How to descale a coffee machine

Coffee makers are becoming increasingly common in households worldwide and are used daily as home appliances. However, the accumulation of lime and dirt in the water circuit can negatively affect the taste of coffee or prevent water from flowing properly. Therefore, it is crucial to descale the coffee maker.

To ensure optimal performance of the coffee maker, it is essential to perform periodic descaling using commercial and homemade methods. The type and condition of the coffee maker will determine which descaling process and descalers are most suitable in each case.

What happens in the coffee machine when lime accumulates?

The brewed coffee circulates through the last part of the water circuit, such as nozzles, injectors, or filters. However, as coffee is a naturally oily substance, it can accumulate in these areas, creating residues that can cause a rancid taste and an unpleasant odour.

But this is only a consequence, as these visible residues indicate that lime accumulates inside the coffee machine. If the water flow decreases, the lime deposits increase.

When we detect this odour, it indicates that our coffee machine needs urgent maintenance. Water mineralization, along with the oily base of the coffee, can cause lime buildup inside the water circuit and blockages in the coffee outlet.

When lime accumulates in the filters and pipes, it results in a loss of pressure in the coffee outlet, meaning the extraction does not occur under optimal conditions, resulting in an acidic taste due to under-extraction and a rancid taste due to the dirt.

How to descale a coffee machine with household products

As I’ve already shown you, regularly descaling a coffee maker is very important, both for obtaining quality coffee and for the machine’s proper functioning. However, this can be a significant economic cost if we buy commercial descalers.

Fortunately, there are easy and affordable solutions for descaling a coffee maker at home. The most popular homemade methods include vinegar, lemon, and baking soda. Each can effectively remove dirt and lime deposits from the coffee maker without the need for expensive commercial products.

This article will explore how we can use these homemade products to keep our coffee maker clean and in excellent condition.

How to clean coffee machines with white vinegar

White vinegar is one of the most effective household products for removing dirt. Its use is very simple (for electric coffee machines):

  • Fill the tank with equal parts water and white vinegar.
  • Press the coffee machine’s power button as if you were going to prepare coffee. If your coffee machine has a special decalcification mode, access it; At the end of the article, I explain how to do it.
  • When half of the water in the tank has been emptied, stop the process and wait about 30 minutes.
  • After this time, activate the coffee machine again until the rest of the water has passed through the mechanism. Repeat the process if it is necessary.
  • Refill the tank with clean, cold water, preferably distilled water. Turn on the coffee machine again to remove any taste or odour of vinegar that may remain in the pipes.
  • Finally, wash the tank with soap and water and clean the outside of the coffee machine using a damp cloth.

➡️ If your coffee maker is not electric but a Moka pot or another coffee maker without internal pipes, you can soak it in a mixture of white vinegar and water (50%-50%) for about 30 minutes and then scrub it with a soft sponge to avoid scratching the coffee maker. Repeat the process as many times as necessary.

Descaling a coffee maker with lemon juice

Lemon stands out for being acidic and is good for removing dirt. The cleaning process is similar to vinegar, although it has the advantage that lemon will not leave strange flavours or odours inside the machine’s water system.

  • Mix 2 parts lemon juice with 1 part water and fill the coffee maker’s tank. We can use lemon concentrate or freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  • Turn on the machine as if we were going to make coffee and let the tank contents pass through the water circuit. If your coffee machine has a special decalcification mode, access it; At the end of the article, I explain how to do it.
  • Wait 20 minutes and refill the tank with clean water to remove any remaining acid. As with vinegar, we can do this twice to ensure the coffee maker is completely clean.
  • Wash the tank and clean the coffee maker on the outside.

➡️ If you have a non-electric coffee maker, such as a Moka pot, you can soak it in a solution of lemon juice and water (2:1 ratio) for 30 minutes and gently scrub it with a soft sponge.

