Descaling is when an acid is introduced in an espresso machine as a corrective action due to it becoming filled with lime scale mineral deposits. The deposits adhere to all interior surfaces especially the boiler walls and the copper piping. Most espresso machine repairs can be attributed to scale buildup. Often repairs are not actually performed and the clogged part is simply replaced but the scale is still all over the machine.

It is basically a ticking time bomb that may kill your machine.

Needing A Descaling

If you have hard water and the processing is ignored, you allow scale to infiltrate your espresso machine and eventually you will need a DESCALING.
Citric Acid is introduced through the machine with the water. Overfilled on purpose and sometimes even putting the machine upside down is needed to melt the calcium and minerals obstructing orifices and tubes and pin holes.

The machine is heated and cooled and pressure washed and vacuumed inside the boiler. The process takes 8-12 hours of sitting time in between each acid bath with a turn around time of about 30 minutes. Sometimes one bath is sufficient, sometimes up to 12. This is why it can take one to 2 weeks to perform the entire process. During the process, leaks arise as the clogged areas open up channels that had been created and sealed by the scale itself. Gaskets also need to get replaced throughout the process in a systematic fashion. It is common for elements to burn out within the next few months after descaling.

Cafes often have to get a rental espresso machine during the descaling time. Although removing all the scale and bringing the machine to a complete perfect functional state, it does create a certain amount of damage to the machine. It is not necessarily the best avenue to choose to simply descale systematically every few years. The copper loses its seal and becomes more gritty.

The scale will technically adhere easier to the gritty surfaces exponentially as we descale increasingly.
Ultimately, it is best to try to never introduce scaly water into the espresso machine, ever.

Water test strips are available to measure the hardness and the ph of water.

Water Processing

It is possible to process the water in order to remove the culprit minerals thus not allowing them to enter the espresso machine.
You can not just ‘filter’ it out.
Water processing can be done in a few different ways:

Water Softener

Sodium from salt transforms the Calcium Carbonate into Sodium Carbonate via an ionic exchange through the resin in the canister as the saline is flushed out during ‘regeneration’ once per month.
There are 2 options:

-Large units with brine tanks installed for the entire household or commercial establishment, installed and maintained by a plumber.
-Small units dedicated to the espresso machine, about the size of a large fire extinguisher are in the $300 price range. Salt (a few cups) is flushed through the unit once per month. More expensive small units that will self regenerate are available for over $1000.

Reverse Osmosis with Magnesium Added

REVERSE OSMOSIS ON IT’S OWN DOES NOT WORK AND WILL DAMAGE YOUR MACHINE unless you re-introduce up to 20% of the original water.
There is however a new system that is R.O. With MAGNESIUM ADDED in order to provide the water with non damaging minerals for the PH to not be a perfect 7.0 and to avoid ‘hungry water’ to eat it’s way through the boiler and the copper piping.
This system is over $3000.
It is mostly designed for espresso machines that are over $20 000.

Water Pump With Bottled Water

For this one needs to be careful.
Even 6.9 or 7.1 is questionable. Purchased water is sometimes R.O. and sometimes only filtered and UV treated.
An under counter FlowJet pump system is in the $450 range with the mini pressure reserve tank included. Although we know that R.O. water is not possible for espresso machines,
just like the R.O. with Magnesium Added system, this is possible to be done with bottled water that is R.O.. One just needs to pay attention. A TDS meter is required. Small packets of food grade magnesium is available for purchase and inserted in the water bottle.
One packet = 5 gallons, approximately, this is why the TDS meter is needed.
This is known as: ‘3rd Wave Water’.
This is the system that we use for the Canadian National Barista Championships

Contact Us

Whether you choose descaling, a water softener, a flowjet system or 3rd wave water.
We are here for you.
We distribute and install all the equipment needed and can help you with maintaining it.
Inquire with us at EspressoMedic.ca
We’ve got you covered!