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How to Descale Your Keurig Coffee Brewer

Descaling (Cleaning) out Your Keurig Coffee Brewer, or Any Coffee Maker

Keurig B40 brewer

All coffee makers need to be descaled once in awhile. How often depends on the water quality where you live. The harder your water, and if you use your coffee brewer a lot, the more often you will need to do it. With most coffee makers, you will know you need to descale when your coffee seems to be taking a long time to brew and when it just doesn’t taste very good anymore.

I’m going to tell you how to descale a Keurig coffee brewer because we own a Keurig B40 Elite. If you don’t own a Keurig but another brand, I’ll give you basic instructions for descaling that at the end of this article.


Descaling a Keurig Coffee Maker

Keurig recommends that you descale every 3-6 months but like I stated earlier, it really depends on water quality and frequency of use. Fortunately, most Keurigs actually have a little light that comes on when you need to descale.

If Your Keurig Does NOT have a Drain on the Bottom:

You will need a large mug, a 48 ounce bottle of white vinegar, and water.

  1. Disable the Auto Off features.
  2. Empty out the water in the water reservoir and put the reservoir back on the coffee maker.
  3. Pour the bottle of vinegar into the reservoir.
  4. Put the mug where you normally would when making coffee.
  5. Do NOT put any k cups in the spot for them but raise and lower the bar as if you were going to put a k cup in the machine.
  6. Press the brew button and brew a nice steaming cup of vinegar (yuch).
  7. Throw out the vinegar and put the mug back on the drip tray plate.
  8. Repeat the process of brewing the vinegar until the “add water” light comes on.
  9. Now leave the brewer on for 4 hours.
  10. After the time is up, throw out the vinegar left in the reservoir  and rinse it out really well.
  11. Fill up the reservoir with water.
  12. Go through the brew cycle with the water as you did with the vinegar and repeat the process until the “add water” light comes on.
  13. Now you can refill the reservoir again with water and it should be ready to make coffee.
  14. If it tastes funny, repeat steps 11-12 again.

If Your Keurig  has a drain on the bottom (on some older models):

You will need a 48 oz. of white vinegar and water and a mug.

  1. Unplug brewer and put in your empty sink.
  2. If there is a drain cap on the bottom of your Keurig. Remove it.
  3. Depending on the model, there may be a charcoal filter from the Water Fill Area. Remove that too.
  4. Set the brewer so the drain is facing down in the sink so it can drain if your model has a drain (Note) If your model doesn’t have a drain, just pour out the water in your reservoir.
  5. When it’s finished draining, replace the cap.
  6. Plug the brewer back in turn the power on.
  7. Pour all 64 ounces of vinegar into the brewer’s reservoir until filled.
  8. Lift the lever that the K cup is placed but don’t put a K cup in there.
  9. When the ready light comes on,  push the lever down, put a mug under  the spout and push the brew button.
  10. After the brew cycle is complete, start another brew cycle.
  11. Repeat the process until the “add water” light comes on.
  12. Turn off the automatic shut off and leave the machine on for 4 hours with the vinegar still in it.
  13. Turn off the brewer and let cool.
  14. Drain as in steps 2-6.
  15. Fill the brewer with  water and turn the power on.
  16. When the ready light comes on, put a mug under the spout and do steps 8-11 only with water, and pour the water out.
  17. Drain the water as in steps 2-5.
  18. Replace the charcoal filter (if applicable).
  19. If the coffee has a weird taste, you may need to repeat the process.

If you want to see the “official” Keurig user guide, click here: Keurig User Guide. They have the guide for MINI Plus B31, Elite B40, Classic B44, Special Edition B60 and Platinum B70.

Descaling an Ordinary Coffee Maker

To descale an ordinary coffee maker:

  1. Fill your coffee pot with white vinegar and fill the coffee maker with it.
  2. Let the vinegar sit inside the coffee maker for about an hour if you can.
  3. Turn it on and run it through the brew cycle.
  4. Pour it back into the brewer and repeat the process 4 more times.
  5. Pour out the vinegar and refill the coffee maker with water.
  6. Repeat the process 4 more times with water but use fresh water every time. Pour out the water that just went through the brew cycle.
  7. If your next pot of coffee tastes a little weird, repeat step 6.

