How to backflush an espresso machine? 5 useful tips


Do you know the benefit of having a coffee machine for personal use? All I can say is that as a coffee enthusiast, a home brewer gives you a chance to open up the entire world of craft coffee. You can explore various strains of coffee from any roaster you want and decide on your favorites. Maintaining an espresso maker is also vital to consider when having one. You can get one of the coffee grinders and grind the beans at home in a way you like!

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What is backflushing?

Backflushing is the process of cleaning an espresso machine efficiently so that it remains squeaky clean. The process involves forcing water with pressure on the cleaner of the device. This pressure ensures that any build-ups are removed, which can cause issues later or interfere with the espresso’s taste.

How to know whether your espresso coffee maker supports backflush?

Some espresso machines cannot be backflushed for their designs and make. You should therefore know first if your device can be backflushed or not. The element that helps you understand if the espresso machine can be backflushed is a 3-Way Over Pressure Valve.

The primary function of this valve is to control the overall pump pressure that your brewer can apply during extraction. It also removes the excess pressure and moisture at the end of the coffee shot to avoid a “soupy puck.”

It would be best to protect your espresso machine from being damaged by excessive pressure. For instance, if the coffee has fine particles and chokes the coffee machine, it will continue to try to build up pressure and will release through the valve to prevent damage.

How to identify if your 3-way valve needs cleaning?

  • Dripping constantly through the three-way valve when brewing your espresso or when the machine is not being used but is still hot.
  • When the brewing pressure seems less than usual, the mineral build-up most likely causes this in the three-way valve.

Materials you can use to backflush your espresso maker.

There are also specific items used when cleansing your brewer. It would be best if you referred to the respective manufacturer manual on what to use to clean your coffee maker. Using the wrong materials may cause damage to your machine or encourage the development of foreign bodies such as bacteria.

You can use water and vinegar to clean your machine, but you must also ensure that you have rinsed it thoroughly. This is to avoid the case of having a customer complaining of their espresso having a funny taste because you did not flush the machine well while cleaning.

Some high-end semi-automatic machines like Jura also have a self-cleaning function. You can run that regularly. They do offer cleansing tablets as well, which are easy to use.

Steps on how to clean through backflush:

  1. Insert the blind filter and add up to a half teaspoon of Full Circle wash or espresso cleaning tablets. (these are the particular chemicals used to wash espresso machines)
  2. Lock your portafilter into the group head.
  3. Activate the brew cycle for approximately 10 seconds and allow the device to release pressure. Depending on how dirty your group head is, you have to repeat this step 5 to 8 times.
  4. Remove the portafilter, activate brew cycle, and rinse portafilter in a stream of water from the group head.
  5. Stop the cycle.
  6. Insert the blind filter, then lock the portafilter into the group head again using a clean blind filter without the cleaner. You should then activate the brew cycle for 10 seconds and wait for the machine to release pressure.
  7. Rinse and make sure that no detergent residue is left.
  8. Make and discard a shot of espresso. This only applies to detergent backflush.
  9. Soak filters and the metal portion of a portafilter for 30 minutes in one teaspoon of whole-circle powder per 1 liter of hot water.
  10. Remove the handle, rinse the cleaner, and then put the handle back. Do a couple more backflushes using water without a cleaner.

A word of caution!

You should be careful and avoid submerging the plastic handle in hot water. The hot water can damage the plastic handle and render it useless.

how do you backflush an espresso machine

How do you clean out an espresso machine?

After backflushing your espresso machine, you should also service the other main parts of it. For example, removing the screen and then scrubbing it to remove the stains.

It would be best to always wipe down the steam wand after using it to prevent obstructions from dry milk and the build-up of bacteria.

Cleaning the drain hose regularly also helps reduce the risks of any clogs or build-up of coffee grounds that are most likely to block drip-tray drain lines.

Backflushing is also essential because it cleans the passageways from where the brewing water is injected above the shower screen backward through the three-way valve and to the drain tray.

What about the other parts?

You can use detergent and soap for cleaning other parts like a blind basket or drip tray. For the portafilter basket, you can rinse it with detergent or water.

What about commercial machines

If you have commercial espresso machines like the one from RocketEspresso, they should be backflushed regularly.

If you use the machine in a commercial environment like a coffee shop or office, it makes sense to backflush it daily.

You can do this towards EOD to make sure that it is clean. However, if you use the same machine for home use, you can backflush it once a week or every 15 days (about two weeks). We do not consume much coffee for home use, so depending on the number of cups brewed, you can set a process to do it regularly.

cleaning brushing of other parts

How often should you backflush your espresso machine?

There has been this common question regarding how often one should clean an espresso maker. It would be best if you washed your brewer after intervals of approximately 200 shots of coffee which is almost seven days. Therefore, you can backflush your espresso at most four times every fifteen days.

If you are using the machine commercially, cleaning it using chemicals daily at the end of service is advisable since it cannot damage the brew circuit and solenoid valve. In short, the more coffee you make, the more you need to clean.

Detergent backflushing can be needed once a month, even if you are in a busy cafe. This assumes that the machine has been used extensively for making espresso.

Every great espresso shot indeed has oil obtained from earlier shots. Water does not dissolve oil, so the other solution is doing a water backflush which will dissolve a little.

Also, remember that rinsing well with clean water contributes to the espresso’s taste. It is, therefore, crucial to know that backflushing every day can cause damage to the brew circuit and solenoid valve of your espresso machine.

Related: Jura milk system cleaner


By now, you can conclude that backflushing is a long low-key process and thus cleans your espresso maker thoroughly. It is also advisable to backflush your brewer at most twice per week.

If you are doing it almost daily, this might affect the normal functioning of your solenoid valves and brew circuit. Removing your dispersion screen and cleaning your machine is a simple one recommended to be done once a week.

When you are done brewing, always make sure that you remove the portafilter to ensure that any coffee stuck does not have a chance to bake onto the shower screen. It is also essential to know that when you start noticing small high-pressure streams of water from the shower screen, you should know that it restricts the water flow.

If you are unsure if your espresso machine is fitted with a three-way overpressure valve, please consult the user manual provided by the manufacturer. You can certainly not serve good quality coffee if your espresso maker is dirty or needs repair services.

Credits: Image by cookie_studio on Freepik

About Arianna Koss

Hi there! My name is Arianna Koss. Some of my friends call me a coffee freak, but I admire coffee and it’s my passion. I love to have lattes and espressos, and even worked as Barista for 3 years! I have created this blog to share the recipes and tricks that I have used to make the great cup of joe. Don’t forget to subscribe so that you do not miss out on any updates!

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