How to descale a Keurig coffee maker – expert tips for great tasting coffee

Do you descale your coffee maker? A nasty surprise may await if you don’t

Three Keurig coffee machines
(Image credit: Keurig)

If you want yours to last for years, you need to know how to descale a Keurig coffee maker. It's one of those niggly maintenance tasks that you probably forget about, but making it part of your coffee routine will improve the quality of your coffee as well as extend the life of your coffee maker.

Cleaning a Keurig coffee maker is relatively easy, however descaling even the best coffee maker can be a hassle if you have never done it before, or are using the wrong products. 

I've asked experts for their advice on how to descale a Keurig, including their tips for how to descale a coffee maker with vinegar and how to slow and prevent build-up of scale

How to descale a Keurig coffee maker

A close-up of Keurig K-cups in the Keurig K-Mini Plus

(Image credit: Future)

‘Descaling a Keurig coffee maker can not only help to make your appliance more hygienic, removing bacteria and mold but also helps the appliance to run more smoothly, removing stubborn calcium deposits that may be blocking your appliance's internal tank,’ explains Laura Honey, a former barista and our coffee expert at Homes & Gardens. ‘It helps to extend the life of your coffee maker, and keeps your coffee tasting as good as it did when you first brought your model home.’ 

There are hundreds of cleaning tips on the internet for descaling Keurig makers, but this is how the experts get it done. 

1. Empty the reservoir of water and remove K-cups  

‘Prepare your brewer by emptying your water reservoir of water, removing any K-Cups, and the water filter if applicable,’ advises Diana Crane, director of consumer care at Keurig.

As with cleaning any coffee maker, it is best to do this with the appliance unplugged and cooled down.  

2. Pour descaling solution into the reservoir and add fresh water 

While you can descale a Keurig with vinegar, using the official Keurig cleaner will ensure there is no strange aftertaste left in your machine after cleaning. 

‘For most machines, you should pour the full bottle of descaling solution into the empty reservoir before filling the bottle back up with plain water and adding that in too,’ says Diana. ‘For Keurig mini machines, however, you should add around ⅓ of the bottle before filling the water up to the max fill line. Make sure to check your specific model's instructions beforehand,’ she adds.

Keurig Descaling Solution | $8.98 at Walmart

Keurig Descaling Solution | $8.98 at Walmart

Made for all Keurig 2.0 and 1.0 coffee machines, this solution makes descaling quick and easy.

3. Place a large ceramic mug on the drip tray  

‘When it comes to descaling your Keurig machine, make sure to pick the largest mug you own to prevent any spillages as the solution passes through the machine,’ advises Millie Fender. ‘This mug should also be ceramic, as recommended by Keurig, to prevent any reactions between the solution, hot water, or limescale and another material.’  

4. Run ‘cleansing brews’ until the reservoir is empty

A cleansing brew is a machine cycle without any K-pod, making it ideal for cleaning. ‘To run a cleansing brew, simply select the largest cup size and press brew, allowing the machine to cycle through,’ says Diana. ‘Empty the mug after each cycle and repeat the process until the fill reservoir light illuminates on the front of your machine.’

‘Some Keurig machines come with a descaling program built in. If yours has this, select this instead of running a plain brew to make the process a little quicker,’ Millie Fender adds. 

5. Allow the machine to stand for half an hour

‘While leaving the machine turned on, leave it to stand for at least 30 minutes after the final cycle to allow any excess solution to drip from the machine,’ explains Laura. ‘Make sure to leave a mug in place during this so you don't have more cleaning on your hands afterward.’  

6. Run a fresh water rinse

Once the machine has stood, running a cleansing fresh water rinse will help rid your machine of excess solution. ‘Empty any remaining solution out of the reservoir and rinse with plain water before filling to the max fill line,’ says Diana. ‘Replace the reservoir and run large brew cycles (without a K-Pod) until the reservoir is empty once again. After this, any descale notification light should switch off.’ 

This fresh water rinse process is also advisable when cleaning any single-serve coffee maker, such as when cleaning a Ninja coffee maker to help refresh your system for great-tasting coffee. 

7. Add or replace the water filter

Adding a Keurig water filter to your coffee machine, or replacing your old one, can help extend the time between descaling cycles and protect the lifespan of your coffee machine. 

‘To install a Keurig water filter, soak the charcoal cartridge in fresh water for five minutes before rinsing in fresh running water for a minute,’ begins Diana. On the base of your machine's water filter handle, press the tabs on either side to separate it from the machine and add the cartridge before reattaching the handle. 

‘Insert the handle back into your empty water reservoir, making sure to push down firmly to ensure it is fully secure.’

Keurig 3-Month Brewer Maintenance Kit | $21.99 at Amazon

Keurig 3-Month Brewer Maintenance Kit | $21.99 at Amazon

This handy kit includes four rinse pods, one descaling solution bottle, and two water filter cartridges.


How often should you descale a Keurig coffee machine?

Making coffee in the Keurig K-Mini on test

(Image credit: Future)

‘You should aim to descale your Keurig coffee machine quarterly – or every three to six months,’ advises Diana Crane, ‘however, this can depend on the water you use and its mineral content. Harder water will cause a quicker build-up of calcium deposits than softer water,  which is why we recommend using bottled or filtered water. 

‘Your coffee machine will prompt you to run a descaling cycle, with the reminder only going away once you have run a descaling cycle. Although you can postpone the warning for six weeks, the sooner the descaling the better.’

‘If the brewer will be left unused for an extended period of time, for example over one month, it is wise to descale the coffee machine before putting it into storage,’ adds Diana. ‘You should then also run a descaling or cleaning cycle two or three times before using it again for coffee after the storage period.’ 

Keurig K-Select Coffee Maker |Was $149.99, now $119.99 at Best Buy

Keurig K-Select Coffee Maker | Was $149.99, now $119.99 at Best Buy

One of America’s bestselling beverage brands, Keurig is the go-to for inexpensive, single-serve coffee. A K-Select will let you make tea, coffee and cocoa at the touch of a button, and it’s now $60 off at Best Buy.

Which is better, Keurig descaling solution or vinegar?  

While both Keurig cleaning solution and vinegar can be used to descale your machine, the official solution is gentler for your machine, helping to prolong the lifespan, and will not leave a lingering aftertaste. That being said, vinegar is much more affordable and readily available, making it okay to use in a pinch for quick descaling every once in a while. If you'd like more advice on how to descale a Keurig coffee maker with vinegar, we have a whole article dedicated to the process.

What happens if I don’t descale my Keurig?  

If you avoid descaling your Keurig, your machine will gradually become less efficient and nearly unusable. A build-up of calcium in the internal tank and pipes will eventually block the flow of water, causing spitting, steam, and loud noises along with poor-tasting, colder coffee. Leaving it for too long could permanently damage or break your machine.

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.

With contributions from