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Should I Run Vinegar Through my Coffee Maker? (And Why?)

If you’ve noticed that your coffee machine is taking longer than normal to produce a full carafe of coffee then it may be time to consider de-scaling or de-calcifying it. De-scaling or de-calcifying are different words for the same task and it’s important to understand what they mean as it can really affect the life of your beloved coffee brewing device.

If you’re not much of a cleaning whiz and you’re not sure how or why you should clean your coffee pot then I’ve got you!

Once a month or so you should run equal parts water and vinegar through your coffee machine to de-scale it. It’s also important to clean the rest of the coffee machine using soap and water or by placing it in the dishwasher. It’s essential to do this as minerals, coffee oils, and sediment can build up over time, clogging your machine and leading to a sour-tasting brew.

That’s the low down, but now let’s back the truck up a little. First, we will look into what actually is limescale and how does it get onto your coffee machine in the first place?

Pouring Water Into A Coffee Machine

What Is Limescale

Limescale is the chalky white, powdery coating that you find left around the faucet, in the kettle, or even your toilet. It builds up slowly over time on areas that your tap water contacts and gives a dull, dirty appearance to the surface.

What Causes Limescale

To understand what causes this powdery problem we need to go back to school and remember the water cycle.

Long before the water ends up in the pipes in your home, it fell as rainwater. As the rain made it’s way to your local reservoir it may have passed over rocks and through the earth. If the soils are chalky then the water will absorb tiny amounts of minerals as it makes its journey.

These hard minerals (calcium and magnesium) end up being deposited on surfaces where water is heated up or left standing. This is what you see as the crusty, limescale in your home. Water that is rich in hard minerals is known as ‘hard water’.

Why Is This A Problem

Limescale is not a health risk and is generally more unsightly than dangerous. The issue with it is that the build-up of it can affect household appliances. The minerals can block up fine tubings like those found in coffee machines and the increased pressure this causes can cause the pump to fail. This can permanently damage the machine.

Hard water stops soap and shampoo from lathering well so you often need a good deal more detergent when washing clothes, dishes, or even yourself.

Another issue with hard water is that it just doesn’t taste very good. It can add a nasty flavor to your coffee and could be the reason why your coffee tastes unpleasant.

Does Everyone Need To Worry About It

Not all tap water is hard water. Softer water is more common in some areas and really depends on the surrounding environment. If the water is too soft then this brings its own issues as it can be more corrosive. Ideally, you want a good balance in your water, not too hard, not too soft.

How Do You Fix It

To remove limescale build-up you need to use an acidic solution to dissolve the minerals. There is a huge range of limescale removal products available to purchase in-store and online, with different ones being more or less suitable for the particular job at hand.

It’s really important to carefully read the packet instructions alongside your coffee machine manufacturer’s guidelines to make sure you have the correct product for your needs.

Why Vinegar

Vinegar is an acidic solution so can be used to dissolve limescale. White vinegar or spirit vinegar is the best option and can be used to de-calcify a coffee machine in place of commercial cleaners. Vinegar is a great option as it is cheap, non-toxic, and can be used for many cleaning jobs around the home.

How Should I Use Vinegar To De-Calcify My Coffee Machine

If you’re using hard water to make coffee then you should be de-scaling your machine once a month to keep it working well. To do this, fill the water reservoir with equal parts of vinegar and water.

Turn the machine on and let the solution run through into the coffee jug. Once the jug is half full, turn the machine off to let it rest for 30 minutes (this allows the vinegar to penetrate all areas of the machine).

Next, turn the machine back on and let the last of the solution run through completely.

Run a full pot of clean water through your machine after this and repeat the clean water cycle once or twice more to remove any vinegar residue.

Other Solutions

If you live in an area with hard water then consider buying a water filter jug. This will remove the minerals making the water taste better as well as being kinder to your coffee machine.

You can also have a water filter fitted to your faucet to remove the limescale well in advance.

Another solution to this issue is buying filtered water to use when making coffee.

How To Clean A Coffee Machine

As well as de-scaling your machine it is important to clean it regularly to remove stale, coffee oil build-up. Wash all removable parts with mild dish soap and rinse with plenty of water.

Some machines have parts that are dishwasher safe so this is also a good cleaning option. You want to clean your machine like this once a week or so, depending on how much you use it.

It’s important to rinse the jug and filter basket with clean water after each batch of coffee and leave the water reservoir open to dry completely after each use.

Finally, wipe the exterior of the machine (especially the hot plate) to remove drips and splashes and restore the machine to a shiny, brand-new state.


If you’re still wondering ‘should I run vinegar through my coffee machine?’ then take this short answer is YES, DO IT!

Vinegar is a safe and cheap de-scaling solution and can help keep your coffee machine working optimally and even extend its lifespan. It’s important to keep your coffee machine clean and limescale free to get the very best out of it.

If you have any other coffee machine cleaning tips or tricks then let us know in the comments below as we would love to hear them!

Related Reading

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Best Reusable & Paper Coffee Filters – For Every Machine & Brew Type

Best Coffee Makers For College – The Complete Buyer’s Guide

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Best Coffee Makers For Coffee Snobs – An Expert Buyer’s Guide


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