How to Backflush

by Brendan Pasquini

What is backflushing?

Backflushing is the process of sealing the grouphead of the machine and forcing hot pressurized water (most often with detergent) back through the brew circuit and out the release valve to clean the machine. This is important to do as it rids the machine of excess coffee oil and debris build up. If this build up is left unattended, it will inevitably destroy your solenoid valve ($100+ Repair) and will clog your grouphead preventing you from even making espresso. 

How often should backflushing be done?

We recommend to backflush with Pasquini Cleaning Powder or  Pasquini Cleaning Tablets at least every two weeks but every week is ideal. Just make sure not to do it everyday as excessive backflushing can cause damage to the brew circuit and solenoid valve. 

How do I backflush my machine?

Backflushing is really easy and takes very little time to do. Below we have put together a helpful tutorial on backflushing so scroll below to learn how to backflush. 

Backflushing Disclaimers 

  • The guide below is for traditional espresso machines only and does not apply to Superautomatic machines (e.g. Jura) or capsule machines (e.g. Nespresso and Kurig)
  • If you have a lever machine such as a Bezzera Strega, you do not need to backflush and doing so will cause a pressure lock on your machine. 
  • Only use espresso machine specific cleaners during backflush such as our Pasquini Cleaning Powder or Pasquini Cleaning Tablets. Using normal household cleaners will harm your machine and void your warranty. 
  • Lastly, if your machine is leaking around the grouphead, change the seal before you backflush as a leaky group gasket will not allow for a proper backflush. 
We're almost ready to start. Make sure you have and do everything below before backflushing:
  • Pasquini Cleaning Powder or  Pasquini Cleaning Tablets
  • Blind disk/backflush disk
  • If your machine is not plumbed in, make sure the reservoir is full. Nothing is worse than a machine entering safety mode mid backflush...
  • Make sure the machine is on and hot. Most backflush cleaners are heat activated and the machine must be fully heated for them to work correctly.
  • Locate your brew button. Your brew switch is what activates the pump to make espresso. Below is a list of common brew switches. 
    • MN (semi-automatic machines), this is the main button you press to start the espresso and then you press it again to stop.
    • E61 Group, the is lever attached to the right side of the grouphead, lifting it up usually is to turn it on and pulling it down is typically to turn it off. 
    • DE  (automatic machines), all machines with automatic programming have a manual on/off option for brewing. On our Bezzera machines, it will be the button with the "Bezzera Serpent" logo and for many machine it is simply labeled "Prog/Stop"
    • Paddle Machines, if you machine has a brew paddle (e.g. La Marzocco) this is your brew switch. 
  • Find your grouphead pressure gauge if your machine has one. This is typically located on the front of the machine and reads 0-16 bar. This will come in very handy during a backflush but it is not the end of the world if you do not have one on your machine. 

Now that all the boring stuff is out of the way, let's start!

  1. Remove the brew basket from your portafilter and insert your blind filter.
  2. Take your Pasquini Cleaning Powder, and pour approx. 1-2 teaspoons into the blind filter.
    1. If you are using  Pasquini Cleaning Tablets, place 1 tablet into the blind filter.
  3. Place the portafilter with the blind disk and cleaning powder into the grouphead of your machine as if you are trying to make an espresso and firmly tighten it. 
  4. Activate the brew switch to turn on the pump (pretend to make a shot). See above if you need assistance locating your brew switch or contact us
  5. With the pump on, locate your brew pressure gauge and wait for the gauge to max out or hit 9 bar. 
    1. If you do not have a brew pressure gauge then count to 10 or wait for the machine to quiet down if it has a vibration pump. 
  6. Once the desired pressure is reached or you have counted long enough, turn off the brew switch to stop the pump.
  8. Repeat steps 4, 5, and 6 for a minimum of four more times. All the while, DO NOT remove the portafilter or add more cleaner. 
  9. After you have completed all the cycles and the brew switch is in the off position, remove the portafilter and rinse any excess cleaning material.
  10. With your clean and rinsed portafilter, still with the blind filter inserted, engage it back into the grouphead WITHOUT any cleaning powder or tablets and tighten. 
  11. Repeat steps 4, 5, and 6 for at least five full cycles. 
  12. After you turn off the brew switch and stop the pump from the last cycle you can now remove the portafilter and replace the blind disk with your regular brew basket.

Congratulations!! You're Done!!

You have now successfully backflushed your machine and you are ready to make delicious espresso once more. Even though that may have felt like a lot of steps, once you get familiar with it, a full backflush should take less than 5 minutes total. Hopefully you found our tutorial helpful and please feel free to contact us if you need more help or want to see a specific future tutorial.