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How To Descale A Coffee Maker – Works For All Coffee Makers

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Run a descaling solution through your machine’s self-cleaning or regular brewing cycle. Afterward, you’ll let it sit for 30 minutes. Finally, flush out the cleaning solution. There’s a lot more to descaling than what I mentioned. Keep reading to learn more.

I’ve descaled plenty of appliances in the past and want to help you understand how to descale yours. That led me to write this guide.

I’ll explain how to descale your machine, different solutions, why to descale, and more information.

Here is an overview:

Keep reading to learn more.

Key Takeaways

  • Use descaling solution, vinegar, citric acid, or bottled lemon juice to descale.
  • Machines with self-cleaning modes make descaling much easier.
  • Descaling will take 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Ensure you wear gloves & eye protection when descaling.

How to Descale Your Coffee Maker

  • What’s Required:
    • Descaling solution
  • Time it Takes: 30–60 min.

Follow these steps to descale your coffee maker:

  • Fill reservoir w/ vinegar or other descaling solution.
    • If using vinegar: Use a 1:3 ration (vinegar:water).
    • Apple cider vinegar is fine to use; ratio doesn’t change.
  • Turn on coffee maker & let it brew a cycle.
  • Let descaling solution sit in reservoir for 30 minutes.
  • Power on coffee maker & brew another cycle.
  • Rinse water reservoir.
    • Keep rinsing until there’s no sign of descaling solution.
  • Brew pot of coffee to flush out vinegar or descaling solution.

Based on my experience, having cheap coffee beans around for this scenario could save you a lot of money. Don’t use your good coffee beans to brew a pot of coffee to flush out your descaling solution. Otherwise, you’re wasting money.

Because the coffee that comes out of this batch is likely inedible or will have a sour and tart taste.

These steps will apply to descaling the following coffee maker brands’ machines:

OXONinjaMr. CoffeeKitchenaid

If you’re using a plumbed-in coffee maker, you’ll need to follow different steps.

How to Descale a Plumbed-in Coffee Machine

  • What’s Required:
    • Hose
    • Descaling solution
    • 5-gallon bucket—ideal size, but any size should do
  • Time it Takes: 30–60 min.

Follow these steps to descale it:

  1. Locate the water line that connects to the espresso machine.
  2. Disconnect the water line from the espresso machine.
  3. Fill a bucket with descaling solution.
  4. Attach a hose to the end of the water line.
  5. Power on the cleaning cycle & let the descaling solution flow through the water line for 30 minutes to an hour.
  6. Disconnect the hose from the water line.
  7. Reconnect the water line to the espresso machine.
  8. Turn on the espresso machine & run a cleaning cycle to clean out any chemicals.

Connecting your espresso machine with a water line to filters with materials like polyphosphate may end the need to descale.

Safety Precautions for Descaling Coffee Machines

The following sections will cover safety precautions to follow when descaling coffee makers.

1. Wear Gloves & Eye Protection.

Wear gloves and eye protection to protect yourself from the hot water, descaling solutions, and vinegar used in the process.

Hot water can cause burns. Descaling solutions can be corrosive and irritating to the skin and eyes. And vinegar can also be irritating to the skin and eyes.

2. Ventilate the Area Well.

It’s important to ventilate the area well to prevent inhaling harmful fumes. Descaling solutions often contain chemicals that can harm your health if inhaled. The steam produced during the descaling process can also be dangerous if inhaled.

To ventilate the area:

  1. Open a window or door to allow fresh air to circulate.
  2. Use a fan to help circulate the air.
  3. If you are descaling your coffee maker in a small space, such as a kitchen, move the coffee to a larger area with better ventilation.

What Is Descaling?

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How To Descale A Coffee Maker - Works For All Coffee Makers 2

Descaling is the process of removing mineral deposits that have built up in an appliance or machine. These deposits, known as scale, can form when using hard water. It’s the white stuff you’ll find in coffee makers.

Hard water contains calcium and magnesium ions, which can precipitate out of solution and form scale.

Scale buildup can cause many problems for appliances and machines. It can reduce the appliance’s efficiency, leading to increased energy costs. Or damage the device, leading to premature failure. Scale buildup can also affect the taste of beverages made by the appliance.

To descale an appliance, you will need to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. In general, you must fill the machine with a descaling solution and run it for a while. Once you finish descaling, flush the appliance with water to remove the descaling solution.

Why Is It Important to Descale Your Coffee Maker?

Descaling is important because it prevents mineral buildup, which could damage your machine [1]. Do it on a regular basis, depending on the hardness of the water in your area.

How Often Should You Descale Your Coffee Maker?

Descale your coffee maker every month if you have hard water. If you have soft water, descale your coffee maker every 6–12 months.

You’ll know if your home has hard water by finding mineral deposits on faucets or if you have soap scum in your shower. Or use water hardness test strips (easiest option).

Don’t use the above paragraph as a definitive answer. The frequency you descale should depend on whether your machine needs it.

Keep an eye out for these signs of when to descale:

  • Descaling notification tells you it’s time.
  • Coffee maker isn’t brewing hot coffee.
  • Machine is making bubbling or gurgling sounds.
  • Coffee maker is leaking.
  • Coffee machine has a foul odor.

These signs may appear sooner if you have hard water, use your machine more than a couple times a day, or have a maker that’s more susceptible to scale buildup. For instance, coffee makers with thermoblock heating systems (e.g., Nespresso) are prone to scale buildup due to not contacting water for long.

Let’s explore the most common types of descaling solutions.

