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Thread: backflushing my silvia ... alternatives?

  1. #1
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    backflushing my silvia ... alternatives?

    Gene Cafe Coffee Roaster $850 - Free Beans Free Freight
    Hi fellow coffee snobs,

    I have heard all this talk about backflushing the silvia, putting in blind filters and
    backflushing solution and the process involved.

    I havent had the chance to get a blind filter or backflushing powder and have
    just been sticking aluminium foil in the portafilter to stop the water flowing through
    and using a little bit of citric acid in place of the backflushing powder.

    I have been doing this every week for the last year and everything seems to be working ok.
    once this has been done I thouroughly flush clean water through the portafilter and 3
    way valve before brewing again.

    I just wanted to know if anyone does anything else to backflush their own silvia or if anyone
    thinks what Im doing is detrimental !

    Anthony

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    Re: backflushing my silvia ... alternatives?

    Hey Anthony,

    Sounds interesting. I do the boring old cafetto + blind filter backflush routine on my silvia.

    I have a thought/question that maybe someone can answer; I thought citric acid was used as a descaler in machines like the silvia (with no aluminium in the boiler). For backflushing a lot of people use the cafetto detergent stuff. This is where i show my lack of chemistry understanding...would citric acid work as a detergent for the coffee oils? Ive had a quick look around and I cant seem to find anywhere that says what the ingredients of the "cafetto espresso clean" are. But isnt there more to a detergent than acid?

    Cheers
    -Sanch

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    Re: backflushing my silvia ... alternatives?

    Youre right Sanch. Citric acid is for descaling the boiler, not for backflushing. Citric acid is not going to dissolve the coffee oils in the grouphead. For that you need a detergent like Cafetto, which is designed for this purpose.


    regards,
    Bill

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    Re: backflushing my silvia ... alternatives?

    Hey Anthony:

    As I understand it with out the chemistry

    1. Citric acid is used to descale the boiler - to melt any alkaline from hard water build up that happens at boiling temperatures. So it only needs to be done occasionally. *It is used to fill the boiler and soak it for a while.

    2. Back flushing with back flush stuff is a removing of the oils from the group piping and the three way valve.

    The operations are quite different. *#2 is the usual weekly routine. *#1 perhaps very six months depending on the water quality.

    David

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    Re: backflushing my silvia ... alternatives?

    From what I can remember from high school chemistry - I know it was only last year I have a short memory ok (Im gonna be screwed as I am taking a chemistry course next semester)

    Detergents are bases (opposite of acids) and work by be able to get oils (this case coffee) and water to mix homogeneously - thus being able to be washed out from the machine.

    On the other hand the constant water running through the coffee machine leaves deposits of Calcium Carbonate (CaCO 3) in the machine and an acid such as citric (the chemical mostly used in descalers) is really effective at dissolve these deposits (remember Yr 8/9/10 science putting marble/chalk chips into a test tube adding an acid usually hydrochloric and watching it dissolve with bubbles forming).

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    Re: backflushing my silvia ... alternatives?

    thanks for all the replies ..very helpfull and informative.

    I have found that the quickest way to remove the coffee oils that build up under
    the shower screen was to use the citric acid dissolved in hot water with a
    hard brush.

    As this happened quite quickly I naturally thought it would remove any oils in
    the 3 way valve as well.

    where is the best place to buy caffetto around Leichhardt (Sydney CBD) ?

    Anthony

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    Re: backflushing my silvia ... alternatives?

    Search this site for napisan there have been threads here re pros and cons of using it as an alternative.

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    Re: backflushing my silvia ... alternatives?

    Quote Originally Posted by vicroamer link=1211261611/0#6 date=1211402782
    Search this site for napisan there have been threads here re pros and cons of using it as an alternative.
    ::)....Or buy some Clean machine from your local Bombora agent or some Cafetto. Its not going to break the bank and its formulated and tested specifically for use in espresso machines.

    Speaking with Bernard from Bombora, citric acid may not be the best solution for descaling either as he claims it has a tendency to lift calcium plaques from the surface of the boiler and elsewhere which can then cause problems in tight places elsewhere.

    Their triple-action descaler has much more than mere citric acid in it and more importantly, dissolves the calcium gunk.

    Seems to me that a 500g Clean machine and 100g Triple action descaler at 30 bucks all up will probably be good for a couple of years and more importantly, its specifically formulated for espresso machines...

    These guys dont employ qualified chemists for nuthin ;)

    2mcm
    lestone likes this.

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    Re: backflushing my silvia ... alternatives?

    Hey All,

    Thanks for the chemistry stuff guys; I didnt do chem at school and did 1 semester of it a UQ 5 years ago and passed...just (good luck with your chem Martial Monkey!).

    asugamilla; I got my tub of cafetto from coffeeparts in Pagewood (site sponser), its just a quick walk from Eastgardens Westfield but im sure thered be places closer to the CBD that sell it. DiBartoli are at Bondi Jn and i think they sell it too.

