Every morning, you fill it with your freshly-ground coffee and water. And every morning, it presents you with hot, fresh coffee. The delightful aroma and heavenly taste start your day off right.
Your coffee maker works hard for you, but do you work hard for it? Sure, you might clean it, but have you ever descaled it before? It’s not the same.
If you’ve paused mid-sip to reflect or even wonder what descaling solution is, you’re about to find all that out and more. In fact, if you truly love that morning coffee and want it to taste amazing, you should make sure you start doing this from now on.
Even the best coffee makers in the world aren’t capable of cleaning themselves. It’s up to you to clean it frequently to prevent buildup, bacteria, and mold from gumming up the works. Make sure to check out this post on how often you should descale your coffee machine.
So, read on and you’ll discover all about the bi-yearly event of descaling your coffee maker and getting the most out of your cup of coffee every day!
What Is a Descaling Solution?
First of all, if you’re sitting there protesting, “But I clean my coffee maker!” then you should know that descaling it is something completely different. While it’s good to clean it regularly, descaling goes a bit deeper than that.
See, your coffee maker functions with water inside of it to make your coffee. Basic stuff, right? While the water is in there though, it creates limescale. If you want to remove that limescale, and really you do because it will clog up the coffee maker’s innermost workings and ruin it, you have to get a descaling solution.
Quite simply, it’s an acidic substance that dissolves the limescale after reacting with it. Unlike that bacteria and mold that can thrive in your coffee maker (read about that here!), limescale won’t harm you. It’s not toxic, however it will affect the brewing of your coffee as well as the taste. It can also prevent the coffee from heating up properly.
So when you descale your coffee maker, you’re removing these mineral deposits from your machine, preventing the buildup from growing, and prolonging the life and functionality of your coffee maker. You can buy a descaling solution, or you can make your own.
Keep reading and you’ll find out how to whip up your own descaling solution and how to use it too!
What are the Ingredients of a Descaling Solution?
First, let’s get into what you’d get from a descaling solution you can buy ready-made. For example, Keurig makes one that is composed of citric acid (50%), silicic acid (3%), phosphates and bleaching agents (5%), and water (42%).
Most other brands who offer descaling solution will be roughly the same. They combine the different acids for a more effective decalcification process. It creates a chemical reaction which, as you may recall your science teacher droning on about years ago, will dissolve the calcification that has built up. While making your own version won’t be as potent as buying a brand name, you can still use science to make your own. You’ll just have to repeat the process several more times to get pristine results.
How much descaling solution should I use for my coffee machine?
Every single time you make your coffee, the hot water you use leaves behind calcium carbonate. In time, it builds up and when it does, it slows down the time it takes for your machine to brew your coffee. You’re not imagining that it’s suddenly taking longer or that you’ve become horribly impatient.
If you want to keep the life of your coffee machine going strong and long, you need to use a descaler periodically to remove this buildup. It will also serve to clear the way for better-tasting coffee.
You can generally buy two bottles with 4 fl oz each (118 ml) for about $15 which are good for two deep cleaning sessions. But if you’d prefer to save money, you can easily make it yourself with things you likely already have in your kitchen. To remove limescale, you have to use an acid. While “acid” is an intimidating word, it’s not some weird chemical. There are natural acids that can do the job. Lemons and vinegar are acidic and natural items.
It might put your mind at ease to use food-safe items in your coffee maker to remove the limescale. You can use vinegar or citric acid, the latter of which you can find at any health store. You can also squeeze the juice from lemons you’ve got in your fridge, though if you do, you should make sure to strain it completely from pulp and any tiny seeds first.
If you want to make your own descaling solution, keep reading for tips on how to do it.
– Vinegar descaling solution
Vinegar is something that people in every country use for cleansing and removing germs. It makes a great natural alternative when you’re cleaning your home. The same is true for your coffee maker.
It’s extremely acidic so it can take care of your limescale buildup. Be aware though that you’ll need to run it through a few rinse cycles afterward to get the smell of vinegar out of your coffee maker. It’s one of the strongest natural acids you can use, is cheap, and is great for even cleaning the rest of your coffee maker.
– Citric acid descaling solution
Citric acid is also acidic but the benefit over using white vinegar is that it has a more pleasing smell. It’s not quite as strong as vinegar is but it’s still an impressive natural acid cleaner that you can use to descale your coffee maker.
Citric acid has a lower pH level so you will need to rinse it through a few times to make sure it clears everything away. But it won’t leave a lingering flavor behind. It’s also cheap and easy to find and a great natural way to clean things up.
All you need to do is get citric acid pellets and dissolve a tablespoon of them per every gallon of water you use. To make it stronger, cut the water in half. You don’t need to use the whole solution at once either. You can store it in an airtight container and it won’t go bad. This way, you’ll always have a handy way to freshen up your coffee maker.
– You can try water softening pellets
Water softening pellets can also help you out. If you use a water softening system, take some of those softening pellets and use them with your coffee maker. It will take less time to do compared to using vinegar or citric acid too. However, it’s very important that you look up your machine and make sure you’re using the best water softening pellets to work with it. Using the strongest ones will ensure the best results.
This method is very cost-effective, easy, and fast too, making it an ideal choice if you really don’t want to spend much time descaling your coffee machine.
– Good old baking soda
Baking soda is another natural ingredient that can clean just about anything. It’s especially good for the exterior as it removes stains, but it can work as a descaler too. Since it’s natural, any residue isn’t going to harm you. Many people enthuse about using baking soda to do the descaling process, but others complain that it didn’t dissolve entirely in their water.
If you want to use baking soda, you should make sure it dissolves properly first before adding it to your coffee maker. It won’t leave behind any odor or affect the taste and you probably have it in your cabinet right now too.
