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Jan 16, 2007 06:26 PM

Descaling solution for espresso machines (and coffee makers)

I hadn't used my espresso machine in quite some time (DeLonghi EC-701) and I thought that before I make some espresso, I'd best give it a thorough cleaning and a descaling.

My question is about descaling solutions/liquids.

I don't wish to pay $14 a bottle for my next pre-bought solution.

I've also read about the problems with using vinegar in espresso machines.

Does anyone have any experience with a homemade citric acid solution? What was your "recipe"?



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  1. I have a Saeco machine and use a powder that Saeco sells, available from Saeco dealers (I purchased it at Nella on Queen East in Toronto) and online. They also have a liquid solution that costs a fortune for one use, but the powder comes in a box of three single-use packages that you just mix with water. I can't remember what I paid, but it was probably less than $14 for the 3-pack.

    Here's a link

    1. Citric acid is used in home canning, so any place that carries Ball jars and such should have it. I doubt you could make the solution too strong, as citric is a relatively weak acid. I found that nothing worked particularly well, which is one reason I switched to a stove-top espresso maker.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Zeldog

        Cant you get it in bulk from health food stores or vitamin magazines.

      2. I use white vinegar to clean my machine--don't know if it's the best but I read about this years ago-just be careful when the vinegar is hot not to burn yourself

        1 Reply
        1. re: marlie202

          A warning: Saeco's espresso machine instructions advise against the use of vinegar to clean their machines. I don't know whether this is just to get customers to buy their descaling products, or if vinegar will, in fact, damage the machine, but the wording in the booklet is such that the warranty may be voided if specific instructions are not followed.

          In the booklet that came with my Saeco Royal Coffee Bar:

          Page 100: "Never use vinegar!"
          Page 102: "Important: A periodic descaling ensures a correct machine functioning and avoids excessive repairs. The machine warranty does not cover damages occurring as a result of the non-observance of descaling procedures, improper use and non-observance of any other instruction contained herein..."

          Between you and me, I'd rather pay the few bucks every few months for the descaling powder than risk losing the warranty on the most expensive countertop appliance in my kitchen.

        2. I always use Vinegar and never had a problem.

          1 Reply
          1. re: billjriv

            I meant for a coffee maker I don't know about an Espresso machine.

          2. In Canada , we have a cleaning solution called CLR that many folks use to desclae coffee makers, kettles, etc. The directions are on the container.....don't know if it's avail in the US. Here's a link:


            11 Replies
            1. re: jcanncuk

              Boy, you cannuks are one tough bunch! We have that product here and I thought it was just good for cleaning toilets and showers.

              1. re: chipman

                and rust off my old skates ;-)

                I too saw the vinegar warning which is why I'm looking for a citric acid solution (if I can).

                1. re: chipman

                  Note that it's used 1:8 in the coffee maker - not full-strength :-)

                  1. re: jcanncuk

                    I use a weak CLR solution or white vinegar, but I have a drip coffee machine.

                  2. re: chipman

                    To be fair, the commercial for CLR (in the US) does show it descaling a glass coffee carafe.

                  3. re: jcanncuk

                    A word of caution about CLR! The directions say - don't use in a system that has a hot water reservoir (read. espresso maker). Of course I ignored it and am now on about 40 gallons of water trying to flush the foul crap out of my espresso machine! No end in site. Keep CLR for your BBQ and toilet bowl. You will never forget that disgusting taste once it goes near your mouth. Lattes may never be the same for me.

                    1. re: pbmoore

                      If you don't use a commercial cleaner descaler then use citric acid. It's what the descaler is in the commercial products. No foul odor or color and is food safe. You can cook with it and it's in many prepared foods and candies.

                      1. re: scubadoo97

                        Just talked to a CLR representative. After giving me a nastry swat on the head for ignoring the directions she said she didn't know if it could be cleaned out. # days of rinsing - even tried vinegar - it stinks but stopped the CLR smell for a while and no joy!
                        May try Citric Acid but can't think of a chemical logic for it. CLR is also an acid as is vinegar.

                        1. re: pbmoore

                          The citric acid is for future use. The CLR should have descaled it but just left a nasty smell taste, maybe from the surfactants and the types of acids used. . I'd suggest you continue rinsing and rinsing to purge out any residue of the CLR. The CLR is a pretty strong acid

                          1. re: pbmoore

                            I use CLR in my Kureg all the time, 2 tanks of water clears the smell and taste, maybe you had a really heavy build up

                            1. re: pbmoore

                              Since the CLR is an acid, maybe try something alkaline like baking soda dissolved in water?