If the ‘descale’ light on your Keurig brewer comes on, it means that it’s time to rid the machine of limescale buildup. However, many Keurig owners usually don’t know what product(s) to use as a descaling solution. It’s not uncommon to hear of Keurig owners using the wrong ingredients, such as ammonia, to clean their brewers; leaving behind a strong aftertaste that’s hard to get rid of.
The best and most effective descaling solutions for your Keurig brewer is vinegar, citric acid, lemon juice solution, baking soda, and the brand-manufactured Keurig Descaling Solution
Why does my coffee taste bad after descaling?
Sometimes, after descaling your Keurig brewer, the machine may brew coffee that has a sour or stale taste. This is usually due to a residual descaling agent that wasn’t properly rinsed off the coffee maker. If you used vinegar, as your descaling solution, for example, residual vinegar may give your coffee an acidic/sour taste.
To remove the bad smell after descaling, you need to flush the brewer. To do this, run a few cycles of freshwater through the machine. You should also remove the water tank and rinse it with clean water in the sink.
Here’s a detailed procedure on how to remove the acidic taste of vinegar from your coffee after descaling:
- Remove the K-Cup pod from the pod holder.
- Place a large mug on the drip tray plate, pour water into the water reservoir, and run a few cleansing brews until the tank is empty. Repeat this step for about three cycles
- If the acidic taste and odor of vinegar is still present, run another cleansing cycle, but add baking soda to the water inside the reservoir this time round. Baking soda neutralizes acidic vinegar, resulting in a neutral taste.
- Mix the baking soda to dissolve it in the water. Finally, run at least three cleansing brews.
Note: Sometimes, the bad taste after descaling may be due to the limescale itself and not the residual descaling agent. This happens when scale buildup was excessive and the descaling solution couldn’t get rid of all of it. If this is the case, simply descale the Keurig a few more times until you’ve eliminated all the mineral deposits.
Keurig Descaling Solution Ingredients
The most effective descaling solutions for your Keurig brewer include vinegar solution, citric acid solution, lemon juice solution, baking soda, and the brand-manufactured Keurig Descaling Solution.
Descaling coffee machine with Keurig descaling solution
Keurig’s descaling solution is arguably the best product for getting rid of limescale on Keurig coffee machines. The key active ingredient in this descaling solution is citric acid, which reacts with the limescale to form a water-soluble salt that doesn’t precipitate like calcium salts.
Another ingredient inside the Keurig descaling solution is silicic acid (orthosilicic acid). Orthosilicic acid is more commonly used as an ingredient in medicines to treat conditions like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and arthritis. However, 2-4% of this acid is used inside the Keurig descaling solution as a stabilizing agent that keeps the solution from changing its chemical nature.
Additional ingredients in the Keurig descaling solution include bleaching and phosphates agents, which form about 5% of the solution. These are cleaning agents that are included to further cleanse the Keurig brewer and sanitize it of microbes after the descaling ingredient has done its job.
Note: Due to the presence of a charcoal filter, the chlorine levels in the water inside your brewer are usually reduced. This allows bacteria to live inside the brewer. The phosphate agents work to eradicate these bacteria living inside your brewer.
Descaling coffee machine with citric acid
Citric acid, when mixed with water, can also be used to descale a Keurig brewer. You need about 50-55% of this mild molecular acid to effectively remove lime buildup in your Keurig brewer. Water is used as the solvent since it’s amphoteric, meaning that it effectively dissolves citric acid powder or pellets without neutralizing or increasing its acidity.
Note: To make a citric acid descaling solution, mix a tablespoon of citric acid pellets with a gallon of water. However, if the scale buildup is immense, create a stronger mix by mixing one tablespoon of citric acid pellets with half a gallon of water.
To understand why citric acid is so good at eliminating calcium buildup, you need to know that scale is simply water-insoluble calcium carbonate or other forms of insoluble calcium salts. Citric acid, which is an organic tri-acid, reacts with carbonates to form carbon dioxide, water, and citrate salts. And since calcium citrate is more water-soluble than calcium carbonate, most of the salts are washed away as you run the brew cycle.
Note: The carbon dioxide bubbling from the reaction of citric acid with calcium carbonate makes the limescale brittle, making it easier for the citric acid solution to seep even deeper into the scale. Meanwhile, the newly formed calcium citrate salts can be easily washed off or wiped off the Keurig parts before they can harden to form scale.
Descaling coffee machine with vinegar
A vinegar solution will also get rid of calcium deposits off the internal parts of your Keurig brewer. Even better, descaling with vinegar is the most affordable descaling option available. To make a vinegar descaling solution, simply mix one part white vinegar with one parts water.
Then, pour the solution inside your reservoir and run a few cleansing brews. The acid in vinegar breaks down the limescale deposits inside your Keurig coffee maker into soluble calcium ions and carbon dioxide gas.
If the ‘descale’ light stays on after using this descaling solution, repeat the whole process a couple more times to get rid of all mineral deposits. Once done, undertake a few rinse cycles to get rid of a residual vinegar solution that might affect the taste of your coffee.
Note that vinegar is a mild acid and isn’t as strong as citric acid. Therefore, you’ll only have to undertake a few rinse cycles to get the acidic taste out of your coffee. In the case of citric acid, more rinse cycles are needed to remove the strong taste of acid.
Descaling coffee machine with lemon juice
Lemon is a citrus fruit, and therefore, contains some citric acid. You can use freshly-squeezed lemon juice or bottled lemon juice to descale your Keurig coffee machine. To create a lemon juice descaling solution, mix one-part of lemon juice with one part of lukewarm water.
Lemon juice leaves behind a more bearable aftertaste after using it as a descaling agent, as compared to vinegar which can make your coffee undrinkable. Nevertheless, you should still run a couple of rinse cycles after using lemon juice to descale, as other users might not appreciate the lemon taste in their coffee.
Descaling coffee machine using baking soda
One advantage of using baking soda as a descaling solution, as compared to acidic agents is that it doesn’t leave behind an aftertaste. What’s more, it also neutralizes any pre-existing odors that may have been affecting the taste and smell of your coffee.
Mix ¼ cup of baking soda with 1 cup of warm water. Stir the mixture thoroughly before adding the solution into your Keurig’s water reservoir. Then, run the brewer through a single brew cycle; before running an additional rinse cycle using only clean water to get off any residual baking soda solution still inside the machine.
Note: Baking soda can also be mixed with other descaling agents like vinegar and lemon juice to form an even stronger descaling solution that works faster.
Preventing limescale buildup using water softening pellets
This is a unique option on this list, as water softening pellets won’t descale a brewer, but will prevent limescale formation so that you won’t have to descale so often. These pellets remove calcium minerals from hard water, thus preventing the buildup of calcium deposits inside your Keurig.
Note: Water softeners ‘soften’ water by replacing insoluble calcium and magnesium with soluble sodium in an ion-exchange reaction.
- National Library of Medicine: Compound Summary- Calcium Carbonate
- National Library of Medicine: Compound Summary- Orthosilicic Acid