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Descaling a Keurig is highly recommended by the brand, and can ensure you are getting the most out of your Keurig in terms of taste, brew size and longevity.
With so many models in Keurig’s sizeable range, the descaling process can get confusing. Hopefully our review about how to descale a keurig will be useful.
Working out how to descale your Keurig as well as other details such as how to prep the coffee maker for descaling and which cleaning solution to use is tough, so we’ve designed this guide to make the process a whole lot simpler.
In simple terms, descaling gives a better quality of brew and a more reliable brew. There have been many issues reported in machines which aren’t descaled.
- Clogging. The build-up of chalk can quickly become a clogged machine which doesn’t brew, or periodically jams.
- Inconsistent brew size. Many people report that their brews come up a little short when the machine hasn’t been descaled regularly.
- Heating issues. Some users have reported that after a limescale build-up, their Keurig was a lot worse at properly heating up their brew, leading to some unpleasant, luke-warm coffee.
- Machine lifespan. It is much more likely that a neglected Keurig will last less time. Issues on coffee machines which aren’t descaled regularly are far more common and can eventually become fatal to your brewer!
It should be said that limescale build-ups in your Keurig aren’t toxic and are not going to do you any harm, but they can affect the quality of your brew and longevity of your machine.
What Exactly Is Descaling?
Descaling is not just cleaning your Keurig. It is the process of getting rid of limescale. A sort of chalk made of calcium which builds up in water.
The water has a lot of different calcium carbonates in it and even other minerals and materials. It doesn’t always stay dissolved in the water and can build up around the different components of your Keurig. This is due to the repeated changes in water temperature as it is heated in your machine.
The quality and ‘hardness’ of your water will all have an impact on the likelihood and frequency of these sorts of build-ups occurring.
Descaling is the process of using liquids designed to break down the build-ups of calcium and other materials inside your Keurig.
I Use a Filter, Do I Need to Descale?
You may have heard the term ‘hardness’ when associated with water. Hard water basically means it contains more of the chalky deposits.
You can soften the water within your home, and another recommendation is to use filters. Water filters are compatible with most Keurig coffee machines, and are never a bad idea. They greatly improve the purity of the water and therefore the final brew. However, they are not an alternative to descaling.
Even if you use a high quality, Keurig branded filter, the chances are some limescale will always build up within the machine. For the best quality and reliability, use both a filter and regular descaling.
How Often Should I Descale
The official word from Keurig is every three to six months. You should always descale your Keurig at a very minimum of six monthly intervals, and often it is recommended to do so more often than this.
The factors impacting on this will be the hardness of your water (the amount of ‘chalk’ in it).
This varies from area to area; you may be in a ‘hard water’ area, in which case it will be recommended that you descale more regularly.
If you use your Keurig very regularly it may also be worth descaling with a little more regularity, but there isn’t a direct correlation. Even if your Keurig only gets a run out rarely, it still needs to be descaled regularly.
We recommend using a filter too, and this will reduce the amount of time needed a little bit. It is recommended that your filter is changed every two months.
It can be difficult to judge exactly when the descale is required, so following guidelines and the alerts which may come up on your machine can be wise. Many newer Keurigs have a ‘descale’ alert that will tell you when it is due.
As there are no real visual clues that limescale is building up on the interior of your machine, you will only know when your machine starts to malfunction and by this time it can be too late as damage may have been done to your Keurig.
How to Prepare Your Keurig For Descaling
You can’t just dive straight in with this. You need to get the Keurig ready for descaling. We’ve added a step at the start of cleaning everything you can beforehand.
Limescale isn’t the only concern when it comes to Keurigs and they are constantly exposed to oil from the coffee beans which can become rancid and even become a health risk.
Technically this isn’t descaling, but it is a good precursor, and cleaning every accessible component with hot, soapy water is just good practice.
- Clean the removables. Though not an actual part of the descaling process, it makes sense to take out the drip tray, water reservoir and pod assembly (where the pods go) and give them a good clean in hot soapy water.
- Remove the water filter. This is not part of the descaling process and should be taken out of the equation.
- Disable auto-off functions. A lot of Keurig models have automatic off functionality so you can set them to turn off after a certain amount of idle time. This needs to be turned off for descaling.
- Ensure the reservoir is empty before you begin, and that there are no pods in the Keurig.
On to the actual method of descaling your Keurig. The steps are almost always exactly the same here, but it is worth referring to your manual just to check. Sometimes, a slightly altered method is required.
The method is as follows.
