Last Updated on November 5, 2021 by John Moretti
Descaling your espresso machine is a crucial part of maintaining its operational function and needs to be done every so often as the scale builds up inside it with use. There are a variety of descalers available on the market, and most will work with all espresso machines.
Here are the best espresso machine descalers according to my research:
- Best Overall: Durgol Swiss Espresso Descaler
- Best Eco: De’Longhi EcoDecalk
- Best for Keurig: Essential Values Universal Descaling Solution
- Best for Nespresso: Gourmesso Descaler
- Best Professional: Urnex Cafiza Professional
- Best Economy Choice: Urnex Dezcal
Keeping your espresso machine clean and free from build-up in the pipes will save you coffee tasting great, and make sure your coffee machine continues to produce the perfect espresso. Let’s take a look at these products in a detail.
1. Durgol Swiss Espresso Descaler
This is not a citric-acid-based cleaner for starters and is guaranteed to remove all limescale deposits and leave no calcium citrate or calcium lactate layers behind.
Using citric acid, which some descalers use, may leave a layer of calcium citrate in your machine, and this is exceptionally difficult to remove.
Durgol is made in Switzerland, and the bottles are made from PET which is 100% recyclable. Their descaler is safe to use for all machines and leaves no residue or aftertaste, and is even said to prolong your espresso machine’s life.
One of the only drawbacks with this product is that although it comes with two 4.2oz bottles of descaler, you will need one bottle per cleaning, and this, for some, may be a little on the expensive side.
2. De’Longhi EcoDecalk
One of the most well-known espresso machine descalers, De’Longhi’s EcoDecalk, is a high-quality and cost-effective descaling product. This descaler is suitable for all espresso machines, not just De’Longhi, and the bottles are made from 100% recyclable PET.
One of the innovations with this product is that it is made from plant-based lactic acid and is an all-natural cleaning solution. This may appeal to those who aren’t comfortable disposing of a chemical-based solution once the descaling is complete.
The 16.9 oz bottle has enough solution for five cleanings compared to Durgols single application per bottle. Lab tests prove it is three times more effective in removing limescale than traditional descaling solutions.
3. Gaggia Decalcifier Descaler Solution
Made by premier espresso machine maker Gaggia, this descaling solution comes in a three-pack containing 3 x 8.45 oz bottles. It is designed to both clean and prevent limescale build-up in your espresso machine.
The Gaggia descaler is suitable for both semi-automatic and fully automatic machines. The descaling process requires a whole bottle for each cleaning, putting this product in the more pricey bracket of descalers.
4. Essential Values Universal Descaling Solution
It’s Keurig compatible, and while it is a citric-acid-based cleaner, it is safe for all coffee machines, including the Nespresso range.
Designed to remove and prevent limescale build-up, this product also penetrates oil and can be used as a decalcifier for other appliances. This package comes with four 8oz bottles, and each bottle can be used for 2 cleanings – 4oz per cleaning.
This makes it a very affordable and cost-effective descaling solution with a total of 32oz provided in the package, roughly double the amount of the De’Longhi solution at less than double the price.
The bottles are made from 100% recyclable PET.
5. Full Circle Descaling Solution
This is another well-known product from the Urnex brand and is delivered with 2 x 4oz bottles for two cleaning cycles as you would require one bottle per cleaning.
It is made entirely from natural mineral and plant-based materials and is phosphate-free, wholly biodegradable, and completely safe for use. It is a citric-acid-based descaler, but it is very effective in removing limescale and slowing the build-up like most of these products.
This is by far one of the most affordable descaling solutions available and makes sense for espresso machine owners looking to maintain their machines with an effective descaler that doesn’t cost the earth.
6. Keurig Descaling Solution
If you have a Keurig machine, this is the only Keurig-approved descaler for your machine and is also a top seller on Amazon for cleaning and restoring espresso machines to proper function.
Made in the USA, this pack comes with three 14oz bottles and provides a citric-acid-based solution for removing limescale build-up.
Some reviews of this on Amazon were not favorable, stating that it took quite a few rinses to remove the soapy film from the water in some cases. This may be due to not following the instructions correctly, but there certainly are some cases of dissatisfaction even though it is a top-rated seller.
If you have a Keurig machine or not, it may be advisable to contact Keurig for some guidance before using this.
7. Saeco Decalcifier
If you have a Saeco machine, you may very well have this product already as it would be recommended by Saeco sales staff when you bought your machine. This package has three X 8.4 oz bottles, and you would use one bottle for each cleaning.
This is also a reasonably cost-effective solution. You can remove the limescale with no aftertaste and restore your machine’s pipe to new condition.
8. Urnex Cafiza Professional Espresso Machine Descaler
Urnex is a highly reputable manufacturer of descaling solutions, and this one is not a liquid like the others but comes in powder form. The product is NSF Certified and is listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute, so it is 100% safe to use.
This package has three 20oz bottles, and the powder is non-toxic, completely bio-degradable, and compatible with all espresso machines. The dosage for cleaning is small, and these bottles will last you quite a while.
