Keurig Descale Light – A Comprehensive Cleaning Guide

For better tasting coffee …

One of the critical steps you can take to having great-tasting K Cup coffee is to make sure you clean and descale your Keurig regularly. We clean and descale the Keurig every three months or so. Keurig themselves recommend doing this cleaning process every six months. You can do the cleaning more often, but we have found it doesn’t result in any better-tasting coffee, and most of us have better things to do with our time. So if your Keurig is showing the descale light or message, we can help with top tips and recommendations.

If descaling or a good clean of your brewer doesn’t address a problem, you might want to have a look at our article “Problem With Your Keurig Coffee Brewer?

So on with the instructions on how to clean a Keurig.

Update: July 6, 2021

Since writing this guide, we no longer recommend using vinegar to clean your Keurig when the descale light or message appears. Having looked into this more, we believe a common cause of brewer faults is vinegar in the descaling process. Vinegar is a corrosive agent, and this cannot be good news for the more sensitive parts of your coffee machine.

Instead, we have been descaling our coffee makers with a product marketed by Keurig. This product takes the fuss out of descaling and much kinder to brewer components. Priced at around $25.00, it is more expensive than vinegar, but money well spent compared to problems vinegar can cause.

The other product we have used is by Bosch. We have used this in our Tassimo coffee maker, too, and it works well. Although more expensive than the vinegar solution below, it is cheaper than the Keurig product, and we have found it just as effective.

Things You Will Need

  • White vinegar: the most important ingredient is of course vinegar – you will need about 48 – 90 ounces (depending on the size of your Keurig’s water reservoir). Any household vinegar will do the trick. We like to use the distilled ones and have found Heinz a good brand.
  • 12 Oz Clean Mug: we find glass the best as it shows the quality of the rinse. This helps to gauge how many cycles are going to be required. We like the Pyrex range.
  • Timer: this will help us keep track of the drying process that takes around four hours. So a timer with an alarm is best and for us the bigger the number in setting it the better.
  • Sink: did we mention a sink? Or something you can easily tip the contents from the brewer into from the rinse cycles. So get the kitchen bench clear of those dishes and have plenty of space around.

 

Three Easy Steps

Now that we have everything together, we can start the descaling process. We’ll break this process down into three steps being:

  • Preparation;
  • Cleaning, and;
  • Rinsing.

Preparation

  • Step 1: turn the brewer on, and make sure you disable the auto-off feature. We don’t want it shutting down part way through the process. Consult your owners’ manual for your particular brewer.
  • Step 2: empty any water that might be in the reservoir into the sink. If the water reservoir on your Keurig has an optional water filter, take it out for this process and put it to one side. Once everything is cleaned and rinsed thoroughly you can put the filter back in at the end of the descaling process.

Cleaning

  • Step 1: fill the water reservoir to the top with white vinegar. I always like to let the vinegar sit here for a few minutes as it helps in the cleaning of the water reservoir too.
  • Step 2: now take the large mug and place it on the drip tray and run a water only cycle, without a K-Cup pack in the portion pack holder. Tip the used vinegar in the mug into the sink and repeat the process until almost all the vinegar has been used or the “Add Water” message appears on your brewer.
  • Step 3: OK, you can put your feet up from here for a few hours – well four hours to be precise. We need to let the brewing system stand for at least four hours. So set the timer and make sure the machine remains on for the drying process.
  • Step 4: back after four hours? Hopefully you heard the timer alarm and we can carry on with the descaling. Tip any remaining water / vinegar from the water reservoir into the sink. Then rinse the water reservoir thoroughly with clean water (preferably use distilled water) to ensure any residue is disposed of. This make take a few rinses to make sure all the vinegar is removed from the reservoir.

Rinsing

Although we have already been through some rinsing in the above steps, we need to ensure now all the vinegar and particles have been removed, so just two more steps to go. The descale light or message might now be off your Keurig, but the rinsing steps are essential.

  • Step 1: fill the water reservoir with clean fresh water (again, you may wish to use distilled or filtered water).
  • Step 2: place the large mug, we were using before, back on the drip tray and run another water only cycle (again without a K Cup portion pack in the holder). Pour the contents of the mug into the sink and repeat the process until all the water is used from the reservoir or the Add Water message is displayed on the brewer.

Sometimes this step needs to be repeated – there can be residual odors and taste. Remember, though, it’s only vinegar, and so small traces are not harmful but rather leave a somewhat bitter taste.

If the descale message or light is still present on your Keurig after these steps, then repeat it. Sometimes, in particular, if it’s been a long time since the last clean, a second process is needed. If the message comes up again after the second cycle, then it’s probably time to call Keurig and have a chat. If you would like to get in touch with us, please use the Contact Us page, and we can see what other steps you can take.

And that is it. Of course, we need to put the water filter back into the water reservoir before the first brew.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Barney Hamlin December 27, 2014, 17:17

    Thanks, this is super helpful. My coffee was literally tasting like poop before I did the cleaning, but now it tastes good.

    • torquayau January 1, 2015, 19:52

      Hi Barney. Thanks for your comment and feedback – great to read you are back to good coffee. All the best, Andrew.

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