Is Vinegar Good for Decalcifying Coffee Makers?

When we must decalcify our coffee machine, be it an espresso coffee machine or a capsule coffee machine, the main doubt that many of us have is which decalcifying liquid to use for the process. And immediately we connect with the uncertainty whether it is good to use vinegar to decalcify coffee machines.

We know that there are decalcifying liquids of different brands, and generic brands that usually serve for almost all models since the objective (to clean the internal ducts of lime residues) is always the same. Good examples of this are the Saeco descaler liquid or the Delonghi descaler liquid.

Even so, many times we do not have decalcifying liquid at hand or we do not find it in our general store or we are lazy to buy it on the Internet because it is a very cheap product that will almost cost us the same as shipping costs. And this is where the daily elements appear with a high presence of acetic acid in its composition such as white vinegar.

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Use of Vinegar to decalcify coffee machines

Throughout life, when there were not as many advances, brands or resources as now, the decalcification processes in the coffee machines were carried out with vinegar. The use of vinegar today is more an inheritance of this past era than a real need or option that is massively recommended.

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  • But also more powerful against lime deposits in coffee machines
  • Dissolves calcium deposits up to three times more efficiently and faster than conventional decalcifies
  • The 500 ml packaging is sufficient for five decalcification processes
  • Regular use of De'Longhi ecodecalk ensures longer life and better energy efficiency
  • Suitable for all coffee machines

It is also a very suitable -and extended- product for general domestic cleaning (there are even specific vinegar for cleaning), and sometimes it tends to generalize and confuse this use of general cleaning with a process as particular and delicate as the decalcification of a coffee maker.

In the following video, you can see a demonstration of how to decalcify a Nespresso with Vinegar:

As a rule, no, although it is not advisable to be categorical in these matters.

Almost all significant manufacturers of coffee machines, especially capsule makers, market their decalcifying liquids or tablets, and therefore advise users to buy these. They are not responsible for what happens as a result of the use of vinegar in coffee machines (or other compounds that can be used in decalcifications).

As an example (we could put several, or you can look for them yourself in the instruction manuals), here are a couple of extracts. The first is an instruction leaflet for a Nespresso Essenza coffee maker, where we are told clearly and highlighted in red that vinegar is harmful to the appliance:

instructions Nespresso Essenza

And in this other example, taken from the user’s manual of a Dolce Gusto Oblo, we see how Nestle’s company explicitly prohibits the use of vinegar:

dolce gusto oblo instructions decalcifier

Finally, home remedies for decalcifying coffee machines are always an option discouraged by most major manufacturers, and we are no exception.

It is advisable to opt for official decalcifying liquids, not because they use of vinegar is harmful, but because companies are not responsible for how the user applies home remedies.

The main problem or harmful effect that vinegar can have on your coffee maker is corrosion or damage to the internal elements that are built with aluminium.

For this reason, nothing must happen if, after decalcifying with vinegar, you make sure to rinse the inside of the coffee maker very thoroughly (up to two or three times, if necessary), and the inside of the water tank.

There should also be no risk if your brewer has steel components and not aluminium. But as we said before, this depends on each case, and we cannot establish standard rules for all situations. Just give them information and urge each user to act accordingly.

Alternatives to using vinegar in coffee machines

However, if you want to use a solution on your own as a decalcifying liquid, you should know that it is ideal to use liquids to decalcify coffee machines based on citrus, and not acetic acid.

One of the most frequent arguments against this practice is that vinegar for decalcifying coffee machines is not advisable because it can be too acidic, and although it removes the traces of lime can also damage the ducts of coffee or leave traces of flavour for future drinks. If you use vinegar for coffee machines, we repeat, always do so under your responsibility and with all the information known in advance.

If you want to use home decalcifier liquid, we advise you to use the juice of one or two lemons, mixed with hot water. The proportion should be approximately one tablespoon of lemon juice per half litre of water.

Mix both elements well, and you have your decalcifying liquid ready to use. Much safer and less aggressive than using vinegar to decalcify coffee machines. If you would like to clean your coffee maker with lemon, we would be delighted if you could tell us about your experience in the comments.

Vinegar to clean coffee makers

The use of vinegar to clean coffee machines is prevalent, understanding it as a solution to remove oxides or remains of burns on the outside. But we should not confuse it with the decalcification process, unless we understand the cleaning of coffee makers with vinegar as an exclusive cleaning of the interior ducts.

How to clean a coffee maker with white vinegar

Next, we will explain the necessary steps to clean a coffee maker with white vinegar. It is how we specify it, because no other type of vinegar should be used.

The process is valid for any coffee machine that has a water tank (Italian, espresso or capsules). And we insist: this is only cleaning, not decalcification. What we are going to clean with vinegar is the deposit of the machine.

  • First, take out the tank, rinse it thoroughly and clean with a rag or kitchen paper all the remains/poses/surface dirt that may be in sight.
  • Once this superficial cleaning is done, fill the jug or tank of your machine with a solution composed of one-part white vinegar and two parts cold water.
  • Once this is done, start the coffee maker as if you were going to prepare a coffee (but without coffee). It is what you would do in a normal decalcification process. (You can skip this step if you don’t want the vinegar to go through the ducts of your machine).
  • Turn off the coffee maker and let the remaining vinegar and water solution rest in the carafe tank for about 15-20 minutes. During this time, the vinegar will be doing its job silently.
  • Finally, empty the tank and fill it with normal water. It is time to rinse and clean up debris. Start the coffee maker again and start a water cycle without coffee. Twice as good as once, to insure.

After this cleaning with vinegar in your coffee maker, the water tank will be free of debris and sediments that may have been deposited at the bottom or corners of it. Keep in mind that any residue in the water jug or container has a good chance of being transmitted to the coffee.

Clean the coffee maker with white vinegar and baking soda

A similar process to the previous one, but a little softer (less aggressive) when mixing, in this case, two parts of bicarbonate, one of water and one of white vinegar. That is, 50%-25%-25% would be the proportion.

If you don’t like the idea of vinegar cleaning your coffee maker because it can be aggressive, then you can try this alternative first, and see if the results are satisfactory in your case. Of course, it all depends on the state of the ducts or the area you want to clean. Not all cases can be treated the same way.

Finally, as always, the information on this subject is extensive, and in the end, you must decide for yourself.

Do you know any other tricks for decalcifying coffee machines with vinegar (or another substance) at home?