Vinegar to Descale Coffee Maker – Does It Work?


Featured Image for Article about Descalling Coffee Maker

I always wondered about this till I tried it. If you are wondering if you can use vinegar to descale your coffee machine, keep reading!

Solution: Yes, it is possible and does work to use vinegar to clean your coffee machine. Keep reading to learn how. The easiest way to descale your coffee maker is with a vinegar and water mixture. For every quart (1 liter) of water put in, add 2 cups (500 ml) of white vinegar and run the coffee maker empty. You are removing any traces of lime-scale in the tank and pipes if present.

Click here to go to the bottom of the article for step-by-step instructions.

I’ll tell you a quick story, basically an embarrassing story, but I waited like two years before the first time I did this to our Keurig Coffee Maker. I did this because I was afraid it would leave a vinegar taste, but it didn’t. Keep reading if you want to know the ins and outs of using vinegar to clean your coffee machine. I’ll even cover alternatives if you are like my wife and can’t stand the smell.

Why do I need to clean my coffee maker?

Image for Article about Descale Coffee Maker
Any brand will do

Over time, your coffee maker will collect grime and buildup on the inside where the water travels or stores. This grime will hurt the taste of your coffee.

If this buildup has built up enough, it may be best to descale your machine with vinegar.

My wife’s question when I first told her about this cleaning method I found online was; why vinegar?

Why Vinegar?

Vinegar is acidic aids in breaking down any buildup inside of the machine. It doesn’t harm the machine or its parts but acts as a neutralizer.

Vinegar is also an economical cleaning product; I use white vinegar in my laundry, cleaning solutions, and dishwasher. It is used explicitly in this case to remove the residue of water buildup in whatever appliance you are using it in. With laundry, you will find that vinegar can help kill mildew and mold.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinegar

Will Vinegar Effect the Taste?

The most important #1 question for some people: will using vinegar change the taste or leave a vinegar taste? Are all your future coffees doomed to taste like pickles?

Answer: No! I know it sounds crazy, but once you run the vinegar through your machine and 1 to 2 additional cleaning cycles, then you will not even know you used vinegar to clean the machine.

Keep reading to find out why you want to use distilled vinegar.

Why White Vinegar or Distilled Vinegar?

There are many options for which vinegar to use in your household cleaning, but white vinegar, also known as distilled vinegar, is selected for a few reasons. White vinegar is a great multipurpose cleaner and a natural product, so it’s safe to use around the house, especially around children and pets.

It doesn’t have strong fragrances or bright colors that might irritate someone or stain something. It also can be diluted with water to produce different strengths of vinegar, from a straightforward cleaning power down to a mild solution that won’t hurt surfaces or leave streaks.

You might say the same for other vinegar, but the lack of additional fragrances and colors really tip the scale for me making white vinegar the choice for cleaning.

Can I use Apple Cider Vinegar?

Apple Cider Vinegar is made from apple juice and may or may not be filtered. However, distilled vinegar is distilled during the 2nd stage before the second fermentation process leaving it clear and colorless. Due to how Apple Cider Vinegar is made, it is highly recommended not to use Apple Cider Vinegar.

There are tiny particles and sediments in the liquid with Apple Cider Vinegar, even filtered apple cider vinegar. There is also a slight fruity apple taste that might linger when white vinegar will not.

I still need more info. Keep reading.

What Are the Benefits of Using Vinegar to Descale a Coffee Machine?

Image for Article about Descalling Coffee Maker
Pouring it in to measure

Now that you know a little more about vinegar, you might be wondering why would anyone use vinegar again; let me list a few things that might help:

  • Vinegar is an all-purpose cleaner.
  • It preserves the original beauty of your coffee machine, which can become corroded or even stained after cleaning with other chemicals.
  • It’s cheaper than using other cleaners, and you only need to use a minimal amount of it to clean your coffee machine.
  • Your coffee will taste fresher because vinegar will not affect the flavor of the water used for brewing.
  • Vinegar can easily handle any mineral deposits that build up on your coffee pot because it removes calcium and magnesium from hard water.

Additional Q & A: Other Things to Know When Using Vinegar to Descale Your Coffee Machine

After using vinegar to clean my machine for the first time, here are some additional things you might be wondering:

  • Does the vinegar really work? What is it made from? – Yes, it does work. As long as you use vinegar with at least 5% acetic acid in it, the vinegar will descale the coffee maker.
  • How many times can I use vinegar to descale my coffee maker? – The manufacturer usually recommends you only use the vinegar once every two months. You should note that for your machine to have its best performance, you should be descaling it at least once a year.
  • If it has been a long time since you have done the cleaning, you may want to do it more than once the first time or let the solution sit a little longer.

For Help With the Process

If you have a Ninja Coffee Maker, we have a section just for them here (opens in new tab). We also have one for Kuerig here (opens in new tab). But you can follow this generic guide below, which can be adapted for any machine. I will add more instructions for any request in the comments or from our form here (opens in new tab).

Note: You can substitute distilled water for water from your faucet. However, it is better to use distilled water. As noted above, distilled vinegar and white vinegar are the same things.

  1. Empty your coffee maker’s reservoir or tank for some models; you may need to dump it out for others. It is easier to run the cycle till the tank is cleared.
  2. Mix 2 cups (500 ml if metric) of Distilled Vinegar to every quart (liter if metric) of water to fill your reservoir or tank.
  3. Pour the water into the reservoir, fill it to the max fill line, and fill the pot and dump it into the tank for pot brewers.
  4. For single-cup machines that can do 1 cup, brew a single cup and then let the solution sit for around 40 minutes. If you have a pot style go ahead and brew the pot and skip to step 6.
  5. After 40 minutes, use the carafe brew button to brew all the remaining water in the reservoir. For some models, this will be several times, and you will need to empty the carafe or pot each time till the reservoir or tank is empty.
  6. Now clean any parts that are safely removable with mild soap and warm water. This might include the filter basket, basket, pot, carafe, cup/mug, etc. Some filters can not be cleaned and need to be replaced. Often you can tell the difference because the ones that need to be replaced have stuff on the inside.
  7. Put your machine back together and run 2-3 full reservoirs or tank loads of distilled water through the machine to clean out any remaining vinegar.
  8. Optional: Wash the removable items one more time.

There are a few more nuances there, but if you have a specific model, you would like me to look into and write an article about, leave a comment below, or use our form (opens in new tab).

I checked all of the manuals and did some further digging, and added a bit from my personal experience with coffee brewers and past research for this article.

Spencer Heckathorn

Spencer loves to learn and try new things. He has been sharing his trials, successes, and failures, online since the early 2000s.

Tell us about YOUR results...

Recent Articles

Pinterest image for descaling coffee maker