How Do You Know When Your Coffee Machine Needs Descaling?

dirty coffee maker

Many people who drink coffee don’t encounter the word “descaling” because they are too busy enjoying coffee made from machines made and run by others. If you make your own coffee, you get the perks of high quality, low cost, and control over customization. However, this also comes with the responsibility to maintain your machine and descale it as often as it requires.

You know your coffee machine needs descaling if three months have passed without descaling. This is ample time for scale build-up, even with soft water. You’ll notice white, powdery deposits in regions that come in contact with hot water.

If you go too long without descaling the machine, the taste and volume of your coffee might change as well. And if you’re in a hard water region, your coffee machine might need to be descaled every week! The five signs detailed in this post help you find out when it is time to grab descaling liquid like Keurig Descaler before it is too late.

5 Signs Your Coffee Machine Needs Descaling

Descaling your coffee machine is essential if you live in a hard water region and use your local water supply to make your coffee. The frequency of descaling required can vary, which makes people wonder if there are other signs aside from the passage of time that can alert them when their machine is ready for descaling. Look out for the following signs.

Physical Scale Build-up

Regardless of whether you use a kettle, a coffee maker, or an espresso machine, there will always be a point where a heat-conducting material comes in contact with water. In kettles, this is the metal base of the interior. In most coffee makers, this is a rod that the water passes past. These points are the most likely to retain mineral deposits. 

In a machine where these can be seen easily, it becomes obvious that descaling is due. However, in most coffee makers, you need to expose the point and look for mineral deposits. We recommend checking once a week, initially. Once you’re sure of the frequency at which scales build up, you can proceed by time indicators alone.

Delayed Heating

This effect is quite subtle, and you actually need to pay significant attention before catching it. However, if scales have been building up for a while, then you will start witnessing delays in the heating process. This is because water is no longer coming in contact with a heat-conducting surface as directly. 

The electricity is still heating the metal, but it is in turn heating the mineral deposits that inefficiently heat the water. Depending on how your coffee machine operates, you’ll either get colder coffee or will have to wait longer for it to get ready. In either case, check for mineral deposits.

Taste Variation

If nothing else except your coffee’s taste changes, you might need to descale your coffee machine as residual minerals are getting dumped into your coffee. There’s good news and bad news here. The bad news is that your coffee tastes subpar. 

The good, however, is that the mineral deposits haven’t solidified and can come off easily. After all, the change in taste actually comes from the descaling process interfering with the brewing process. Instead of letting your coffee machine self-descale each time you make coffee, you should run clean water through it a couple of times to get the mineral deposits out.

Coffee Maker Overworks

Whether the plastic areas of your coffee machine get hotter than they should or your coffee machine is making noises it previously didn’t, you should look for clogged pipes. Only two things can clog a typical coffee machine’s pipes: rogue coffee grounds and scales. 

If your machine is overworking, then you have at least a 50% probability of finding white deposits in the hot pipes’ interiors. That said, a coffee machine doesn’t always overwork because of clogged pipes. It is also possible that the machine’s wiring has an issue. Either way, checking for deposits doesn’t cost money and should be the first step before you call an expert to check your coffee maker.

Coffee Machine Has Less Output

Your coffee machine is designed to have a certain level of water output. This takes into account what goes through the inlet and the water that gets evaporated during the brewing process. With all of these factors mechanized to controlled conditions, there should be no variation in output unless you change the size of your coffee grounds. 

But if your coffee grounds are literally the same size as you’ve always used, and yet the serving size has gone down, chances are your water supply features hard water. And where there is hard water, there is scaling.

What Happens if You Don’t Descale Your Coffee Machine?

Getting a descaling solution like Keurig Descaler and keeping it in your kitchen is a good idea. That’s because when you don’t descale your coffee in a timely manner, you risk the following consequences:

You Can Get Sick

Mineral deposits themselves aren’t harmful to your biology as much as they are to your wallet (explained later). However, they provide refuge for microbes that can make you nauseous and even give you food poisoning. Descaling requires deep cleaning that also decontaminates the coffee machine.

Your Electric Bill Increases

It goes without saying that with an inefficient use of electricity, your electric bill rises. Descaling your coffee machine can make your coffee machine more efficient, which in turn reduces the electricity burden on your coffee maker.

Your Coffee Tastes Stale 

Mineral deposits can also trap old coffee essence that can break free and get infused with fresh cups. This, alongside rogue minerals, can make your coffee taste cheap at best and stale at worst. Descaling the machine is the simplest path to tasting your freshest coffee.

Final Thoughts

Assume that your coffee machine needs descaling more often than it does. This assumption allows you to pinpoint the actual frequency. Check for mineral deposits every week, you’ll very likely need to descale every 16 weeks, but it is possible to notice deposits in the first or the third week. Once you know how often your water supply scales, you’ll be able to schedule descaling without having to look for signs of hard water deposits in your coffee machine’s pipes.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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