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FRCN Espresso "HOW TO" Pages
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2008 All rights reserved

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How to Remove an E-61 Shower Screen and Brewhead Gasket

NOTE: This process will vary from machine to machine depending on the design of the shower screen. If you are not sure whether the following procedure applies to your machine, be sure to contact your supplier for more detailed information.

     All espresso machines need to be maintained on a regular basis for best performance and long life. Backflushing, descaling, and hot-water washing of the reservoir (if so equipped) are some of the most often mentioned cleaning chores that should be performed on nearly all home espresso machines. Neglected machines will eventually fail, and will often produce sub-par espresso.

     Many consumer espresso machine have the shower screen and dispersion device held in place with a center screw. These are usually very easy to remove and when I backflushed Silvia I would always remove these parts and along with the portafilter and baskets, I would soak these parts in a cleaning solution. It was easy because once the screw in the middle of the screen is removed, the other parts fall right off into my hand. Cleaning then becomes an easy chore.

     The problem with the brewhead design of machines like Silvia is that the brewhead gasket is pressed into the brewhead and there is virtually no way to remove it without damaging the gasket. Because of that most home baristas will never remove the gasket until it begins to leak. At that point the gasket is usually a few years old and has become very hard. Removing it will entail using a screw or even a chisel to get the old gasket to budge.

     E-61 brewheads are different. As you can see here, these usually will have no screw at all holding the shower screen in place. So how is it held in place? How do you get the thing out of there?

     The screen has a smooth lip on the top edge that sits up under the gasket. The gasket holds the screen in place. The Screen cannot be removed without also removing the gasket. So it might appear to you that the removal of the screen for cleaning and inspection of the brewhead also entail a new brewhead gasket. Because of that, older E-61 machines will often be found with old, hard gaskets in place because the owners never bothered learning how to remove them. Let's remedy that!

     To remove the screen it is necessary to pry it out of the brewhead. Depending on how long it has been in there will determine just how difficult that may be to accomplish. I recommend that you have a spare screen and gasket on hand before attempting this... just in case. Refer to this photo for the following steps:

  • 1 - Take note that the screwdriver is positioned in the largest gap in the brewhead. This is the space where the ears of the portafilter are first engaged into the brewhead when locking it in place. This area gives you the most room to position the screwdriver as well as giving the best angle of attack. Although not shown here, it is a good idea to put a few turns of tape around the screwdriver's shaft where it contacts the brewhead to prevent scratches.
  • 2 - During the removal process it is VERY important to push in the indicated direction of the red arrow. This does two things. It obviously keeps the screwdriver in position on the shower screen's body so that it is less likely to slip (and thus the need for the slotted driver with square corners for best bite).
         Somewhat less obvious is that pushing in that direction also moves the showerscreen away from the brewhead on this side. This relieves a bit of pressure on the brewhead gasket making it easier to remove it. The movement is minimal and probably is in the range of 1mm or less, but even that makes a big difference.
  • 3 - Now is the time to pry. Keeping inward pressure as described in #2, slowly lift the handle of the screwdriver as indicated by the blue arrow. Push harder in the direction of the blue arrow as you increase the force in the direction of the red arrow. Increase the force in both directions slowly until some movement is felt.

         As the screen assembly begins to move you may need to relax the pressure and then repeat the steps to get it to come all the way out.

Here is an animation of the removal process:

     Once the screen and gasket are removed you can separate them. I find that wiping of the brewhead with a damp towel is usually sufficient to clean it becasue I backflush regularly. Be sure to clean out the gasket's mounting area as well. The cleaner it is, the easier it will be to remove the assembly the next time. Clean the shower screen assembly and gasket as necessary. If it has been a while or if you have forgotten to regularly backflush with a cleaning detergent, you may need to soak the parts in a cleaner such as Urnex Cafiza. The same should be done to the gasket.

     When replacing the gasket be sure that the face of the gasket with printing is up against the brewhead. Most gaskets are sensitive to their orientation. If there are no markings on yours, the side with the slight bevel on the edge(s) goes up.

Will this process cause damage to any parts?

     As seen here, the body of the shower screen assembly will become dented by this procedure. This looks fairly ugly, but be aware that this screen has been removed at least ten times. Why only one dent? Because...

     ...when I replace the assembly I make sure that the "dent" which was created by the removal process is always aligned with the removal slot. In this way I can use that dent as a more secure purchase point next time I remove the screen.

     The minimal amount of "damage" done to the screen's body has absolutely no effect at all on the machine's performance.

     To replace the screen, assembly the gasket on the screen and press it up into the brewhead as evenly and far as reasonably possible. Then simply lock a portafilter into place a couple of times. The locking will press the gasket and screen into place in the brewhead.

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