How To Descale Your Espresso Machine

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Descaling your espresso machine on a regular basis is one of the most important things you can do to keep it brewing espresso that tastes great, and not to mention that descaling also will extend the life of your espresso machine substantially if you stay on top of it.

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Those are two great reasons to make sure the job gets done, at least 3 or 4 times a year.  Not knowing how to descale an espresso machine is no longer a viable excuse for you not to do it.  Why?  Because you’ve found your way here, and we’re about to tell you how to do it right now!  🙂

Begin by deciding what kind of descaling agent you wish to use.  Maybe you would prefer to go aux naturale and use vinegar, citric acid, or lemon juice. 

Using Citric Acid

descaling with citric acid

When it comes to using citric acid, as the video above shows, you’ll need one quart of water (or one liter if you’re from Canada), and then one or two tablespoons of citric acid to mix in.  If your water is harder naturally, you’ll want more citric acid  in your mixture (eg. two scoops).

Mix the water and the citric acid together well in some type of vessel.  We suggest using about room temperature water for this task, although you don’t need to get too hung up on the water temperature.  It can be slightly warm, or slightly cool.  Nothing too extreme though. 

Once you’ve mixed together your citric acid solution, feel free to have a taste – you will likely find it to be quite tangy!  Since its all natural, no harm will come to you, although it might not be your new favourite beverage.

cleaning espresso machine with citric acid

Now you just run the citric acid / water solution through your boiler and out through the group by filling up your water reservoir and running your espresso machine. 

Don’t forget to also run water through your steam wand.  You basically want to make sure the solution runs through all of the little pipes in your machine in order to descale everything.  Continue running the boiler until you run out of solution. 

If you’re descaling a machine like the Rancilio Silvia, you needn’t worry about the citric acid damaging your boiler, since it has a brass boiler in that case, but you’ll want to be aware of any espresso machine that has an aluminum boiler, as the citric acid can then get stuck in there if not rinsed thoroughly.

If You Have Hard Water…

If you come from a land where the water is harder, then the next step of this process will be a little different for you. 

After you’ve finished running the citric acid / water solution through your espresso machine, its time to add fresh water to your reservoir in order to clean it out. 

You can continue running fresh water through the machine until the water coming out the other end looks nice and clean, although at first you will notice some discolouration, due to the descaling. 

descaler for espresso machine

If your water is harder, that means more minerals to remove with more cloudy or off-coloured water. 

The water can also be discoloured from reacting to the type of metal the boiler is made from. 

No need to freak out about this part, since this discoloured water is all part of the cleaning process, and is the whole reason you’re probably doing this in the first place – to make sure the water going through your machine is clean and the espresso is tasting delicious, as it should.  

Using Vinegar

As you can see in the above video, using vinegar is very similar to using a citric acid solution.  Its a natural product, with the difference here being that you are using standard white vinegar directly, not a mixture or solution as with the citric acid. 

descaling espresso machine with vinegar

For the rest of the cleaning process, its essentially the same.  Once again, make sure not to neglect the steam wand and there will likely be build-up there as well. 

After you’ve run the vinegar through your machine, then its time again to give it a thorough cleaning with fresh water. 

Run water through the machine until you feel that the vinegar has been totally rinsed out. 

Again, you will probably encounter weird looking water.  Anything that needs can be washed separately probably should be, in order to give your espresso machine the best cleaning possible.

The Saeco Espresso Machine Maintenance Kit – A Quick Review

If these natural products are not your cup of tea – I mean coffee – then a commercial product like a “Saeco” powder might be the answer you are seeking. 

saeco maintenance kit review

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And so, in lieu of natural solutions, you can pick up a Saeco espresso machine maintenance kit like this one pictured here.

Most people have found this to be an excellent solution to descaling an espresso machine.  Now let’s find out how painless this is.

In a nutshell, here is how the Saeco CA6706/48 espresso machine maintenance kit works. 

First, dissolve the descaling agent into a full water reservoir.  Draw the solution into your boiler by running a cup of water out of your steam and/or hot water wand. 

