There’s nothing worse than wanting coffee and getting the descale light on your Keurig. Sometimes even a normal descaling won’t get that light to turn off. So how do you fix a Keurig coffee maker descale not working?
If descaling a Keurig does not work to turn off the descale light, repeat the process with more solution, or descale with vinegar or citric acid and water & let sit for a few hours before rinsing. If using refillable K-cups, make sure to not overfill them, and clean the exit needle with a safety pin.
But there’s a lot more to it than that, so let’s explore a little further.
So in this article, we’ll explore the possible causes for that Keurig descale light staying on, and a simple solution that will get you brewing again in no time!
Sometimes after descaling, even more than once, that dreaded light stays on!
So can you hit your Keurig to get that light to go off? Click here to read my article on what’s called the Slap and Burb method for dislodging scale build-up inside your Keurig. Does it work? Will it break your machine or void your warranty?
our first 1st anniversary gift = Keurig 😍☕️👌 #gamechanger pic.twitter.com/37QTpJLuYi
— Rebecca Brenner Graham (@TheOtherRBG) June 15, 2020
What does descale mean on a Keurig coffee maker?
Descaling a Keurig coffee machine refers to using a descaling solution to remove calcium build-up from the plumbing inside of a Keurig. Calcium scale build-up is the result of using hard water to brew the coffee.
When the dreaded descale light comes on, it’s simply an alert that something is preventing the normal flow of water.
While that can mean you have scale build up in your lines inside the Keurig, that isn’t the only possible issue. In my house, we use a refillable K-cup. We don’t like the idea of just tossing little plastic cups into the trash every day. Plus, we can buy ANY brand of coffee we like and we can even grind it fresh for a better-tasting cup of coffee.
But, some makers of refillable cups allow more room for flow than others. It is also possible to pack your cup too tightly which restricts the water flow. Both of those can lead to the descale light coming on.
After all, Keurig doesn’t have sensors inside the water lines; it just knows it isn’t coming out as fast as it should.
Thus, if you are refilling your own cups, it’s a good idea to not pack down on the coffee when you fill them and don’t quite fill them all the way to the rim.
But it could be a clogged water filter too!
Click here to read my guide on Keurig water filters and whether you have to get the specific one for your model. But I also cover how often to change them, and whether it works to buy an off-brand one on Amazon for cheap!
Love my new Keurig machine! 🤍😍 pic.twitter.com/cIz1v7EDGq
— Misagirl 🦋 (@misagirl) June 6, 2020
What do I do when my Keurig says descale?
I have the classic Keurig, and the following applies to it and all of their hot brewers, but not the mini ones (more on that below).
- Empty the water vessel
- Remove the coffee pod
- Turn off the “auto-off” feature (if you have that)
- Turn the brewer off
- Pour in an entire bottle of Keurig descaling solution into the water container in your brewer
- Refill that bottle with cold water and add to the water container
- Place a large coffee mug on the stand
- Lift the Keurig handle up and then back down
- Select the 10oz button (the largest one) and press it to start the process
- Pour out the contents and repeat the process until the “add more water” light comes on
- Allow your Keurig to sit (power on) for 30 minutes
- Dump out any remaining water mixture in the water container and fill with fresh water up to the limit
- Repeat the brewing process (still without a K-cup) at least 12 times to rinse the unit (adding more water if necessary)
If it’s been at least 3 months since the last time you descaled (or if you’ve never done it) it may be time to descale it.
However, if you suspect that perhaps you packed your refillable K-cup too tightly, just remove the cup completely and see if it will let you run a cycle through.
How to descale a mini Keurig
So for the mini Keurig, mini plus, or B/K130 use just 1/3 of a Keurig descaling solution bottle (about 4 1/2 oz) and then fill with water to the fill level.
Here are the steps with the minis, without a K-cup:
- Lift the handle, wait 5 seconds, and then press down and press brew
- Once the cup is full, discard and repeat but don’t press brew
- When the brew button turns red and starts to dispense, turn the power off
- Let sit for 30 minutes
- After 30 minutes, turn back on and press brew
- Discard the water
- Then repeat with just water (no descale solution) for a total of 3 times
The B/K130 is almost exactly the same process as the mini except the brew button doesn’t turn red, so just turn off power as it starts to brew in that step.
Of course, the overall process is the same for any Keurig. The primary difference is the amount of descaling solution you use.
I spent like $150 at Costco on a Keurig Duo. It can make one cup with the pods, or it comes with a stainless steel carafe for a pot. Very pleased with it. Very tasty coffee both ways. pic.twitter.com/Y1hycufGeX
— Nathan (@UncleNathanW) May 27, 2020
How to descale a Keurig Duo
A Keurig Duo is a different kind of Keurig.
