When Should You Descale a Coffee Machine?

by Véronique Raymond
descale coffee machine

Owning a coffee machine certainly makes your morning routine easier, especially if you rely on copious amounts of caffeine to make it through the day. However, they do require a bit of extra maintenance compared to a normal kettle or buying your daily coffee from a coffee shop.

These pieces of equipment are incredibly useful, but they need to be taken care of in certain ways. One of the things you must do occasionally is descaling the interior of the machine. Let’s find out why that’s important, how to do it, and when to do it. Descaling will make your next cup of coffee taste that much better.

What Does Descaling Mean?

Descaling is the process of removing limescale from your coffee machine’s heating element. Limescale is a white, chalky buildup of minerals like magnesium and calcium. This mineral buildup is more commonly caused by hard water that isn’t distilled, such as tap water. By running this impure water through the coffee maker, the minerals in the water will build up over time. To remove them, descaling is necessary. Mineral deposits that get too big can clog the coffee maker, which is why it has to be removed regularly.

Why Should You Descale a Coffee Machine?

descale Breville Barista Express

There are two main reasons to descale your coffee maker in a timely fashion.

First, not doing so can affect the quality of your coffee. Since limescale buildup occurs on the heating element inside the coffee machine, it can eventually insulate the heat so that the water doesn’t reach the right temperature to extract maximum flavour from your coffee grounds. Plus, your coffee may not reach the ideal drinking temperature, which only diminishes your caffeine experience even more.

Second, not descaling often enough can impact the functionality of your machine. If the limescale builds up enough, it can cause water flow issues, heating issues, longer brewing times, a rattling sound, and an overall diminished coffee maker.

Descaling not only removes residue buildup from minerals in your water, it also deep-cleans to remove coffee oil residue so the machine runs smoother. Descaling is the best way to fully clean your coffee maker so it runs optimally, makes the best coffee, and lasts longer.

When Should You Descale a Coffee Machine?

On average, the descaling process should occur every 3-4 months. Of course, your individual machine may be a bit different depending on the brand, model, size, whether you use soft water or hard water, and degree of use. If your area has particularly hard tap water or you run larger amounts of water through your machine (i.e., in an office setting), you may want to descale every 4-8 weeks instead.

How to Descale a Coffee Maker

There are a few different options when deciding how to descale your coffee machine. Whether you have an espresso machine, Keurig, French press, drip coffee maker, or any other type of coffee maker, one of these solutions will work.

Use a Homemade Descaler

If you don’t want to purchase another product to descale your coffee maker, that’s okay! You can use one part water and one part vinegar to create a homemade descaler without heading to the store. Simply run this mixture through a normal brew cycle twice and your machine will run like new. Normal white vinegar is all you need for this to work. Most people choose to run an additional cycle with cl


ean water to get rid of a vinegar odour, though you may need a cycle with coffee grounds to completely eliminate the smell.

Depending on your specific type of coffee maker, you may want to use as little as 25% vinegar. Some people also recommend running a half cycle only, letting the vinegar mixture sit for up to an hour, then finish the cycle and flush with multiple brew cycles of clean water.

Use a Descaling Solution

Descaling solution is a liquid cleaning solution that will descale your coffee machine. To use descaling solution, simply mix equal parts of the solution with the same amount of water and run a brew cycle. Then, run multiple cycles using fresh water to flush out the system so you don’t end up drinking leftover solution next time you make a coffee.

Use Descaling Powder

Descaling powder is one of the most convenient solutions for deep cleaning your coffee machine. all you have to do is dissolve the powder in some warm water and run it through a cycle like normal.

Here’s how to use descaling powder:

  1. Follow the instructions on the packet for dissolving in lukewarm water (usually one litre).
  2. Pour the mixture into your water reservoir and brew the entire amount.
  3. Dump the cleaning solution and refill the tank with fresh water. Run the brew cycle again.
  4. Run two additional cycles with fresh water each time to guarantee the cleaning solution is rinsed completely away.

Use Citric Acid

Citric acid is sold in dry powdered form and is another good method of deep cleaning your coffee maker. The typical solution is two tablespoons of citric acid to roughly one litre of water. Add this concoction to your reservoir, run the full amount through the coffee machine, then flush with multiple cycles of clean water.

What Else You Should be Doing to Clean Your Coffee Maker

descale breville barista

Every part of your coffee machine can quickly become icky if you don’t deep-clean it regularly. Unfortunately, running hot water through it is not enough, even if you think a good rinse is all it takes. The removable parts of your coffee machine should be cleaned regularly with soap and water and dried fully before being reassembled.

Parts like your brew basket, water tank, carafe or coffee pot, and others can grow mold and yeast through normal use, so they need to be cleaned with soapy water at least once a week. If it has a warming plate, you should wipe it clean daily to prevent a buildup of old coffee.

Here’s a step-by-step rundown of how to clean your coffee machine flawlessly:

  1. Start by collecting everything you need. This includes a non-abrasive scrubber such as a sponge or cloth (never use steel wool!), mild dish soap, warm water, and perhaps baking soda if your machine is particularly rough-looking. If you’re cleaning a fresh press, you’ll need a rubber spatula and a bottle brush to make the task easier.
  2. Next, unplug and disassemble the removable parts of your coffee maker. Dump the used coffee grounds or use them for composting. Make sure the carafe, water tank, and brew basket are all in good shape.
  3. Submerge the parts in warm soapy water and scrub with a soft brush, cloth, or sponge. Rinse all soap off and air dry or use paper towel or a microfibre cloth to dry the parts fully before reassembling the coffee maker.


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