To descale or not to descale my espresso machine?

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SutterMill

#1: Post by SutterMill »

Hello everyone,

I'm hoping someone can help me understand the current line of thinking about prophylactic descaling. The vendor I bought my machine from has a web page dedicated to advising against descaling for fear of clogging up the flow restrictor or incorrectly mixing the descaling solution.

While I understand this from a customer service standpoint; I am curious if this is considered best practice for most users or should I add descaling to a monthly routine.

Thanks ahead for your input

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Jeff
Team HB

#2: Post by Jeff »

Personal opinion, based on personal experience.

Run decent water. Your coffee will taste better.

There is decent water that is "non-scaling", relatively inexpensive, and relatively easy to use.

Descaling is a messy business, can clog things, can remove protective oxide layers, can strip chrome plating, and can take a long time to get rid of off flavors.

For me, it is a lot easier to deal with water than routine or even occasional descaling.

Should you decide otherwise, "monthly" is likely far too often.

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slybarman

#3: Post by slybarman »

My municipal water is pretty soft, but I prophylactically descale every 12-18 months. Once your do it once or twice, it's not that big a deal and doesn't take that long. I've never had a negative experience that resulted from descaling - 11 or so years - two machines. Maybe id have a different experience if i lived somewhere where the water is much worse and scale is a lot heavier.

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Ypuh

#4: Post by Ypuh »

It really depends on the current state of your machine. I've read stories from people having loads of scale within 3 months of their new machine and people having no scale after 3 full years of use. There is no such thing as 'preventive scale removal'.

Something can be said for routinely removing scale built up, but then first you need to figure out your interval and likely if the interval is too short (e.g. every 6-12 months) you'd be better served with improving your water.

All-in-all it are good practices to let this do by a professional or figure out a way to check this yourself (some machines you can take a look into the boilers without having to open up everything). On an E61 machine checking the mushroom gives a good indication.
I don't want a Decent

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cafeIKE
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#5: Post by cafeIKE »

SutterMill wrote:I'm hoping someone can help me understand the current line of thinking about prophylactic descaling. The vendor I bought my machine from has a web page dedicated to advising against descaling for fear of clogging up the flow restrictor or incorrectly mixing the descaling solution.
It depends on the water. If you are using tap water, you may need to descale every six months based on Sacramento location. Monthly is way over kill. Get a TDS meter and see what your reading is. If it's awful, schlep bottled water or get a delivery or install a suitable filter.
Note to all: Not all of us are capable of schlepping 20 gallons of water a month.

The only reason you would clog a machine is if scale built up so much as to flake off in chunks, but if you get to that point, you're already in a world of hurt.

As far as chrome off the e61 mushroom, good riddance. It's likely going to corrode and flake off anyway, so the sooner it's gone the better.

You can buy a cheap endoscope, remove the vac break, siphon the boiler dry and take a gander inside. Refill to operating level through vac break. Ideally replace copper crush washer each time you R&R the vac break.

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BaristaBoy E61

#6: Post by BaristaBoy E61 »

In addition to using non-scaling water, I'd recommend preheating your cups before shots with hot water drawn from the hot water spigot on the steam boiler that draws the worst scaled water from the bottom of the steam boiler. Monitor the cups for particles at the bottom of the cups and also regularly check the top of the hot water strainer/aerator at the tip of the hot water wand for 'strained' content indicating boiler scale.
"You didn't buy an Espresso Machine - You bought a Chemistry Set!"

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cafeIKE
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#7: Post by cafeIKE »

In 15 years of heating the missus latte cup and drawing water for Americano, never seen anything in a cup, even on a machine that hadn't been descaled for 18 months. :oops: Water was plenty blue when I did get a round 2-it.

Seen scale build up on the water wand from drying, but a dunk in the descaler restores.

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slybarman

#8: Post by slybarman »

Only thing I will say about pre-heating cups with boiler water is think some people who do that may be the same people that complain about their machine's steaming power - because they caused the steam boiler to fill with cold water just before they steam their milk.

I pull water from my steam boiler at the end of the session.
★ Helpful

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cafeIKE
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#9: Post by cafeIKE »

We're only pulling an ounce or so to heat the cup for latte.
A properly designed machine can easily re-heat the steam boiler in the time it takes to prep the shot.

emradguy

#10: Post by emradguy »

If you're going to test your source water...which I highly recommend...you need to look at other things besides TDS, as it doesn't tell the whole story. You should also test general and carbonate hardness, and also consider testing pH and for presence of chloride. You can get very deep into testing science, but you can also buy cheap kits that give you a good estimate of your actual numbers. I know of at least one app, called LSI Calculator, that you can use to plug in your results to find out your scaling potential.