Espresso machines are known to create tasty coffee. They use immense pressure and heat to brew coffee. However, many homes rely on hard water.
Hard water contains calcium and several other minerals that build up within the small tubes of espresso machines. Descaling your espresso machine will ensure that it runs efficiently and produce the best brews.
Cleaning the inner workings of your espresso maker can eliminate mineral deposits from hard water and remnants from coffee grounds and coffee oils.
How Do Espresso Machines Work?
It’s important to understand how espresso makers work. That way, you’ll easily tell what could be wrong if it’s not functioning as expected. A typical espresso maker has four key areas including the pump, water source, steam wand (or group head), and the boiler.
Water enters the machine from a plumbed water source or a reservoir. Home machines often get their water from a reservoir. On the other hand, commercial machines get water from a plumbed water source as they need a lot of water supply.
Water reservoirs allow for the use of premium water like filtered or distilled water. However, if the machine gets water from a plumbed water source, it’ll be subjected to issues that result from hard water.
Espresso makers brew coffee by using pressurized water close to its boiling point. Its pump works hard to ensure that water is pressurized with enough force to pass through the packed ground coffee.
Next, the water goes through the heating element or boiler. Thereafter, the water goes to the steam wand and fills the awaiting coffee mug.
Cleaning the Espresso with Vinegar vs. Descaling Solution
If coffee isn’t flowing or water appears to be sputtering from your espresso machine, the problem is likely resulting from an obstruction.
There’re several small jets and pipes in the espresso that may get clogged due to buildup. Descaling it can assist in removing mineral deposits sitting in the small tubes and other components.
One of the most effective and safest ways of cleaning a commercial or home espresso machine is using vinegar. Vinegar removes natural dyes and oils that build up and stain the components of an espresso.
It’s very affordable and easy to descale an espresso with vinegar. Simply add a mixture of clean water and vinegar into the espresso in the ratio of 1:3 respectively.
Next, run the espresso to cleanse it. Remember to check the user manual of your espresso to make sure that a strong vinegar solution won’t hurt it.
If you have doubts about the amount of vinegar to use, mix water and vinegar in the ratio of 1:1 respectively.
Commercial descaling solutions work well for complex machines. They’re also suitable for descaling small home espresso machines.
However, it’s recommended to use commercial descaling solutions made of natural ingredients. Also, follow the recommendations of the manufacturer when using commercial descaling solutions.
Lemon Juice and Citric Acid
Citric acid is an effective descaling agent for espresso machines. Citric acid in a concentrated powder form works better than lemon juice.
Simply mix the powder with clean water and push it through your espresso machine. Initial cleaning requires mixing hot water (1 cup) and citric acid (1 teaspoon).
Flushing an Espresso Machine
Upon cleaning the espresso with vinegar, a commercial cleaning solution, or citric acid, it’s important to rinse the machine with clean water by flushing it. Flushing it will remove residues that may be left behind.
For instance, particles from a commercial cleaner powder or citric acid may lodge deep within the pipes or steam wand and alter the aroma and taste of coffee.