Coffee Maker Descaler – Guide and How To Make Descaling Solution

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To keep your coffee maker in good working order, regularly descaling it is the best thing you can do. But there is a range of descaling and cleaning solutions, so how do you choose one over another? This article will attempt to answer that question.

Also, is it possible to use a homemade descaling solution? One thing’s certain – you shouldn’t use vinegar. Keep reading, we will explain why and share a recipe that’s both more efficient and avoids the vinegary smell.

What Acids Are In Descaling Products?

Before going into practical descaling tips, let’s look at the technical – namely, what acids are in descalers or coffee maker cleaners.

Below is a chart of the most well-known coffee maker and espresso machine cleaning products, and the type of acid they contain.

De’Longhi EcoDecalkLacticOrganic
Gaggia DecalcificanteCitricOrganic
Urnex DezcalCitric, SulfamicOrganic/Mineral
OXO Brew Descaling SolutionCitricOrganic
Durgol Special DescalerLacticOrganic

As the chart shows, each cleaning solution uses either lactic, citric, or sulfamic acid, or a combination.

If you’re considering another brand, don’t choose one that contains either acetic or hydrochloric acid. Instead, choose one that contains either citric or lactic acid as its primary component. The reason is that neither of these acids is harsh on either your coffee maker or the environment. You can even look for a 100% eco-friendly descaler too.

How To Choose The Best Descaling Products

Many of the same ingredients are found in different descaling options, so if you use a third-party descaler for your coffee maker, normally it won’t cause any issues.

So, whether the descaling product is manufactured by Durgol, Urnex, or other coffee maker brands, the chances are that it will be fine whether you’re descaling a Nespresso, Keurig, or Breville, De’Longhi, Jura, or another brand of espresso machine or drip coffee maker. 


However, it is still a good idea to consult the coffee maker’s manual in case there are any specific instructions for which descaler to use.

If There’s No Designated Descaling Product For Your Machine

As we mentioned earlier, if a specific descaling product is not recommended for your machine, a universal descaling solution will suffice, as well as the products listed in the chart. Which product you choose will come down to issues including ease of use, cost, and environmental impact.

Liquid products are the easiest to use as you don’t need to mix them. However, powdered products will need to dissolve in the correct amount of water before adding to the water reservoir. For a more organic and sustainable product, opt for those that use organic base lactic or citric acids.


Whichever descaler you purchase, the important thing is to follow the correct product to water ratio outlined in your machine’s manual.

If your coffee maker manufacturer recommends a specific descaler, you should follow its advice. That’s because the product may have a particular warranty policy, or the descaler in question may contain a corrosion inhibitor that’s not listed on the label.

For example, the Philip Saeco espresso machine is incompatible with descaling agents including hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, and sulfamic acid, because they can corrode the pipe and tube system. Therefore, you should use the descaler the company recommends, which has been tested on its machines.


Of course, this can make consumers suspicious that manufacturers are trying to upsell them with a product they make money from. However, rest assured that any money a manufacturer makes from selling a descaling product is tiny compared to its earnings from selling their coffee and espresso machines.

Take Technivorm. It recommends using Urnex Dezcal on its Moccamaster machines. However, rather than a chance to make more money, the company recommends the descaler to keep its customers satisfied by ensuring its products have longevity and better coffee taste.

How About A Homemade Descaler?

Let’s look at the pros and cons of this option.

Why Vinegar Is Not A Good Descaling Solution For Coffee Makers

The internet is awash with tutorials demonstrating how to descale coffee machines with vinegar. However, just because the practice is commonplace does not make it a good idea.

Technically, vinegar is acetic acid. So, given acetic acid is sometimes used in descalers, it’s no surprise that vinegar is used as a homemade alternative. However, it is not as effective, and it can damage certain metals and rubber seals.

Espresso machine manufacturer Philip Saeco’s testing reveals that vinegar takes 3.5 times longer to remove the same amount of scale as a descaler containing citric and lactic acid. Therefore, if your coffee machine has automatic sealing cycles, this can be an issue because the vinegar won’t have long enough inside the machine to complete the process, and there will be some limescale buildup left over.

Not only that, but vinegar leaves a strong smell and residual taste. If you use vinegar in a glass coffee pot, that’s not a problem, as they are easy to rinse. However, in an espresso machine, the remaining scale, coffee residue and coffee oils absorb that vinegar flavor. Meanwhile, copper bottles absorb the odor. The flavor and odor of vinegar can be hard to shift.

How To Make Descaling Solution For Coffee Maker? (Without Vinegar)

If you’re committed to making your descaler, there’s a far better ingredient you can use than vinegar – citric acid.

A good recipe is two tablespoons of citric acid per liter of water. Let’s break down the best way to make a descaler using citric acid.

  1. Mix two tablespoons of citric acid in one liter of warm water.
  2. Stir the mixture until the citric acid completely dissolves.
  3. Pour the solution into your coffee machine’s water tank and, following the manual’s instructions, begin the descaling cycle.

So, why is citric acid better? Firstly, it’s virtually odorless. Secondly, it’s far more effective at descaling. Citric acid is also inexpensive, while it’s sold in powder form. You’ll normally find it beside canning supplies or in kosher sections of supermarkets as sour salt. Alternatively, you can find it easily online.

While citric acid is a far better solution than vinegar for descaling your coffee machine, keep in mind that you use it at your own risk, and doing so may void the machine’s warranty.


In a previous article, we examined ways to descale and clean espresso machines. If you’re interested in learning more about what scale is and the issues it causes, as well as how to clean the mineral buildup, check out the article How To Descale Breville Espresso Machines. Although that guide uses Breville to examine the descaling process, it is similar to other coffee or espresso machines, drip coffee makers, all the Nespresso machines, and single-cup machines.

Regularly descaling your coffee maker is an important aspect of machine maintenance. However, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the options.

As this article has shown, there are certain acids you should avoid in a descaler. Meanwhile, if you make your own, use citric acid rather than vinegar.

In general, if your coffee machine’s manufacturer recommends a particular descaler, use it. This way, you will have peace of mind knowing you won’t harm your machine. However, if you need to choose, opt for a product that uses either citric or lactic acid.

Hopefully, this article has removed the confusion over the best descaling solutions for you. Now all that’s needed is to descale regularly to keep your coffee maker working well for years to come.

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Chris Clark

Chris Clark is the co-founder and chief content editor of With a passion for all things java, Chris has been a coffee blogger for the past 3 years and shares his expertise in coffee brewing with the readers. He's a hands-on expert, loves testing coffee equipment, and has written most of the in-depth reviews featured on the site. When he's not whipping up delicious drinks or experimenting with the latest coffee gadgets, Chris is exploring the local cafe.