Descaling Advice

Equipment doesn't work? Troubleshooting? If you're handy, members can help.

#1: Post by afaruler159 »

Hi home barista experts!

I have been a long-time lurker, now turning to be a poster because I need your help!

I have had my ECM Synchronika dual boiler machine for 2.5 years now, and have just learned that I should have been descaling the machine every 3-4 months. I have not yet descaled the machine, as I have followed the maintenance schedule plotted out in the manual (which did not provide information for descaling). newbie mistake I am realizing.

The place I bought the machine from is recommending that I do not descale the machine at home with standard washout techniques due to risk that a large chunk of scale could break off from a boiler and clog a line. The machine currently operates well and pulls shots just fine. They said I should just wait until a flow issue eventually arises (who knows how many months or years down the road) and then send it into them for full professional descaling. This plan makes me nervous because I don't like the idea of letting scale just build indefinitely until it is severe. What should I do to get back on top of descaling this machine? Should I take a chance and try and descale now? Or should I wait? I don't want to send it in unless I have to because of associated cost.

I pull on average 2-3 shots per day using high-quality beans. I bought a water hardness meter and have been using water that is the appropriate hardness per SCA guidelines since I purchased the machine.

Appreciate any help you have to offer!


#2: Post by CoffeeMark15 »

First of all, you're doing the best thing you can already, being proactive by using appropriate water. This not only improves flavor, but it helps minimize minerals that cause scale build up. If you've been using SCA level water, you should be okay. Unless you have especially hard water, you would not need to descale every 3-4 months. My opinion is that since you've used appropriate water since you've owned the machine, you are safe to descale with descaling powder or a mild citric acid solution (my preference). Some use vinegar, but I can't stand the smell, and it takes a lot of rinsing to get rid of it.

I agree that waiting for it to malfunction due to scale is poor practice. And sending it in is expensive, especially if it involves shipping.

If you're worried, a good check for scale build up is to remove the mushroom (top part) of the e61 grouphead. There are some good youtube tutorials for how to do this, and lots on here if you prefer written. Based on that, decide if you want to descale the machine.

Finally, FWIW, the beans used have no impact on scale build up. It's a chemical reaction related to minerals in the water. It happens before contact with the coffee. Hope that helps!
- Mark


#3: Post by afaruler159 »

Mark, thanks for the great advice! I think I will go ahead and descale then. I had opened up the mushroom last week and saw some very mild scale build up on the components and within the piping, but nothing more than a surface discoloration. There wasn't a layer that was visibly off the surface of the piping.

Regarding products for descaling, I have the Urnex Dezcal. Would this be sufficient?

Thanks again!


#4: Post by Jeff »

It looks like "Dezcal" depends on where you buy it, and which formulation.

Dezcal is basically citric acid and a tiny bit of a couple other things. ... GB__v5.pdf

Liquid Dezcal is apparently a different formulation, using sulphamidic acid. ... -u0818.pdf

Dezcal Pro is sulphamidic, citric, and sulphuric acids ... -u0119.pdf

I personally use food-grade citric acid which I can buy at local ethnic markets, or wine-making supply stores, among other places.