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How to Descale a Coffee Maker or Espresso Machine

Are you a daily coffee drinker? If yes, there’s good news! Keeping your coffee machine in top shape for that perfect cup of coffee is easier than you think. Learning How to Descale a Coffee Maker or Espresso Machine is a critical skill!

Descaling, a crucial part of regular maintenance for your espresso maker or coffee pod machine, ensures every brew is delicious. Hard water, with its higher mineral content, can lead to limescale buildup, affecting the taste of your coffee and the efficiency of your machine.

But with the right descaling process, you can prevent these issues and enjoy a fresh cup of coffee every time.

Descaling your coffee machine is an important maintenance step to ensure it continues to work efficiently and to prolong its lifespan. Here’s a general guide on how to descale a coffee machine:

Supplies Needed:

  • Descaling solution (commercially available or you can use a homemade solution like white vinegar)
  • Fresh water
  • A large container to catch water

Steps to Descale:

  1. Prepare the Descaling Solution: If you’re using a commercial descaling solution, follow the instructions on the packaging. For a homemade solution, you can mix equal parts of water and white vinegar.
  2. Empty the Coffee Maker: Make sure to remove any coffee grounds or pods from the machine. Empty the water reservoir.
  3. Add the Solution to the Reservoir: Pour the descaling solution into the water reservoir of your coffee machine.
  4. Run a Descaling Cycle: If your machine has a descaling cycle, use it. If not, run a brew cycle with the solution. Place the container under the coffee outlet to catch the solution.
  5. Repeat if Necessary: Depending on the level of mineral buildup, you might need to repeat the process with fresh descaling solution.
  6. Rinse Thoroughly: After descaling, refill the reservoir with fresh water. Run several brew cycles with just water to rinse any residual descaling solution from the machine.
  7. Wipe Down the Machine: Use a damp cloth to wipe down the exterior of the machine and any removable parts like the drip tray.
  8. Dry and Reassemble: Make sure all parts are dry before reassembling the machine.


  • Frequency: The frequency of descaling depends on the hardness of your water and how often you use your coffee maker. Generally, it’s a good idea to descale every 3-6 months.
  • Consult the Manual: Always check your coffee machine’s manual for specific instructions, as different machines may have different requirements and features.
  • Safety: Ensure the machine is cool and unplugged before you start the cleaning process.

Regular descaling will keep your coffee tasting great and your machine running smoothly.

What Can You Use to Descale Your Coffee Maker?

Choosing the Right Descaling Agent: Commercial descaling solutions work well, but natural options like citric acid from citrus fruits, or a homemade mixture of white vinegar and water, are also effective.

Commercial Descaling Solution: These are specially formulated to effectively remove limescale and mineral buildup.

White Vinegar: An accessible and natural option that’s effective at descaling.

Citric Acid: A natural descaler, citric acid can be a gentler alternative.

Lemon Juice: Diluted lemon juice can also work as a natural descaling agent.

Is Descaling Solution Better Than Vinegar?

  • Effectiveness: Commercial descaling solutions are specifically designed for coffee machines, making them highly effective.
  • Odor and Taste: Vinegar can leave a residual odor and taste if not thoroughly rinsed. Descaling solutions are generally odorless.
  • Safety for Machine: Some manufacturers recommend specific descaling solutions to ensure the longevity of the machine.

How to Clean Your Coffee Maker with Vinegar?

  1. Prepare the Solution: Mix equal parts of water and white vinegar.
  2. Fill and Run: Pour the solution into the water reservoir and run a half brew cycle. Stop the cycle and let it sit for an hour.
  3. Complete the Cycle: After an hour, complete the brew cycle.
  4. Rinse Thoroughly: Run 2-3 cycles with just clean water to rinse out any vinegar residue.

How Do You Put a Coffee Machine in Descale Mode?

  1. Consult the Manual: Different models have specific steps to activate descale mode.
  2. Typical Process: Usually involves holding down certain buttons until a light indicates descale mode is active.
  3. Add Descaler and Run: Add the descaling solution to the water reservoir and run the machine as per the instructions.

Note: Always refer to the user manual of your specific coffee maker model for the best practices, especially for more sophisticated machines like super-automatic espresso makers.

The Best Descalers

When it comes to commercial descaling products, several brands stand out for their effectiveness and safety for use in various coffee machines. Here’s a list of some of the best commercial descaling products:

Durgol Swiss Espresso Descaler

Known for its fast-acting formula, it’s highly effective against limescale and safe for all types of coffee machines.