    Cheers
    -Sanch

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    Re: backflushing my silvia ... alternatives?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sanch link=1211261611/0#1 date=1211265322
    I have a thought/question that maybe someone can answer; I thought citric acid was used as a descaler in machines like the silvia (with no aluminium in the boiler). For backflushing a lot of people use the cafetto detergent stuff. This is where i show my lack of chemistry understanding...would citric acid work as a detergent for the coffee oils? Ive had a quick look around and I cant seem to find anywhere that says what the ingredients of the "cafetto espresso clean" are. But isnt there more to a detergent than acid?
    Gold star, Sanchia.

    Detergents and descalers are totally different.

    (Warning; 99% of you will want to skip to the bottom line, below and in bold.)

    Oils wont dissolve in water because they are non-polar. This means that they dont have a net charge in one direction because they are made of carbon and hydrogen, which are about equal in their ability to attract electrons, so the electrons spend equal time whizzing around all of the molecules.

    Water is polar. It is V shaped, with both of the hydrogen molecules at the top of the V and the Oxygen at the bottom; its not symmetrical. Oxygen is better at attracting electrons than Hydrogen, so the electrons spend more time at the bottom of the V near the Oxygen than the top near the Hydrogen. Seeing as electrons are negatively charged, this results in a slight negative charge on the oxygen and a slight positive charge on the hydrogen.

    I always thought of water molecules as acting like magnets; the hydrogen and oxygen are attracted to each other. Or you can think of it as simply like dissolves like in terms of polar and non-polar. The result is that all of the oil molecules will cluster together and all of the water molecules will cluster together. Think about it like making a salad dressing - the oil and the vinegar separate; when you shake them, you get little spheres of vinegar in the oil and it will separate if you let it sit. Thats why soaking your greasy pans in water only isnt going to make them less greasy.

    Enter the detergent. Im sure that detergents contain a bunch of compounds, but the important ones that I can get my head around are called "surfactants." Surfactants are really long molecules with a polar and a non-polar end. Basically, the polar ends stick to the polar oil, whilst the non-polar ends stick to the water, which allows your oil to dissolve.

    as far as I know, scale is largely calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is an ionic solid; a positively charged calcium part stuck to a negatively charged carbonate part. The parts are clearly polar, but they dont dissolve. Seeing as Im already geeking out enough, Ill throw Julius Sumner Miller into the mix - "Why is it so?" Im going to guess that the answer is that the scale does actually dissolve. It exists in equilibrium with its solid and its dissolved forms:

    Scale (Solid) <--> Calcium (Dissolved) + Carbonate (Dissolved)

    Because the system is at equilibrium, if you add more of one of the ingredients on one side, you will force it to the other. The trick to drive equilibrium reactions all the way to one side is to remove one of the ingredients on that side. If you add acid, you will end up creating water and carbon dioxide from the carbonate. The system will try to counteract that by producing more carbonate - ie. the scale will dissolve.

    Of course, Im sure that the guys at Caftetto are shaking their heads at how much of an oversimplification that is - theres always more to it!

    So the bottom line is that adding more acid isnt going to dissolve the oil. To do that, you need to find a way to deal with the fact that water is polar and oil is not - thats what the detergent/surfactant does. If anything, adding acid will increase the polarity of the water and make it harder to get the oil off by backflushing than would be the case if you just backflushed with plain water ... although I imagine that either isnt really going to help you to clean off a dispersion block with yummy baked on coffee oil.

    Quote Originally Posted by asugamilla link=1211261611/0#0 date=1211261611
    I havent had the chance to get a blind filter or backflushing powder and have
    just been sticking aluminium foil in the portafilter to stop the water flowing through
    and using a little bit of citric acid in place of the backflushing powder.

    I just wanted to know if anyone does anything else to backflush their own silvia or if anyone
    thinks what Im doing is detrimental !
    I cant really see how backflushing with citric acid would help to clean your machine more than backflushing with just plain water. Any cleaning effect would have to be basically due to the pressure. If you havent removed your shower screen to take a look at the dispersion block, you might want to do so. Then go and buy some cafetto!

    In practical terms, I doubt that there would be that much of a detriment. Maybe it will have done something to your rubber group gasket. In theory, though, if youre using foil, this is possible ;P Might want to pick up a backflush insert, too!

    The cafetto barista kit is pretty sensational value; I think that its like 500g of cafetto, a blind filter, a brush and a great microfibre steam wand cloth for $35 or so. I use heaps of cafetto, but, even so, 500g of cafetto lasts for ages.

    Cheers,

    Luca

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    Re: backflushing my silvia ... alternatives?