That’s all there is to it.

If you want to check out more tips on using your keurig coffee maker, click here: Tips for Using your Keurig Coffee Brewer.


99 thoughts on “How to Descale Your Keurig Coffee Brewer

  1. why do you need to drain the water, those are steps that very very unnecessary, also why drain the vinegar just cycle it out with water?

    1. I called Keurig Customer Service 866 901 2739 and they said it cleaning any debre or minerals. It also cleans the pump. After the vinegar has been poured through you wait the 4 hours then pour the clean water through.

        1. I did the descaling, BUT forgot to leave the vinegar in the reservoir for the additional 4 hours. Will do it again, and sure hope this works, because my Keurig basically ‘drips’ a cup of coffee. Thanks for the reminder of the four hours!!! Wish me luck!!!

          1. Be sure to also ream the holes (3) in the K-Cup puncture head and bottom (1) with a paper clip wire. These plug up occasionally and can also cause the “dripping a cup of coffee” syndrome you describe.

  2. I actually need to update these instructions. The older Keurigs had the drain and I believe they wanted you to drain them to make sure it was all out of the machine.

    The newer ones don’t have the rain so that step is unnecessary and you are right, you can just dump the water out after it goes through it’s cycle.

  3. When you get the error message to de-scale- will it not work until you de-scale or should it still work till you get around to it? Mine is not doing anything.

    1. it does stop doing everything…it’s a very smart machine. Once it senses the vinegar…it’s starts its cleaning process!

  4. I’m not sure Kara. When my descale light went off, I really didn’t try to make coffee with it again until I descaled it. Fortunately I keep gallon sized jugs of vinegar around for lots of purposes so I had it on hand to go ahead and descale it then. The process is really simple. Just takes a little time.

  5. thanks for your help on descaling my keurig. I was lost. But I am curious,why when you descale your keurig coffeemaker you have to wait 4 hours before flushing out the vinegar? does it have to be exactly 4 hours and why?

    thanks you!

  6. Glad to be of help Irene.

    The reason they want it to sit for 4 hours is to give the vinegar a chance to loosen up the gunk in the coffee maker’s innards.

    I don’t think it has to be exactly 4 hours but I’d try to get as close to that as possible.

    I’m pretty sure Keurig has tested all of this and figured out that 4 hours was the best time to let it sit while descaling.

  7. When I went to descale mine the vinegar seemed to stop it up and cause a prime error to come on but when I dumped the vinegar out of the tank and flushed with water all was ok again. This happened both times I tried to put the vinegar in the tank to descale. Not sure but think only one cup of vinegar went through before the problems started……it would not even draw the vinegar down from the tank but water is fine. I did not have a descale light but have had machine 6 months and was trying to do as manual suggested but vinegar seemed to be the problem. Anyone else have this problem?

    1. I’m having the same problem… just kept unplugging it and getting one cup of vinegar through at a time… Here’s hoping my Keurig still works when this is all said and done!!

      1. I hope it works too Julie Anne! Contact customer service and see if they have any suggestions for what you can do.

    2. Wow. I am glad to hear I am not the only one who found it to stop brewing when using the vinegar
      My descale warning does not go out either

    3. If it stops up. . . let the vinegar sit longer. You probably have some scale that is starting to break loose. If it says to prime, I have found that just removing the reservoir and putting it right back makes it prime. I have left the vinegar in the machine up to over night to let it finish. . . you may find that your coffee cup fills up more than it used to once you have flushed it thoroughly. Sometimes, you may also have to take a paper clip up into the piece that pierces the top of the K-cup, sometimes, grounds and scale can accumulate there as well. . . there are 2 holes in the needle piece. I love my Keufig Coffee.

  8. That’s really weird. Was it plain white vinegar you used?
    Since you didn’t get a descale light, I wonder if that’s why it didn’t work?
    I’d be curious if it happened again once the descale light does come on and you try to clean it.

  9. I know – I could not understand it myself – especially since the first cup seemed to go through just fine. Yes, just plain white distilled vinegar.

    I will just wait until the descale light comes on – I was worried I didn’t have a descale light since mine is not the top end model but will wait and see.

