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Descaling a coffee machine (Nespresso etc)

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Descaling a coffee machine (Nespresso etc)

Postby JR8 » Fri, 06 Mar 2015 9:44 am

I was downtown this week, and one errand was to get some more capsules for our Nespresso coffee machine.

Another customer at the counter ordered some too, together with a 'Descaling kit'. The latter alone was IIRC $40!

Scale is not only a problem in appliances such as this, it also impacts anything that boils water, so, your kettle for one.

What I couldn't tell this guy (in front of the sales-girl) was that we just use white vinegar. I've had to do it a couple of times before here, and it works a treat.

In fact just last week or so the machine was dispensing slightly hesitating and smaller than usual shots. Since I last descaled it about 4 months ago I didn't automatically conclude that the problem had re-occurred. [Long story - re: some of the capsules not piercing quite fully, and me thinking an internal adjustment was required to the 'piercing piston-rod' => cue watching 101 Youtube videos re: the subject...]

Anyway, that was likely a distraction from the simple issue of scale, and as one of two vids/articles suggested that might be the problem, I resigned myself to descaling it again. It's easy to do, but if you don't believe that that's the remedy then it becomes something of a chore.

So I set about doing so. I was going to use white vinegar again and went to NTUC to get some. Then I noticed lower down the shelves 'Artificial vinegar' [enticing product name, NOT! lol] at a fraction of the cost. Well, it doesn't say what it's active ingredient is but it must be edible and acidic, so I concluded it might contain acetic acid, the same as vinegar. It cost about $1-1.20 for a 640ml bottle. This time I used about 1/3rd of a bottle, and ran it through the unit a few times, the last time leaving it for several hours to stew/brew in there. Finishing by going through the required flushing procedure as required.

End result, machine working 100% back as normal, and it cost me maybe 40c max.

So you can imagine, no more than 3-4 days later, standing next to this poor guy in the Nespresso 'boutique' and him paying $40 to achieve the same ... :-k #-o

Hence my writing this here, as a household-tip if you like. If you have a problem with scale in your appliances, then NTUC 'Artificial vinegar' might be all the remedy you need! :)
'Do it or do not do it: You will regret both' - Kierkegaard

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Re: Descaling a coffee machine (Nespresso etc)

Postby rajagainstthemachine » Fri, 06 Mar 2015 10:42 am

Nice tip! does that work on electric kettles too?
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Re: Descaling a coffee machine (Nespresso etc)

Postby the lynx » Fri, 06 Mar 2015 11:00 am

rajagainstthemachine wrote:Nice tip! does that work on electric kettles too?


Works on almost everything. I also use 50/50 vinegar and water to descale pots and pans (except cast iron ones) especially once you get those white spots from calcium or mineral buildup at the bottom.

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Re: Descaling a coffee machine (Nespresso etc)

Postby rajagainstthemachine » Fri, 06 Mar 2015 11:18 am

the lynx wrote:
rajagainstthemachine wrote:Nice tip! does that work on electric kettles too?


Works on almost everything. I also use 50/50 vinegar and water to descale pots and pans (except cast iron ones) especially once you get those white spots from calcium or mineral buildup at the bottom.


this Saturday I will be humming this : "this is the way we descale pots and pans, this is we descale pots and pans on a cold and frosty morning
scratch that last part ..on a hot and swamp bum morning.
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Re: Descaling a coffee machine (Nespresso etc)

Postby x9200 » Fri, 06 Mar 2015 12:14 pm

What is used in all these expensive factory made descallers is citric acid. It is a crystalline powder with no smell. I am not sure where this could be bought in Singapore but I would look in the baking sections of the popular supermaket chains and places like Watson and Guardian. It should not be expensive.

You can buy it also from
http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/catalog/pro ... &region=SG
(~S$96/1 kg)

but I am not sure if they will sell it to individuals.

Viniger is fine but has two disadvantages:
1) the smell
2) it vaporises in the process so it may condense with water on electronic/metal parts of the machine.

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Re: Descaling a coffee machine (Nespresso etc)

Postby nakatago » Fri, 06 Mar 2015 12:20 pm

x9200 wrote:What is used in all these expensive factory made descallers is citric acid. It is a crystalline powder with no smell. I am not sure where this could be bought in Singapore but I would look in the baking sections of the popular supermaket chains and places like Watson and Guardian. It should not be expensive.

You can buy it also from
http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/catalog/pro ... &region=SG
(~S$96/1 kg)

but I am not sure if they will sell it to individuals.

Viniger is fine but has two disadvantages:
1) the smell
2) it vaporises in the process so it may condense with water on electronic/metal parts of the machine.


Haven't checked their properties but do you reckon ascorbic acid (vs citric) has enough acidity to descale? Buy cheap vitamin c tablets and dissolve in water!

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Re: Descaling a coffee machine (Nespresso etc)

Postby the lynx » Fri, 06 Mar 2015 12:22 pm

x9200 wrote:What is used in all these expensive factory made descallers is citric acid. It is a crystalline powder with no smell. I am not sure where this could be bought in Singapore but I would look in the baking sections of the popular supermaket chains and places like Watson and Guardian. It should not be expensive.

You can buy it also from
http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/catalog/pro ... &region=SG
(~S$96/1 kg)

but I am not sure if they will sell it to individuals.

Viniger is fine but has two disadvantages:
1) the smell
2) it vaporises in the process so it may condense with water on electronic/metal parts of the machine.


