Properly maintaining your espresso machine requires clearing the machine of built-up mineral deposits and milk-proteins, you will need to descale your machine every one to four months. Descaling and cleaning your coffee machine are two very different processes which address two separate problems. Although your machine might be sparkling clean, free of coffee grounds, and well-maintained on the outside, if you don’t look after the inside of your machine by descaling, you will eventually run into some problems down the line. Scale occurs when there are high levels of calcium and magnesium carbonate in the water supply. When water is heated, these elements form a layer of debris on hot surfaces. This layer is called scale. Scale builds up on the boiler and the heating element, and sometimes the pipe network in an espresso machine. Descaling is the process of removing this mineral build-up.
So, you can imagine how important descaling is in keeping your machine in good working order. Especially considering that a cup of coffee is almost entirely water. If scale is present in the boiler or pipes of an espresso machine, it could affect the end yield, making the brewing process less consistent. As each espresso machine is built differently, unfortunately there is not one set of descaling instructions for all espresso machines. For this reason, we recommend you refer and adhere to your machine manufacturers’ instructions for cleaning and descaling your machine.
Descaling Your Machine
Start by preparing the descaling solution. We recommend the excellent “Urnex Coffee Machine Powder Descaler”, which is a highly abrasive, all natural powder that works great at removing built up calcium in boiler and heating elements.
- Fill your machine’s reservoir with fresh water.
- Add the descaling solution to the water and let it dissolve.
- Always read and follow the instructions listed on the descaling cleaner.
Running Solution Through The Steam Wand
- Place a container under the steam wand to catch the solution.
- Turn on the steam wand. Allow approximately one cup of solution to run through the steam wand.
- Turn off the steam wand.
- Turn off your espresso machine.
- Let the machine rest for twenty minutes. During this time, the descaling solution will start to work.
- Run the solution through the steam wand and group.
- Turn on your machine.
- Place a container under the steam wand.
- Flush approximately ¼ cup solution through the steam wand. If you have a super-automatic espresso machine, run ½ cup of solution through the steam wand.
- Turn off the steam wand and place the container directly under the portafilter.
- Turn on the group and run approximately ¼ cup solution through the portafilter. If you have a super-automatic espresso machine, do not run any solution through the group.
- Turn off the machine.
- Allow the machine to sit for another twenty minutes. As it sits, the solution will continue to break down any remaining mineral deposits.
- Run the rest of the solution through the machine.
- After twenty minutes, turn on the machine.
- Place the container under the steam wand.
- Flush half of the remaining solution through the steam wand. If you have a super-automatic machine, run all of the solution through the steam wand.
- Move the container under the portafilter.
- Turn on the group and drain the rest of the solution from the machine.
- Run fresh water through the group and steam wand (optional).
Keep in mind that most descaling solutions contain citric acid, which if left uncollected, the citric acid will tarnish the espresso machine’s metal exterior. You may find that descaling is not entirely necessary after just a month of use, so be vigilant and continue looking for buildup to descale when required.