It combines the traditional Keurig K-cup coffee maker with an old-school drip coffee maker with a carafe. Luckily, descaling it isn’t radically different than with other Keurig coffee makers.
Here’s a step-by-step on how to descale a Keurig Duo:
- Turn the power off
- Make sure there are no K-cups or ground coffee in the machine
- Empty the water tank
- Fill it with 2 bottles of Keurig descaling solution (14 oz each)
- Then fill both empty bottles with tap water (14 oz each)
- Add the water to the tank (should have a total of 56 oz in the tank now, so it will be almost totally full)
- Turn the power on
- Press the pod button
- Run a brew cycle for a 12 oz cup
- Pour out the 12 oz of water solution
- Press the carafe button
- Brew an 8 cup carafe
- Pour out the 40 oz of water solution
- Clean and rinse carafe and water tank
- Refill tank with tap water
- Run a 12 cup carafe 3 times, pouring out the contents and adding more water as needed
- Brew a 12 oz K-cup cycle 3 times (no K-cup), pouring out the contents and adding more water as needed
If you descale and the descale light is still on, hold down the 8oz and 10oz buttons at the same time, and hold for 5 seconds and the light will go off.
Descale your Keurig brewer – an important step to cleaning your brewer and keeping your coffee tasting great. Check out our YouTube tutorial video for more information: https://t.co/iVBixjiqbo pic.twitter.com/M0iSlItMln
— Keurig (@Keurig) August 31, 2018
What can I use in place of Keurig’s descaling solution?
The best alternative to Keurig’s descaling solution is a 50/50 blend of water and white vinegar. But additional options include citric acid or even lemon juice (which, of course, contains lots of citric acid).
Keurig descaling solution is their proprietary blend of citric acid, water, and trace amounts of silicic acid, phosphates, and bleach.
Of course, buying their bottles (anywhere from 6 bucks to 10 depending on where you get them) can add up over time (but can also be much more convenient.
Let’s go into detail on each of the best alternatives below.
Great info from @Keurig showing how to descale your #coffee brewer!#keurig pic.twitter.com/fC3BmR4c6Z https://t.co/RKN7pcVzIA
— Michael Schmid (@ADaddyBlog) May 1, 2015
How do I descale my Keurig with white vinegar?
To avoid buying their expensive descaling solution, mix 1 part white vinegar with 1 part water.
Since the typical bottle is 14oz, that means you’ll use 7 oz. of vinegar and 7 oz of water to make your mix. Then you’d add an additional 14oz of plain water.
Following Keurig’s recommendations, go through the descaling process I outline above except, if needed, you can allow the mixture to sit in the Keurig for up to 4 hours rather than the 30 minutes they recommend for their solution.
How to Clean and Descale a Keurig 2.0 Coffee Maker with vinegar pic.twitter.com/wpFZlxfFNm
— kitchen appliances (@kitchenyy) May 13, 2020
How much vinegar do I use to clean my Keurig?
As I mentioned, you’ll want to use a 1 to 1 ratio of white vinegar to water to make your mix solution.
For most Keurigs that means you’ll need 14 oz total of your homemade descaling solution. So mix 7 oz. or white vinegar to 7 oz of water.
12 Ways to Use White Vinegar for Cleaning http://t.co/xlGPSuTYtI pic.twitter.com/hUtyz9UVXk
— Robin Gagnon (@MomFoodie) October 12, 2014
How do I descale my Keurig with citric acid?
Following your Keurig’s normal descaling process use 1-2 (depending on the size of your unit) tablespoons of powdered citric acid to a full reservoir of water.
Citric acid powder can usually be found in the baking section of your grocery store where pectin and gelatin might be found. But you may also find it where they have Vitamin C tablets.
Citric acid is the primary ingredient in Keurig’s official descaling solution, but buying a 1 lb bag will be far more economical than buying their descaling solution (which is about 50% water).
How do I descale my Keurig with lemon juice?
I personally wouldn’t use this method due to the number of lemons it would take (probably about 12) and how long it would take to squeeze them all. But if you’re bound and determined to avoid citric acid, vinegar, or Keurig’s descaling solution, this works just fine.
As with the vinegar method, you want a 1 to one ratio of lemon juice to water to make the mix and then add an additional 14oz of water to the water container. Thus, you’ll need about 7oz of lemon juice (almost 1 cup).
Proceed with all the above steps for descaling based on which model you have.
This morning I learned that the drip pan in my Keurig holds a large cup of coffee. I also learned that if you want to drink the coffee it is best to put the mug in place before you hit the brew button and walk away. #2AMProblems pic.twitter.com/IZOvOlfzZf
— Jim Donovan (@jimdonovancbs3) February 20, 2020
Can I hit my Keurig to dislodge scale build-up?
It does sometimes work to gently strike the underside of an unplugged Keurig to dislodge the built-up calcium scale inside the Keurig which was resistant to descaling solution.