That's why you use white vinegar or artificial vinegar - to minimise the odour part. But I have never tried artificial vinegar yet and I have not studied the pros and cons of using the even-cheaper vinegar.

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Re: Descaling a coffee machine (Nespresso etc)

Postby JR8 » Fri, 06 Mar 2015 12:23 pm

rajagainstthemachine wrote:Nice tip! does that work on electric kettles too?


It's my default for descaling kettles. Add vinegar, boil, leave as is to stand for a hour+. If you want stir with wooden spoon too, after that time. And if you feel it needed, reboil, and leave to stand again etc.

Couldn't be simpler or cheaper, and works a treat.

Clearly you have to fully rinse the thing afterwards. Better still, fill with water, boil, and discard + then one final sloosh-out.

Job done.
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Re: Descaling a coffee machine (Nespresso etc)

Postby x9200 » Fri, 06 Mar 2015 12:43 pm

the lynx wrote:
x9200 wrote:What is used in all these expensive factory made descallers is citric acid. It is a crystalline powder with no smell. I am not sure where this could be bought in Singapore but I would look in the baking sections of the popular supermaket chains and places like Watson and Guardian. It should not be expensive.

You can buy it also from
http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/catalog/pro ... &region=SG
(~S$96/1 kg)

but I am not sure if they will sell it to individuals.

Viniger is fine but has two disadvantages:
1) the smell
2) it vaporises in the process so it may condense with water on electronic/metal parts of the machine.


That's why you use white vinegar or artificial vinegar - to minimise the odour part. But I have never tried artificial vinegar yet and I have not studied the pros and cons of using the even-cheaper vinegar.


You primarily use the said vinegars as they contain relatively pure acetic acid while cheap, or flavored vinegars contain stuff that may just get deposited in your kettle or coffee machine more-less permanently. Pure acetic acid alone smells bad enough.

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Re: Descaling a coffee machine (Nespresso etc)

Postby x9200 » Fri, 06 Mar 2015 12:45 pm

nakatago wrote:Haven't checked their properties but do you reckon ascorbic acid (vs citric) has enough acidity to descale? Buy cheap vitamin c tablets and dissolve in water!

May not be that cheap.

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Re: Descaling a coffee machine (Nespresso etc)

Postby rajagainstthemachine » Fri, 06 Mar 2015 12:59 pm

x9200 wrote:What is used in all these expensive factory made descallers is citric acid. It is a crystalline powder with no smell. I am not sure where this could be bought in Singapore but I would look in the baking sections of the popular supermaket chains and places like Watson and Guardian. It should not be expensive.

You can buy it also from
http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/catalog/pro ... &region=SG
(~S$96/1 kg)

but I am not sure if they will sell it to individuals.

Viniger is fine but has two disadvantages:
1) the smell
2) it vaporises in the process so it may condense with water on electronic/metal parts of the machine.


I can't seem to find citric acid in many department stores. its a very common baking ingredient yet its somehow uncommon here.
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Re: Descaling a coffee machine (Nespresso etc)

Postby nakatago » Fri, 06 Mar 2015 1:04 pm

x9200 wrote:
the lynx wrote:
x9200 wrote:What is used in all these expensive factory made descallers is citric acid. It is a crystalline powder with no smell. I am not sure where this could be bought in Singapore but I would look in the baking sections of the popular supermaket chains and places like Watson and Guardian. It should not be expensive.

You can buy it also from
http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/catalog/pro ... &region=SG
(~S$96/1 kg)

but I am not sure if they will sell it to individuals.

Viniger is fine but has two disadvantages:
1) the smell
2) it vaporises in the process so it may condense with water on electronic/metal parts of the machine.


That's why you use white vinegar or artificial vinegar - to minimise the odour part. But I have never tried artificial vinegar yet and I have not studied the pros and cons of using the even-cheaper vinegar.


You primarily use the said vinegars as they contain relatively pure acetic acid while cheap, or flavored vinegars contain stuff that may just get deposited in your kettle or coffee machine more-less permanently. Pure acetic acid alone smells bad enough.



We're overthinking this.

Dilute the vinegar.
Descale appliance.
Rinse with water (or whatever procedure will pump water through the pipes).
It scales again.
Repeat.

If scaling happens that often, then maybe there's something wrong with the plumbing in the first place. I'd think also that the electronics would be sealed enough from the wet parts of the machine.

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Re: Descaling a coffee machine (Nespresso etc)

Postby sundaymorningstaple » Fri, 06 Mar 2015 1:07 pm

If scaling happens too often, get a water filtration/purification system in line before it reaches the unit.

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Re: Descaling a coffee machine (Nespresso etc)

Postby x9200 » Fri, 06 Mar 2015 1:20 pm

^1, yep, filters, but it should not happen too often in Singapore unless one uses industrial water.
Nak: electronic parts are often sealed but I don't think they made it to be protected from acids so it may simply accelerate some undesirable processes but the risk is probably very low indeed.

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Re: Descaling a coffee machine (Nespresso etc)

Postby nakatago » Fri, 06 Mar 2015 1:29 pm

x9200 wrote:Nak: electronic parts are often sealed but I don't think they made it to be protected from acids .


I don't think vinegar vapors should go through whatever's sealing the electronics. Moreover, water vapor from rinsing should also dilute any lingering vinegar vapors as well.


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