Close the steam knob.  Turn off the machine and let sit for 20 minutes.  It’s kind of like descaling your tea kettle or your basic coffee machine.  A little vinegar runs through the systems and viola! – all the build-up vanishes!! 

Instruction, of course, are on the box so don’t hesitate to read over them a few times if you’re not sure.  Here is a video which takes you through the process as well.

An espresso machine is a bit more complicated than your average kettle or even a Keurig, mainly because it contains a whole lot more hardware and moving parts, but either the natural products or the Saeco kit really should do the trick. 

We suggest you descale your espresso machine every few months under normal usage, or more if you’re up to it. 

It depends on where you live and how much lime (mineral) is in your public water system.  Dispose of the descaling fluid wisely. 

Descaling a Single Boiler or Thermoblock Espresso Machine

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  1. Dissolve the descaling agent into a full water reservoir.
  2. Pull the solution into your boiler by running about a cup of water out of your steam and/or hot water wand. Close the steam knob.
  3. Turn off the machine and let sit for 20 minutes. This is important to allow the descaling solution to work.
  4. After 20 minutes, run about 1/4 of the reservoir out of the steam wand, 1/4 out of the brew head.
  5. Turn off the machine and allow to rest for another 20 minutes.
  6. Flush the remaining water out of the steam wand and brew head, and finish by running a reservoir (or two) of clean water through the machine.

Descaling A Super-Automatic Espresso Machine

If your machine has an automatic descaling cycle, refer to the owner’s manual for instructions. For machines without an automatic descaling cycle:

  1. Dissolve the descaling agent into a full reservoir.
  2. Pull the solution into your boiler by running about a cup of water out of your steam wand. Close the steam knob.
  3. Turn off the machine and let sit for 20 minutes. This is important to allow the descaling solution to work.
  4. After 20 minutes, run about 1/2 of the reservoir out of the steam wand.
  5. Turn off the machine and allow to rest for another 20 minutes.
  6. Flush the remaining water out of the steam wand and finish by running a reservoir of clean water through the machine.

Recommended Descaling Products

Dezcal – used for single boiler, heat exchange and double boiler espresso machines; also good for manual, semi-automatic or super automatic espresso machines.  Citric acid-based, natural descaler.

Durgol Swiss Espresso Special Decalcifier – a popular liquid descaler and that works with all types of home espresso machines.

Urnex Cleancaf – A blend of descaler and detergent; well suited for descaling a coffee maker and cleaning the brew basket, decanter; and a home espresso machine.

Jura Decal – a tablet form specifically for the Jura Impressa super automatic coffee centers;  you have to use this for your Jura otherwise no warranty.

Delonghi – A liquid descaler and another must for the DeLonghi machines.

Saeco – This is a liquid descaler which is formulated for use in Saeco espresso machines but could be used on other brands.

We sincerely hope this article helped get your espresso machine back to top form! Thanks for reading!


  1. dan

    I tried to descale my 20 year old Krups, but I didn’t read that an aluminium thermo-bloc can get clogged with the citric acid solution. I had low flow before and now there is no flow. I assume I will have to bring it to get it dismantled and serviced now?

    • Hey Dan, sorry for the late reply. What happened with your Krups? Since it is such an old machine, taking it in to be serviced might not be a bad idea. These procedures can be finicky depending on specific metals, and this article is meant to serve as a basic guide, offering general solutions. That said, we always want to hear about your coffee adventures, or mishaps, as it were.

  2. Genna

    I have always used straight white vinegar, yet I’ve been seeing that some say to mix the vinegar half and half with water. Any chance the straight vinegar is too strong or can damage the machine?

    • Jeanette Kierstead

      Hey Genna,

      I don’t believe the vinegar can damage the parts. Experts recommend using a mixture of half water because it’s easier to ensure that all the vinegar is then rinsed out of the machine after. When you don’t dilute the vinegar, you’re going to have more rinses in your future.

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