Cleancaf or Dezcal?

Lime, calcium and other trace minerals exist in nearly every water supply, leaving behind white scaly deposits when the water has evaporated. Removing this scale on a regular basis is an essential component of any coffee maker or espresso machine maintenance regimen -- even if you have 'soft' water, there will be trace amounts left over time that can build-up and hinder your machine's performance.

Some folks suggest using filtered or distilled water from the get-go, so that you don't risk pitting your boiler through repetitive use of the acid required to remove scale. That's certainly one tack to take, but we've found that we prefer the taste of espresso made with water that has some mineral content to it. Because of that, we descale our machines about every three months to ensure that no deposits build up and ultimately burn out the boiler.

If you prefer minerals in your java as we do, there are a couple of products on the market that will help you keep your espresso machine or coffee maker in tip-top shape: Cleancaf or Dezcal. Which is better? Again, it depends on your preferences.

Billed as a cleaner and descaler, Cleancaf combines descaling acid with a detergent that will also break down the oils left behind by coffee beans. It also features a blue dye that helps with thorough rinsing.

Dezcal, on the other hand, is a straight-up descaler -- and an incredibly powerful one at that. While it doesn't have a detergent component, it's a much stronger product and removes more scale; also, it doesn't have a blue dye, which we think is a good thing.

Of the two, we recommend Dezcal over Cleancaf, but we carry both of them so you can determine which product is right for you.

8 thoughts on “Cleancaf or Dezcal?”

  • Trent

    following your advice, I have begun using Dezcal instead of cleancaf. My espresso, though, has started tasting very bitter, even though I backflush regularly. I notice that when I clean with Dezcal, the water that comes out of my machine is not as dirty as when I use Cleancaf. Is it possible that Dezcal does no do as good a job of breaking down the oils left by the coffee beans?

    • Kat

      Cleancaf has detergent in it, and it's not ideal to run that through your machine's waterworks -- it's better designed for coffee makers. Are you also removing the brew head and soaking/cleaning that? Backflushing -- while it does clean the brew head somewhat -- is really designed for cleaning the solenoid valve, and you should be taking apart the brew head / screen and regularly soaking that in detergent for best results.

      Dezcal is citric acid only and is focused on scale reduction, not breaking down coffee oils. We also just posted a video on our Silvia tune up kit that shows you the process of taking apart the brew head and putting it back together again if you're not familiar with that process. Check it out here.

      Let me know if you need more info / guidance on Silvia maintenance - happy to help :)

      - Kat

  • Bill Galic

    I just bought my second Moccamaster from your store, and I have a question for you: am I to understand that, if I use water from a Brita-filtered pitcher in my Moccamaster, I don't need to worry about using Dezcal or Cleancaf?

    And would I be smarter to use my tap water instead of filtered water? I have read that some minerals in the water is better for coffee brewing, but my well water comes to me through a water softener (because there's a good bit of minerals in it to begin with) and I have been thinking I'm better to use filtered water because of that.

    I'll look forward to your reply!

    • Kat

      The pitcher filters will leave some of the mineral content in, as that's what gives the water its flavor. You want to have some mineral balance for a good cup of coffee (the specialty coffee folks recommend 150ppm for a balanced cup), so I always recommend using water that you like the flavor of and then descaling regularly.


  • Doug Rees

    I don't know if this is optimal, but what I do is this: I use Cleancaf every month on my Technovorm, since it cleans everything out and removes most of the scales. About every six months, I use Dezcal, which has a more powerful descaling action. I also use a Mavea filter pitcher, which removes most of the scale-producing minerals as well as chlorine and other harmful chemicals, while leaving enough minerals behind for the coffee to have some taste, giving the coffee a "cleaner" flavour. (The Mavea is also quite handy for other cooking, and for use in my Vitamix, since it improves the water quality.)

  • FT

    I got behind in descaling my Technivorm CDT due to a personal accident and personal laziness. I use primarily bottled purified water (not distilled) in it. About a month ago, it stopped working. It had been approx. a year since I descaled the machine. After some research, I learned it was either in need of descaling or something was stuck under the float. After I checked and found nothing under the plastic float (although there was quite a bit of mineral deposits on the float itself), I proceeded to use Dezcal to see if that was the issue. It started right up. After I flushed that out, I figured I would also clean it with Cleancaf (since it had been awhile). The machine was back to normal. No more than a week later, it stopped working again. I turned it off, and back on - after about 20 seconds, it started up. Question, does it sound like it needs further descaling? And if so, can the Dezcal sit for a bit in the reservoir without damaging the plastic? I was hoping that allowing it to sit a bit may help break down more scale. Before I purchased the Dezcal from you, I used Durgol and that did discolor the resevoir plastic and tarnished the float cover.

    Thank you for your help.

    • Kaylie

      Yes, absolutely, you can descale it again. Likely, just a small piece of scale has broken off of some tubing, and is blocking or partially blocking the pathway for the water to travel through. When you’re descaling, we do recommend allowing the machine to “brew” about 1/3 of the descale solution through, then shutting off the machine, allow it to sit for about 20 minutes, then resume brewing for another 1/3 of the solution, shutting off the machine again, then allowing it to sit for another 20 minutes, and finally repeating with the last 1/3 of the solution. After that process, flush at least 2 full brew cycles through the machine and then taste the water to see if it is sour at all. If it is, run another full tank through of clean water, taste, and repeat until there isn’t any lemony or sour taste to the water to be sure that it’s flushed and rinsed properly.

      The descaling solution, because it is citric acid, can absolutely eat away at chrome covered materials. So, in this case, so that further tarnishing doesn’t occur, I would recommend: Keeping the solution in a separate container, pouring 1/3 in, run it into the machine, let it sit, pour another 1/3 in, etc. This way, the descaling solution isn’t interacting with this chrome covered piece for very long, further tarnishing it for you.

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