Hi all,
I was wondering if I could get a few opinions about the cleaning regimen of a two group Astoria in a low to mid volume shop.  My employer maintains that the group heads must be entirely disassembled and soaked in Cafiza every night.  We make maybe 75 espresso drinks a day.  I suggested that regular backflushing and scrubbing would suffice (especially more than ONCE a day) and this got me in big trouble.  I worry for the screws and brass dispersion plate.  Any input?

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I agree with Patrick. However, I might add that water backflushing during the day is a better idea. As using cafiza requires a few conditioning shots.
However, as far as your question goes. I've been told, completely disassembling the groupheads every night is a bad idea. I have had problems with a La Marzocco gb/5 where the screw got canted wrong and eventually broke inside the group head. Definitely not a pleasant find in the morning. Once a week should suffice, especially since the shop I was working at made about 500-600 shots a day. So hopefully this advice keeps you better informed.
While in my opinion it might be overly zealous cleaning wise, really can't have too clean a machine. But whether I agree or disagree is irrelevant. If your employer wants the groups entirely disassembled cleaned nightly...it's their machine.
we have a la marzocco 2 group Linea. it gets backflushed during the day and totally cleaned at night-
by removing baskets from portafilters and screens from groupheads. all are soaked in a solution of hot water and cafetto. then the screens are wiped clean and placed back on the machine and backflushing begins. the portafilters and baskets are scrubbed as needed, rinsed in hot water and placed back in the groups for a good night's rest.


it's gotta be done. coffee and oils collect on the inside of the screens and best scenario is to keep the equipment clean. imagine if the owner told you that backflushing was wrong, that the groups and portafilters are being "seasoned" by daily use. seriously, some people believe that and never clean their equipment.

my advice would be to have extra screws and screens available. one day you'll need them and having them on hand will make you feel more secure when it's your turn to clean the machine.
Daily removal and soaking of dispersion screens and parts is a recommendation I hear from some techs and trainers. It seems a little bit overkill to me (I do a couple of times a week) but it certainly isn't an unusual or unreasonable approach. The process of properly re-assembling everything needs to be part of training. I recommend that the screw always be started and tightened most of the way with fingers, not a screwdriver. In some cases (Rancilio, La Marzocco) you shouldn't use a screwdriver at all for re-installation. You can't crossthread a screw with your fingers...

To Mike's point, it is best to follow your employer's lead here. If the cleaning regimen was insufficient it might be worth a discussion, but that's not the case.

Patrick Constantino said:
...If its the way my machine is the brass group heads will eventually rust, along with soaking your portafilters. Its inevitable. but no reason to fret if you set up a regular schedule of backflushing the group heads throughout the day it keeps them a whole lot cleaner!!!

Your brass should not "rust". Over time it might develop a slight discoloration or patina - but this should be smooth and clean. Perhaps that's what you meant, though "rust" to me means oxidation and some degree of scaly surface degradation. If your parts are developing rough, scaly surfaces then you have a parts or cleaning issue.
Thanks all! I was feeling like it was a waste of materials (we use an entire bottle of cafiza a week) and time and even potentially harmful to the machine. But better safe than sorry.
I'm not at your shop to see what else is being cleaned, but that does seem like a lot cafiza to go through if you are just using it on you espresso machine. How are you measuring it? It should only take a little less than a teaspoon per group to efficiently clean your machine. As far as I know, and correct me if I'm wrong, using to much can cause the cafiza to not properly dissolve into the water and clean less effectively.

Kathryn Markham said:
Thanks all! I was feeling like it was a waste of materials (we use an entire bottle of cafiza a week) and time and even potentially harmful to the machine. But better safe than sorry.
Kathryn Markham said:
Thanks all! I was feeling like it was a waste of materials (we use an entire bottle of cafiza a week) and time and even potentially harmful to the machine. But better safe than sorry.

Wow, that's a lot of chemical. Where's it all going?

Here's a couple of hints regarding use of espresso detergent...
Despite what the label says, for effective cleaning, you need only use a dime sized amount in the blind portafilter when backflushing. Any doubts about the effectiveness of this amount can be confirmed by checking the cleanliness of the parts when cleaning is finished.

For best efficiency in soaking solutions the water ought to be as hot as possible. Effectiveness increases dramatically as the solution temperature approaches the boil. If you are doing a portafilter or dispersion screen soak, use a steam pitcher (32 oz works for our handles) and zap the solution with the steamwand occasionally to keep it ripping hot. If you do this, you can get the same clean with less detergent.

Create the smallest batches of cleaning solution you can to minimize waste, and use only the amount you need to make the solution effective. Dispersion screens and discs aren't very big, and would fit in a 20oz steam pitcher half-full of cleaning solution. That much solution would only need a bit of Cafiza (about the size of a quarter?). Again, let effect drive what you do.

