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Decalcify for Better Brews

Posted By: Aabree Coffee
Posted At: Nov 28, 2011 at 10:51 AM
Related Categories: Cleaning and Maintenance

Calcium, good for bones…bad for espresso machines. Over time, calcium and mineral deposits can take its toll on your beloved espresso machine, clogging up water lines and valves, even corrupting the integrity of the boiler—lowering capacity and, yes, even jeopardizing your warranty!

Not decalcifying or descaling, as it is some times called, would be like running your car on old, grimy oil. Believe me, neither is a good idea. And, if you value your taste buds, failing to decalcify is akin to playing Russian roulette with your java. Excessive build up can have a negative impact on the taste of your coffee, as well as your ability to froth milk.

Besides, dirty machines are just gross! Have you seen those commercials for Drano? Those “before” drains…yeah, imagine drinking coffee made from that!

Now that I’ve got your attention, or scarred you for life, whichever, let’s go over some decalcifying basics.

Cleaning? Descaling
Washing your car isn’t the same as getting an engine flush. Cleaning your machine has little to do with descaling.

Cleaning an espresso machine usually involves removing coffee oils and old grounds from the unit. Decalcifying refers to removing minerals from the boiler, interconnected tubing, and other internal components. To keep your machine running in tip-top shape, we recommend descaling every three months.

How to Decalcify According to Different Types of Espresso Machines
Before we get started, it is important to note these descaling processes only apply to super and semi automatic home machines. Most commercial units, with exchangers, operate a little differently. So, if you’re a home user, read on!

Super Automatic Machines
Even though all super automatic espresso machines should be decalcified, actual descaling methods may differ from machine to machine.

You’re in luck if your super automatic has an automated descaling cycle! These units are a breeze to decalcify; the machine will walk you through the process step-by-step. If this is your first time descaling you machine, check out the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.

Don’t sweat it if your super auto requires manual descaling! It’s a pretty straightforward process. First, take a look at your user’s manual, it should tell you which decalcifying cleaner is recommended for your machine. Once you’ve located the correct cleaner, the actual descaling process should take no more than 20 minutes.

Tools Required:
· Decalcifying cleaner
· A container capable of holding the same amount of liquid as your water reservoir

1) Remove the water reservoir and empty all the liquid
2) Fill the reservoir with warm water and add one packet of the recommended cleaner.
3) Stir the mixture until the cleaner is completely dissolved.
4) Place the water reservoir back into the machine
5) Turn the machine on and set your container below the steam wand.
6) Adjust your machine so that hot water, not steam, is emitted from the steam wand
7) Open the steam valve
8) Discard the container once all of the decalcifying solution has been drained from your machine
9) Rinse the water reservoir thoroughly, fill it with water, and put it back into place
10) Using only water repeat steps 4 through 8 until the water reservoir is, once again,  empty.

Voila! You’re done! Your machine is ready to brew. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

Semi-automatic Machines

You must descale manually for all semi-automatic machines. Once again, read your user’s manual to find the recommended cleaner for your machine. Then, it’s just a matter of following the instructions listed below:

Tools Required:
· Decalcifying cleaner
· A container capable of holding the same amount of liquid as your water reservoir
· A second, smaller container

1) Remove the machine’s water reservoir and empty all the liquid
2) Fill the reservoir with warm water.
3) Add one packet of the recommended cleaner to the water reservoir
4) Place the water reservoir back into the machine
5) Turn the machine on and set the large container below the steam wand
6) Set the smaller container underneath the brew spout to collect any decalcifying solution that may come out of it
7) Adjust your machine so that hot water, not steam, is emitted from the steam wand and press the brew button to begin the process
8) Press the brew button and open the steam valve
9) Let approximately 8oz of water come out of the machine
10) Turn off the brew button and close the steam valve.
11) Let the machine sit for amount of time specified on the cleaner packaging.
12) Repeat steps 8 - 11 until all of the decalcifying solution has drained into the containers.
13) Remove both containers and discard the liquid that has been collected.
14) Rinse the water reservoir thoroughly and then fill it with water
15) Place the water reservoir back into the machine
16) Rinse out the decalcifying solution by repeating steps 5 through 8 until the water reservoir is empty again.

That’s it, you’re done!

Regardless of whether you have a super- or semi-automatic, don’t let calcium and mineral deposits take over your machine. Decalcify, all it takes is 20 minutes to keep your espresso machine brewing for years to come.

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