  10. question,my descale prompt was on this morning couldn’t make coffee so followed directions to descale but nothing is happening just says brewing and i keep opening and closing or turning off but nothing. any suggestions?

  11. Try unplugging it for about 10 minutes and see if that does anything. That sometimes resets it.

    If that doesn’t work, contact Keurig’s customer service for help: to email them or call 866-901-2739. They are open 7 days a week from 7 am-12 midnight EST.

  12. the problem started last week when I pressed brew and NOTHING happened..Since, I intermittently see “de-scale” and when I used water it would not run through so I too let it sit a while but still does not brew Platinum series only just over a year old. Very unhappy using my neighbors, which – by the way – makes coffee just fine w/o the water filter even though there is a place for one in the tank.

  13. Erika, have you followed the steps above using vinegar? If so, then it’s time to call customer service at 866-901-2739

  14. I descaled my Keurig about two months ago and everything was back to normal….until now. I am beginning to have the same problem again. I am beginning to think it is a flaw in the model that I have.

  15. It may well be Irene. Or you could have just gotten a bad unit. Did you register it? If so, contact customer service. They will walk you through trying to fix it and if they can’t they will replace it.

    Even if you didn’t register it, still contact them and see if they can help.

  16. I am having the same problem- this is platinum #2 we have had- same problem both times- each unit a little over a year old- I am about over the whole KEURIG thing. I have descaled about every 3 months, but I just descaled last month and now the stupid descale sign is on again and it will not even pull the vinegar into the reservoir to descale. We only make 2 cups every morning, turn it off after each use…

    1. That’s a shame Abby. I love my keurig and can’t imagine life without it now but I’d probably feel the same as you if I were having that many problems with it.

      I wonder if the water is really hard in your area. That could account for the problems although the vinegar really should work.

      Did you contact customer service and ask them what to do? I’d love to know what their advice would be.

      1. My descale light has been on for some time and still makes coffee just fine. I did go thru a time after the first descale where it would ‘lock up’ like others are describing and would not make coffee, had to try many times turning it on and off before it would work again. As long as I am still getting a cup of coffee from it, I’m not going to descale again!!!!

  17. I have 2 of these machines the first one I didn’t get 2 years out of. The one I have now isn’t 6 mths old and the descaling light is coming on. The vinegar isn’t working. The machine is just plugging up, chugging at best. I have had the vinegar in for the suggested 4 hrs and it’s no better. It can’t seem to get it through the brewer. Any suggestions? I’m just about done with these things!

    1. Yes, when I had this problem last week I did some research. I am about fed up too, but this is what worked for me: I unplugged it for a few hours and tried again off and on for a day or two- unplugging it after each unsuccessful attempt. It did finally pull the vinegar through- I let the vinegar sit in in with the unit on overnight- then unplugged, replugged and it started working again, repeated this 2 more times. Purchased a water filter pitcher and am now only using filtered water- seems to be working, but works best when I unplug it after each use (not sure why this helps). Good Luck!

      1. That does help Abby. Any info on how to deal with this problem helps a lot.

        I know I’m not much help in this area as I have never had any issues with my Keurig.

        I do think a lot of it has to do with water quality. Our water is soft and really good quality and I think that’s why I have never had any issues.

        Filtering your water sounds like a great suggestion.


      2. we have had two machines and the exact same failure on both. Have tried everything and have even given up on Keurig. Went back to the easy old fashioned pot and don’t miss the hassle of the keurig. My work has a professional machine that I pay 25cents to use up my left over k-cups. never again. read the web bad review after bad review of their failure == BAD design.

        1. I understand why you feel that way Susan. If I had tried 2 Keurigs and had the same problem for both, I’d give up on them too.
          However, I have had mine for 18 months with no problems at all and we use it multiple times a day.

  18. No suggestions other than call customer service and see if they have any advice. I’d be curious to know what they tell you to do.

  19. About a month ago I followed these instructions to the dot, although I left the vinegar in the inside plumbing for more than 4 hours. Common sense tells me that it should just maybe descale a bit more than less. I just initiated a second treatment because I thought the Keurig is a bit noisy (working harder to brew.)