How to descale a coffee maker with baking soda

Another effective household product against lime buildup is baking soda. We can clean both the inside of the water circuit of the machine and remove stains on the outside. The way to use it is:

  • Place 2 tablespoons of baking soda in the water tank and fill it with clean water. Make sure that the baking soda dissolves in the water.
  • Turn on the machine, pause halfway and wait for 30 minutes. If your coffee machine has a special decalcification mode, access it; At the end of the article, I explain how to do it.
  • After that time, continue with the cleaning process. Refill the tank with clean water to reduce lime and baking soda residue.
  • Finish the process by cleaning the outside area of the coffee maker with a little baking soda and a damp cloth.

➡️ If your coffee maker is not electric, like a Moka pot or other coffee maker without internal pipes, you can immerse it in a mixture of baking soda and water (ratio 2:1) for approximately 30 minutes and gently scrub it with a soft sponge.

How do descaling tablets and liquids for coffee makers work?

You can purchase a commercial descaler if you don’t want to use a homemade solution. Descaling tablets and liquids are a very good option. You can find different brands of descalers in tablet or liquid form.

They can be used in the coffee pod, drip, or espresso machines. They are affordable and easy to use.

The cleaning process is the same as using a homemade solution. As I indicated before, you must dissolve the tablet or liquid in the water tank and operate the coffee machine.

The amount of product to add will depend on the manufacturer or brand. Like the homemade methods, we must rinse the tank afterwards to clean any remaining residue.

How to descale a coffee machine according to the type

Below, I will give instructions for descaling a coffee machine depending on your coffee maker. In this case, we will focus on Moka, electric drip, capsule, and espresso coffee makers, since the descaling process will differ depending on the model.

How to descale a Moka pot

Descaling a Moka pot is a simple process. Since it’s made of stainless steel or aluminium, we can clean it using vinegar as a natural and effective method. Follow these steps:

  1. Fill the Moka pot’s reservoir with equal parts white vinegar and water.
  2. Assemble the pot.
  3. Place it on the stove as you would normally brew coffee.
  4. Afterwards, brew a second pot using clean water to remove traces of vinegar residue.

How to descale an electric drip coffee machine

Electric drip coffee makers are characterized by their speed and coffee production capacity. To descale them, it is recommended to follow these steps:

  • Mix equal parts water and vinegar and fill the reservoir with the mixture.
  • Run the coffee machine as if making regular coffee.
  • Repeat the process to ensure that all limescale has been removed.
  • Wash the carafe with water and soap to eliminate any residue of vinegar and limescale.

How to descale a coffee pod machine

In recent years, the number of coffee pod machines has increased due to their system that allows the preparation of all types of coffee, including chocolate or tea. You only need to insert the chosen capsule and turn it on to get your coffee.

When descaling it, it is not the same as in previous models. Manufacturers recommend not using vinegar, although it is not harmful, as it could void the warranty. Below are links about the descaling process for coffee pod machines from different brands:

How to descale a espresso coffee machine

To descale an espresso machine, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s recommended instructions, as these machines are often expensive and an error in the descaling process can have serious consequences. Generally, a descaling product that can be found in traditional supermarkets is required.

  • To descale the machine, the first step is to fill the water tank with the descaling product.
  • Next, a container should be placed under the coffee outlet, and the water outlet should be activated. This will allow the mixture of water and descaling product to eliminate all the limescale buildup in the mechanism.
  • Finally, another cycle should be performed using clean water in the tank to rinse the machine.

How to prevent the calcification of your coffee machine

To prevent the calcification of your coffee machine, it is important to avoid machine obstruction, which could result in more complicated cleaning, the need to call a technician, or even the purchase of a new machine.

Here are some measures to prolong the lifespan of your machine:

  • It is recommended to use the cleaning method every 2 months.
  • Use filtered water to prepare coffee, which will prevent the formation of lime and improve the taste of coffee.
  • Clean the accessible parts of the coffee maker after each use to prevent the buildup of salts and possible malfunctions.

As we have seen, descaling a coffee maker is not complicated, but it is important to consider the type of coffee maker and perform cleaning regularly, preferably once a month.

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