    Luca,
    Great chemistry lesson! Much better than my teacher did at high school which totally put me off chem and anything related to chemistry. As for using heaps of Cafetto, when I was at First Pour one day and you were there too, I thought I saw you put in Cafetto in the sink of water to clean glasses, jugs etc.. was that right?

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    Re: backflushing my silvia ... alternatives?

    Quote Originally Posted by NewToEspresso link=1211261611/0#10 date=1211606185
    Luca,
    Great chemistry lesson! Much better than my teacher did at high school which totally put me off chem and anything related to chemistry. As for using heaps of Cafetto, when I was at First Pour one day and you were there too, I thought I saw you put in Cafetto in the sink of water to clean glasses, jugs etc.. was that right?
    I should really do a blog post or something about cafetto; I use it for way more than just backflushing.

    You are absolutely right that I soak things in cafetto. The normal dishwasher does a good job, but at the end of the week when I get to work, the glasses and cups definitely look a bit duller. Seeing as they only get coffee and milk in them, its a fair call that its coffee and milk that is making them look duller. Cafetto is formulated to clean exactly that and it does a great job, so its unsurprising that a soak in cafetto returns them to sparkling cleanliness. Then its a few spins through the dishwasher to make sure that all of the cafetto is gone and everything looks brand new for Monday. Cafetto is absolute magic for getting rid of coffee-based stains, but seems to take a bit longer to get rid of milk. The cafetto milk products are better for that.

    At home, I have a spray gun of a cafetto solution that I made. When I have a big dialling-in session and have several cups in the sink, I tend to empty them, then spray them with cafetto and let them sit with a bit of water in them. Works wonders. This is really because its quite a walk to get from my coffee shed to the dishwasher, but it is quite a help!

    In the factory, the boys often use cafetto to mop the floors! Im not sure that this should be recommended - I think that cafetto needs to be rinsed off, otherwise it can dry with a powdery cafetto residue and it might make the floor slippery if you step on it with wet feet. I think that they go over it after with a clean mop to rinse it, but, still, Im not sure that its a great idea. That said, nothing cleans coffee off a roastery floor like cafetto - you could eat off it!

    One of my friends even uses cafetto to clean his bbq! It foams up a fair bit, which I would have thought is great because it means that it is very easy to tell when you have rinsed it all off.

    Yeah, so I definitely rate cafetto!

    Cheers,

    Luca

    PS. If youre interested in well-explained chem as it pertains to cooking, Nim recently gave me the book "Molecular Gastronomy" by Herve Thiss. Its worthwhile hunting down a copy - the book is about a hundred two or three page chapters that give really concise and interesting explanations about how basic things work. It has lots of good techniques in it, like making a chocolate mousse from melted chocolate and water.

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    Re: backflushing my silvia ... alternatives?

    Thanks for all the tips and information guys! all of it has helped tremendously!

    I finally got off my arse and bought some cafetto and a blind filter (as well as some
    other goodies ) from a site sponsor Coffee Parts. I ordered on Friday arvo and
    had it in my hot little hands by Monday ! fantastic service !.

    Anyway to the good bit.....the result.

    I used the cafetto and blind filter as per instructions and backflushed my silvia and a fair
    bit of gunk (coffee oils) were disolved and came out of the 3 way valve. I ended up
    soaking the portafilter in the solution and it worked wonders. I would thouroughly
    recommend it to anyone.

    Thanks again everyone

    Anth


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    Re: backflushing my silvia ... alternatives?

    Quote Originally Posted by asugamilla link=1211261611/0#12 date=1211843189
    ...from a site sponsor Coffee Parts. I ordered on Friday arvo and
    had it in my hot little hands by Monday ! fantastic service !.
    Gotta be happy with that service all right. Goodonya for the acknowledgement. :)


    Cheers.................Sean

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    Re: backflushing my silvia ... alternatives?

    Anyone use washing soda (sodium carbonate?) I was looking at the ingredients of my Sunbeam Tablets and the main ingredient is Sodium Percarbonate: sodium carbonate and sodium peroxide!

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    Re: backflushing my silvia ... alternatives?

    Quote Originally Posted by runfast link=1211261611/0#14 date=1211892968
    Anyone use washing soda (sodium carbonate?) I was looking at the ingredients of my Sunbeam Tablets and the main ingredient is Sodium Percarbonate: sodium carbonate and sodium peroxide!
    Gday runfast,

    Sodium Carbonate on its own wont shift all that much where tarry coffee oils and particles are concerned. You really need the added activity created by the release of Hydrogen Peroxide in that NaCO3 solution to really get everything sparkling clean. Im not absolutely certain but there could be other active compounds involved with Cafetto Espresso Clean that all add up to a very effective espresso machine cleaner and considering how inexpensive it is, I dont understand why theres any need to muck around with anything else that may not do the job as well.... :-?

    Cheers,
    Mal.



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