    Clearly, based on all the negative Keurig reviews out there, it is important to facilitate this essential cleaning procedure of your Keurig on a regular basic. It really doesn’t take that long to do and you get rid off the Vinegar-tasty water pretty fast. I have a few electric kettles which also get a Vinegar treatment from time to time. Just do it and you’ll get better joy out of your Keurig.

  20. Hey everyone;

    I was having the same problem as many of you here and searched this problem on the internet. I found a site that said you should unplug your Kuerig, take off the water basin, hold it upside down over your sink, and “spank” it hard!

    It’s AMAZING how many people this worked for. Then the Kuerig will start taking water again and you can use the vinegar to descale. I hope this helps. It worked for me and many many others.

    1. I did the descaling, BUT forgot to leave the vinegar in the reservoir for the additional 4 hours. Will do it again, and sure hope this works, because my Keurig basically ‘drips’ a cup of coffee. Thanks for the reminder of the four hours!!! Wish me luck!!!

      I’ve never heard about the ‘spanking’ until now, will try that also!!

  21. Just taking a shot here… I’m getting a serious amount of pink “gunk” like substance, or strands, when I run water through the machine. Is that a sign of a machine in need of a big time descaling? I have the Mini Plus brew system with no descaling indicator. Almost tempted just to get a new machine thinking about how me and my daughter have been ingesting this pink stuff.

  22. HUGE disappointment with Keurig. I have had my Keurig since April or May of 2011. I have descaled, used the charcoal filter system and taken very good care of my machine. Well, in the past month it has been acting up. Brewing a tiny bit of coffee after many minutes of stating it’s brewing, ready to brew light comes back on, but the only option is to brew a large cup. When trying to brew another cup is states it’s brewing, but again nothing’s coming out. I contacted Keurig on April 8th with my concerns and was told that I needed to clean the exit needle. I watched the how to video on Keurig’s website. The next cup of coffee brewed about ½ a cup. Later that day I brewed another cup and did get a whole cup of coffee. Now today, April 9, 2013, I turned the machine on, let it warm up, put in a KCup when the machine was ready, pressed brew and got nothing. I called Keurig back and informed the agent who answered my call what was happening. Here’s the kicker – because I called yesterday, and was honest about when I bought it, all they could do was offer me a new Keurig at the discounted rate of $69.99. If I would have LIED and stated I bought it less than a year ago, they would have replaced it for free. So the moral of my story is, if you want your Keurig replaced, lie about when you bought it. I guess the reason they only offer a one year warranty is because they know their product is crap and will quit working, causing you to buy another overpriced machine. Guess I’ll go back to my Mr. Coffee brewer. At least it has never disappointed me.

    1. So sorry you have had so many problems with your Keurig. I have had mine the same amount of time and so far, it still works great. You could have just gotten a lemon or if you have hard water, it seems to break them down faster.

    2. I bought the 2.0 version and it did the same thing. I think it’s just certain models because I bought a different one and it has been doing great.

  23. We have an older Keurig coffee maker and I have always descaled with the vinegar solution However, I went on the Keurig website today an discovered that they now offer their own brand of descaling solution. I don’t know how long that has been available, but I am wondering if using vinegar instead of Keurig;s descaling solution in a newer model creates problems? I’m sure Keurig is victim to ‘newer but quality lacking’ as in most everything we buy today. Just hope my older model doesn’t give up the ghost anytime soon.

    1. Keurig’s website says white vinegar and their descaling product are the only cleaning solutions that won’t void the warranty. So your okay with white vinegar.

      I’ve never seen the descale light but the prime light comes on after every cup of coffee. I remove the reservoir and put it back and its fine for another cup. I hope descaling works.

  24. I absolutely believe water quality has everything to do with all of this. We’ve had our keurig for well over 3 years and not once has the descaling light come on. We use it every day and use nothing but clean filtered water and sometimes even soft water 🙂 I do hope that when it does come time that we have to do this process, it is not a difficult one!!! I sure appreciate being able to read about everyone’s experiences – be it good or bad. Thanks!

