Descaling Coffee Machines With Citric Acid

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Descaling a coffee machine is a simple process. Source

What’s the point of descaling my coffee maker?

So, as a coffee lover you’re a proud owner of a very efficient coffee maker. And it makes you several cups of delicious tasting coffee every day. But recently you stumbled on a coffee maker maintenance thread where other coffee lovers endlessly talk about descaling their coffee machines, this leaves you puzzled and confused. And now you’re asking a thousand questions at once; what’s all the fuss about descaling coffee machines? Why do I have to descale my coffee maker and what’s the point of it anyway?

Hey! Slow down, you probably don’t need to descale your coffee maker or maybe you do. And descaling your coffee maker isn’t rocket science so you have absolutely no need to fret.

So what’s the point of descaling your coffee maker? Each time you brew coffee using tap water, mineral water or even filtered water, it deposits what is known as lime scale on the inside of your coffee maker. Lime scale is a white hard substance consisting mainly of calcium carbonate – which is a component of hard water. This deposits build up over time and the layer thickens consequently preventing your coffee maker from performing as smoothly as it should.

A large deposit of lime scale will reduce the boiler capacity and create heating problems which will affect the brewing temperature and the taste of your coffee. Lime scale build up also cause blockages and slow down the flow of water, this puts serious strain on the pump making the brewing process very noisy, and if this problem is still not addressed (by descaling), your beloved coffee machine will eventually break down.

An effective way of preventing all of these problems is simply by using only soft water to brew coffee.

Descaling coffee machine with citric acid

Citric acid occurs naturally in citrus fruits, such as lemons. Photo by Lauren Mancke on Unsplash

If drinking coffee is something you do everyday and you have a personal coffee maker, then it probably needs cleaning and descaling by now especially if it’s been faithfully brewing your coffee drinks for some months now. And I’m sure you must’ve thought about that. 

There are actually several ways you can clean and descale your coffee maker. One very popular and common method is descaling with citric acid and it’s popularity is due to how effective it is. Citric acid is the major component of many commercial cleaning agents but you really don’t need any of those, not when you can prepare your own equally effective  mixture of citric acid and water.

And it’s easy! 

So what do you need? Citric acid and water. Yes, that’s all.

Simply purchase a bag of citric acid which will definitely last for a really long time because you need only 1-2 tablespoons for each descaling process. And the process is very easy, pour 2 tablespoons of citric acid into 1 liter of water. Fill the water reservoir with the acid-water mixture, turn on the machine and allow it go through a brewing cycle. Next, pour clean water into the reservoir and run another brewing cycle, to clean out any trace of citric acid from the machine. And that’s it! You just descaled your coffee maker with citric acid.

Citric acid for descaling Nespresso machines.

Citric acid can be used for descaling Nespresso machines as well. Photo by Basil Samuel Lade on Unsplash

If you own a Nespresso machine, then you should know that every time you make those delicious coffee drinks you enjoy, the hot water deposits a layer of calcium carbonate (also called lime scale) in your machine. After several months of daily coffee brewing, the layer of scale grows and will affect the coffee maker; including slowing down the brewing process and affecting the brew quality. Descaling your Nespresso machine every once in a while is a good way to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Although descaling your Nespresso machine isn’t nearly as enjoyable as the hot coffee drinks it produces, it’s still not that difficult a chore and only takes a few minutes. There are different ways to descale a coffee maker and a very common and effective way is using citric acid. To do this, you’ll need to prepare a mixture of citric acid and water, simply add 1 part acid to 20 parts water. Pour the acid-water mixture into your Nespresso machine, turn on the machine and run a brew cycle. Run another brew cycle, this time with only clean water to rinse the machine. Now your Nespresso machine is descaled, it’s that simple.

NB: Before descaling your Nespresso machine, it’s important to read its manual. If the manufacturer gave cleaning and descaling instructions, then it’s best to follow those instructions to avoid the risk of damaging your machine and possibly voiding your warranty.

Descaling Delonghi coffee machine with vinegar.

Many people want to descale their Delonghi coffee machines can be with vinegar. Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

So you have a Delonghi coffee machine and you’re enjoying it because it’s working really well. Then one day, the descale light comes on and you figured this means your pretty coffee maker needs to be descaled. And you start wondering how to go about the descaling process. 

But then you remember you’ve owned coffee machines in the past and you descaled them alright or maybe you consult the internet for a simple descaling process. After weighing several descaling methods, you conclude that you’ll go with the vinegar method because you have a bottle of vinegar sitting in your cabinet.

But before you do that, hold on second! 

Did you know that the Delonghi manual clearly states that under no circumstances should you use sulfamic and acetic acid based descalers? Well! If you didn’t, now you know. 

And if you’re still wondering what this means, then you should know that vinegar is simply a mixture of acetic acid and water. This means descaling your Delonghi coffee machine with vinegar is a very bad idea, because if you do you’ll risk damaging your machine and voiding your warranty and you really don’t want that. Now do you?

So next time you think of descaling your Delonghi with vinegar, think again!

Cleaning coffee maker with Apple cider vinegar.

Apple Cider Vinegar can be used to clean many things, including coffee machines. Source

Okay you just decided to clean your coffee maker because it’s already long overdue. But now you’re getting really worked up because you can’t find any trace of white vinegar around. All you can find is Apple cider vinegar and you’re wondering if it can be used. Actually it can.

Apple cider vinegar has the same acid concentration as vinegar and it works just like vinegar too. But a major disadvantage of using it is its tendency to leave an after taste in your machine. Making your coffee have a weird taste. To get rid of this taste, you’ll have to rinse your machine like 5 to 6 times or keep enduring the weird tasting coffee for a while. It’s really best not to use it at all.

Vinegar vs citric acid vs descaling solution vs apple cider vinegar. Which is best solution to use?

Have you been thinking of descaling your coffee machine? And you’ve been weighing your options and searching for that absolute best descaling solution because you’re coffee machine is just really precious so you can’t afford any damages. That’s very understandable. But the fact is, there really isn’t one absolute best solution for descaling coffee machines as they all get the job done and each one has its pros and cons. 

If you descale with Apple cider vinegar, you will need to rinse as many as 6 times or more else your machine will produce weird tasting coffee. With vinegar you get a similar experience but not as serious as it is with ACV. And some claim that descaling your Nespresso machine with vinegar can damage the pipes and it may also not get off all the lime scale. 

And if your coffee machine has aluminum parts, then descaling with citric acid isn’t advised since citric acid corrodes aluminum, especially if the concentration is a little bit too high. Now this leaves us with descaling solution but it doesn’t mean that’s the best because they don’t work for all coffee machines. 

In my opinion, the best solution for descaling your coffee machine is that recommended by its manufacturer (check the machine manual). But if none is recommended, you can contact the manufacturer and if that’s too much trouble you can use any method that suits you.