Keurig is great for removing calcium buildup from appliances such as Keurig coffee makers. However, it usually leaves behind a residue that can cause a lingering vinegar taste in your next brew. This is why you may want to consider alternative ways to clean and descale your Keurig without having to use vinegar.
Can you clean Keurig without vinegar?
Even though vinegar is an effective cleaning agent, it’s best reserved for the internal parts of the Keurig machine where caked-on grime and limescale usually build up. The removable parts of a Keurig can be cleaned and unclogged using soapy water, a paper clip, or a needle maintenance accessory.
If you still don’t have vinegar when it’s time to clean the internal components, you can use rinse pods, commercial descaling solution, lemon juice, or citric acid.
Using soap and water
Keurig coffee machines feature detachable parts such as the cold water reservoir, the drip tray, and the K-Cup pod holder. You can clean the drip tray and the K-Cup holder using warm water and soap.
Meanwhile, for the water reservoir, remove the charcoal water filter first before wiping down its surface with a piece of cloth drenched in soapy water. To clean the inner walls of the water tank, simply rinse it with fresh water and let it dry out. Avoid wiping the inside of the tank with a wet cloth, as you don’t want to leave any lint behind.
Note: Once done cleaning, replace the water filter with a new one before replacing all the components back into the Keurig unit.
Using a paper clip/ needle cleaning tool
Meanwhile, the entry and exit needles can be clogged with coffee grounds as well. You don’t need vinegar, or any other type of descaling/cleaning agent to clean them, though. Simply open the brew head and take out the K-Cup pod holder to access the exit needle.
Then, using a straightened paper clip, poke at the hole housing the exit needle to remove any clogs/gunk that’s clogging it and hindering normal functioning. Once done, do the same, with the entry needle located on the brew head.
For those with Keurig 2.0 models, cleaning the needles and the compartments in which they’re housed is even easier. These Keurigs come with a needle cleaning tool that you can also purchase on Amazon if you’ve misplaced yours.
This brewer maintenance accessory automatically unclogs the entry and exit needles, ensuring normal functionality within the pod holder unit.
Here is a video that shows steps to take to properly clean your Keurig needles with a Keurig needle cleaner accessory.
Using rinse pods
Keurig rinse pods are great for cleaning off the residue from coffee grinds on the K-Cup holder, the brewer funnel, and the exit needle. The rinse pods are designed to go inside the pod holder and work just like an ordinary K-Cup. The downside, though, is that they won’t clean the internal passages inside the brewer where lime buildup is usually a problem.
Using a commercial descaling solution
Keurig makes its own cleaning + descaling agents which are included inside their 3-month maintenance kits. However, you can also buy commercial descaling agents from other brands. Some of the best commercial decalcifiers with several positive online reviews include Bar Keeper’s Friend Descaler, Durgol Swiss Coffee Machine Descaling Solution, K&J Descaling Solution, and Essential Values Coffee Machine Descaler & Cleaner.
Using lemon juice
Lemon juice is a great alternative to vinegar when it comes to descaling solutions. Vinegar contains acetic acid, which has a greater residual effect than citric acid, which is found in lemon juice. What’s more, lemon juice is just as readily available as vinegar. You can even squeeze fresh lemon juice by yourself and use it to descale your Keurig.
The acidity of lemon juice breaks down mineral deposits inside the Keurig, while also disinfecting it of bacteria. This is also a cheaper option than using commercial descalers. Take note, though, that lemon juice contains only about 5% citric acid. You, therefore, need a substantial amount to effectively get rid of mineral buildup inside a Keurig brewer.
Using citric acid
Citric acid is a descaling agent that works much in the same way as lemon juice. Available in most grocery stores in powder form, this product is sometimes sold under the label ‘sour soda’. Pure citric acid is more concentrated and you don’t need to use much of it to effectively descale, thus offering more value for money spent.
How to descale Keurig without vinegar
To effectively descale a Keurig coffee maker without vinegar, you need a commercial descaling solution. When you undertake a rinse brew using the descaling solution, it breaks down the calcium buildup on the walls of the inner components of the Keurig brewer, helping to restore normal brewer functionality.
Prepare for Descaling
First, ensure you deactivate the auto-off feature in your Keurig unit before starting to avoid disrupting the descaling process. In Keurig models with larger water tanks, especially, the descaling process is quite lengthy and the machine needs to stay on the entire time. Also, ensure you remove any K-Cup inside the pod holder but don’t remove the pod holder itself; as it helps to prevent spills during the descaling process by directing the descaling solution into the exit spout.
Add a descaling solution + water
Detach the water reservoir from the Keurig unit. Empty it if it still has water and clean it. Then, mix 16 fluid ounces of a commercial descaling solution with 16 fluid ounces of water. If you have Keurig cleaning and descaling solution, the brand recommends using it as follows:
i. Pour only 4.6 ounces (1/3 of the bottle) for smaller Keurigs such as the K-Mini. Then fill up the rest of the tank with water up to the max fill line.
ii. Pour the whole bottle for larger Keurigs such as Keurig Rivo brewers. Then fill up the rest of the tank with water up to the max fill line.
If you’ll be using citric acid instead, mix 2 tablespoons with a liter of water inside a jar and stir well before transferring the solution into the Keurig water reservoir. Meanwhile, if you’re using lemon juice, a 50/50 mix with water is recommended. If you’re squeezing the juice fresh from lemons, use at least 12 lemons.
Perform a rinse brew
Put the water tank back in the Keurig unit and start heating. Meanwhile, place a large jar on the drip tray and check to ensure there’s no K-Cup inside the K-Cup pod holder. Once the Keurig indicates ‘ready to brew’, press the largest cup size button to start descaling.
Repeat the above brew cycle until the ‘Add Water’ light comes on. The solution dispensed into the collecting jar will be a mixture of dissolved limescale and the descaling solution.
Rinse the Keurig
After a 30-minute wait period, start rinsing the Keurig coffee machine to remove leftover descaling solution from the inner parts of the brewer. Such a leftover descaling solution can affect the flavor of your brewed beverages.
To rinse the Keurig, take out the water tank, empty it, and rinse it thoroughly with fresh water. Then, fill the tank with freshwater up to the max fill line and return it to the brewer. Empty and replace the collecting jar on the drip tray before running multiple rinse cycles using the largest cup size to get rid of the residual descaling solution.
Once done, you should be able to brew coffee as usual. However, if the brewer is still not able to brew and the ‘descale’ light is still flashing even after you’ve descaled your Keurig, you’ll need to descale again. This may happen if the limescale buildup in your Keurig was excessive and multiple descale cycles are needed to get rid of all the grime buildup on the internal parts.
Can you use baking soda to descale a Keurig?
Baking soda is an organic cleaning agent for tough stains just like vinegar and lemon juice. However, instead of acid, it contains mild alkali elements that break down grease and mineral buildup.
To descale your Keurig coffee machine using Baking soda, simply mix baking soda and water in a 1:3 ratio. Once the baking soda dissolves, transfer the solution to your Keurig water reservoir and perform a descale brew cycle. This should be followed by at least three rinse cycles, as baking soda residue doesn’t rinse out as easily as lemon juice or vinegar.
Keurig.com: Keurig Rinse Pods