Brewing espresso at home with my Breville espresso machine has a ton of perks, like cheaper coffee whenever a craving hits!
However, I need to maintain my espresso machine to keep it running smoothly. That means regular cleanings. And, at some point, I also need to give it a descaling.
If you’re wondering how to descale your Breville espresso machine, read on. I’ll explain what descaling is, what you should (and shouldn’t) use to accomplish it, and how to go about it.
What Is Descaling?
Descaling is a cleaning process that removes limescale from water-containing appliances and pipes. Limescale, or simply “scale,” is a chalky, white deposit that comes from bicarbonates.
Bicarbonates naturally occur in freshwater sources. They aren’t harmful to your health, but they can be a menace to your Breville espresso machine.
If your water comes from a well or you live in an area with lots of calcium and magnesium deposits, you probably have “hard water,” which produces lots of bicarbonates. That means you’ll have a lot of limescale.
You can find out if you have hard water by referring to a hard water map or using a water testing kit. Typically though, a map or kit isn’t necessary. Most people know they have hard water by looking at their drains. If you see white buildup, you probably have hard water, and descaling your espresso machine needs to be a regular task.
Even if you don’t have hard water, limescale can build up over time. So, everyone will have to descale their espresso machine at some point. Otherwise, limescale buildup can damage your espresso maker’s inner parts. It can also cause off-flavors in your coffee.
Luckily, descaling is fairly easy to do. With the right descaling solution, you can ensure your machine stays in top shape and keep your coffee tasting great.
How To Tell if Your Machine Needs Descaling
Fortunately, Breville espresso machines have a cleaning indicator light that will turn on when limescale builds up.
In most Breville models, a solid indicator light means it’s time to descale. A flashing indicator light means you should give the machine a regular cleaning, but full descaling isn’t necessary. However, you should always refer to your machine’s user manual to be sure.
Light isn’t the only way to tell if your machine needs descaling, though. If you see any of these limescale symptoms, you should descale your machine, regardless of the indicator light:
- If there’s physical buildup, meaning you see powdery white scaling on the tank or any of the machine’s tubing, you should descale the machine.
- If you notice the machine taking longer to heat water or your coffee comes out cooler than usual, you should try descaling. Limescale can form a layer between the water and the heating element in your machine. That can lead to either cooler coffee or a delay in heating.
- If you notice off-flavors in your coffee, descaling is a good idea. Limescale bits can add salty or bitter flavors to your espresso.
- If your machine isn’t filling your coffee cup the way it used to, you should try descaling. Limescale buildup could block water output, and what used to be a 6 oz cup could suddenly be a lot less.
Ideally, you’ll descale your machine every three months even if none of these signs are present. That’s usually about when the “clean” indicator light will turn on. However, in areas with extra hard water, you may need to descale more often, like every two months or even every six weeks.
Choosing the Right Cleaning Solution
When it’s time to descale your espresso machine, you’ll notice there are a number of descaling solutions available.
There’s no need to match the brand of your descaling solution to your espresso machine’s brand. Descaling solutions are almost always universal, and what works in a DeLonghi espresso machine will also work in a Breville.
Below are a few of our favorite descaling solutions.
#1 Cleaning Tablets BEC250
Breville makes cleaning tablets that you can use in any of their espresso machines. The tablets work with the normal cleaning cycle on Breville machines and are very easy to use. They’ll help the cleaning cycle remove oils and residue leftover from regular brewing.
Tablets have the advantage of being very economical since you aren’t paying to ship water weight. And using them will likely extend the life of your machine.
However, cleaning tablets won’t get rid of limescale buildup. So while using them for regular cleaning is a good idea, you’ll probably need something stronger for descaling your machine.
#2 Impresa Coffee Machine Descaler
Impresa’s coffee machine descaler is a great option for removing limescale buildup and mineral deposits. Its highly effective mix of citric and sulfamic acid will quickly remove deposits left from hard water.
Impresa sells their descaler as a single bottle or as a two-pack, and you’ll likely need half a bottle for each descaling.
Some users take issue with the sulfamic acid in this descaler. Sulfamic acid is a synthetic chemical and a hazardous substance. However, the Impresa descaler contains a minimal amount. As long as you follow the product directions, it shouldn’t cause any health issues.
#3 Delonghi Eco Decalk
If the small amount of sulfamic acid in Impresa’s coffee machine descaler worries you, De’Longhi’s Eco Decalk might be a better choice. Eco Decalk relies on organically sourced lactic acid rather than sulfamic acid to break down limescale.
