The espresso machine is one of the most crucial appliances in your home that wakes you up, fully. This beautiful device needs to be kept well maintained to continue revamping your life by creating lovely rich liquid golden coffee beverages.
Why Descale an Espresso Machine
One of the challenges that you have to deal with is an accumulation of limescale inside. If not cleaned, it can cause serious damage to the mechanical components as well as compromise the taste of the coffee. All in all, it’s a machine and every such thing has to be kept with care.
Regardless of whether you use bottled or tap water, a clean coffee maker is a delight to work with. Descaling espresso machine regularly will ensure that you get the utmost value for money from it.
Note – Before you embark on descaling the machine, it is very important that you check the user’s manual to see if they are any recommendations or restrictions specific to your product.
How to Descale an Espresso Machine
If your espresso machine has automatic cleaning and descaling cycle, you are in luck. If not, here is a comprehensive step-by-step guide to help you do it manually like a professional.
- Decide the Solution you Are Going to Use – Lemon juice, vinegar, and citric acid are all-natural. The commercial descaling products that are usually in powder, tablet, or liquid form may contain some chemicals and so you need to make sure that those are not low quality with any side effects. Over some time, you will be able to know which descaling product works best for your machine. You can also decide to rotate them to get even better results – the choice is all yours.
- Make a Solution – The process of making the descaling solution is dependent on the product that you decide to use. For example, if you intend to use citric acid, mix the powder with water. If you decide to use vinegar, dilute it with water. Most of the commercial products come with specific instructions and steps on how to prepare the solution so check the package for these instructions. They say rules are made to be broken, while this mantra may be true for some appliances, you cannot afford to experiment with your most treasured and valued kitchen appliance.
- Coffee Machine Descaler Rinse – Different Espresso machines have different features and capabilities, but the process of descaling is the same across the board. Fill the reservoir with the cleaning solution that you prepared in Step 2 – the same way you add ingredients when making coffee. Allow the solution to flow through the boiler and steam wand and finally out of the machine. As it flows through your espresso machine, all the gunk and other remnants from the water will be dislodged, dissolved, and washed away. For example, if you regularly use hard water to make coffee, the minerals in the water will accumulate in the inner components thereby affecting the brewing temperature, reducing brewing flow, compromising the taste of the espresso as well as the power of the espresso machine.
- Rinse with water – Once you are satisfied that the descaling rinse process is complete, fill the reservoir again but this only with water. This step is very important as it ensures that all the vinegar, citric, or commercial descaling product you used is flushed out of the system. You definitely don’t want your morning cup of espresso before you leave for work to taste like citric acid.
- Smell the Water – To be sure that all the solution is out of the machine, sniff the water and if you even get a slight smell of the descaling solution, rinse it again. You can also use baking soda to test if the rinse water contains acids.
Note – If you have been using hard water, it is recommended to do the descaling process twice to be sure that all the gunk and other unwanted particles have been dissolved.
Common Descaling Agents
There are four descaling agents that you can use to descale your espresso machine. They include:
1. Descale Using Citric Acid
Citric acid is found in citric fruits such as limes and lemons. It’s processed and sold in form of dry powder at supermarkets and grocery stores. Due to its physical similarities with table salt, it is often referred to as sour salt. The process of using this product is simple. Make a solution with two tablespoons of citric acid and one quart of water.
One of the benefits of using citric acid is that it’s inexpensive and easy to use compared to other products. The only downside is that the citric acid can build-up inside the machine over time thereby affecting its functionalism and the taste of the coffee.
2. Descaling Espresso Machine Using Vinegar
Vinegar is another great solution that you can use to keep your Espresso machine in upbeat condition. The right ratio that works best is 75% water and 25% vinegar. However, there are some manufacturers who advise customers to use up to 50% vinegar. Again, check the user’s manual to know if this is the case with your machine to avoid any issues after descaling.
One of the advantages of using vinegar is that it is cheap and readily available. However, some people say it is not as effective as the commercial descaling product.
3. Using Commercially-Made Descaling Product to descale
Thanks to advancements in technology, companies are now able to make commercial Espresso machine descaling products. If you decide to use it, make sure that the label says it’s 100% natural. Otherwise, if it contains harsh chemicals, it will corrode the inner components of the machine and even affect the taste of coffee thereafter. Always try to use the reputed descaling solutions to keep your machine protected from harmful chemicals.
4. Using Lemon Juice to Descale an Espresso Machine
Lemon juice is another solution that you can use to descale an espresso machine. It is readily available than commercial descaling products. The own downside is that you have to use soft water as it does not work well with hard water. Besides, it is also more expensive than both citric acid and vinegar.
How to Descale Espresso Machine Without Vinegar
Yes, we have mentioned that vinegar is one of the effective solutions that you can use to descale your espresso machine. However, it does not work well with some machines and that’s why we insist that you check the manual to know if it’s safe to use.
Some experts say that it does not only kills all germs, but the strong odor will take hours to rinse away with water. In addition, some of the delicate and expensive espresso machines will not function properly after using vinegar to descale them due to their concentration.
Most people who own a drip coffee maker use vinegar to clean and descale. However, you don’t have to always use it, lemon juice is a great alternative for this kind of coffee maker and it delivers the same results but without a strong odor. Another benefit of using lemon juice is that it’s more effective in killing bacteria than vinegar.
Commercial Descaling Solution vs Vinegar
The first thing to note is that both products are good and will treat your espresso machine right. Vinegar is a safe solution for descaling an espresso machine as it’s very effective in getting rid of dyes, natural oils, and stains from the surface. Vinegar is also very affordable and easy to use as compared to commercial descaling solutions. All you need to do is mix one part of water with three parts of vinegar to make the solution.
Check the manual to be sure that none of the machine’s components can be harmed by this solution. If you are not sure if it’s safe use a vinegar and water ratio of 1:1.
On the other hand, the commercial descaling solution is ideal for complex espresso machines, but you can still use it to descale the smaller machines. As mentioned repeatedly in this guide, make sure that the solution or product you purchase is made from 100% natural products.
Concisely, both products are effective, but make sure that you adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendations to avoid expensive repairs afterward.
Experts recommend descaling an espresso machine once per month if you often use hard water. If you happen to go on a vacation, you should descale it once you come back to get rid of minerals that may have accumulated in the components when it was not been used. The concentration/level of minerals in the water will also determine how often it needs to be descaled.
If you don’t commit yourself and take time to descale your espresso machine, hard water deposits will clog the water pipes and heating elements. The clog will not only affect the flow of water but also reduce temperature, cause a bad flavor, and result in poor extraction. The clog will also damage inner components due to inadequate airflow and cooling.
The steam wand should be cleaned by wiping it down using a sponge and hot water after every use. Use paper towels or a clean kitchen towel to dry it. Allow some steam to flow through the wand to be sure that the tip is not clogged with milk residue. To get the best results, it’s recommended to clean the steam wand when the espresso machine is filled with your preferred descaling solution.
This guide on how to clean a coffee machine will ensure that your espresso is always in perfect condition and prepares tasty coffee every single time. Make sure that you look up the user’s manual if you are unsure on how to go about it or a particular descaling solution or product is ideal to avoid any inconveniences down the road. What is your experience descaling an espresso machine? Please share it in the comments section.