  25. Hi,
    Just read everyone comments. We are having the same problems with our Keurig coffee maker. It’s less than a year old. I believe it’s the K-40 model. We have ONLY used filtered water in it. So I’m not sure if water quality has much to do with it ( of course well water will destroy almost all coffee pots quickly, been there and done that :).
    We’ve tried using vinagar but I don’t think we let it set in the reservoir long enough. I am going to try the vinagar again and Ross’s idea about spanking the bottom hard:)
    Thanks everyone for your tips.


  26. Unplugging the machine and taking off the Water Resovar and spanking it as suggested from an earlier post, seemed to do the trick. I don’t know how it worked out that way, but it actually worked! I advise everyone to give it a shot if your having the descaling problem and its not pulling water through. Thanks so much!!

  27. I am sitting here shaking my head in total astonishment!!
    thank you to the person who told me to turn it upside down and although I was ready to use a ball bat used my hand and gave it a good spanking and thought this possibly cannot work…but behold! I see water coming out and I am now using white vinegar to descale my Keurig..

  28. I’m glad the “spanking” is working out for people! 🙂 I got a free Keurig that way, because one of my co-workers had given up on it, and I asked her if I could have it. She said, “It’s all yours”. I gave it a good spanking, and am using it to this day! I wonder what she thinks when she comes by my office and she’s her old machine in my office making delicious coffee!

  29. I didn’t use my machine very often when suddenly it stopped working and I found out it needed to be “descaled” when I called Keurig about it. My friends all have this machine and use it numerous times a day and have had it longer than I but none of them ever encountered this situation as of now, never mind back when mine stopped working.

    I was told over the phone how to unplug the holes using a paperclip but it wasn’t until worked on it several times that I actually found the correct holes being referred to during my phone conversation. The woman I spoke with didn’t explain it very well and I didn’t realize I was looking for tiny pin holes until I worked on it for quite some time.

    The first time I followed the instructions my machine began working normally again. Shortly thereafter the same problem occurred and again it worked fine after I used the paperclip but the last time it stopped working I could not get it back to normal regardless how many hours I spent on using the paperclip or how many gallons of white vinegar I ran through the machine.

    The only step I knew nothing about was leaving the machine filled and turned on for four hours before trying it again. If that’s the only thing left to do I will attempt this as soon as I have a couple gallons of vinegar in the house. I don’t have any on hand at this moment but will add it to the shopping list and give it a shot.

    Am I missing something? Am I not understanding the instructions? If so, please fill me in on it and please tell me what the drain plug looks like because I have no idea if my machine has one or not. I only know about the drip cup under the mug plate and the water tank for the fresh water.

    If anyone has any information that I may be missing, please fill me in. Thanks very much.

    1. Yours does seem to need de-scaling more than they normally should. If you ever get it working properly again, I would only use filtered water in it. Water quality seems to have a lot to do whether you need to descale it a lot. Sorry I’m not more help. I would let it set for the 4 hours or even overnight and see if that helps.

    2. The newer machines do not have a drain plug. I had the initial problem, and after doing everything that they said, got Keurig to replace my machine under warranty. It was a little past the official date, but because I bought all of my coffee through them, they could see when we “actually” started using it, they were really gracious about it. Try the spanking thing that they talked about, turning it upside down. . . .it can’t hurt, but be careful if it has been on, there may still be water in it that can drain when you turn it upside down.

      1. That was nice of them to replace it Mark even after the warranty was up. It probably was becaise you use their coffee. My son told me they were coming out with a new Keurig that forced you to use only their coffee. I don’t think that will go over too well in the marketplace.

        1. They always come out with a new design, and then someone invents an aftermarket. I know that I get my coffee from them really inexpensively, because they give you discounts after a certain amount of purchases, and then I pretty much never buy without a coupon. Then I stock up. I usually end up at under fifty cents per cup of coffee. . . and sometime even more.
          I don’t use the “my K-cup and use my own coffee, as it’s a lot less convenient with the extra clean up, and it defeats the purpose of the sealed single servings.

          1. I like buying the Dunkin’ Donuts brand which you can only get from their store.

            I do sometimes use My K cup with my own ground coffee because I was given 10 pounds of it as a gift. It’s taking awhile to get through all that.

            Where are you getting a coupon Mark? Is Keurig sending it to you?

