Last Updated on June 13, 2022 by John Moretti
Properly maintaining your coffee machine is the only way to ensure the machine’s longevity, as well as its ability to continue making excellent coffee throughout its lifetime. Descaling is arguably the most important aspect of espresso machine maintenance, so understanding it is of utmost importance.
The frequency with which you should descale an espresso machine depends on two factors: how often you use the machine and the hardness of the water. Generally, you should descale your espresso machine every three to six months, but harder water means more frequent descaling.
Descaling may seem like a tedious process, but it is, in fact, an extremely simple task that should not take more than half an hour. If performed regularly, descaling your coffee machine will keep the machine in perfect working condition, consistently producing the perfect shot of espresso day after day.
How Often Do You Need To Descale Your Espresso Machine?
How frequently you need to descale your coffee machine depends entirely on the frequency of usage and the minerals in the water used in making the coffee.
Naturally, a coffee machine used often will require descaling more frequently than a machine used only on the odd occasion.
The levels of minerals in the water, such as calcium and magnesium, will determine the hardness of the water. The harder the water, the more frequently the machine will need descaling.
On average, espresso machines should be descaled every three to six months. As mentioned above, this will depend on how often your machine is used and how hard the water is that is being used.
The hardness of water differs from region to region across the US. Using filtered water or a water softener can make somewhat of a difference. Still, you will want to ensure that you don’t remove all minerals from the water, as this can negatively impact the flavor of the coffee.
Why Do You Need To Descale Your Espresso Machine?
Calcium and magnesium are found in water, and the levels of these minerals differ according to the hardness of the water. Higher levels of calcium and magnesium mean harder water, and this brings with it a more frequent need for descaling.
This is because these minerals tend to accumulate along the heating element of the coffee machine. Descaling, therefore, is the process of cleaning metal that removes the build-up of limescale.
Limescale is the hard, chalky substance that forms on metal surfaces as a result of the minerals in the water, and this build-up can hinder the proper functioning of the machine’s elements. The heat combined with the minerals in the water causes the formation of a thick oxide layer on the metal surfaces within the machine, including the inside of the boiler compartment.
A machine that has not been descaled will have a major impact on the coffee itself. Because the build-up inside the machine can potentially insulate the water from the heat, the water cannot reach its desired temperature.
As a result, aside from the coffee not being hot enough, the full flavor profile of the coffee cannot be extracted from the beans. Because the ability of the machine to produce sufficient heat has been compromised in this context, the machine will have to work substantially harder to be able to function, therefore consuming far more electricity.
The end result is a brew of far lower quality and a potentially broken machine. Thankfully, if done soon enough, descaling your espresso machine will restore its previous performance levels and produce the perfect espresso shot once again.
Regular descaling is not only the best way to extend the lifespan of your espresso machine, but it will greatly improve the quality of your coffee while simultaneously reducing the time taken to make the coffee.
A regularly descaled coffee machine will also ensure that extra electricity is not used unnecessarily, and it will also reduce noise significantly. In the long term, you will save significant amounts of money on repairs if your machine is regularly descaled.
How To Know If Descaling Is Needed
An espresso machine in need of descaling will usually be far noisier than it is in its usual clean state. This means the machine is working extra hard to produce your espresso as a result of scale build-up, and this is causing the vibration of many parts of the machine that should not ordinarily be vibrating.
The machine will be far slower at producing your espresso shots if it is in need of descaling. If the pulling of shots is taking longer than you remember, chances are the machine needs to be descaled as soon as possible.
If your machine is producing coffee at a reduced temperature to its usual, this is another indicator that descaling is needed. A crema that is dark, flat, and thin is also usually a sign that there is a significant build-up of limescale in your espresso machine.
The biggest indicator of all, and one that should never be ignored, is bad-tasting coffee. If your espresso machine is producing coffee that tastes far worse than you remember it tasting in the past, there is a good chance that the machine is in desperate need of descaling.
Depending on the hardness of the water used in your coffee machine as well as the frequency with which the machine is used, descaling may need to happen every three to six months. This is an extremely important undertaking in the maintenance of your espresso machine.
Descaling will simultaneously ensure the longevity of the machine while ensuring that the coffee made by the machine is the best it could possibly be.
The manual for your machine will have specific instructions for descaling and will usually include recommendations as to which descaling products will be best suited for the job. Ensure that you follow these instructions so that you do not compromise the functioning of the machine in any way.