How To Descale Your Espresso Machine

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Do you thoroughly enjoy using your home espresso machine but never really knew how to make it last? I will help show you what is needed to clean and care for it.

Think about all the amazing rich and delicious lattes, breves, mochas, and so on you’ve been able to craft and enjoy with your espresso machine. If you have hard water all the drinks you make with your espresso machine will add up over time.

It doesn’t really matter how hard your water is, eventually you will build up limescale inside your espresso machine. Limescale can cause your machine to get clogged up, seriously damage, and shorten the life of your espresso machine.

Every few months or even sooner it will be necessary to descale your espresso machine. Some machines allow for bottled water and even in this case you will still need to descale your machine. My machines have always called for tap water and warn that bottled water can damage the machine. It is a good idea to regularly descale your machine.

You and your friends and family will be happy to enjoy great tasting coffee from your thriving espresso machine because of this proactive measure.

Options for Cleaning Espresso Machine:

You can choose one out of the three listed cleaners below

1. Commercial Descaling Product

2. Citric Acid

3. White Vinegar

Always check with your espresso machine’s manual for manufacturers recommendations and instructions.

If you are curious about the hardness of your water, you have the option of testing it to see how concentrated the minerals are in it. If you find out your mineral content is high, it is a sign to descale your espresso machine more often.

Okay so you’ve decided to descale your espresso machine.

I can help explain how it works. So, you remember those three cleaners I mentioned earlier? Now you can learn why they are the best and why they work.

It is ultimately up to you which process and cleaner you choose.

Commercial Descaling Product

The one I have used the most is a commercial descaling product. The main ingredient is Sulfamic acid.

Urnex Liquid Dezcal Activated Descaler

This is a good choice for most machines. It has instructions on the label that you can compare with the instructions from your manual of your espresso machine. As long as there are no conflicts with your specific machine or descaling methods allowed, go for it. I strongly recommend this product because it is so easy to use.

Your machine may come with an automatic descaling cycle operated by buttons. If not, you can always do your descaling manually.

Citric Acid

You can find citric acid in citrus fruits like lemons. It is available in a powder at the grocery store and health food stores.

You can use it to cook with as an alternative to lemon juice or vinegar, where a pure acid is needed. Citric acid is naturally sourced and food safe, which makes it a great descaler for coffee machines.

It is very simple to clean your espresso machine with citric acid. The common ratio for a solution is two tablespoons of citric acid powder for one quart of water. Citric acid is affordable and easy to use.

I would recommend using two or all three of the cleaners on my list in rotation. They all have their specific uses and in combination they will balance out the side effects of using just one cleaner only.


White vinegar from your cooking supplies can be used for descaling as well. Vinegar is affordable and I have friends that swear by it. The best ratio for a solution is ¼ vinegar to ¾ water, although ½ and ½ can be more effective.

Descaling Your Espresso Machine Step Guide

1. Pick a Cleaner to Use

Eventually you will get into a routine with cleaning your espresso machine and you will be able to keep track of what you use. You can pick a single cleaner for several cleaning cycles and then swap out on or the other of the three tried and true methods. Or you can go with your mainstay one cleaner only route.

2. The Solution

Even if you use a premade solution like the commercial product, I recommend you will most likely still need to dilute it with water per your machines instructions. If you want to use citric acid or vinegar you will need to mix up the cleaning agent with water.

3. Rinsing Your Espresso Machine with the Descaling Solution

In this step you will pour your solution in the amount recommended by your machine’s instructions into the water reservoir the same as if you were just filling it normally.

The cleansing rinse will run through out your machine starting in the boiler. If you have a steam wand you will want to cycle the rinse through it as well.

You will want a container to place beneath all the water outputs on your machine so that you can catch and dispose of your after rinse.

You should notice that the water coming out of the machine on your first cleansing rinse will be cloudy and may have small amounts of sediment in it. This is normal and part of the cleaning process. It is a good sign your machine is getting a good bath.

Depending on how hard your water is you may want to double up and do the entire cleaning cycle back to back.

4. Rinse Only

Once the descaling rinse is complete fill up your reservoir with just water. Now run the entire cycle again. This will eliminate the cleanser smell and taste from your water and flush the residual amounts left inside the machine. This way there is no aftertaste of cleaning agent in your sacred morning coffee.

5. Check for Clarity

Check your water coming out the final rinse and make sure it is clear and has no smell of cleaning product to it. If you notice any lingering smell or cloudiness it is a good idea to go through the entire process again.

There you have it. You should have a nice clean and healthy espresso machine to make espresso’s with.

Check out how to make a classic latte at home.

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