Of course, I’m sure Keurig does not recommend this and it could very well void your warranty. That being said, there are people who swear by this method when all else fails. It even has an official name, the “Slap and Burp method”.
I get into greater detail on this in this recent article, including what not to do to void your warranty. But here is a quick step-by-step.
- Unplug the unit
- Remove the water reservoir and catch tray
- Hold the unit upside down and slap it a few times on the bottom
- Put it all back together
Essentially you are trying to jar loosen any stubborn scale. But there is another possible benefit too. There is a magnet inside your Keurig that corresponds to the magnet in the water reservoir (this is how the Keurig knows when the water is low).
Too much scale build-up can cause the magnet to stick and give you that dreaded “add water” light even when there’s plenty of water.
@Keurig Help!! My 2 year old machine just broke the bottom needle. What can I do? pic.twitter.com/Qu5QH4WxjX
— Dave D (@dave_787) April 20, 2019
How to clean the Keurig exit needle
To clean the exit needle of a Keurig from the excess build-up of either coffee or scale build-up, insert a paper clip or sewing needle into the needle and loosen the debris and remove it. Then rinse thoroughly.
Sometimes, when trying to descale your Keurig, it won’t even brew to let you descale it. Very frustrating! In this case, you want to clean the exit needle.
If you look at the bottom of a K-cup, you’ll notice a tiny little bump that sticks out. The water enters your K-cup at the top, goes through the ground coffee, and then exits here (and some cups have mesh sides too). What pierces that little bump is a needle in the bottom of your K-cup holder.
If your exit needle gets clogged (from excess coffee grounds or scale build-up), then your Keurig won’t be able to brew at all.
Can you reset a Keurig?
Keurigs do not have a simple reset button. However, unplugging the unit for up to 5 minutes acts a reset for the unit, and opening and closing the K-cup holder acts as a reset to the brewing cycle.
Sometimes when our Keurig coffee maker descale is not working, we get desperate for a reset button. However, if you’re looking for a reset button like you find on the bottom of a garbage disposal you may be disappointed.
There is nothing user-serviceable inside the unit.
One other question people have with their Keurig coffee makers is whether you can leave them on all day or if you should turn them off after using.
I answer the question Can a Keurig Be Left on All Day in a recent article, including how much energy that uses and whether it poses a fire hazard.
So check it out if you leave yours on for long periods of time. Just click the link to read it on my site.
@Keurig My red 2.0 kicked the bucket, I was so sad😥 Troubleshooting with Keurig technical support didn’t work. But with help from Kayla at Keurig, we found one very similar and it’s in Gold🥰 Kayla answered every question quickly & efficiently! We are happy with our new Keurig😊 pic.twitter.com/SmGWrqSIPO
— Mary Dulla🐾 (@dullameister1) May 15, 2019
How often should I descale my Keurig?
Keurig recommends going through the descaling process on a regular basis – about once every 3 months.
But they also suggest changing the water filter inside the water vessel every 2 months and using their rinse pods once a week. Personally, I’ve never done the rinse pods, but I do think it’s a good idea to occasionally run a cycle or 2 of just water to keep the pipes clean.
Are some kinds of water worse for a Keurig?
Yes is the short answer.
Descaling is meant to remove calcium and other mineral deposits. Thus, you should never use mineral water or spring water in your Keurig coffee maker, as they both contain high amounts of minerals that can make the descaling warning come on more often.
Distilled water is a great way to go for some models of Keurig, but not Keurig 2.0. Thus for most of us, we are best off using plain old tap water and then allowing the Keurig filter to clean it.
Of course, most tap water does have a small amount of chlorine in it, which can affect the taste of coffee, so you can add a reverse osmosis water filter on your counter (or whole house), or just buy reverse osmosis water at the grocery store.
If you love hot coffee as I do, also make sure and check out my recent article on What Coffee Maker Makes the Hottest Coffee?
I break down all the best brands for delivering the hottest coffee as well as what the experts say is the perfect temp for both brewing AND serving.
Just click that link to read it on my site.
In this article, we looked at the world of Keurig coffee makers which have started to dominate kitchens everywhere for their ease, speed, and convenience.
We explored the best ways to clean yours to keep it running smoothly, how often to descale it , and whether the official Keurig descale solution is the best way to descale it.
But specifically, we examined one of the most common problems; the descale light not shutting off! And what to do when the normal descale method isn’t working on your Keurig. That way, you’ll be back to brewing in no time!
And no matter which Keurig model you own, we gave specific solutions by model.
Sometimes we like to enjoy a nice espresso! But do those capsules work in a Keurig?
Click here to read my guide on the 1 workaround for using Nespresso (or other brands) espresso capsules in a Keurig. It can be done, but you have to know the trick.