Many coffee machines get used daily, like the household kettle. We all know that over time kettles fur-up with limescale, so do coffee machines except we don't see it because it's inside. It is very important to clean or descale the coffee machine regularly.
The coffee machine takes too long to filter, or water doesn't flow at all
If you've never thought of descaling your coffee machine and it's pretty old you're probably finding that it takes a long time to filter through and this will be down to a build up of limescale. The other day mine was taking about 20 minutes and I was losing about a cup of water through evaporation. This provoked me to descale the machine through again and also prompted me to write up this tip for cleaning it.
Do I need specialist coffee machine descaling tablets?
You can of course buy coffee machine descaling tablets for use at home. These can sometimes work out to be quite expensive. Personally I use white vinegar or 'distilled' vinegar as it now seems to be called. You'll find it alongside the other vinegars in the condiments aisle in you local supermarket, it's normally pretty cheap.
How often should I be descaling my coffee machine?
The instruction manual for my coffee machine, a Russell Hobbs, recommends it should be descaled once per month to keep the machine working at its best.
How to descale a coffee machine without specialist descaling tablets
If, like myself, it's been a while since the coffee machine descaled you'll need a higher concentration of vinegar to water because there'll be quite a lot of scale to breakdown. 50%-50% (1 part to 1) is the mix I use for a deep clean. If I remember to clean it through more regularly I use a mix of 25% vinegar to 75% water (1 part to 3). Measure out your home-made descaler using the coffee carafe for the machine, it doesn't need to be very exact. Then set the machine running, without coffee obviously.
Once it has finished the filter cycle empty out the dirty water and flush through twice more with a full carafes of clean water. This should get rid of the vinegar smell and taste from the machine. It will make your kitchen smell very vinegary when you do the first cycle.
Remember to clean out the coffee filter afterwards, the bit where you put the ground coffee. There may be some deposits from the machine in there. You don't want this in your next cup of coffee!
This cleaning process works on a bog-standard filter coffee machine. Try it at your own risk, however it has worked perfectly for me for a number of years. Consult your user manual if you're unsure or your machine is a bit 'special', i.e. expensive.
A completely blocked coffee machine
I've recently had an episode where my machine was completely blocked so no water was passing through. Even the 50%-50% vinegar/water solution wouldn't make it's way through. What I did in the end was to let the machine huff and puff for about 30 mins to get hot and produce some steam then switch it off and I left it overnight. I was hoping the steam would soften the deposits inside the machine. Sure enough, next morning when I tried the cleaning process again the blockage cleared.
- Written by Stuart Edge
- Category: Techniques and Tips
- Published: 03 July 2012