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What is Descaling a Coffee Machine

Coby McKinley Profile image

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Updated August 29, 2022

If you’re shopping for the best coffee maker, then you need to learn about maintenance and cleaning your machine. Even if you’re just a casual coffee drinker, you’ll need to perform the descaling process to keep your device working well. Descaling or cleaning your coffee machine components also ensures that your cups of coffee taste fresh and rich. So, if you’re unaware of what descaling a coffee machine is, read on.


  • Descaling a coffee machine refers to a cleaning cycle that removes limescale and calcium buildup from your coffee maker’s tank, water lines, and boiler.
  • Descaling solutions are food-grade products typically made of powdered citric acid.
  • You can descale your coffee maker by adding a descaling solution to a full tank of water in your machine and running a brew cycle. Then, after an additional clean water cycle, your machine should be descaled.

Descaling a Coffee Maker: The Basics

If you know what a cold brew coffee maker is, you’ll have seen that calcium buildup is a reality of using unfiltered tap water for coffee. Ask any coffee expert, and they’ll tell you that descaling mineral buildup is an essential part of the maintenance and cleaning process that will extend the life of your coffee maker.

For more maintenance tips on coffee makers, read our guides discussing what to use a coffee maker for, how to rid your coffee maker of fruit flies, replacing a thermal fuse on a coffee maker, and how to find the thermostat type in a coffee maker.

Insider Tip

If you have hard water in your area, experts recommend monthly descaling cycles to keep your machine working well.

In essence, descaling refers to treating your Keurig coffee machine with a solution to remove the mineral deposits and calcium build-up that naturally collect over time within its internal parts. In some extreme cases, you’ll notice calcium in your coffee pot. Luckily, the process is simple, and most solutions are made of a food-grade citric acid powder that removes mineral buildup.

Why is Descaling Important

If you choose not to treat your device with a coffee machine descaling solution, you will run into trouble. Coffee oil and materials from your water, like limescale, calcium, and other minerals, stick to your machine over time. To be more exact, they will coat your boiler component and water reservoir, affecting flavor and the brewer’s ability to heat up. The process removes all of that, ensuring you get the taste of fresh coffee beans with every cup of coffee.

If you want a strong cup of coffee or a little extra kick in your morning brew, consider learning what an espresso coffee maker is.

How to Descale Your Coffee Maker

Coffee machine manufacturers usually offer their own cleaning products, but any coffee descaler should do, including a 1:1 ratio solution of vinegar and water. First, measure your solution and add it to your unit’s water tank, then fill it with water. Next, run your coffee machine, and the descaler will do its job. Lastly, do one more brew cycle using only clean water, and your coffee maker should be free of mineral buildup.


White vinegar is a great coffee equipment descaler, but it can cause issues. For example, on some coffee machines, vinegar might degrade your rubber seals and some metals.


How do you know it’s time to descale a coffee maker?

Some machines have an indicator light that will tell you when it’s time to descale your machine. Aside from that, the general rule of thumb is to descale your coffee maker at least once every three months. You can also use a testing strip to measure the hardness of your water. If you have soft water, you don’t have to descale as often, while hard water will require monthly cleanings.

What happens if I don’t descale my coffee maker?

If you notice mineral content and limescale build-up on your machine or in the water chamber, you should act upon it. That said, if you do not, the dirty machine will heat unevenly, and you will get some bitter-tasting coffee from the brew cycle. Eventually, your device will stop working due to clogs and buildup.

How do I clean the steam wand?

Use a clean cloth and hot water to wipe down your steam wand after every use. In addition, run a bit of extra steam each time you use it to get rid of any clogged milk. Lastly, consider running the steam wand while cleaning your brewer using a coffee machine descaling solution.

STAT: Studies from Harvard suggest that people who consume more than one cup of coffee per day decreased their risk for type 2 diabetes by 11%. (source)

Coby McKinley Profile image