Urnex Dezcal Coffee and Espresso Machine Descaler

A non-toxic, biodegradable descaler that’s gentle on machines but tough on mineral buildup.

Keurig Descaling Solution

Specifically designed for Keurig machines, this solution helps maintain the performance of your single-serve coffee maker.

Breville Cleaning Tablets

Tailored for Breville espresso machines, this eco-friendly product efficiently removes coffee oils and residues.

Full Circle Coffee and Espresso Descaling Liquid

Made from natural, phosphate-free ingredients, it’s safe for the environment and effective in removing limescale.

Gaggia Decalcifier Descaler Solution

Specially formulated for Gaggia machines, but compatible with other brands, it effectively protects your machine from limescale damage.

When selecting a descaling product, always consider your specific coffee machine model and manufacturer recommendations. Some coffee machine manufacturers advise against certain chemicals or formulas, so it’s best to check the user manual or the manufacturer’s website for guidance. Regular use of these descaling solutions can help ensure your coffee machine continues to produce delicious coffee and operates efficiently for years.

Why Should I Descale My Coffee Maker

Descaling your coffee maker is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Improved Machine Performance: Over time, mineral deposits from water, especially hard water, build up in your coffee maker. This buildup can clog the water flow and affect the machine’s efficiency, leading to longer brew times and lower temperatures.
  2. Better Coffee Quality: Regular descaling ensures that your coffee maker can brew at the optimal temperature, which is essential for extracting the full flavor from coffee beans. A clean machine means no interference from mineral buildup or old coffee oils, leading to a fresher, better-tasting cup of coffee.
  3. Extended Lifespan of Your Coffee Maker: Regular maintenance, including descaling, can significantly prolong the life of your coffee maker. Without descaling, the mineral buildup can cause the machine to work harder than necessary, potentially leading to overheating and mechanical failures.
  4. Prevention of Mold and Bacteria: Keeping your coffee maker clean through descaling also helps prevent the growth of mold and bacteria in the water lines and reservoir, ensuring that your coffee is not only delicious but also hygienic.
  5. Energy Efficiency: A well-maintained, descaled coffee maker operates more efficiently, using less electricity to brew a pot of coffee, which can contribute to energy savings over time.

Descaling is an essential part of coffee maker maintenance. It keeps your machine running smoothly, ensures the quality of your coffee, extends the lifespan of the device, and promotes a healthier, more efficient brewing process.

Understanding Water Hardness

Hard water contains more minerals like calcium and magnesium. This can lead to limescale buildup in your coffee machine, affecting water flow and flavor. Using filtered water or a water softener can help.

The Role of Citric Acid

Citric acid, found in lemon juice and other citrus fruits, is a natural and effective descaling agent. It breaks down the mineral deposits without harming the internal parts of your coffee machine.

Regular Cleaning is Key

Regular descaling, along with cleaning any removable parts like the milk container, drip tray, or K-cup holder with soapy water, helps maintain the quality of your coffee.

Follow the User Manual

Each coffee machine, whether it’s a Keurig coffee maker, super automatic espresso machine, or a simple drip coffee maker, has specific instructions for descaling. Some have an automatic cleaning function or a light indicator for when descaling is needed.

Use of Filters

Using a water filter jug or installing a water filter in your machine can reduce the hardness of the water, thereby reducing the frequency of descaling.

espress pouring through a espresso machine portafilter.

The Descaling Process of a Coffee maker or espresso machine

Fill the water tank with a descaling solution or a homemade mixture. Run a brewing cycle without coffee to let the solution do its work. Then, rinse thoroughly by running cycles with clean water.

Preventing Mineral Buildup

For those using tap water, especially in areas with hard water, it’s a good idea to descale on a regular basis, as per your machine’s requirements or whenever you notice a change in the taste or flow of water.

Descaling Super Automatic Espresso Machines

These often come with automatic descaling programs. Just add the descaling solution to the water tank and press the clean button or follow the step-by-step instructions in the manual.

After Descaling

Always rinse the machine by running several cycles with clean water. This removes any leftover cleaning solution and ensures your next cup of coffee is as delicious as expected.

By incorporating descaling into your regular cleaning routine, not only do you ensure a great tasting cup of coffee but also extend the life of your favorite kitchen appliance. Remember, a little time spent on maintenance can lead to a lot of coffee enjoyment!