Posted on 17 May 2011 by Nate
I’ve debated for a while on whether or not it was appropriate to write an article on how to properly backflush the Rancilio Silvia. If you are not familiar with this cleaning and maintenance technique, it is essentially a way of removing oils and loose debris from the inaccessible areas of the brewing path within the Rancilio Silvia, most notably the brew head. This technique is somewhat debatable as to whether or not it is safe for the Rancilio Silvia and the manufacturer specifically states not to use this technique for regular cleaning and maintenance. However, I find it a necessary step in my regular maintenance schedule for my Rancilio Silvia and have used this method with no issues. In my opinion, it’s a very good procedure for prolonging the useful life of your machine and for producing quality espresso.
So What is Backflushing?
Backflushing involves using a cleaning agent and a “blind” filter basket or backlflush insert to force hot pressurized water and cleaner back up into the brew head of the Rancilio Silvia or any other machine with a 3-way valve. It’s important to understand how to carry out this technique properly and what cleaning agents and tools are necessary to backflush your machine.
Let’s Get Started
If you’ve decided to follow suit and rid your machine of lingering debris and oils, we’ll take a brief look at how to conduct proper backflushing with your machine. First, you’ll need a few materials.
Cleaning agent: There are several cleaning agents available for espresso machines, however, for backflushing you need a good, strong cleaner which is suitable for this purpose alone. These cleaners are not to be used in the water reservoir or run through the machine itself. I am currently using Urnex Cafiza for backflushing my machine and it has worked very well. Again, the product states that it is not for use in the water tank.
Backflush insert: This is a necessary tool for proper backflushing and is relatively inexpensive. It’s basically a portafilter basket with no holes for water to pass through, therefore it creates the backpressure necessary to clean the brew head. Espresso Supply sells a 58-millimeter backflush insert that fits in the Rancilio Silvia portafilter.
Grouphead brush: If you currently own a Rancilio Silvia or another home espresso machine, you may already have a favorite grouphead brush. I’ve been using the Rattleware 7-inch brush for a couple of years now and it works well.
Here We Go!
1. Remove the shower screen and let it soak in a small bowl with the cleaning solution for a few minutes by itself. You can give it a scrub with the grouphead brush as well.
2. Using your grouphead brush and a small bowl of cleaning solution, clean the brewhead and gasket. You don’t need to spend a great deal of time scrubbing, you just want to remove as much of the loose debris and residue as you can to prevent it from traveling back into the machine during the backflushing process.
3. Rinse the shower screen well and reinstall it into the grouphead.
4. Power on and warm the machine.
5. Insert the backflush insert into the portafilter.
6. Mix some of the cleaning agent in hot water and pour a small amount into the backflush insert. Lock the portafilter into place in the grouphead securely.
7. Hit the brew switch and let the pump start only for a few seconds. I find that the pressure is sufficient after about 5 seconds or so. Turn off the brew switch.
8. After about 10 seconds, repeat this process. I typically repeat these two steps until there are a few suds from the cleaning solution dripping out of the portafilter, which tends to happen after 5 or 6 cycles.
9. Let the machine sit for about 10 minutes
10. Empty the backflush insert, rinse the insert and portafilter, and fill with a little clean water and repeat 2 or 3 cycles of the previous steps, using clean water in place of the cleaning solution.
11. Remove the portafilter and take the backflush insert out. Rinse the portafilter thoroughly.
12. With no portafilter in place, place a small bowl below the grouphead and run clean water through the machine by turning on the brew cycle for 30 seconds.
13. Next, I typically pull a throw-away shot to ensure that my next espresso is free of any remaining cleaning agent.
And that’s it. Backflushing is a good way to ensure that the oils and loose grinds from regular usage don’t build up and contaminate your espresso. Proper cleaning and maintenance of the Rancilio Silvia are critical to ensure that your machine keeps producing great coffee for years to come.