How to Descale a Coffee Maker – The 5 W’s [In-depth Guide]

    It’s already hard to be an adult in a perpetually evolving society. Now, imagine being an adult who has just about to have a cup of coffee. You pour the beans, start the coffee maker, and wait. You pour yourself a cup of coffee and then take a sip. It does not taste good. It’s not even hot enough! It just ruins your mood, doesn’t it? It sure ruined mine.

    Your coffee maker was just doing fine and you even clean it properly every time after using it but all of a sudden it’s not working properly anymore. Well, you could be cleaning your coffee maker day in and day out and you would still be drinking the same god-forsaken coffee every morning. These are all effects of calcium and limescale build-up inside the coffee maker. These buildups mess with the brewing process which is what causes our coffee makers to produce bad coffee. If you’ve experienced everything that was mentioned from the beginning of this article up to this point, then what your coffee maker needs is some good ol’ descaling.

    What is Descaling?

    Descaling has nothing to do with animal scales. It is the process of removing magnesium, calcium, and other mineral buildups inside the coffee maker. These mineral buildups are collectively called limescale which is where the “scale” in descaling comes from. Although water is the most important ingredient in making a cup of coffee, it is also what causes these mineral buildups. When water is heated to boiling temperatures, the minerals in it tend to solidify and build-up on a surface which in this case is the heating element of our coffee maker.

    The descaling process is simple and doesn’t require a lot. It uses the same process as brewing but requires the usage of a descaling solution. Some coffee makers even have an automatic descaling function. We only need to prepare the solution and let the coffee maker do all the work for us. During the descaling process, the descaling agent breaks down the limescale and dissolves it, leaving our coffee maker clean and scale-free. Descaling is a coffee maker’s bath time. Just as humans need a bath to smell good, coffee makers need to be descaled to make coffee that doesn’t taste bad.

     

    Cleaning vs. Descaling

    Cleaning and descaling a coffee maker are two very different processes. While descaling involves cleaning the inside of the coffee maker, cleaning is mostly done on the external parts of the coffee maker. The descaling process only dissolves mineral buildup but it isn’t able to wash away any coffee residue left from brewing. Neglecting the cleaning process will leave the coffee makers with a putrid smell and it will continue to produce bad coffee. The coffee residue will also cause clogging and blockages which just yields the same results as failing to descale. Cleaning coffee makers requires different products that are designed to clean coffee oil residue.

    When should we Descale?

    It is usually hard to miss when a coffee maker is already in urgent need of descaling – when a coffee cup just can’t fix mornings anymore. Severe scaling symptoms usually happen when we leave a coffee maker machine un-descaled for more than three months. It could get even worse if the coffee maker is being used more frequently than not. When determining the proper time to descale a coffee maker, the “hardness” of water should also be taken into consideration since the harder the water, the more minerals it has.

    Waiting for your coffee to taste bad before descaling would be okay but allowing minerals to build-up inside the machine would make the coffee maker work harder than it has to and make its life much shorter. Additionally, it would make the heating coils inefficient and add up to our electric bills. Descaling should be done at least every 1 to 3 months. If you use your coffee maker more frequently, then every month would be recommended. It would also be wise to let a descaling solution sit in the coffee maker when going on a long vacation to avoid having buildup when you come back.

     

    What is water hardness?

    Hard water doesn’t literally mean the water is solid. Water hardness refers to the number of minerals that water contains, specifically the percentage of dissolved calcium and magnesium. The higher the percentage of these minerals, the “harder” the water is. There are tons of how-to guides that teach how to measure the hardness of water.

    Why should we Descale?

    Limescale build-up can cause a variety of things to happen to our coffee maker. Since limescale usually accumulates on the heating coil, it makes the heating inefficient. The thicker the build-up the less heat is transferred from the coil to the water. This would also mean that it would take much longer for the water to reach the optimal brewing temperature which in turn causes the coffee to taste not as good as it should. This would also cause the heating coil to work much harder than it should to deliver the right amount of heat and subsequently raise our electric consumption and thus increase the electrical bills. This doesn’t even include the fact that our coffee won’t be hot enough to drink!

    If we continue to allow the minerals to accumulate on the surface of our coils, it would soon be thick enough to prevent the passage of water into the carafe. Let just a little bit more time pass and our coffee makers won’t even be making coffee anymore.

     

    In the end, failing to descale will only give us bad coffee, a higher electricity bill, and it will cost us a coffee maker. Clearly, we have more to gain than lose when we descale our coffee makers.

     

    Where to find descalers?

    Choosing the right descaling product for our coffee makers is one of the things to know before proceeding to descale. There are two ways to know which descaling products we should look for. Coffee machine manufacturers usually have descaling solutions to recommend for their product so the best place to ask first about which product to use would be them. If the manufacturer doesn’t recommend a particular product, then the second method suggests choosing a product depending on the metal used in the boiler. Different coffee makers require different descalers depending on the type of metal used in the heating coil of the boiler. Using the incorrect descaler may result in inefficient descaling or may damage the coffee maker so make sure to use the right one. The boiler could be made of either stainless steel, brass, or aluminum. This information can be asked from the manufacturer or it may be provided in the coffee maker’s manual.

