Descaling Rancilio Silvia - when and how

Need help with equipment usage or want to share your latest discovery?

#1: Post by gabriel »

How often do you need to descale an espresso machine ?
The machine is on about 2 hours in the mornings, making 2-3 espressos a day with no steaming
Using only mineral water

Also how should I do this - I got few packs of cleancaf with the machine which say I need to add warm water mix and pass it once.
Is it that simple ?
Does the machine needs to warm or cold when doing this (i.e. do I need to wait for the boiler to get to boiling temp or can I use room temp. water ?)


User avatar

#2: Post by HB »

This video shows how and Descaling dedicated brew boiler espresso machines elaborates on the steps and frequency. The boiler needs to be hot for the descaler to work well. Remember not to run the pump continuously for more than 1 minute; most vibe pumps need 1 minute rest for every 1 minute of operation to avoid overheating.
Dan Kehn

gabriel (original poster)

#3: Post by gabriel (original poster) »

Thanks Dan, looks easy

Any idea of how often should I be running this routine ?
I have seen people saying to do this once a month while others say once every 6-12 month
I guess that depends on the usage profile, but are there any rules of thumb ?


User avatar

#4: Post by HB »

gabriel wrote:Any idea of how often should I be running this routine ?
The frequency depends on your water hardness and usage. Jim's FAQ covers how to calculate it; I've excerpted my summary post from the other thread for your reference. If you don't know the water hardness or don't want to think about it, descaling every month or two can't hurt. The cost of a lifetime supply of citric acid (descaler) is less than a pound of coffee.

While we're on the topic of cleanliness, don't forget to backflush Silvia too. The CleanCaf has a mild detergent that does some of the work, but backflushing is much more effective and less expensive over the long haul.
HB wrote:There's also Section 4, Water Treatment and Preventive Descaling for Espresso Machines in Jim's Insanely Long Water FAQ. Below is the relevant excerpt:

Or if you prefer, my own...

Descaling espresso machines in a nutshell:

Preventative descaling of a single boiler (Rancilio Silvia et al) is trivial - fill the boiler with descaler (or CleanCaf), let it sit a spell, flush the boiler a few times with fresh water. Descaling an HX - not the steam boiler - is even easier. Fill the HX with descaler (citric acid), let it sit a spell, flush a few times with fresh water. Since the HX has less volume then the boiler, it fills and flushes in a jiffy.

Preventative descaling of the steam boiler is a pain because not all machines include a drain tap (e.g., like the Cimbali Junior), forcing you to use the water tap as the drain. The manufacturer does this to save costs. BTW, it's not absolutely necessary to force overfilling by disconnecting the auto-refill. You could also tilt the machine slightly and the autofill should kick in long enough to cover the scale line.

Choosing not to do preventative descaling is unwise. Ask any vendor what is the most common cause of espresso machine failure, commercial or otherwise - they'll all say "scale". If you want to keep your HX espresso machine running well and not spend a lot of time on maintenance, at least run descaler through the HX. It shouldn't take more than 5 minutes once a month.
Dan Kehn


#5: Post by boxofish »

i've got a bit of a newbie question i hope someone won't mind answering hopefully. as the proud owner of a r. silvia i would like to know if i can use citric acid to back flush as well descale my machine. or is there something else i should use to back flush?


User avatar

#6: Post by HB »

boxofish wrote:or is there something else i should use to back flush?
Cafiza, JoeGlo, and Puly Caff are a few formulations specifically for backflushing. Their job is to remove baked on oils; citric acid is not well suited for removing oils since it's not a detergent. See Backflushing Rancilio Silvia...please explain what it is for more details.
Dan Kehn


#7: Post by boxofish »

perfect, thanks for the reply...that makes good sense.


#8: Post by Endo »

HB wrote:The boiler needs to be hot for the descaler to work well.
Is this right? Descaling when it's hot? My Saeco liquid descaler says a max of 60C. Also, I've seen many sites that say to do it only cold (like this one for example): ... e-a-6.html

Hot or cold? Which is right?
"Disclaimer: All troll-like comments are my way of discussing"

User avatar
Team HB

#9: Post by cannonfodder »

I guess that would be dependent on your cleaner. If it states 60C then I would stick to that. Most descalers are little more than an acid solution. It is more aggressive when hot, so a cold boiler may need several days for the solution to work its magic where as a hot boiler may only take a couple of hours. I always run hot.
Dave Stephens