How to Make a Descaling Solution for Coffee Machines

Edited: February, 2023

If you want to have your coffee machine for longer it’s good to take proper care of it.

I realized that many of you may wonder how to make a citric acid-based descaling solution.

In my last article, where I’ve listed the best decalcifying products for coffee makers, I mentioned my active ingredient of choice for a homemade alternative.

In this one, I’ll go in-depth and tell you what’s the recipe and how you can prepare your own solution that can remove the limescale from your coffee machine.

This one does a pretty good job and is applicable to Keurig, Nespresso, espresso machines, kettles, hot water dispensers, water distillers, etc.

As I’ve mentioned before, I wouldn’t exclusively count on it when it comes to descaling a coffee maker, but I’ll get into that later.

Still, many people exclusively use DIY solutions for the removal of mineral buildup and have no complaints whatsoever.

So let’s get to the point!

How to Make Your Own Descaling Solution?

If you’re looking for the answer to that question you’re probably in search of a less expensive descaling solution that will do what it should (and also do it well).

This alternative is cheaper, non-toxic, and easy to make.

So here is how to make a descaling solution for your coffee machine:

  1. Mix 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of citric acid in a quart (1 liter) of warm water.
  2. Stir to dissolve the powder in the water.
  3. Add the solution to the water tank and start descaling according to the instructions, provided by your machine’s manufacturer (usually available in its booklet).

Generally in households, there are two widely spread descaling agents – the citric and the acetic acid in vinegar.

The former is my descaling ingredient of choice, since it’s odorless and much easier to flush out.

Usually, I’d say that 2 water-only cycles are needed to completely rinse my machine out when using the citric acid.

It works pretty well and after that my coffee tastes great.

The white vinegar solution that is often used for descaling purposes in coffee makers is the following:

  1. Fill half of your maker’s water reservoir with water.
  2. Add white vinegar until you fill the entire tank. It’s basically a 50/50 solution.
  3. Stir and start your decalcifying cycle.
I wouldn’t recommend using vinegar in your coffee machine, since it takes much longer to rinse out.

More than twice as much compared to the citric acid solution.

The first and the last time I’ve used it, I rinsed the machine with water 5 times and my coffee still had that unpleasant smell and acetic aftertaste.

I would say that it’s easier to remove the odor if you use it in your tea kettle, but when it goes through the internal parts of an espresso machine, there are more bits and corners where the vinegar could hide.

I think that the fact that part of the solution evaporates during the process may also contribute to the harder flushing – there are condensed smelly drops where water usually doesn’t pass.

On top of that, based on my thorough research, acetic acid isn’t quite an effective decalcifier compared to other alternatives.

So I highly recommend going with the first recipe with citric acid that I gave you.

It’s more cost-efficient and coffee maker-suitable than any other homemade option you have.

You can check this 2 pound package’s price and see how cheap it is (especially having in mind that it would last you for years). If you only use it for your coffee maker, of course.

In fact, you can put it to use for decalcifying not only your machine but also gooseneck kettles, dispensers, distillers, even shower doors, showerheads, etc.

Compatibility – Is This Homemade Formula Good for Your Machine?

Many home-grade coffee makers come with a decalcifier that carries the machine’s brand name.

This product is usually quite expensive and is to be used only once – for one descaling cycle.

This is why many owners of home coffee machines, such as Keurig, Nespresso, Gaggia, etc, start looking for more information on what are the ingredients of those special solutions.

Of course, we want to find out whether we can actually make such a product by ourselves at home, or at least substitute it with a cheaper alternative.

I did some heavy research and found out what are the main ingredients of such products.

As one would expect, all of them have descaling agents and the most common are citric acid, sulfamic acid, and lactic acid.

For example, Keurig’s product uses mainly citric acid, while Nespresso’s descaling solution – lactic.

At first sight, you might think that they are ripping us off.

That’s not completely the case, since many home-grade coffee makers have aluminum internal parts and if unproperly descaled, there is a risk of corrosion.

This would damage your machine, which is not something you’d want.

In such branded solutions there are corrosion inhibitors that ensure decalcifying without damaging your maker’s parts.

That’s why if you don’t mind the price, stick to them.

Still, making your own citric acid solution, like the one described above, will work.

It’s all about concentration and duration of boiler immersion.

For example, if you have an espresso machine with an aluminum boiler I would recommend you using 1.5 tablespoons of citric acid for a quart (just in case).

Don’t exceed 10 to 12 minutes when letting the solution work on the inside, where the boiler is.

Then run it out of the steam wand and group head, while the new solution is entering the inside of the machine.

Repeat the process until the mixture is finished, rinse the water tank, and flush the coffee machine.

This formula is gentle enough not to harm your espresso machine.

If your maker has copper or brass insides, the water coming out of the grouphead might come with a slight green tint to it.

You shouldn’t worry about that.

If you have a single-serve pod machine, using a quart of the solution will work as well. A friend of mine descales her Keurig with this citric acid mixture for a couple of years now and has no complaints whatsoever.

I personally prefer maintaining my machine with a coffee maker descaling product.

I’ve written an article where I’ve listed my favorites that also come at a great price.

You can check it out to see some affordable and efficient off-brand descalers that can be used instead of your machine’s recommended product.

Since I’ve invested in a coffee maker, I have no issue paying a bit more and using them instead of the citric acid.

It’s for my own peace of mind.

Still, if I don’t have any at home, I make my own solution. And does work just as well.

And don’t forget that you shouldn’t wait for your machine to slow down and malfunction to realize it’s time to descale it.

Especially if you know the tap water you use is hard.

Perform preventative decalcifying.

This way you’ll have your machine for longer.

If you want to learn more about what’s the most suitable water for your coffee maker and espresso machine, check out my detailed beginner’s guide on the best water for coffee.

Over to You

There are many ways to save money by using DIY stuff.

This is why I decided to share what I know and how I make descaling solutions for my coffee machine.

I would definitely suggest that you try making your own and see how it works.

I’d love to know if you have any other suggestions and if you use a different descaling agent in your homemade decalcifying formula.

Hit me up in the comments below.

3 thoughts on “How to Make a Descaling Solution for Coffee Machines”

    • Maybe invest in the re-useable pods
      I’ve been using iCafilas Stainless Steel Coffee Capsules for almost 4years now no issues and saves the environment how many plastic pods I can’t imagine was going to landfill. There are other less expensive re-useable pods available I just prefer the stainless steel version


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