Every coffee brewer, including Keurig ones, require descaling at regular intervals. The repeated heating of water builds up calcium and other minerals over time. The question though is what approach to use: Descaling Solution or Vinegar – Which should you pick?
Why Descale your Coffee Machine in the First Place?
These deposits can slow the brewing down and cause your beloved cup of coffee to taste a little off. The longer you delay getting rid of limescale and mineral deposits, the worse your coffee will taste, and the longer the brewing cycle will be.
After you ‘successfully’ ignored all warnings that your Keurig coffee maker gave you and didn’t pay any attention to little warning lights that come on to tell you to descale, you eventually will have a coffee machine that doesn’t work anymore. De-scaling might have just been that little maintenance activity to take to prolong the life of the coffee maker. But, is white vinegar or descaling solution the better approach?
Descale a Keurig Coffee Maker?
Now, you might think as you’re using a Keurig coffee brewing appliance that you might not suffer from any of these issues? Unfortunately, you’re mistaken. It is necessary to descale for any coffee machine, Keurig, or not.
Seeing the ‘Prime’ message on your Keurig
If you ignore your Keurig’s descaling for long enough, you might end up with the ‘Prime’ message on the little screen. At that point, you might remember that you’ve never taken any maintenance steps to keep the Keurig coffee maker in shape so it continues to brew your delicious cup of Joe (why is coffee called Joe?)in the morning. Well, one of those steps would be to descale your Keurig and have it working for a long time to come!
What does Descaling Do?
Descaling removes the mineral buildup inside the coffee machine. This buildup of minerals can negatively impact the taste of your coffee. It also can lead to slower brewing cycles and eventually to your brewer breaking.
How often should you Descale your Keurig or Drip Coffee Maker?
It’s time to descale at the latest when your coffee starts to taste ‘off.’ Typically, you can expect that it’s time to tackle the limescale buildup every 3 to around six months. It will depend on how often you use the brewer and also on how hard your water is. Hard water is rich in calcium and other minerals, and that will cause faster buildup in the brewer.
You should consider to descale the Keurig every two to three months. If you use the Keurig brewer heavily, then you should do it more often. Similarly, if your water is really hard and calcium-rich, then do it more regularly than every couple of months.
A lot of Keurigs have a descaling reminder function. That is also true for many other pod coffee machines as well as high-end drip coffee makers. If your coffee brewer does not have such a feature, keep the next appointment in your calendar.
Descaling the Keurig K-Cup machine regularly will help to extend the life of your brewer. Keeping the mineral build-up in check does help with prolonging the functionality of your Keurig coffee machine.
How do you Descale a Coffee Brewer or a Keurig?
You can use fight the limescale build-up with a de-scaling solution or white vinegar. Both methods work to get rid of the mineral deposits in coffee makers.
In many guides you read to use vinegar. Be aware that all of them refer to white vinegar. Do not get any other type than that to descale a coffee machine!
White vinegar is readily available at every supermarket, convenience store, or online. Make sure you do not make the mistake of getting balsamic, malt, or any other variety!
The purchased descaling solutions for Keurig and other coffee brewers are probably a little easier to use than white vinegar. However, they are usually more expensive and do not necessarily do a better job!
Many manufacturers recommend using their descaling solution for their coffee makers. When you’re descaling for Keurig, it’s no exception You typically can purchase those commercial products in consumer electronic stores or online.
Vinegar vs Descaling Solution – How to use them?
Let’s have a closer look at how you use each of the alternatives and whether there’s a clear winner.
Before we look at how to use these solutions to use in the descaling process of your coffee brewer, let’s go over some essential maintenance and cleaning you should do at the same time.
Clean your Coffee Machine
While you’re descaling your coffee brewer, you might give it some love and clean it.
Here is what you need for some basic cleaning:
- Dish soap
- Warm water
- Clean cloths for use with water and soap
- Dry cloths
You first want to unplug the machine to be safe. Use some dish soap and warm water to wash any removable parts of your coffee maker.
In the case of a single-coffee brewer like your Keurig, that’s typically the water reservoir, lid, K-cup holder, and drip tray. Wash them with dish soap and warm water.
Then dry them with some dry cloths. You also want to wipe down the whole appliance with some damp towels.
In the case of a drip machine, make sure to pay extra attention to the filter basket and water outlets. That’s where you often find gunk and coffee grounds.
If you have a single-serve coffee machine like the Keurig, then clean thoroughly around the pod holder. That’s where you usually find some old coffee grounds and gunk.
Put all the removable and cleaned parts and accessories back onto the appliance. Plug the machine in again, and you’ll be ready for some descaling!
Using Vinegar to Descale a Keurig or Drip Coffee Brewer
Using this approach is cheap and convenient. You can get white vinegar pretty much anywhere if you don’t have it in your pantry at home.
To use this approach you have to have:
- White vinegar
- Some dry cloths
Use a mix of half white vinegar and half water as your descaling solution. You simply fill the reservoir halfway with vinegar and then top it off with clean water. Once the water reservoir is filled, you’re ready to start the descaling process. In some very bad instances of mineral buildup, you might have to repeat the process several times!
If you descale Keurig, Nespresso, or other single cup coffee makers, you simply use a cup and start the brew cycle. Then dump the brewed solution and run the next brew cycle until the water reservoir is empty. Each time you brew a cup and sometimes you might even find some dissolved bits and pieces of limescale in the cup. The repeated brewing will break down the limescale and remove mineral deposits from the machine.
If you have a drip coffee brewer, you simply start the brew cycle. You stop the brewing cycle after around half of your solution has run through the machine. Let everything sit for a few minutes to give the solution a chance to work its magic on the limescale and mineral buildup. Start the brew cycle again and let the machine finish.
Fill the water reservoir with clean water and repeat the brewing cycles until the water tank is empty. Brewing with fresh water will remove any remnants of the solution’s aroma in your brewer.
Your coffee machine is ready for brewing a delicious cup of coffee!
Using a Commercial Descaler Solution for your Keurig or Drip Coffee Machine
Many manufacturers, including Keurig, offer specific de-scaling products and solutions. Some come in liquid form while others are in the form of tablets that you have to dissolve in water.
These commercial products typically don’t work better. However, if your coffee brewer has an issue and you call the manufacturer, then they might tell you that you should have used their solution. You might also make sure to read the instructions and warranty coming with your brewer to ensure the warranty is not void if you don’t use their recommended product for descaling!
Each commercial or household solution will do the same: it’ll break down the mineral deposits and limescale in the machine.
You simply follow the instructions that come with the descaler. In many cases, they will be the same as if you use vinegar. You simply substitute the vinegar for the de-scaler and then run through the steps outlined above.
Final Thoughts – Which is better?
Both methods descale and break down mineral deposits reliably. Vinegar is the cheaper method.
One advantage you have with commercial descaling solutions is that they are flavorless. Vinegar might leave a hint of a flavor for the first few cups you brew afterward.
Your Keurig descaling solution might also have the edge when it comes to long-term effectiveness. Some solutions break down the buildup in the machine and treat it, so it will take a little longer for the deposits to build up again. Vinegar does not provide that extra benefit, and you might end up needing to descale more often.
If your brewer is within the warranty period, it might make the most sense to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. This ensures that you won’t void the warranty in any way.
If you have an expensive coffee maker like a Keurig or Nespresso, or any of the more fancy drip coffee makers, then use the manufacturer’s descaler. They might be more expensive, but they may help to protect your coffee maker in the long run.