I used to think my Keurig coffee maker was self-cleaning. Boiling water is sanitary, so that’s all my Keurig needs, right?
I have since learned that mold and minerals can build up and cause problems with my Keurig. Regular cleaning and descaling are imperative to keep a clean and efficiently running coffee brewer.
In this article, I’ll explain how to descale Keurig and answer some common questions people have along the way.
What Does it Mean to Descale a Keurig?
Descaling reverses the buildup of something called limescale. In technical terms, limescale is a mineral deposit of calcium and carbonate ions left behind when water runs through a system. You know that chalky white gunk that sometimes collects around a showerhead or faucet? That’s limescale.
If you have treated, soft, or purified water, mineral concentration won’t be as intense, but a slow buildup will still occur over time.
In your Keurig, limescale slowly builds up each time you run water through. While this deposit isn’t toxic, it can begin to affect your coffee’s flavor and clog up and slow down your machine. To prevent this buildup, you need to descale your coffee maker regularly.
So now we know why it’s important – let’s get into how to descale Keurig.
7 Easy Steps to Descale Your Keurig
Descaling your Keurig might feel like a hassle, but it’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it. You need to descale your machine every three months or as often as the manufacturer recommends. Some newer Keurig models even have a light that will notify you when it is time to descale.
To descale your Keurig, you will need:
- One bottle of Keurig Descaling Solution or white vinegar
- Fresh water
- Ceramic mug
Step 1: Prep Your Machine
Unplug it, power everything down, and let your machine cool.
Remove and discard any K cup remaining in the pod holder and wipe out the K cup holder of any coffee grounds. Remove any detachable parts and then wash everything with warm soapy water. Rinse, dry, and replace all detachable parts.
If you want to be thorough, go ahead and wipe everything down inside and out with a cloth. Be sure you don’t get any electronic parts wet.
Step 2: Fill the Water Reservoir with Water + Solution
However, if you prefer a natural or DIY option, you can use the cleaning all-star, white vinegar. More on that later.
Fill your water reservoir with equal parts water and cleaning solution.
Step 3: Run the Descaler Through the Keurig
Plug your machine in and turn it back on. With your water and descaling solution in the reservoir, run a brew cycle at the largest cup setting. To run, lift and lower the brew handle without inserting a K cup pod. Don’t forget to place the ceramic mug on the drip tray.
After the cycle is complete, toss the contents of the mug into a sink.
Step 4: Continue until the Water Reservoir is Empty
Continue repeating Step 3 until all your cleaning solution is gone from the reservoir or the “add water” light turns on.
Step 5: Leave on for 30 Minutes
Once you’ve emptied the reservoir, leave the whole thing alone for 30 minutes. The waiting period allows the solution to break down the last most stubborn bits of buildup and lift the limescale from every surface.
Step 6: Run a Brew Cycle to Rinse Your Keurig with Fresh Water
Just like you did in Step 3, you’re going to rerun a brew cycle – but this time, you’ll use fresh, filtered water to clean out any remaining vinegar or descaling solution.
Fill the reservoir with fresh water and run the brew cycle at the largest cup setting. Be sure to leave the mug in the drip tray to catch it.
Now get this.
You should run this cycle with fresh water up to 12 times. I know it sounds like a lot, but you don’t want any lingering traces of the solution or vinegar to end up in your coffee. Running fresh water through 12 times will ensure your next cup of coffee tastes like coffee and nothing else.
Step 7: Rinse Reservoir and Air Dry (Optional)
I recommend rinsing out the reservoir at the very end for the best cleaning and letting it air dry before you reattach it. Once you’ve finished this step, you are ready to make coffee again.
How Often Should You Clean and Descale Your Keurig?
Keurig recommends descaling once every three months. If you have filtered water or soft water, you may be able to stretch that for up to six months.
A few signs that your Keurig needs descaling:
- Each brew is taking longer to complete: the mineral buildup can slow your machine.
- Your cup of coffee isn’t hot: mineral buildup can also attach to the heating mechanism, causing it to function poorly.
- Your cup of coffee has a metallic or mineral taste: though nontoxic, limescale and other minerals can have a subtle flavor.
On top of regular descaling, to keep your Keurig from developing mold or just gathering dust, you need to clean it fairly regularly. Use the table below to assess when you need to clean.
|Water Filter Cartridge||Change every two months|
|K Cup Needle||As needed|
|Detachable Parts||Every week with soapy water|
|Mineral Buildup||Descale every three months|
- Water Filter Cartridge: You should replace the water filter cartridge every two months to ensure your coffee is fresh. Follow the instructions in your new cartridge packaging to install.
- K Cup Needle: If your Keurig seems to be having trouble brewing – or if you see coffee grounds in the cup holder – you may need to clean the needle. The needle is the part that punctures your K cup. You can use a paperclip or Keurig needle cleaning tool to remove debris.
- Detachable Parts: Remove any detachable parts and wash them with warm soapy water every week to prevent any mold or debris buildup.
- Mineral Buildup: This is where descaling comes in. Most experts recommend descaling every three months.
Keurig Descaling Solution vs. Vinegar – Which Works Better
Many people wonder if there are cheaper or more DIY options for descaling your Keurig coffee maker. The answer is yes!
I have compared the Keurig descaling solution vs. vinegar, and both do a solid job. Some people find that vinegar leaves behind a slight taste they can’t get rid of, but that issue seems rare. In fact, the manufacturer Mr. Coffee recommends white vinegar for descaling.
As with descaling solution, you use equal parts white vinegar and water when descaling. Use white vinegar more regularly for a gentle descaling. I recommend using it once per month.
If you’re worried about a lingering flavor of vinegar in your coffee, it may be best to stick with Keurig’s Descaling Solution.
What’s in the Keurig descaling solution?
While different descaling solutions have varied ingredients, the primary active ingredients are usually some kind of acid. A few examples include formic acid, citric acid, or acetic acid.
While acid might sound a little scary, many acids are entirely safe, and some are even part of our natural diet. The acids used in descaling solutions are safe for use on kitchen equipment. But remember that the rinsing process in descaling is essential to remove any traces of vinegar or acid, primarily because of taste.
Benefits of Keurig Descaling
Descaling your Keurig is a critical maintenance practice to be sure your machine lasts you a long time. It also gives you a whole variety of benefits.
- Better-tasting coffee: As minerals build up in your machine over time, they will begin to affect the flavor of your coffee subtly. While limescale is non-toxic, you also don’t want to be tasting it in your morning brew.
- Optimal temperature: Mineral buildup eventually slows down the heating system in your Keurig. If you’re noticing that your cup of coffee isn’t as hot as it once was, it’s probably time to descale your Keurig.
- Less electricity use: As minerals build up in your machine, they make it less efficient. Limescale may be coating the heating system or clogging up the water flow, making your machine work harder to produce a single cup. Descaling brings your machine back to its optimal energy efficiency.
- Faster brew: Again, the mineral buildup stops your Keurig from working optimally and slows it down. If you notice your cup of joe is taking a long time to brew, it might be time to descale.
- Longevity: For all the reasons listed above, mineral buildup can shorten the life of your coffee maker. Regular descaling will ensure your Keurig goes the distance.
Congratulations, you now know how to descale Keurig! It’s a simple, straightforward process that will significantly increase your coffee maker’s efficiency and lifespan.
Remember to run the descaling process at least once every three months and clean the detachable parts every week.
These easy steps will ensure your Keurig coffee maker lasts you a long time – and produces a delicious cup of coffee with every brew.