We have a wide array of cleaning products available — from descaler to milk frothing cleaner to backflushing detergent — and, admittedly, we sometimes get a little stuck in our ways. Machines with a three-way brew pressure release/solenoid valve (such as the Rancilio Silvia, La Spaziale machines, many of the Ascaso machines and any of the machines with an E61 brew head), require regular backflushing in order to keep that system in tip top shape.
Heretofore we have always recommended powdered backflush detergent — Cafiza or Joe Glo — but when we were meeting with Urnex a couple of weeks ago, they mentioned using the Cafiza tablets for backflushing. And it blew our minds.
Yeah, it doesn’t take much, does it?
If you want to be precise about the quantity of detergent you’re using in your backflushing and cleaning your gear, these tablets are the exact amount you need. Place one tablet in your backflush basket and follow your process as normal; one tablet in a couple cups of hot water is perfect for soaking baskets, portafilters and any other gear you may have that comes into contact with coffee oils and needs a good scrub down.
So what we previously attributed solely to superautomatic brew group cleanliness is cross functional and a great way to easily backflush your equipment without concern of using too much/too little detergent.
If you have been on the long lost search for the perfect O-ring, gasket, steam manifold or thermostat for your DIY espresso machine rebuild project, you’re going to be pretty excited to learn about the new parts section of our site. Admit it, you are.
We’re now offering tons of internal parts for espresso machines, easily located via exploded machine diagrams. Right now we’ve built out the parts for several of Saeco’s machines and we’ll be expanding those as well as adding other manufacturers in the future — such as Ascaso, Quick Mill, Rancilio, Rocket Espresso and Solis.
If you’re technically savvy enough to diagnose your machine, understand which parts it requires for repair and then install said parts without injuring a) yourself and/or b) the family pet, this is for you. However, if you think you need information on what’s wrong, what to buy and how to install, let us tell you like a friend: We have an excellent repair center that will more than meet your needs.
A heat exchange boiler is not a traditional double boiler, as it doesn’t maintain totally separate boilers for the brew head and the steam wand. It does, however, have separate water delivery systems, so you can brew and steam with it at the same time — if you want. Some folks prefer not to (either the multi-tasking is a challenge or they are concerned with how it affects the brew temperature), and then the benefit of a heat exchange is that you can switch very quickly between the two functions.
In this video, Josh shows us the internal components of the Quick Mill Vetrano and explains how it all works — a great primer for anyone interested in the tech side of things.
Where do espresso machines and coffee makers go to die? Not in the landfill, if we can help it! At Seattle Coffee Gear, we launched a recycling program last year in an effort to keep as many fully assembled machines from landing in the trash. Many of these are pretty complex — they have circuit boards, electrical wiring and miscellaneous metals that are best kept out of our ground water supply.
Our partner in this venture is Uesugi USA, a Japanese company that (as luck would have it) have a US presence here in the Seattle-area. We pulled Henry into the mix and headed out to their facility to talk about what they do and see how they take these machines apart, break them down to their components and funnel them back into the commodity supply chain as cleanly as possible.
Cleaning and maintenance is a hot topic in this neck o’ the woods, but some folks aren’t clear on which specific maintenance routines apply to the type of machine they own. This comes up specifically in regard to backflushing — do you or don’t you?
You do backflush if you own a machine with a valve system referred to as a three-way solenoid, brew pressure release, three-way valve, solenoid valve or any other combination of these phrases. Not sure if your machine has this? If your machine has an E61 brew group (such as those on Rockets, Quick Mills, Izzos or Grimacs), it has this valve system. Other models that feature this without the E61 are those made by La Spaziale, Pasquini, the Rancilio Silvia and Ascaso’s Uno Pro and Duo series. This valve system relieves pressure post-brew, which results in a drier puck, but it sucks a little bit of coffee and water into the system each time which can build up in there and adversely impact the machine’s performance. Backflushing forces detergent and water through the valve system, thoroughly cleaning it and maintaining the system. It also has the added benefit of cleaning up behind the brew head’s screen without taking it apart.
You don’t backflush if your machine doesn’t have this system — because you don’t have the valves to clean! Some machines that don’t need backflushing include the Saeco Aroma, Via Venezia, Sirena, models made by Breville, those from Francis Francis!/illy and Delonghi and Capresso semi-automatics. But since you’re not forcing detergent through the brew head, you will need to take it apart semi-regularly to clean up behind the brew screen.
The best way to determine if you need to backflush your machine is to read the manufacturer’s manual and the machine’s technical specifications to see if it has the valve system. If it doesn’t, you’re good to go; if it does, you should backflush once every 1 – 2 weeks, depending on how often you use the machine.
Keeping your espresso equipment clean is essential to producing consistently excellent shots. Backflushing on the Rancilio Silvia and machines with the patented E61 brew group will definitely address the brew group and screen, but it’s still a good idea to take them apart every so often and give them a good scrub down. You’ll also need to know how to do this when replacing the brew head gasket, also an important part of regular care and maintenance.
Watch Gail take apart the brew head on the Rancilio Silvia:
Now watch her take apart an E61 brew head:
If you’re anything like us, you probably used your gear’s user manual for one of three things:
- To ineffectively swat at flies, yet one day you accidentally killed one and couldn’t bear to keep the gut-stained book around.
- To prop up the uneven handmade bookshelf lovingly made by a friend/parent/spouse/sibling/child that never sits right on the wood floor.
- To start a fire in the fireplace to enjoy while sipping on a delicious glass of chai spiced wine. (Guilty!)
Or, maybe you just recycled it by accident. Whatever the case, the fact of the matter is that now you have no wisdom to guide you. We created our manufacturer manual repository over at Brown Bean to connect you with the source code. We have manuals for a lot of models both current and historical, so if you’re looking for tips on how to perform maintenance or need to find out what that error code means, check ‘em out.
Don’t see your model there? Leave a comment here and we’ll see if we can’t track it down and add it to the repository.
If you’re looking for a machine that’s a little bit classier than the Rancilio Silvia, but you’re not looking to spend $1500 on the machine alone, the Quick Mill Alexia is a gorgeous single boiler that has the benefit of a very large (a little over 25 fl oz.) boiler, the hallowed E61 brew group and a low water cut off to keep your machine from burning out. It also has a shiny stainless steel design much like the rest of Quick Mill’s US espresso machines.
It’s not a heat exchanger, however, so you don’t have simultaneous steam and brew functionality available. Therefore, following the steam -> temperature surf -> brew procedure will not only keep your boiler in good shape (by regularly pulling fresh water into the boiler), it will make sure your brew temp is just right for that super-sweet shot. While we regularly recommend the Alexia as the cream of the crop for shot lovers, some latte/cappuccino drinkers pick it up as well and are really satisfied with the results, even though it takes a bit more time than its heat exchanger or double boiler counterparts.
You can retrofit the machine with a PID, but if you don’t want to add another few hundred bucks to your purchase price, it is easy to use the machine once you have a good idea of how to regulate the temperature. Since our demo model in the store has a PID, we went through and tracked the process corresponding to the PID’s temperature gauge to determine a rough estimate of how much water to pull through the steam/water wand during temperature surfing to easily switch between steam and brew temps.