This solution is also more concentrated than the Impresa descaler, with up to five uses per bottle. However, the product is from Italy and is slightly more expensive than other descaling solutions.
#4 Essential Values Coffee Machine Descaler
Maybe De’Longhi’s Eco Decalk is out of your price range. If you want something inexpensive that still avoids any sulfamic acid, the Essential Values descaler solution is a great choice.
This solution relies on citric acid to remove hard water deposits.
Citric acid is a powerful scale remover, but it’s not as potent as sulfamic acid. So, some users find this descaler isn’t effective enough for them. However, if you’re descaling your machine regularly, it should work well.
Why Should You Never Use Vinegar?
When you look for a descaling solution, chances are you’ll run into a helpful online “expert” who says you can save money by using plain white vinegar to descale your espresso machine. However, there are a few good reasons to avoid using vinegar:
- Vinegar contains a large amount of acetic acid. In large quantities, acetic acid can degrade your machine’s parts, causing more harm than good.
- Vinegar isn’t that effective at removing limescale, and you’ll often find some buildup left behind even after a thorough vinegar flush.
- Vinegar leaves a distinct odor and flavor that’s hard to flush out. It can result in vinegar-flavored coffee, which nobody wants!
How To Descale Your Breville Espresso Machine: Step-by-Step
Descaling your Breville Espresso Machine is simple, but to ensure the best results, there are a few things you should do before you start:
- Run a cleaning cycle with cleaning tablets to remove coffee oils or residue. This will make the descaling process more effective.
- Empty the drip pan.
- Turn the machine off and let it cool down completely before you begin descaling.
Step 1: Add Descaling Solution
Empty the water reservoir on your espresso machine, then add the appropriate amount of the descaling solution. Depending on the descaling solution you choose, this may be half a bottle or a few tablespoons. Then, fill the rest of the tank with water.
Step 2: Enter Descale Mode
Each Breville machine works a little differently, so you’ll need to refer to your instruction manual for this part. Below, we give instructions for the most popular Breville Espresso Machine model, the Breville Barista Express.
Press the 2-CUP button and the power button simultaneously to enter descale mode. If the power button starts flashing, you’ll know you’ve done it right. That means the machine is heating in preparation to descale.
Once the POWER, 1-CUP, CLEAN/DESCALE, and HOT WATER/STEAM buttons all illuminate, you’ll know the machine is done heating. Then, you can start the descaling process.
Step 3: Descaling
Once the machine is ready, place an empty collection container under the portafilter. Then, press the 1-CUP button. This will descale the coffee component.
Next, turn the steam dial to descale the steam wand. Then, turn the steam dial again to descale the hot water components.
Each descaling will take no more than thirty seconds. Repeat the descaling process, moving from portafilter to steam wand to water components until you’ve used all of the liquid in the machine’s reservoir. Usually, that means repeating the process 3-4 times.
Step 4: Rinse and Run
When the water reservoir is empty, remove it and rinse it thoroughly with cool tap water. You’ll also want to dump out the collection container.
Replace the reservoir and container, then run three to four water-only cycles on the machine. This will get rid of any leftover descaling solution.
Next, turn the machine off. That will exit the descaling mode, so when you turn it back on, you’ll be ready to brew an espresso!
Tips To Remember
While descaling your Breville Espresso Machine isn’t difficult, it can be a bit of a chore. Here are a few things you can do to keep descaling to a minimum and ensure it works.
Run Several Water-Only Cycles
If you find that your coffee still tastes off after descaling, run more water-only cycles. The off-flavors are probably due to excess descaling solution.
Try Filtered Water
If you find you have to descale your machine a lot, as in more frequently than every three months, you probably have very hard water. Using filtered or bottled water to make your espresso may help limit the limescale buildup. That way, you won’t have to descale the machine as often.
However, you should never use distilled or reverse osmosis water. Distilled water and reverse osmosis water have no minerals. The lack of minerals will negatively affect the flavor of your espresso.
Breville also makes water filters for their machines. Installing one may help lower limescale buildup.
Keep Your Machine Clean
Keeping your machine clean will keep descaling needs to a minimum. Breville gives recommendations on which parts need cleaning daily, weekly, and monthly.
Learning how to descale your Breville espresso machine is crucial. Routine descaling will keep your machine running smoothly. But, perhaps, more importantly, it helps ensure a perfect cup of coffee.
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