            1. Surprise. . . they have Dunkin’ Donuts. . . follow this link.


              Keurig sends out coupons pretty regularly, plus you can hunt for them online. . . they are also already cheaper than most stores. Keurig boxes from Keurig mostly have 24 K-cups in a package, and the stores often fewer. When you do the math, plus buy enough at a time for a 45 dollar order, there is no shipping fee.

  30. My son have me his old model but I do not know which one it is.still works great. How do I find out which one I have? There is no manual.

  31. can’t get the taste of the vinegar out of my Keurig- Followed all of the instructions and even after 7-8 brews, still has the smell and taste of the vinegar? any ideas?

    1. I always run a couple of tanks of clean water after the vinegar and don’t usually have a problem. Also, if you use the filters, make sure you didn’t leave on in when you descaled, if you did, then change it out. . . it might absorb the vinegar and pass the odor on.

  32. I just descaled my keurig and finally got to brew a cup of coffee but when I poured creamer in the coffee it started turning all weird looking and no my creamer is perfectly fine and brand new not old, so should I descale the keurig again. I didn’t know about the 4 hour process either!

    1. Run more clean water through it. If there is any vinegar left at all, it will do that to the cream or creamer.

  33. I have a Keuriig 2.0 machine and have recently had the descale come on while I was away babysitting a family Dog, I take my Keurig everyware I stay, so I didn’t descale for about a week. I didn’t have any descaling solution so I tryed white vinegar. At first I could’t get any vinegar to go through. So my saving grace was to remove the Pack Holder (the compartment that holds the K-Cup and rinse it out. Take a paper clip and stick it through the upper needle and lower needle (be careful the needles are sharp) then rinse the lower again in sink. hopefully your machine will work like new like mine does. I can’t stand to go without my Keurig!!


  34. Another suggestion I found online regarding the water problem is to use distiller water. Without the minerals the Keurig shouldn’t need to go through the de scaling process. However there are those who claim using distilled water affects the taste of the coffee. They compared not using salt on your food to enhance the flavor to not having minerals in the water to enhancing the coffee flavor. Can’t comment as I haven’t tried it myself. I am going to descale my Keurig (even tho it doesn’t need to be) and try distilled water! If it works I may never need to descale again! What a joyful thought!

      1. I have a solution to the Prime problem, Keurig customer service couldn’t help me with, other than try and sell me a new unit. There is a screen in the bottom of the water reservoir, it also gets built up with crud, remove the 3 screws holding it, and take it out and scrub it with soap and water, a tooth brush may work, I used a small brass wire brush. Rinse well and reinstall screen. It worked well for me, and I was going to toss my brewer

  35. I was cleaning my keurig coffee maker with vinager and it was dripping out like it’s suppose to but now it just makes noise and it does say brewing. I cleaned the holes and everything. What’s wrong?

    1. I’m not sure Carol. I know that has happened a few times to me (but not when I had just cleaned it, just randomly) and I unplug it for a few minutes and then plug it back in and try again. It always works then so you may want to try that. Not sure what else to tell you except maybe call customer service and see if they know what to do.
      Anyone else know what to do for this?

  36. As an alternate to distilled water for cleaning, an R O water (reverse osmosis) unit is becoming more commonplace. Water service stores have RO water in bulk. (BYOB.) I pay $1.00 per 5 gallons. The plus is, my “descale ” light just came on after 3 years! Using vinegar/RO water for cleaning, then use it for your coffee.

  37. When I descale with vinegar the add water message does not come on. Only when brewing coffee. I stop when it gets to the bottom. Also after brewing when do you remove and replace filter. After fresh water or after 4hours and before fresh water

    1. This sounds like maybe the little needle nozzle thing that pokes the K-cup pod when you put it in, is clogged. This happened to mine a few weeks ago and my son cleared it out for me with a paper clip he straitened out. Unplug the machine first, and then gently use the point of the clip to pull out any gunk in there.

  38. Did the descaling yesterday using the product from Keurig instead of vinegar.Now today coffee is coming out fine but when I add the French vanilla creamer it curls up like it’s spoiled..expiration isn’t for months and it was perfectly fine before did descaling.. Not sure if I should just keep running water thru it.

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