If it heats water, it creates scale. Call it calcification, lime scale...whatever you want but for home espresso and coffee makers it’s the stuff that clogs-up boilers and leads to poor performance and eventual machine failure. But, it’s super easy to prevent any problems with a little preventative maintenance. Like changing the oil in your car, a regular descaling or decalcifying ensures a long service life for your machine.
While descaling is easy maintenance, picking the right product to do the job can be hard. So today we’ll help make sure you’re using the right stuff.
First a note. We used to recommend a product from Urnex called Cleancaf for general purpose descaling. It’s come to our attention that Urnex has removed the reference to descaling from their Cleancaf product so we no longer recommend it as a descaling product. But it is an effective cleaner of coffee pots and drip brewers.
For descaling, we advise choosing a product based on either a machine manufacturer’s recommendation or the type of metal used in the machine’s boiler. So if the maker of a machine recommends a product it’s best to use that. If the manufacturer does not recommend a particular product or your lacking information choose a product based on the material making up the machine’s boiler. So you first must determine if your boiler is made of stainless steel, brass or aluminum.
Stainless Steel or Brass Boilers Espresso Machines
We recommend Dezcal by Urnex. It comes in liquid or powder form. Each gets mixed with 32 ounces of water. It’s then added to your machine’s reservoir and run through using a machine’s automatic decalcifying program or manually as though the machine was brewing. Following that, rinse by running two full reservoirs full of plain tap water through the machine as though brewing. Urnex also has the Full Circle line of products that include a descaling powder and liquid. These can be used in place of Dezcal and are biodegradable, phosphate and odorless, so more environmentally friendly.
Aluminum Boiler Espresso Machines
We recommend using Durgol Swiss Espresso Special Decalcifier. It’s the only product other than those recommended by a manufacturer that we are aware of that’s certified as safe to use in aluminum boilers. Like other products Durgol gets mixed with water and run through using a machine’s automatic decalcifying program or manually as though the machine was brewing. Following that rinse by running two full reservoirs of plain tap water through the machine.
To recap, if a manufacturer recommends a product it’s best to use that. If they don’t, we recommend Urnez Dezcal or Full Circle descalers for stainless steel and brass boilers and Durgol Swiss Espresso Special Decalcifier for machines with aluminum boilers. If you don’t know what your boiler is made of, you can find out using the Compare-O-Matic at wholelattelove.com
And, although it used to be common practice we always recommend against using vinegar for descaling. You risk leaving behind a terrible aftertaste and may cause damage to sensitive internal components. Keep your machine in good running order and descale regularly.