I have a capsule espresso machine. The company sells a special decalcification kit. However, I think that it only contains a citric acid and nothing more, yet it is quite expensive.

The question is whether I can safely and efficiently use just a citric acid I buy in any shop for decalcification? Or is there something else readily available I could use?

  • 1
    Most coffee machine decalcification can be done with vinegar--acetic acid. This question is better addressed to your manufacture's customer service support line.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Apr 11, 2013 at 15:07
  • @SAJ14SAJ The support line will of course tell me to buy they expensive kit.
    – yo'
    Apr 11, 2013 at 15:08
  • And maybe if he doesn't, he will void his warranty.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Apr 11, 2013 at 15:09
  • I've made your question a bit less specific - I'm sure you'd be just as happy with things that aren't citric acid. Feel free to roll back if I'm mistaken!
    – Cascabel
    Apr 11, 2013 at 16:32
  • 1
    I checked the site, 5 GBP (about $8) for two packets, a year's worth... this doesn't seem like a lot of investment compared to say, feeding the machine coffee pods.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Apr 11, 2013 at 19:28

3 Answers 3


The manufacturers will tell you:

During decalcification with decalcifiers on citric acid basis, residue can form and clog the fine lines and valves of your espresso machine. Lime deposits can become sealed under an unremovable layer of residue formed by the citric acid.

A similar reason goes for vinegar. And Citric acid (from what I'm told) is less problematic than vinegar.

The real expensive stuff like Durgol isn't actually citric acid and some other formula (unlike citric acid it tastes awful).

Here is their description (pdf)

While your machine's specific kit might be dosed for perfection, you're likely ok with any descaler for the size of the machine. A competition grade professional machine on the other hand, I'd recommend vicious service. If you only see what's under the shower screen of some of the machines out there in the wild.

A key point is that they claim their product is faster. So if you have time, and are willing to rinse a quite a few more times, I wouldn't worry too much about it.

The Cafiza powder from Urnex is really good at cleaning coffee grime, but does not de-scale/de-calcify. I would recommend it for cleaning coffee urns and the coffee stained parts of your machine.

Finally, you might wish to use softened water. It'll make the coffee taste better and reduce the build up.

  • We have a rather good water here. Still, one day you have to de-calcify the machine, and it's nice to see the background of it, thanks!
    – yo'
    May 15, 2013 at 12:51
  • Apparently Durgol is Sulfamic acid: ask.metafilter.com/121942/Bad-coffee-brew Its calcium salts are somewhat more soluble than calcium citrate. I've used coop-bought citric acid for years without problems. Citric acid is a natural product of glucose metabolism. Sulfamic acid is not involved in normal metabolisim and belongs in toilet bowl cleaners, where it does an excellent job:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulfamic_acid#Cleaning_agent Feb 6, 2015 at 23:27
  • I have asked about this "citric acid seals limescale" claim on chemistry SE. It appears to be more of an advertisement technique than an actual warning based on science. Nov 26, 2021 at 13:46

Descaler products for coffee machines contain sulfamic acid which is stronger than citric or acetic acid, plus corrosion inhibitors which prevent it from attacking metals. You don't have to buy a descaler from a coffee machine brand (which will indeed be more expensive), but there are generic products with sulfamic acid out there. One important point - sulfamic acid slowly hydrolyzes in water, so liquid products have limited shelf life. Prefer tabs if you want to buy in bulk.

You can use vinegar or citric acid if you don't mind a less effective product. Here, the number 1 mistake people make is not waiting long enough. You need to wait roughly 5 times longer with vinegar, compared to a descaler solution. If your coffee machine need to be descaled for 10 minutes, you'll need almost an hour with vinegar. This may be difficult to achieve if your coffee machine has an actual descaling program, you'd better buy a suitable descaler in this case.


I did with citric based solution and it worked for while but then the machine started leaking water from inside. It works but it can degrade the hoses and valves inside the machine. It is not worth the potential damage to a $750 and up machine. Just spend the money to buy the right product for descaling. Your machine will last longer. I learned the hard way.

  • If you're spending that much on a machine, you'd do well to consider reverse osmosis or distilled water. No dissolved calcium ions->no lime buildup. Feb 7, 2015 at 0:15
  • This is a single event, not even a correlation, and even less of a proof of causation. Nov 23, 2021 at 21:44

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