I understand your questioning now, and do think you ought to be able to make a can of Cafiza last longer than a week. That said, this is still a subject to be approached with caution. It really doesn't matter what we all say...
what Brady said, definitely too much cleaner. a whole bottle should last a lot longer than one week.
how much are you guys using per group?
A full disassemble of your group is completely necessary. I'm a tech/trainer, and I can tell you that the amount of coffee buildup that happens even for a few shots of espresso is bad for A)the machine and B)the coffee flavor. Will your machine break overnight? No. But will your coffee taste like garbage? Yes. Not disassembling/backflushing your machine is like letting your machine smoke cigarettes. It might be okay for a while, but eventually it will matter. I think the thing to remember is that average charge for service on an espresso machine is 85 dollars an hour, not to mention the cost of parts. Can you imagine if your boss took $500 out of your paycheck when his brew valve broke, ruined his discharge system and stopped being able to serve drinks because you didn't want to disassemble the machine? Listen to Nike and Just Do It.

Patrick Constantino said:
I also use a 2 group semi auto astoria argenta, we always back-flush throughout the day and always every night, although we do not break down the group heads every night. Once a week we take out the dispersion screen and the brass insert.
So it goes like this. Open- Opening espesso shot.
Mid morning, afternoon, evening- Backflush and clean group heads with water or cafiza (your choice)
Night- close machine backflush with cafiza, soak only the portafilters. Mondays are when we break down the group head and soak everything.

If its the way my machine is the brass group heads will eventually rust, along with soaking your portafilters. Its inevitable. but no reason to fret if you set up a regular schedule of backflushing the group heads throughout the day it keeps them a whole lot cleaner!!!

Hope I could help you!!!!!
I agree. Better to maintain than to slag on cleaning. It just seemed excessive at first given the volume of usage and age of the machine. As far as Cafiza usage goes, I measure using the back of a Pallo brush but I can not speak for my coworkers and we also use it to clean our iced coffee urns.

Pierce said:
A full disassemble of your group is completely necessary. I'm a tech/trainer, and I can tell you that the amount of coffee buildup that happens even for a few shots of espresso is bad for A)the machine and B)the coffee flavor. Will your machine break overnight? No. But will your coffee taste like garbage? Yes. Not disassembling/backflushing your machine is like letting your machine smoke cigarettes. It might be okay for a while, but eventually it will matter. I think the thing to remember is that average charge for service on an espresso machine is 85 dollars an hour, not to mention the cost of parts. Can you imagine if your boss took $500 out of your paycheck when his brew valve broke, ruined his discharge system and stopped being able to serve drinks because you didn't want to disassemble the machine? Listen to Nike and Just Do It.

Patrick Constantino said:
I also use a 2 group semi auto astoria argenta, we always back-flush throughout the day and always every night, although we do not break down the group heads every night. Once a week we take out the dispersion screen and the brass insert.
So it goes like this. Open- Opening espesso shot.
Mid morning, afternoon, evening- Backflush and clean group heads with water or cafiza (your choice)
Night- close machine backflush with cafiza, soak only the portafilters. Mondays are when we break down the group head and soak everything.

If its the way my machine is the brass group heads will eventually rust, along with soaking your portafilters. Its inevitable. but no reason to fret if you set up a regular schedule of backflushing the group heads throughout the day it keeps them a whole lot cleaner!!!

Hope I could help you!!!!!
Pierce said:
A full disassemble of your group is completely necessary. I'm a tech/trainer, and I can tell you that the amount of coffee buildup that happens even for a few shots of espresso is bad for A)the machine and B)the coffee flavor. Will your machine break overnight? No. But will your coffee taste like garbage? Yes. Not disassembling/backflushing your machine is like letting your machine smoke cigarettes. It might be okay for a while, but eventually it will matter. I think the thing to remember is that average charge for service on an espresso machine is 85 dollars an hour, not to mention the cost of parts. Can you imagine if your boss took $500 out of your paycheck when his brew valve broke, ruined his discharge system and stopped being able to serve drinks because you didn't want to disassemble the machine? Listen to Nike and Just Do It.

To be totally clear here... backflushing removes the buildup on the brew valve, internal works, and MOST of the buildup from the dispersion screen (and in your case the brass disc). Soaking removes the buildup from the screen and disc that can sometimes remain on them after backflushing. Soaking the screen does nothing for your brew valve. Its still good to do it, but we need to keep a little perspective here.

On that note, I don't recommend a detergent backflush with screens removed. Those screens keep little chunks of stuff from getting into your brew valve.

BTW, that little measuring spoon on the back of the Pallo tool is way more detergent than you need for backflushing. Dime sized amount in the blind.
I agree 100% Brady, although the only Pallo brush I've seen, the scoop is less then a dime(just about right). Maybe they had older models?

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