how to clean espresso machine at home

Wondering How to Clean Espresso Machine at Home? (Read This!)

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Being able to make a good cup of espresso every single day is one of the best parts of waking up. But you noticed that the taste of your coffee is no longer as great as before.

Despite using the same good quality beans, and the same procedure, you still can’t make the same perfect espresso. It’s time you learn how to clean your espresso machine.

Cleaning the espresso maker from the inside is called descaling.

What is Descaling? And Why Descale an Espresso Machine?

Descaling coffee machine aims to remove the limescale deposits that build upon the espresso machines on the parts where the water flows.

Limescale is the chalky, stony, off-white residue left by hard water on the metallic parts of water-operated machinery.

Mineral water and filtered water, which contain a higher concentration of dissolved minerals like calcium and magnesium, are some samples of hard water.

The limescale builds up and hardens and this slows down the efficiency of your heating element.

It limits the life span best performance of your espresso machine. Given the reduced efficiency, this will cause you a higher electricity bill.

And if you overlooked the extensive limescale build-up, expect issues and higher maintenance cost of your espresso maker.

Cleaning Your Espresso Machine at Home

Since limestone build-ups do not help, in any way, we should get rid of it. You can use specific espresso machine descaling products or keep reading. I listed below helpful tips on how to descale espresso machines at home using

  • Citric acid
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon
  • Baking Soda

Citric Acid: Natural and Easy to Use

Citric Acid is used in descaling because it is natural, easy to use, easy to find, odorless, cheap, has a lower pH level, and doesn’t leave chemical residues.

Rather than using lemon juice, we recommend using concentrated powdered citric acid, like packs of sugar-free lemonade or similar that you can find at your grocery store. Most of the time they produce better results than pure lemon juice and you spare the effort of squeezing the lemons yourself.

If your espresso machine has an aluminum boiler, then it may tend to stick to internal walls.  In this case, run a lot of water to clean it out and use another alternative cleaning solution.

Cleaning process:

  • 2 Tablespoons of Food Grade Citric Acid
  • 1 Liter of Water (room temperature)

Mix the Citric Acid and water in a pouring cup. Then pour the descaler concentration on the water reservoir.

Run the water through the machine to get the boiler filled up with the acidic water. It’s as if you are brewing a fresh cup of coffee. And, don’t forget to run the water through the steam wand.

After running the descaling solution, you will notice the off-colored water coming out of your machine. It’s normal. That is the result of descaling. Discard the water.

Repeat the cycle until you run out of citric acid descaling solution.

Refill and run your machine with plain water. Discard the water. Repeat the procedure until the water becomes clear.

This will remove the taste of citric acid from your espresso machine.

This video about descaling a Rancilio Silvia espresso machine with citric acid shows the process step by step.

After doing all the procedures, your espresso machine is ready to brew your favorite espresso!

Vinegar: Strong Cleaning Tool

Vinegar is a known descaling agent and one of the best cleaning tools in the world.

Some benefits of vinegar are:

  • It is affordable,
  • Easy to find,
  • Vinegar is one of the strongest cleaning tools enough to remove excess minerals
  • You can use it to clean the exterior of espresso machines.

Vinegar is also a top choice as a homemade espresso machine descaler.

Recipe for Descaling Coffee Machine with Vinegar

  • Standard White Vinegar – and that’s it!

The difference between descaling espresso machines with vinegar to a citric acid descaler recipe, is that you will use the vinegar directly.

No need to dilute with hot water.

The procedure for descaling using vinegar is simple. Fill the water reservoir with vinegar, just as if you were brewing your espresso. Make sure you use enough vinegar as if you were doing 4 or 5 espressos.

Like this, you run the vinegar throughout the espresso machine. The water that comes out maybe brownish, depending on how often you descale the maker.

Do not forget to include the steam wand to make sure to clean away all the leftovers from the milk.

After that, you need to refill the machine with fresh water and run the machine until the vinegar becomes unrecognizable.

This might take a couple of runs before you flush out the vinegar completely.

Lemon: Effective and Easy to Find

If you don’t want the strong smell of vinegar, lemon is an option for you.

Lemon, like vinegar, is an effective cleaner. It is easy to find and with extreme levels of acidity.

And if you find squeezing lemons a burden, lemon juice sold in supermarkets are just as effective.

Lemon Juice Descaler Recipe:

  • 1/3 lemon juice
  • 2/3 water

The procedure is the same with citric acid and vinegar. Remember to include the steam wand in the cleaning process.

However, since lemon doesn’t smell as strong as vinegar, flushing out the lemon solution is much easier.

Just flush out the water until it becomes clear.

Baking Soda: Great for External and Removable Parts

Since baking soda is non-acidic, some say this cannot help in descaling your coffee machine.

Plus, baking soda doesn’t dissolve in water. So, others do not consider using this.

While some say the opposite, others who tried baking soda say it is a wonderful cleaning tool for their coffee machine.

Fur sure, baking soda is a great cleaning agent for the exterior and removable parts of your espresso machine.

Baking soda is widely available, very cheap, and doesn’t leave a foul smell on your coffee machine.

How Often Should I Descale my Espresso Machine

How often descaling depends on the type of your espresso machine, how often you use your coffee machine, and how hard the water is in your area.

Each espresso machine has a guide from its manufacturer. So, make sure you follow the guidelines there.

And if the machine is under warranty, have it checked before descaling on your own.

As a general guideline, if you use your coffee machine for personal consumption, descaling once a year is fine. But, heavy users might need to descale twice a year.

If you live in an area with hard water, you might need to do it on a monthly basis.

You have to check your machine, and if there’s a limescale build-up, that’s the time you need to descale.

Wrap Up

To be able to have a consistently good quality coffee, and to protect the life span of the espresso machine, descaling is a must and you will benefit by knowing how to clean an espresso machine at home.

You may choose from citric acid, vinegar, lemon, or baking soda if you’re planning to do natural homemade descaling solutions.

Citric acid and lemon are both great descalers, because they are natural, do not smell, easy to use, and easy to find.

Some aficionados prefer vinegar, since it is a tried and tested cleaning tool. But on the flip side, that vinegar has a strong smell which might affect the aroma of the coffee.

Baking Soda has pros and cons, which makes it the least option.

If you own an espresso machine at home, we would love to hear your own descaling recipe. And if it’s your first time to descale, let us know how it worked for you!