How Often Should You Descale An Espresso Machine?

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Do you need to know how often you should descale an espresso machine? Well, we have researched this question and have answers for you. It is essential to understand how often you should descale your espresso machine to ensure a delicious cup of espresso.

It would be best if you descaled your espresso machine every 3-6 months. If you have hard water, you may need to descale more often.

In this article, we will learn how often you should descale an espresso machine. We will also cover other interesting related questions like, what happens if you don't descale your espresso machine, and why does my coffee taste bad after descaling. Keep reading to learn more.

Professional espresso machine pouring fresh coffee into a ceramic cup, How Often Should You Descale An Espresso Machine?

How Often Should You Descale An Espresso Machine?

When you use an espresso machine, water is heated by a heating element and is forced through ground coffee to create an espresso. Almost all water contains dissolved minerals. These minerals build up on the heating element and in the tubes of the machine and need to be removed.

Removing this build-up of minerals is called descaling. How often you need to descale your espresso machine depends on two key factors. These factors are how often you use the machine and how hard your water is.

Espresso extraction by professional espresso machine at coffee shop

Frequency Of Use

How often you use your espresso machine will significantly impact how often you need to descale it. If you make 1-3 cups of espresso a day, you will need to descale less often than someone who makes 6 cups a day.

Every time you make an espresso and the water is heated, more of the minerals in the water precipitate out. This means there is a direct correlation between the frequency of use and how much mineral build-up there is.

Twice as much espresso means twice as much mineral build-up. There is another critical factor that goes into how often you will need to descale, and that is water hardness.

Water Hardness

Water hardness refers to how many minerals are dissolved in the water. If you have a lot of minerals in your water, you would say that you have hard water. If you have few minerals in your water, you would say that you have soft water.

With hard water, you may need to descale your espresso machine as often as every month to keep build-up down.

If you have hard water where you live and don't enjoy descaling your espresso machine so often, you could invest in a water softener. A water softener removes many minerals in your tap water to help soften your water. Such an investment will reduce how often you need to descale your espresso machine.

When To Descale

If you have soft water and only make 1-3 cups of espresso a day, you will only need to descale about once every six months. If you make more than 3 cups of espresso a day, you will need to descale every three to five months. These estimates are all with soft water.

If you have hard water, you will need to descale more often. With hard water, if you enjoy only 1-3 cups of espresso a day, you will need to descale every two to three months. If you make more than three cups a day, you will need to descale every month to keep up with build-up.

How Do I Know If My Espresso Machine Needs Descaling?

Barista making coffee at an espresso machine

When minerals build up in your espresso machine, they begin to reduce the effectiveness of the heating element. Without the heating element working at full capacity, the water used to make the espresso won't get as hot. This heat reduction will have two significant effects.

A Colder Espresso

One of the first things you will notice if you need to descale your espresso machine is that your espresso isn't as hot as it once was. As minerals build up on the heating element, the espresso machine won't heat the water as hot. As a result, your espresso will start being colder.

While a lukewarm espresso isn't ideal, there is another drawback when your espresso machine needs to be descaled.

A Weaker Espresso

The cooler water in an espresso machine that needs to be descaled will not extract as much flavor from the coffee beans. Without proper flavor extraction, your cup of espresso will start tasting more watered down.

To fight back against cold tasteless espresso, be sure to descale your espresso machine when your notice that your espresso is colder or weaker than usual.

What Happens If You Don't Descale Your Espresso Machine?

professional young worker in eyeglasses and protective workwear fixing coffee machine

We have already learned that if you don't descale your espresso machine, your espresso will begin to taste colder and weaker, but we haven't covered the worst that happens yet.

As minerals begin building up in the espresso machine, they can start to flake off. These pieces of solidified minerals can make their way into various parts of your espresso machine and impede the flow of water. If enough solidified minerals get stuck, they can create a blockage that makes the entire machine unusable.

While it isn't too challenging to descale your espresso machine regularly, if you let your espresso machine get to the point where water can't flow through it, it may be challenging to fix.

