repeat as necessary, generally five to eight times depending upon the condition of the group head. 
  • Remove the portafilter, then activate the brew cycle as you rinse the portafilter with water from the group head. Once this is complete, stop the cycle. 
  • Re-insert the blind filter and lock the portafilter into the group head, using a blind filter without cleaning solution. Repeat the second step for a thorough rinse to be sure that there’s no detergent residue. 
  • If performing a detergent backflush, make and discard an espresso shot. 
  • Soak all filters and the metal component of the portafilter for approximately 30 minutes. Rinse with water. 

Commercial espresso machines are the lifeblood of any coffee shop, and protecting your investment is often as simple as keeping up with routine maintenance. Backflushing is a simple procedure that goes a long way toward removing harmful residues to help the machine function optimally. Ready to stock up on cleaning supplies for your espresso machine(s) and other equipment? We’ve got all the supplies your shop needs, so feel free to  browse our extensive selection. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. 

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