1. Prepare your descaling solution. This is the subject of some debate (more on that later).
Descaling solutions can be bought from Keurig, but some people do make their own from scratch too, which do have the ability to do just as good a job. Deciding on, and preparing your descaling solution is the first step.
2. Fill the water reservoir up to the guideline with descaling solution. This is normally 50% descaling solution and 50% water.
3. Ensure that there is a mug in place to catch the solution as it is brewed through the machine.
This cup should match the brew settings on the machine. Descaling is often done at a 6 Oz brew size in the smaller models, but doing a larger brew size with a larger mug will get the job done quicker.
4. Brew away. Using the standard brew setting you normally use, but without any K-Cup or other pod in place, hit the brew button and let the water and cleaning solution get drawn through the machine.
Repeat this until your machine tells you that the water needs to be refilled.
5. Leave the machine for 30 minutes. After descaling it is recommended that your Keurig sits for half an hour, sometimes more.
6. Rinse out your water reservoir to ensure none of the cleaning solution is in there. This will not make for an enjoyable next brew!
7. Refit your filter, refill the water and you’re good to go.
The process is pretty simple across the board and should only take around 45 minutes, including allowing it to sit for 30.
The only alterations based on your specific model are likely to be the amount of time it takes to draw through a full reservoir of water, and the recommendations when it comes to cleaning fluids.
Descaling Solution vs. Other Fluids – The Various Cleaning Methods
It is natural that Keurig would offer their own descaling solution, but it is rare that this comes included with the coffee maker when you purchase it, so you will need to buy it separately.
This isn’t always the cheapest way of doing it, which has led many people to look for alternatives.
The Keurig descaling solution is great, and will do a wonderful job of cleaning your model.
It is often sold as part of a cleaning kit; this will include filter cartridges for your Keurig water filter and serves as a sort of maintenance kit for your product.
This product isn’t hi-tech stuff though. Most of the solution is made up of citric acid, the kind that you can get from lemons.
It also contains acetic acid which is effectively just vinegar. With that in mind, there are two main alternatives to using a descaling solution; lemon juice and vinegar.
Vinegar is the natural choice for some. It is proven to break down limescale, and distilled vinegar is a very affordable product.
Avoid using kitchen vinegar and health products such as apple cider vinegar as these will not be anywhere near as effective.
If you do plan to use vinegar or lemon juice, I recommend following the exact same steps in the method of descaling, but to swap out the solution for your chosen DIY descaler!
There are many who claim that vinegar does a pretty good job, and while we do recommend the branded Keurig descaler, it is understandable that some people opt for this.
One word of caution, if you do plan to use vinegar or lemon juice, make sure you are extremely thorough with rinsing afterwards, and run through some plain brews with no K-Cup in your machine to ensure that all the liquid is flushed through the system.
I’ve tried some pretty unusual coffees in my time, but I’m pretty sure adding vinegar will not add anything to the flavor, so making sure all of it has been flushed out of your Keurig is vital.
There is no clear ‘winner’ of the cleaning solution vs. vinegar vs. lemon juice debate. Though they all have slightly different qualities, personal preference will dictate which you use for your decaling.
The solution sold by Keurig is definitely a convenient and effective product.
If The “Descale” Alert Stays On…
In some cases, the reminder on your display panel to descale can stay on. It may even be the case that problems you have had with your Keurig keep occurring after you have descaled.
In this scenario, unfortunately it may just be a case of having to keep descaling until the job is done.
Limescale can be persistent and if your Keurig has gone a long time without being descaled then there is every chance that one bottle of cleaning solution won’t do the trick.
You can always try vinegar or citric acid (lemon juice) after you have used cleaning solution if you have run out on the first attempt.
In rare cases, the Descale alert can stay on due to a malfunctioning computer, but this is unlikely to be the case. You will only know by continuing to descale the machine and seeing if this makes a difference.
Unfortunately, descaling is neither a fun nor glamorous job! Though it doesn’t take too long it can be a little bit of a drag, especially if your Keurig only allows you to do small brews at a time.
Sometimes, up to 12 brews of 6 Oz are required to properly descale.
Though not fun, it certainly is a worthwhile procedure! As well as improving the quality of brew you are getting from your machine, and eliminating a lot of issues that may occur, descaling and using filters can greatly enhance the lifespan of your machine.
In some cases it can last year’s more when treated properly. Too many of us are guilty of not taking the appropriate steps to maintain and look after our kitchen appliances.
In the case of a Keurig, having spent a fair amount of money on your coffee machine in the first place, it is worth the 45 minutes every six months to ensure that your machine stays in good working order.
If you have any further tips or experience of descaling Keurigs, feel free to leave a comment and share your advice.