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Descaling Coffee Machines – What is it and Why it Will Save You Money

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a little coffee obsessed. Nothing gets me going in the morning like a freshly brewed cup of coffee, conversely, nothing grosses me out more than peering into my coffee machine and seeing limescale build-up. When I lived in Boston I never have had to contend with this icky issue, however since moving to the UK, where the water is harder than a Swedish death metal band, it’s become a distressingly regular occurrence.

While it doesn’t directly effect taste, lime build-up in your machine can block water flow, damage components, and negatively effect the temperature of your coffee. Therefore, it’s imperative to descale your machine on a regular basis to prevent lasting damage.

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When it comes to descaling your coffee maker there are a number of sure-fire ways to get the job done, each with their own set of pros and cons. Each of these methods involve the use of acid. Acid is highly effective at breaking down limescale deposits, but the trick is to use an acid that isn’t strong enough to destroy your machine in the process!

Probably the simplest option for most is to just buy a prepackaged coffee machine descaling product. These can come in a liquid, powder, or tablet form. These products are convenient and often recommend by coffee machine manufactures, but they can be fairly pricey.

Some of the cheaper store-bought descaling products are little more than citric acid. Citric acid is pretty cheap and pretty easy to source. You can often find it in the Baking and Canning sections of your local grocery store. It’s also readily available online.  

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While citric acid is a great option for cleaning your coffee machine, most of us are unlikely to have a tub of it just lying around. That’s where the final descale solution comes in. It turns out that white vinegar is just as effective as citric acid with the added bonus that it’s likely that most of us have a bottle in the kitchen already. 

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Here’s how to get rid of mineral deposits in your coffee machine using only white vinegar.

Step 1. Clear Coffee & Grinds

Empty out the carafe and remove any grinds from the filter basket.

Step 2. Wipe Down

Give the machine a general wipe down. You’re already descaling it, you may as well give it a spruce up at the same time!

Step 3. Add the Solution

Fill the water reservoir with equal parts vinegar and water. You can adjust the ratios accordingly if you have heavy calcium buildup.

Step 4. Air it Out!

Open up you kitchen windows, it’s going to smell a bit funky for a while.

Step 5. (Automatic) Descale

If you’re machine has a “Descale” function switch it on and ignore the next three steps.

Step 6. (Manual) Descale

Start up the coffee machine and let a few cups run through the machine.

Step 7. (Manual) Descale

Switch off the machine and let it sit for about an hour.

Step 8. (Manual) Descale

Turn the machine back on and complete the brew cycle.

Step 9. Clean out the Acid Mix

Ditch the vinegar water mix and run the brew cycle a few more times with regular water until the vinegar odor has dissipated.

Step 10. Save Money, Drink Coffee, Enjoy

Brew up a pot of coffee and congratulate yourself for being so industrious! Your machine will last a lot longer with regular descaling, so good work!

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Depending on the hardness of the water in your area you will need to descale your machine as often as once a month or as little as once a year. One way to delay the event is to use avoid the faucet entirely and only use filtered or distilled water.

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