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March 2008 Newsletter

Keep it clean! is a mantra I frequently chant to the owners of
various forms of coffee brewing equipment, but unfortunately as
often as I say it, it is just as often ignored. The reason I
place so much emphasis on it should be obvious. Old coffee oils
and tars build up on all the surfaces that come into contact with
the coffee, releasing rancid tastes and odours into subsequent
brews unless they are removed between brewing sessions.

This is as true for plungers and filters as it is for espresso
machines, but in espresso machines tarry gunk can actually cause
machine breakdowns by blocking water distributors and
showerscreens and (on machines with pressure relief valves)
causing valves to either block up or leak.

The easiest way to remove the oils is by soaking in Coffee
Machine Detergent, available from commercial roasters and also
soak portafilters, filter baskets, showerscreens, plunger filter
screens, plates and rods, glass or stainless steel brewing
apparatus etc.

For espresso machines with post-brewing pressure release valves (also called
3-way valves and solenoid valves) you can BACKFLUSH to clean out
the valves and brew paths. Domestic machine manufacturers have
been reluctant to recommend backflushing due to the possibility
of user error damaging machines, and perhaps their owners, but in
my opinion it prevents more problems than it can cause.

Why do you need to backflush? Well, for one thing, it slows down THIS sort of buildup on your showerscreen and grouphead. You're drinking coffee strained through this muck! When it's this bad, backflushing alone won't do it, so you need to resort to detergent, scotchbrite and brush to get the tar off.
Just a half teaspoon of Espresso Machine Detergent is all you need. You'll get a "Whoosh" from the valve, followed by suds and the brown gunk.


Make sure machine is properly warmed up, water tank is full and
drip tray is in place. Run some hot water through the group.

Place the blind filter basket in the portafilter (57mm blind
baskets for Imat/Lelit machines will be available in May) and add
1/2 teaspoon of detergent.

Lock the portafilter FIRMLY into the group.

Turn on the brew switch and allow pump to run until it goes
quiet, or 15 seconds max. Turn off.

Turn on brew switch for 3 seconds, then turn off. You should get
a whoosh of hot water and detergent from the valve into the drip

Leave machine alone for 5 minutes, then repeat above.

Another 5 minutes and repeat.

Remove portafilter, run water through group for 5 seconds. Rinse
out blind filter under tap, empty and rinse drip tray then return
to machine and repeat procedure without detergent and without
waiting between flushes.

Finally, run 100ml of water out of the group to rinse.

This month's special coffee is a specially prepared lot from the
largest coffee plantation in Brazil, the Ipanema plantation. The
coffee is the Reserva Especial, a blend of high grown washed and
pulped natural beans, and is the sweetest Brazil I have ever

Brazil Ipanema

Sweetly acidic with almond flavour overtones and buttery body.

Finally, we're into the Public Holiday season, so please plan
your orders accordingly. Remember, just because you're at work
(or on holiday) it doesn't mean we are, as days differ from state
to state. This can cause minor delays in processing orders.