Descaling Espresso Machine

Preventing Espresso Disaster

So you went out and bought the espresso machine of your dreams. Now you are using it every day to pump out lattes, cappuccinos and any other delicious espresso beverages that strike your fancy. Many owners of home espresso machines seem to think that they will be able to use their espresso machine for years without ever cleaning it. Do not make that mistake! If you want to use it for years to come then descaling your espresso machine regularly is a must.

If you are using your machine every day, chances are the water that goes through is starting to build up scale inside the working parts. If scale starts to overtake the guts of your machine, your espresso may start to taste extra bitter, and brewing function may slow down considerably. If the scale gets too thick and overpowering it will start to cause problems and malfunctions inside your machine. Imagine waking up early for an important meeting, trudging to your espresso machine in your pajamas in hopes of scoring a caffeine buzz to get you going, pressing the brew button and no espresso running out of the spouts.

The best way to prevent this potential disaster is descaling your espresso machine at least once in a while. Just how often you need to descale will depend on how often you use your machine and on the hardness of the water that you are using (the harder the water, the more frequently you need to descale). The following recommendations are based on the assumption that you use your espresso machine daily.

If you live in a hard water area you should descale at least once a month. Some people believe that using bottled mineral water is better for your espresso machine than ordinary tap water. That is not necessarily true since mineral water is rather hard - you'll need to descale often. If the water you are using is particularly hard you may choose to descale twice a month to make sure that your machine stays free of scale. Some people will tell you to do it every week, but that is really going to waste your time unless you are using your machine all the time and the water you are using is really really hard.

If you are using relatively soft water you may need to descale only once every few months. If you use filtered water (or to have an espresso machine with a built in water filter that you replace frequently) you may need to descale only once a year. And best of all, when using only distiled water you do not need to descale at all.

How do you descale your espresso machine?

Most descalers are made of citric acid that will dissolve the scale that has built up inside your machine. If you do not know which descaler to use then both Urnex Cleancaf and Durgol Swiss Espresso are very good.

Some people prefer to use a homemade solution of citric acid. It is generally not recommended to use vinegar in your espresso machine as it could actually damage the internal parts.

For most home espresso machines the process is very simple - all you need to do is to fill your cold machine boiler with with descaler, turn it on so it heats up, and let it sit for a while. The citric acid will do the dirty work and then you just have to flush it out several times with fresh water. It is important that you flush the descaler away properly so that you don't leave any residues behind.

The first suggestion is always to read the instruction manual that comes with the machine. It was written assuming that you are a responsible espresso machine owner and you are going to read all about the best ways to keep up your caffeine magic maker. If you don't have the manual you can download one for most common espresso machines from www.wholelattelove.com.

If you find yourself confused or you have a tricky type of machine, there are plenty of resources and instructions available on the web to help you with the descaling espresso machine process (check the external links bellow for some suggestions).

Further Reading

Descaling Espresso Machine With Heat Exchanger (external link)
Decalcifying Espresso Machines (external link)
Cleaning a coffee maker