Do you want your Breville espresso machine to last as long as possible? Do you want it to produce delicious coffee throughout its lifetime? Of course, you do! The best way to guarantee both of those outcomes is to keep your coffee maker clean.
The descaling process removes limescale from the plumbing and boilers of your Breville machine. It’s much easier to perform than you might guess. In fact, it’s very likely your Breville will do all the work for you. In this guide, you’ll learn how to descale Breville espresso machine.
What You Need
- White vinegar, commercial descaling agent, or citric acid
- Empty 68-ounce container that fits under the group head
At a Glance
One scale-free machine
How to Descale a Breville Espresso Machine
The buildup of mineral deposits, also known as scale, in the plumbing and boiler of your Breville coffee maker impacts its performance and longevity. It’s not dangerous for your health, but it can negatively affect the taste of your coffee (1). Fortunately, removing the scale is foolproof. Most Breville machines are equipped with automatic scale sensors that will alert you when it’s time to descale, and you can then activate automated descaling cycles to do all the work on your behalf.
When it comes to your espresso machine, the best medicine is always prevention. If your Breville coffee machine can be equipped with a water filter, be sure to do so. Otherwise, use filtered water for brewing coffee whenever possible. This is especially important if you live in a region with hard water.
Scale buildup is inevitable, no matter how well you manage your water. When it comes time to descale, follow this simple guide – and consult the user manual for your specific machine – and you’ll have a squeaky-clean espresso maker in no time!
Step 1: Does your espresso machine need descaling?
A nice feature of Breville espresso machines is that most of them will let you know when a descale is required.
The method of the alert varies depending on the model you own. The higher-end machines, like the Breville Barista Touch, will flash a message on the screen. The mid-level models, like the Breville Barista Express and Breville Barista Pro, have a light that comes on when cleaning is required. More basic models, like the Breville Bambino, use flashing buttons.
The cheapest models, such as the Cafe Roma, offer no descale warning. In this case, pay close attention to changes in the flavor of your coffee, water flow, and overall performance of your machine.
Consult your user manual to see whether your coffee maker has a descale alert and how it shows up.
Pro tip: If your Breville coffee maker doesn’t have a descale indicator, a good rule of thumb is to descale once every 3 to 6 months. It may need to be more frequent if you have very hard water or use your machine more than average.
Step 2: Prepare the descaling solution
The easiest and most affordable descaling solution is a 1:1 mixture of white vinegar and water. You can also buy a commercial descaling solution and dilute it with water as per the manufacturer’s recommendation. Or you can use powdered citric acid mixed with water. But we like to use vinegar for the descaling process as it is equally effective and much less expensive.
If your Breville machine has a descale line marked on the reservoir, fill it to this point with the descaling solution. If there is no line, fill the reservoir to the max line.
Place an empty 68-ounce container under the group and steam wand to catch waste water. Ensure the drip tray is empty, and keep an absorbent towel nearby to catch any descale solution overflow.
Pro tip: Some sources online suggest that vinegar will damage the inside of your coffee maker. In our experience, these are generally sites trying to sell descaling solutions, and we’ve encountered no problems using half vinegar and half water.
Step 3: Run the descale cycle
Remove the portafilter. Turn the machine off and allow it to cool completely before starting the descaling process.
Most Breville machines are equipped with an automatic descale cycle. Entering the descaling mode varies with every model. In machines with touchscreens, you’ll navigate to the cleaning menu. In more basic models, it is a series of coordinated button presses. Consult your user manual for the precise method.
If your model doesn’t have an automatic descaling cycle, start the extraction as though you are pulling a shot. Continue until the water tank is empty.
When the cycle is complete, remove and empty the waste water container and the drip tray.
Pro tip: If your water is exceptionally hard or you haven’t descaled your machine in a long time, you may need to run the descale cycle twice.
Step 4: Rinse with fresh water
Once the water reservoir is empty of the descaling solution, the automatic cycle will pause. Alternatively, if you’re descaling manually, simply stop the shot when the tank is empty.
Refill the water tank, replace the empty waste container, and resume the descaling cycle. It will flush the fresh water through the system and rinse the vinegar solution inside the machine.
Empty the waste container when the rinse is complete. Your coffee machine is ready to resume pulling delicious shots of espresso!
Pro tip: After the rinse cycle completes, use your nose. If you can still smell vinegar, rinse more water through the machine until there is no odor. There are few things worse than vinegar-flavored espresso.
Descaling a Breville espresso machine is very straightforward. Keeping with the brand’s reputation for easy-to-use products, most Breville models are equipped with descaling and cleaning alerts and automatic cycles that do all the work for you. If you can mix water and vinegar, you can keep your Breville running smoothly.
Can you descale an espresso maker with lemon juice?
Yes, you can descale an espresso maker with lemon juice, a natural citric acid source (2). Both fresh and concentrated bottled lemon juice will work. Just prepare a solution of 1:1 lemon juice and water. The only downside is that lemon juice is usually more expensive than using vinegar or citric acid.
What is backflushing an espresso maker?
Backflushing an espresso maker is another cleaning cycle separate from descaling, which you should perform more frequently. The backflushing cleaning process forces hot water back through the brew head and brews circuit, sometimes mixed with a cleaning solution. It is another vital part of keeping your Breville machine clean.
What is limescale?
Limescale, also known as scale, is a hard, chalky substance often found inside pipes, coffee makers, and kettles (3). Water contains dissolved ions like calcium, magnesium, and carbonate that deposit as limescale when the water evaporates. Harder tap water contains more ions, so mineral buildup is a bigger problem in regions with hard water. A water filter can help considerably avoid scale formation in coffee machines.
- AquaTell. (2020, July 31). Is Limescale Bad to Drink? Retrieved from https://www.aquatell.ca/blogs/aquatell/is-limescale-bad-to-drink
- Van de Walle, G. (2021, September 30). What is Citric Acid, and Is It Bad for You? Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/citric-acid
- Goodway. (2022, June 30). What is limescale and how to remove and prevent it. Retrieved from https://www.goodway.com/hvac-blog/2022/06/what-is-limescale-and-how-to-remove-and-prevent-it/