One of the most noticeable and distinct differences between this product and the others is that while it is designed to remove limescale build-up, it is also formulated to remove coffee oils from espresso valves, line, and group machine heads.
This makes this descaler a product you could use with heavily soiled machines and other kitchen appliances that struggle with limescale build-up.
The Cafiza Descaler is ideal for industrial or commercial machines requiring daily backflushing to remove clogging around the machine heads after a full day of operation. This is a very efficient cleaning solution using just half a teaspoon of powder mixed with 32oz water.
This product is ideal for professional baristas. It balances foam and solubility to ensure that no residue or aftertaste remains after cleaning.
For busy coffee shops with more than one machine, this product makes keeping machines clean and producing hot, great-tasting coffee a breeze and will work just as well for your home coffee shop!
9. Gourmesso Descaler
With the explosion in popularity of the Nespresso machines, any discussion around descaling products would be incomplete without at least one product that works specifically for the Nespresso systems.
The beauty about the Nespresso systems is that descaling with the Gourmesso Capsule is simpler and easier than doing it on standard espresso machines. You brew with the capsule and run an empty brew cycle as this is already a capsule.
This will be enough to clean all nozzles, water circuits, and spouts from the inside.
This descaling solution comes in powder form and is fully compatible with all capsule machines like Essenza, Citiz, Pixie, Lattisima, U, Gran Maestria, Inissia, Prodigio, KitchenAid, and Creatista Nespresso Originalline.
Please note that this descaling product is not compatible with the Vertuo (Vertoline) machines.
10. Urnex Dezcal Coffee Maker & Espresso Descaler
Another product from the Urnex stable is more suited to your everyday espresso machines and coffee makers. However, it is still formulated to target the removal of oil build-up on machine heads.
If you find that your current descaler isn’t doing a good enough job, then it’s time to give this one a shot. One of the advantages of this product is that it is universal and can be used to describe Keurig machines, Nespresso, Breville, Jura, Delonghi, and other drip coffee makers, superautomatic espresso machines, and kettles.
As a specialist in descaling products, Urnez has taken the time to design a multifunctional descaler that removes and prevents limescale build-up as the others do and adds another dimension to their development by providing oil removal capacity.
Another consideration is the package size, and this one is big at 31oz. Considering you only need 1oz of powder per 32oz of water in your machine’s water tank to clean your machine, this single bottle of powder will last you a while.
Most descalers can be harmful if swallowed or come into contact with broken skin or eyes, so always exercise caution to prevent splashing or accidental contact.
What Is Scale And How Does It Affect Your Espresso Machine?
Scale is a term used to describe deposits that occur in your coffee machine when the metal surfaces come into contact with non-soluble sediments in the water being used in the machine.
The minerals that cause scale are usually calcium and limescale and are dissolved in the water you use to make your coffee.
Descalers are specially designed chemical cleaning agents that utilize the release of hydrogen ions to erode and remove these deposits from the pipes, boilers, and heat exchangers in espresso machines and kettles, and water heaters.
When your espresso machine has been used for a while, it may start taking longer to brew, or your coffee starts to have a strange taste to it, this is due to the limescale build-up inside, and it’s time to descale.
Fortunately, most modern espresso machines have warning lights or displays that tell you when the device needs to be descaled, and completing the process is as simple as following the machine’s instructions.
Can You Use Vinegar To Descale A Coffee Machine?
Quite a few people use white vinegar to descale their coffee machines, and we need to distinguish between cleaning and descaling. Cleaning the machine is wiping it down and removing any surface or aesthetic stains or dirt, and this is primarily an exterior process.
Descaling is the chemical process of removing limescale deposits and build-up from the inside, from the water circuit and internal surfaces that, when hot, come into contact with water, leaves a residue that can block pipes and create a sour taste in your coffee.
So-called ‘hard’ water has plenty of minerals like magnesium, calcium, and limestone, while ‘soft’ water has far less mineral content.
Pros And Cons Of Using Vinegar Vs. Descaling Solutions
While both will perform the same job, there are some considerations when using vinegar over descaling solution.
- If not cleaned thoroughly, vinegar can leave that bitter taste in your coffee, and this can persist for a while and may require several rinsing cycles to restore the flavor.
- Vinegar is far cheaper and readily available, so from a cost perspective, this is an advantage.
- Descaler is specifically designed to remove scale, slow down the buld-up after cleaning, and keep your machine running properly.
- Your machine manufacturer may not honor your warranty if you use vinegar instead of a recognized descaler.
When you have invested a few hundred or a few thousand dollars on your espresso machine, spending a few more on a decent descaling product makes total sense as it keeps your device in good condition and gives you that great tasting brew every time.
When choosing a descaler, consider the various factors like the cost, efficiency, and whether the product is compatible with your machine and the personal and environmental safety of the product.
No matter what machine you have, investing in a quality descaler will extend the life of your espresso machine and keep you enjoying your favorite brew for years to come.