     

    To help you in choosing which descaling product to use, here are some products recommended by coffee maker owners:

     

    Urnex Dezcal

    For stainless steel and brass boilers, Urnex Dezcal would be recommended. This product is considered as Amazon’s Choice when it comes to descalers and is recommended by most coffee lovers. Urnex Dezcal offers a quick and effective solution to your build-up problems. It is non-toxic and nonbiodegradable so it is sure to descale our coffee makers without leaving any aftertaste to our coffees. It comes in both liquid and powdered packs which both offer the same result. This product is ideal for maintenance and descaling once a month.

     

    Durgol Swiss Espresso

    Durgol Swiss Espresso is a good product for descaling aluminum boilers. It can effectively descale our coffee makers and at the same time clean and disinfect it. It also adds protection from corrosion and future buildup. It doesn’t leave any unpleasant odors so it is food-safe and eco-friendly. Each bottle provides single-use but offers ten times more than what other descaling products can and it also claims to remove 100% of limescale. It has 500 five-star reviews from Amazon and can be bought from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

     

    De’longhi EcoDeCalk Natural Descaler

    Usually recommended online by coffee lovers for any type of coffee maker, the De’longhi EcoDeCalk Natural Descaler claims to be thrice as effective as other traditional descalers. It is all-natural so it does not leave any after taste and it is also eco-friendly. This product is quick when it comes to dissolving limescale deposits as well which puts it in the recommended list. This product is available on Amazon.

     

    How to Descale a Coffee Maker?

    Descaling isn’t a complicated process and is a process that is easy to remember. Traditional descaling is almost the same process as brewing but without the ground beans. Modern coffee making machines now have an automatic descaling function and this can be used as well but if your coffee maker doesn’t have this function, the brewing button will do.

     

    1. Empty everything: Make sure that the carafe is empty and clean. The ground should also be cleared out from the chamber to ensure that no coffee will mix with the solution. The only thing that should be present in the coffee maker is the descaling solution.
    2. Prepare the solution: Fill the carafe with the descaling product as stated in the bottle or pack instructions. Some descalers require mixing with water while others don’t. Check the instructions to be sure which one should be done. If mixing with water, it is recommended to use bottled water or spring water to make the cleaning more efficient.
    3. Transfer the solution: Transfer the prepared solution into the water reservoir and fill it to its max capacity.
    4. Run half of a brew cycle: This is the start of the main descaling process. Let the coffee maker run half a brew cycle and at the half-point, stop the cycle and let the solution sit in the coffee maker from 15-20 minutes. If you haven’t descaled your coffee maker for a long time, then it is recommended to let the solution sit for an hour. Otherwise, if you descale it regularly, then the sitting period can be skipped.
    5. Rinse: Dissolved particles may be lodged onto corners and crevices inside the machine. To remove them, just repeatedly run the coffee maker with water until all the particles have been removed. One to two cycles of rinsing is recommended.
    6. Make a cup of coffee: You’ve just finished descaling and you deserve a cup of coffee. Consider this as a test as well to check if the descaling has done its job.

     

    Before descaling:

    Some people use do-it-yourself descaling solutions using ingredients such as white vinegar, lemon juice, citric acid, and baking soda to clean their coffee makers but if we ask our manufacturers, they would strongly advise against it especially for newly-bought coffee makers. We should only use do-it-yourself or DIY solutions as a last resort especially if we’re not that familiar with the coffee machine since it could void the product’s warranty and end its warranty period prematurely. Aside from that, using DIY descalers may leave unwanted aftertastes and odors in coffees and may corrode some parts of the machine. Most manufacturers have branded descalers that they recommend which would be suitable for the coffee makers that they sell. Commercial descalers are usually non-toxic and residue-free. Using them could reduce the chances of introducing a corrosive agent into the coffee maker which might damage it as well as forfeit its warranty. So before trying anything, it would be a good idea to ask our coffee manufacturers if they have available descalers for their coffee makers or if there are any that they would recommend and taking the time to read the machine’s manual.

    Descaling a Coffee Maker : To wrap up

    We’ve learned everything there is to know about descaling a coffee maker. This article only covers the basics of descaling and we’ve only discussed it in the general sense. As mentioned above, different coffee makers may require a different descaling process depending on the design of the manufacturer so we should always learn to check and read our operating manuals as these manuals mention precautions and warnings when operating the machine and it also includes how to specifically perform maintenance operations. This is important as there may be processes that may damage the machine without us knowing it. Our coffee makers keep us happy so it would just be right for us to keep our coffee makers healthy and happy as well.

     

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