How often should you descale your espresso machine? As a coffee lover, you probably have an espresso machine at home that you fire up regularly. You wait with bated breath as your rich, and delicious espresso trickles down into your waiting cup, and you take that first awaited sip.
But wait, something’s wrong! Your espresso is bitter and sour. What happened?
If you don’t descale your espresso machine regularly, the buildup of scale inside your machine has affected your espresso. If you want to return to those glorious days of delicious coffee on demand, you need to roll up your sleeves and descale your espresso machine immediately.
What is Water Scale?
Water scale is created when the mineral deposits in your water builds up. After the water boils away, the mineral deposits accumulate and create small hard deposits that can clog up your espresso maker and affects its performance.
Now you might be saying, “Well, why don’t I just use distilled water to make my coffee?” Using distilled water can help you avoid water scale buildup, but it also makes flat coffee because all the minerals have been removed.
Here’s the funny thing: the best water to use to making coffee is plain tap water! As long as you live somewhere with potable tap water, it’s perfectly safe and even cost-effective to use tap water for making your coffee.
Sure, you might need to descale your espresso machine a bit more often, but luckily for you, descaling is an easy process.
When Should You Descale Your Espresso Machine?
The schedule that you should use to descale your espresso machine depends on the type of water that you use and the frequency that you use your espresso machine.
When it comes to water, there is generally two types of water that you use:
- Soft water – treated water that only contains sodium ions
- Hard water – water with dissolved minerals such as calcium and magnesium
In most places, the water that comes out of your tap is hard water. Thus, you are probably using hard water to make your coffee.
If you use your espresso machine twice a day with hard water, you should descale it every couple of months. The more you use your espresso machine with hard water, the more regularly you should descale it.
Products for Descaling Your Espresso Machine
There are numerous products you can use to descale your espresso machine. However, you should always the manual first. That way, you’re certain to use the best products.
There are three compounds that you can use to descale your espresso machine: citric acid, vinegar, or commercial descalers.
- Citric Acid – compound that’s naturally found in sour fruits such as limes, oranges, and lemons. Citric acid also comes in powdered form, and it’s usually labeled as “sour salt” because it looks like table salt.
To use citric acid, mix one quart of water with three tablespoons of citric acid.
- Environmental friendly
- Not as strong as other types of descalers
- Vinegar – another compound that you can use to descale your espresso machine is plain white vinegar. You cannot use other types of vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar, as this can leave residue inside your machine and affect the taste of your coffee.
To use vinegar, mix it with equal parts of water. Some models recommend a 75 % water to 25 % vinegar mix.
- Environmental friendly
- Can leave residue
- Not as effective compared to other descalers
- Can affect the taste of coffee if not rinsed properly
- Commercial descalers – these products are specially formulated to remove water scale from your espresso machines. If you have an expensive machine, you should consider using commercial descalers to remove water scale properly.
- More costly
If you want to save money but still descale your machine properly, you can use a combination of these three types of descalers. You can have a quick descaling using citric acid or vinegar every two weeks, and a more thorough descaling using a commercial descaling product every couple of months.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Descaling Your Machine
Descaling your espresso machine will take around 20-40 minutes, depending on the descaling product you use, the complexity of your machine, and how clogged it is. The first sign that you need to descale your machine is when the flow of water going to your portafilter is restricted.
Here is an easy step-by-step guide to descaling your espresso machine:
- Remove your portafilter.
- Add water and your preferred descaling solution to your water reservoir.
- Turn on your machine and run a short extraction cycle until the water comes out of your portafilter.
- Shut off the machine, allowing it to cool for around 5 minutes.
- Pulse the water and descaling solution through your machine for 2 minutes. Don’t forget to run the solution through your steam wand as well. If the scale buildup is severe, you should be able to see small, clear, hard scales floating in your descaling solution.
- Repeat the process of running the descaling solution through your machine until the water runs clear.
- Flush your machine with clean water for 3 minutes.
If you regularly use hard water in making your espresso, you should consider repeating the cleaning process using the descaling solution at least twice before rinsing out your machine.
Why We Don’t Recommend Your Machine’s Auto Descaler
You might be wondering why we’re recommending descalers and manual descaling, especially if you’re using a high-end espresso machine with an automatic descaling feature.
What’s easier than pressing a button and letting the machine do the work, right?
Well, here’s the thing: the most automatic descaling feature doesn’t clean out scales thoroughly. While you will be able to get most of the scales out, there will be some leftovers. Over time, the residual scale will build up, which can cause damage to your machine! Unless you’re using a machine with an effective descaling feature (and these machines are pricey), you should do a manual descaling every few months
How Often Should You Descale Your Espresso Machine?
Now that you know how to descale your espresso machine properly, there are a couple of things that you need to keep in mind. First, check the manufacturer’s manual to ensure that you are doing the descaling process correctly. Most models have simple instructions that you can follow to descale the machine properly. Second, make sure that you are using the correct dose of descaler to prevent damaging the machine.
Here’s the most precise way to answer the question ‘how often should descale your espresso machine? To ensure fresh, delicious, and clean espresso, descale your machine at least once every two months. Yes, it’s really that simple.