– Lemon juice
Lemon juice is much like vinegar in that you can use it to clean pretty much anything in your home. On top of that, lemons smell fresh and clean naturally. A distinct advantage of using lemon juice over vinegar to descale your coffee machine is that you won’t have to rinse, rinse, and rinse again to get the smell of vinegar out. The lemon juice does its thing and then won’t leave any telltale signs behind.
On the downside, it takes lots of lemons to get the amount of juice you’ll need for the descaling. This can be remedied by buying lemon juice. You’ll also have to be sure that you get all the pulp and seeds out of the juice or that will cause problems. Additionally, you may need to run the cycle a couple of times to get the decalcifying effects so you remove all the buildup in your coffee maker.
You’ll want to mix 1/3 lemon juice with 2/3 water, which is the same ratio you’d use with vinegar too. One rinse after should take care of the lemon smell. If you don’t want to use citric acid, this is a great way to get the same benefits. It also smells better than vinegar.
Chemical products for descaling your machine
There are also chemical solutions to descale your coffee maker. It’s important to keep your coffee machine clean and thus, there are many pre-commission cleaners that can tackle scale built up.
That scale forms as dissolved bits of calcium and magnesium due to boiling and heat exchange. When chemicals are used, they are meant to react with the residue and hardness to keep the scale from obstructing the functionality of your machine. Phosphate and chelate are often used as is acid.
Sludge conditioners also minimize the way solids adhere to these heated surfaces. They’re made with polymers that combine to clean up corrosion deposits, biofilm, or general grime. When contaminants build up in the interior of your coffee maker, it’s important to clear them away so it can work properly. This is especially true of older coffee makers.
If your coffee maker is older, chances are you haven’t descaled it enough. It’s time to change all that, but first, you should find out why chemical descaling products are not a good option for coffee makers.
Why you should stay away from chemical products
There are so many natural ways to clean the limescale from your coffee machine. There are pre-made descaling solutions that you can buy that do have natural compositions as well, and there are also chemically-made products. It’s not recommended to use chemicals though.
What could happen? Well, if you remember science class, you know that reactions can happen. With these natural items mentioned above, it is a safe reaction. But with chemicals, you can create unwanted minerals that could be dangerous to ingest. Basically, let’s say you add a chemical solution for the descaling. It could react with the limescale to create a new component, one that could make you and those you love very sick.
Even if you rinse the coffee machine repeatedly, it can still linger. It is incredibly important to keep from using chemicals of any kind. Natural acids are the best way to prolong the life of your coffee maker and give it a proper descaling without harming yourself or anyone else.
Now that you know what to use, keep reading to find out how to descale your coffee maker!
How To Descale A Coffee Maker
So you’ve gone through the cabinets and found you have plenty of vinegar, or perhaps you have so many lemons you just don’t know what to do with them, besides make lemonade.
Now it’s time to learn how to use these naturally acidic items to descale your coffee maker. It’s really easy to do though depending on what you use, it could take you some time. Not to worry though. You don’t need to descale your coffee maker every day. Cleaning it daily is good, but descaling can be done once every two months. It should at the very least be done once a year though hopefully you’ll do it 6 times for optimal results.
Before you begin descaling your coffee maker though, you should read through the product manual. The manufacturer may have some more specific steps or recommendations for you to get the best descaling experience. They will usually include more specific measurements. What you’ll find below is a general recommendation so please take a look at what your brand fully requires for the descaling.
In most cases, you’ll need to add water and your natural acid in equal parts. Depending on how acidic the product is, you should try about 1/3 of the acid (like vinegar for example) with 2/3 of water.
So put this solution together and then pour it into the reservoir, just as if you were making a pot of your morning coffee. You also must use a filter as though you were brewing a pot too. Preferably, use the natural, non-dyed filters.
Next, you’ll turn on your coffee maker and watch it brew. Stay there because you need to keep an eye on it. When half of the solution you’ve made empties into your awaiting carafe, you need to shut off the coffee maker. This is without a doubt the most important step for proper descaling.
You must let the solution sit within the coffee maker so it can dissolve away the limescale. Let it sit for 30 minutes, then come back and turn it on so the rest of it comes out.
After it fully brews out, you need to run the coffee maker again with plain water. You should repeat this process one to two times to remove any residual acids and lingering flavors. With vinegar, you may even want to run it three times just to be sure. If you have never before descaled your coffee maker and you’ve had it for a while, you may want to repeat this process up to four times from start to finish to make sure all the limescale buildup is removed.
In extreme cases, you might have to take out your water tank to scrape off the limescale first. Leaving too much buildup will cause it to react with the metal which reduces its heating efficiency. Always read your manual first to make sure you don’t break your coffee maker. If things are really extreme and your coffee maker is a bit older, you may want to consider replacing it with a newer model. Should you choose to do so, please make sure you don’t forget to clean your coffee maker regularly or give it a good descaling every two months as I mentioned in this article!
Even the biggest coffee lovers can be guilty of taking their coffee makers for granted. You should always clean your coffee pot daily to keep mold, mildew, and germs from building up. If you do, you’re halfway there to a better brew, however, you still need to descale your machine every once in a while.
No matter how well you take care of your coffee pot, limescale will build up. It will affect the efficiency of your machine so cleaning it out using a descaling solution will help. You can buy one or make one yourself. Always go with natural acids for cleaning your coffee machine. Chemicals can linger in there and make you very sick.
Thankfully, many natural items are acidic enough to tackle the limescale in your machine. Things like vinegar and lemon juice are plentiful, cheap and easy to work with. Other descaling options like water softening pellets are great too because they keep you from having to run multiple cycles to descale your coffee machine.
Taking care of your coffee machine means it will last for many years and give you delicious coffee with every brew. If you’ve neglected your machine, now’s the time to make things right and give it a full descaling!