Types of Descaling Solutions

The following sections will compare the most common descalers; vinegar and descaling solutions. Keep reading to learn more.

1. Vinegar

Vinegar is a natural acid used to descale espresso machines. It’s cheaper than commercial descaling solutions and is readily available. Also, use it to clean and disinfect espresso machines.

Vinegar can leave a sour taste in your coffee. If you’re concerned about the taste, dilute the vinegar with more water. The substance’s acidity could also damage your machine’s rubber gaskets and seals.

Again, further dilute it to reduce this risk.

There’s no difference in effectiveness in using apple cider vinegar, malt vinegar, and white vinegar.

2. Commercial Descaling Solutions

Commercial descaling solutions for coffee makers use chemicals to remove mineral deposits that build up over time [2].

They usually contain citric acid or vinegar that can dissolve mineral deposits. They may also have other ingredients, such as detergents, to disinfect and clean the machine.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using them. Also, ensure you wear gloves and eye protection. Otherwise, you risk burning your eyes or skin.

Let’s compare this descaling solution to vinegar.

Coffee Maker Descaler vs. Vinegar

Let’s compare commercial coffee maker descaler and vinegar as descaling solutions:

FeatureCoffee Maker DescalerVinegar
EffectivenessMore effectiveLess effective
CostMore expensiveLess expensive
AvailabilityLess readily availableMore readily available
ResidueLess likely to leave a residue behindMore likely to leave a residue behind
TasteDoes not leave any taste behindMay leave a sour taste behind

Coffee maker descaler is for descaling coffee makers. It’s more effective at dissolving mineral deposits than vinegar. Commercial descaler solutions are also less likely to leave a residue behind.

Vinegar is less expensive than coffee maker descaler and is readily available. However, it can leave a sour taste behind.

In addition to descaling your coffee makers, you’ll need to know how to clean it the correct way.

How to Descale Coffee Makers Without Vinegar

The following sections will introduce alternatives to descaling machines with vinegar.

If you must choose between lemon juice and citric acid, opt for citric acid. It’s more effective at dissolving mineral deposits than lemon juice.

1. How to Descale a Coffee Maker With Lemon Juice

  • What’s Required:
    • Bottled lemon juice; NOT fresh
  • Time it Takes: 30–60 min.

Follow these steps to descale your coffee maker with lemon juice:

  1. Prepare the lemon juice solution.
    1. Mix 1 cup of lemon juice with 3 cups of water.
  2. Fill the water reservoir with the lemon juice solution.
  3. Run the coffee maker as usual.
  4. Let the solution sit in the water reservoir for 30 minutes.
  5. Run the coffee maker again with clean water.
  6. Flush the coffee maker with several more cycles of clean water to remove any residual lemon juice.

Don’t use fresh lemon juice for this. It may contain pulp or seeds, which could clog your coffee maker. If your coffee maker has a self-cleaning mode, run that instead of running the coffee maker as usual.

That means, replace steps 3 and 5 with “Run machine’s self-cleaning mode.”

2. How to Descale a Coffee Maker With Citric Acid

  • What’s Required:
    • Citric acid [3]
  • Time it Takes: 30–60 min.

Follow these steps to descale your coffee maker with citric acid:

  1. Prepare the citric acid solution.
    1. Mix 1 tablespoon of citric acid with 1 quart of water.
  2. Fill the water reservoir with the citric acid solution.
  3. Run the coffee maker as usual.
  4. Let the solution sit in the water reservoir for 30 minutes.
  5. Run the coffee maker again with clean water.
  6. Flush the coffee maker with several cycles of clean water to remove residual citric acid.

Replace steps 3 and 5 with “Run your coffee maker’s self-cleaning mode” if your machine has a self-cleaning feature.

How to Clean Coffee Makers

  • What’s Required:
    • Mild, non-abrasive dish soap
    • Microfiber rag
    • Cheap coffee beans
  • Time it Takes: 20–30 min.

Here are the steps on how to clean a coffee maker:

  1. Unplug the coffee maker & let it cool.
  2. Remove the water reservoir & carafe.
  3. Wash the reservoir & carafe with warm, soapy water.
  4. Rinse the reservoir & carafe with clean water.
  5. If your coffee maker has a permanent filter, soak it in a solution of 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water for 30 minutes.
  6. Rinse the filter with clean water.
  7. Wipe down the exterior of the coffee maker with a damp cloth.
  8. Plug in the coffee maker & run a brew cycle with clean water.
  9. Discard the first brew of coffee.

Clean your coffee maker every 2–4 weeks. Change cleanings to weekly if you use it daily or many times a day. Use mild, non-abrasive soaps to avoid damaging components when cleaning your coffee maker.

And use a microfiber rag to dry your machine’s parts and components. Using this microfiber prevents lint buildup and does better at removing smudges.

FAQs for Descaling Coffee Makers

Read on to find frequently asked questions about descaling coffee makers.

Is Vinegar Safe for Descaling?

Yes, vinegar is safe for descaling coffee makers and other appliances. Ensure you dilute vinegar with water before using it to descale your appliances. A 1:3 ratio of vinegar to water is a good starting point.


Descaling with vinegar, lemon juice, or citric acid could help you save money. They won’t descale as well as commercial cleaning solutions, though. Once your descaling solution is ready, you’ll run your machine through a cycle a couple of times, and you’re done.

Do you need to replace your coffee maker? Check out our recommendations.

Photo of author


Tim Lee is, as you might have guessed the founder of He is a former barista and a professional web publisher. He has now combined his knowledge and expertise in both subjects to create
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