It is so tricky to descale an espresso machine that has no water flow because you need water flow to carry a descaling agent through the machine. If a clog is in a very hard-to-reach place, you may need to replace internal parts to fix it. It may be better to buy a new espresso machine at that stage.

Since failing to descale your espresso machine can lead to so many problems, it would be best if you descale your espresso machine regularly along with regular cleaning.

How Do You Descale An Espresso Machine?

It is a photograph of espresso extraction.

Descaling your espresso machine is an easy yet necessary task. When it comes time to descale your espresso machine, follow these steps to ensure you descale your espresso machine properly. Failure to follow these steps properly could leave your espresso tasting terrible or, worse, damage your espresso machine.

The Steps

  • The first step to descaling your espresso machine is to mix a solution of water and descaler.
  • After that, run the mixture through the espresso machine without any coffee beans.
  • Then you need to flush the espresso machine with ordinary water to remove any descaler residue.
  • Your espresso machine should now be ready to make a hot tasty espresso.

Descaler Options

When choosing a descaler, there are a couple of home solutions and commercial descalers. Let's first discuss the two most famous home solutions.

Vinegar

Vinegar is a popular home remedy for descaling your espresso machine. When using vinegar as a descaler, mix three parts vinegar to one part water.

While a three to one ratio of vinegar to water should be good on most espresso machines, it may damage others. If you aren't sure if your espresso machine can handle higher levels of vinegar, try using a one-to-one ratio instead.

Citric Acid

The other home solution to descaling your espresso machine is citric acid. When using citric acid as a descaler, mix one teaspoon of citric acid for each cup of water.

Some people say you can use lemon juice to descale your espresso machine, but lemon juice is less effective than pure citric acid. You can find citric acid at most health food stores or online.

Commercial Descalers

Now let's cover commercial descalers. While there are many commercial descalers on the market, we highly recommend using all-natural one that doesn't use any toxic chemicals. Here are a couple of the most popular non-toxic descalers.

Halefresh Descaling Solution

You can find this product here on Amazon.

This product will descale your espresso machine without using any harsh chemicals. It can also be used on almost any coffee machine with mineral build-up.

Tupkee Coffee Machine Descaling Solution

You can find this product here on Amazon.

This natural descaling solution uses citric acid as its active ingredient. With no toxic chemicals, this descaler is safe for both you and your espresso machine.

Why Does My Coffee Taste Bad After Descaling?

Closeup image of Asian woman holding hot coffee with feeling strange and smelling bad in coffee shop

The reason your coffee tastes terrible after descaling has to do with the descaler. When you flush out your espresso machine after using a descaler, some leftover residue will sometimes remain inside.

While not harmful to your health, this residue will cause your coffee to taste more bitter or sour. The solution is to flush out your espresso machine again. You may need to do this two or three times to ensure no residue remains.

There is a technique to tell if you've thoroughly flushed out the descaler if you used vinegar. Since vinegar reacts with baking soda, you can take the water that comes out after flushing the machine and add baking soda to it. If you see any fizz, you know that some vinegar is still left in your espresso machine.

If you keep flushing the espresso machine until there is no more fizz when adding baking soda, then you can know that it is thoroughly rinsed.

How To Avoid Needing To Descale Your Espresso Machine

There is a way to avoid needing to descale your espresso machine altogether, and it has to do with the water you use in your espresso machine.

While it is true that most water has minerals in it, there is a type of water that doesn't. There will be almost no mineral build-up if you exclusively use distilled water in your espresso machine. While you still may need to descale your espresso machine occasionally, you may be able to go years before it is required.

Final Thoughts

Close up image of espresso pouring into white cups

This article taught that you should descale your espresso machine every three to six months to keep mineral build-up down. We also learned you might be able to avoid descaling if you use distilled water.

We hope you enjoyed this article. If you want to learn more, check out some of these other posts.

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Coffee Maker Vs. Espresso Maker Vs. French Press – What Are The Differences?

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