Espresso Machine Cleaning & Maintenance

Cleaning: E61 Group Head Machines

These instructions and this video will guide you through how to clean and maintain your E61 group head espresso machine, including backflushing and group gasket and screen cleaning.

The place we want to start is with water and detergent backflushing. We recommend a 10 second water backflush on any day the machine is used, but if you can just manage twice a week that will be fine as well. Detergent backflushing we recommend about once every 6 weeks for E61 machines. Replacing the group gasket and screen we recommend about once a year. Backflushing more frequently than this will make brew lever action feel less smooth.

The steps:

  1. Insert blind filter and add up to 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) of Full Circle wash. Lock your portafilter into the group head.
  2. Activate brew cycle for 10 seconds and allow the machine to release pressure. Repeat 5-8 times, depending on how dirty your grouphead is.
  3. Remove portafilter. Activate brew cycle and rinse portafilter in stream of water from group head. Stop cycle.
  4. Insert blind filter. Lock your portafilter into group head again, this time with a clean blind filter without the cleaner. Repeat step 2 to rinse and make sure no detergent residue is left.
  5. Make and discard a shot of espresso (only for detergent backflush).
  6. Soak filters and metal portion of portafilter (do not submerge plastic handle) for 30 minutes in 1 teaspoon (6 g) of Full Circle powder per 32 oz. (1 L) of hot water.
  7. Rinse with water and put filters back (only for detergent backflush).

Once you incorporate backflushing into a monthly maintenance routine, the 5 extra minutes it takes to show your machine some love will save both your tastebuds and your wallet but even a backflushing routine can’t clean out everything on the other side of your dispersion screen. However a little scrubbing or a new dispersion screen can make a world of difference in the cup produced by your machine. The process of removing your dispersion screen and cleaning your machine is a simple one that we recommend once a week as a part of maintaining your machine and creating a quality cup of espresso. Below we will explore the removal of the different kinds of screens, cleaning and reinstalling.
Remove the screen

Tools you will need:

  • Pallo Brush
  • Screwdriver
  • Replacement Gasket - if necessary
  • Towel
  • Portafilter

Gasket tension: E61s use the tension of the group gasket to lock the screen in place. To remove an E61 screen you’ll need a flathead screwdriver to pry out the screen and gasket, using the edge of the grouphead as counter torque to loosen it from where it is held.

Scrub the screen

Once you’ve removed your screen you can scrub all the built up grime out of the inside of your group head and screen. To get all the unwanted build up out of your group we recommend a warm, wet rag and a Pallo brush. The rag will help to loosen up any hardened coffee grounds and debris inside the group head and screen. After you’ve scrubbed the screen and group with a rag give them a good scrubbing with a brush and use the rag again to clean out the leftovers.

We do not recommend using a brush with hard bristles on the screen as it can cause inconsistencies in how it disperses the water and give you channeling every time you pull shots with that screen in place. Dropping your portafilter and screen into a glass of water with 1 scoop of Full Circle for 15 minutes will get it nice and clean and avoid the harshness.

Some machines have an internal dispersion plate that is removable as well as an external dispersion screen, these plates are removable and also will need to be cleaned as they can have coffee grind build up over time. After somewhere between one and two years we recommend a new screen entirely for your machine as even with concise cleaning they wear and need replacing.

Reinsert screen. Once the inside of your group and screen are pristine you can reinsert the screen the same way you removed it. For E61 groups we recommend using a food safe lubricant, such as Molykote 111, on the gasket to reseat the gasket and screen.

Use a screwdriver to gently push the gasket back in place. A great pro tip is to remove the basket from your portafilter and use that to ensure the gasket is fully seated back on the group head.

Now that you’ve cleaned your group head rejoice at the clear, concise flavor you’ve helped your machine to produce! Cheers!