If you’re a coffee lover who brews espresso at home or work, it is important to clean and descale your coffee machine often. How often to descale espresso machine? Keep reading to find out the answer to this question and some handy cleaning tips too.
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How do you clean an espresso machine properly?
The cleaning process for an espresso machine is known as descaling. Your coffee machine should have a step-by-step guide for what is best for your brand of coffee maker. There are a few ways to descale your espresso machine.
How Often Should You Descale an Espresso Machine?
Most manufacturers recommend that you descale your espresso machine three to four times a year if you are in an area with soft water. Areas with hard water will need to go through the descaling process more often.
Why is Descaling a Coffee Maker Helpful?
Over time, espresso machines and other coffee makers get a build up of mineral deposits on their internal parts.
In the case of an espresso maker, dissolved minerals from tap water, like calcium and magnesium, can attach to the heating element, known as the boiler, and prevent the coffee and milk from heating properly. The temperature of the milk and coffee matters greatly when making espresso.
The taste of your coffee can also be compromised by the mineral build up. In severe cases, the scale buildup can permanently damage your coffee maker.
How to Descale Your Espresso Machine
There are a few methods that can be used to descale your espresso machine. Your espresso machine should have a step by step guide to descaling in the manual.
First, check and see if your coffee maker has an automatic descaling cycle. In a descaling cycle, your coffee machine will push hot water through the machine at regular intervals to descale the machine.
Commercial Descalers and Descaling Solution
If your espresso machine does not have an automatic descaling cycle, there are a few options on how to descale the machine.
The first option is to use a descaling solution or commercial descalers. These options come with a pre-made solution or descaling tablets that you can run through the water flow system of your machine.
The descaling product helps break down the build up of minerals that come from water hardness and mess with your heating element.
How to Descale
To use a descaling product, heat up the machine to its normal brew temperature.
Using the brew lever, let the water out of the water reservoir.
Once the water has completely drained out, pour the descaling solution into the water tank.
Run the solution and the water through the coffee machine. This will break down the scale buildup in your machine.
Make sure the descaling solution does not stay in the coffee machine for more than 20 minutes.
It is also important to run the solution through the steam wand and other machine parts, and rinse them all thoroughly before using again.
Vinegar and Water
Many people like to consider all natural options when it comes to descaling an espresso machine.
You can create a natural descaling solution by mixing three parts vinegar with one part water. If it seems the vinegar solution is too strong for your machine, add water.
Vinegar can be a great descaling agent because of its potency and strength. It can easily cut through scale and calcium residue.
Using vinegar is a reader supported method that is very effective and many people swear by. The most common downside to using vinegar as a descaler is the aftertaste which can affect your coffee. If you properly rinse your coffee maker, this should not be an issue.
How to Descale
Mix the solution together.
Heat the machine to its normal brewing temperature and empty the old hot water out of the water tank using the brew spout.
Replace the water with your vinegar and water solution, and let it flow through the machine without coffee beans.
Make sure that the solution also flows through the steam wand to thoroughly descale every part of your machine.
When it is finished, empty it out and thoroughly rinse it several times with clean water so there is no descaler left in the machine.
Air dry the parts of your espresso machine before using it again.
Citric Acid and Water
The next natural solution that you can try is citric acid and water.
Mix one teaspoon of citric acid into every cup of water. For a larger amount, you can also mix one quart of water with three tablespoons of citric acid.
How to Descale
Repeat the descaling process in your machine with the citric acid mix.
Make sure that you run the mixture through all parts of the espresso machine and steam wand.
It is important to thoroughly rinse all parts of the espresso machine so that the taste of your coffee is not affected when you are brewing it later.
Can You Use Lemon Juice?
Citric acid is great for breaking down the build up of minerals in your machine. Many people use lemon juice in place of citric acid. Although this works, it is less effective.
You can find citric acid at most health food stores. It is often labeled as “sour salt” because it looks similar to table salt.
What if My Coffee Tastes Bad?
Even though descaling your espresso machine saves your coffee from tasting bad from scale and calcium deposits, the funny thing is that sometimes you may notice bad-tasting coffee immediately following the use of a descaler.
This is temporary and is usually because the descaler has not been completely rinsed out of the machine. Rinse your machine a few more times with clean water before making coffee again to ensure a good experience.
Do You Have to Descale Your Espresso Machine?
If you are planning on owning your espresso machine for a long time, it is a good idea to get in the habit of regularly cleaning your machine. This will protect the boiler from calcium and magnesium deposits, and from the limescale, or scale, that builds up from water in the water tank.
Brewing your coffee will be a much easier and more pleasant experience with a machine that works correctly, with a boiler that heats the water for your espresso efficiently. Coffee also maintains its strength and flavor when it is heated effectively.
Should I Use Distilled Water?
If you want to try to never descale your coffee machine, or if the process seems like it is too much to handle, you will need to use distilled water every single time you make espresso. This water has been previously treated so that there are not as many minerals that can deposit themselves in your espresso machine.
Should I Use Tap Water?
If you want to avoid descaling your machine, do not use tap water. The funny thing here is that tap water actually makes the best tasting coffee. This is because the minerals from the tap water actually enhance the flavors of your coffee. Distilled water tends to make coffee that tastes very flat.
How Often to Descale Espresso Machine FAQ
When should I descale my espresso machine?
If your home or office is in a place where hard water is used, you will need to descale your espresso machine more often. Hard water is more difficult on espresso machines, and you will need to descale your machine every three weeks.
If you live or work in a place with soft water, you can descale your espresso machine every three to four months.
How often you descale your espresso maker also depends on how much you use it. The above recommendations are for people who make 1-3 cups of coffee per day. If you make much more than that, you will need to descale your coffee maker more often.
What happens if you don’t descale your espresso machine?
When you do not descale your espresso machine, coffee oils, minerals, and coffee residue build up in various parts of the machine. One of the most common places for this buildup is around the heating elements. This can be dangerous for you and coffee machines. Your machine could be ruined. Improper cleaning of your espresso machine can affect the taste of the coffee as well.
Should you descale your espresso machine?
Yes, you should descale your espresso machine regularly. Descaling your machine will ensure great tasting coffee and a long lasting coffee machine. Water hardness is an important factor in answering the question: how often should you descale your espresso machine? Coffee machines in areas with hard water require more frequent cleaning.