Descaling Solution Vs. Vinegar: What To Choose For Descale?

Last Updated on January 2, 2022 by John Moretti

Descaling a coffee machine is a very important part of maintaining the machine. Without descaling, a coffee machine will eventually fail and stop working altogether. Everyone who owns a coffee machine must go through the process of descaling, but which is the best descaling solution or vinegar? 

Descaling solution is far superior for properly descaling a coffee machine than vinegar. Vinegar will compromise the flavor of your coffee, and it is not effective for descaling. Descaling solution is very effective, cheap, and will not leave behind any unwanted flavors that will ruin your coffee.

Descaling any coffee machine is vital. Many people say that vinegar works fine, but every coffee machine manufacturer recommends using a descaling solution. Is vinegar suitable for descaling a coffee machine, or is a commercial product a better option? Let’s find out!

descaling solution vs vinegar

Can You Use Vinegar To Descale A Coffee Machine?

It is very important to descale a coffee machine regularly. The scale will prevent the proper function of a coffee machine, and removing it will keep the machine functioning well and making good coffee every time.

Vinegar is said to be a good way to descale a coffee machine, but should you use it?

Vinegar can be used to descale a coffee machine, but it is not ideal. Vinegar is not very efficient, nor is it very effective for descaling a coffee machine.

The acid present in vinegar is not harmful to the machine nor for humans, so it is safe to use, but simultaneously, the acid in vinegar is not the correct strength, not the correct compound to remove the scale in coffee machines.

Scale in a coffee machine is very difficult to remove and requires a much stronger acid than vinegar to remove entirely.

With that being said, it is possible to use vinegar to descale a coffee machine to some extent, but the process will have to be repeated multiple times to remove any significant amount of scale from within the machine.

Is Descaling Solution Better Than Vinegar For Descaling?

cleaning coffee machine

When compared to vinegar, a descaling solution is a far more effective product for properly removing scale from a coffee machine.

Commercially available descaling solution is formulated for breaking down and washing away the scale, bacteria, dirt, any other undesirable particulates found within coffee machines.

All descaling solutions are safe to use in coffee machines without causing harm to the machine, and they are safe for humans as well. These products will quickly and effectively break down and remove scale from within a coffee machine without leaving behind any residue.

Descaling solutions do not have any taste, which means that using a product like this will not cause any compromise in the way your coffee tastes after brewing.

Other than extreme circumstances, descaling solutions will work the first time, every time, when descaling a coffee machine without having to repeat the process multiple times for a significant result.

Using a descaling solution is the best way to remove scale and dirt from within a coffee machine. 

Many believe that vinegar is a better option regarding the price of the product, but the truth is that most descaling solutions only cost a few cents more than vinegar. This makes the descaling solution ideal for the job and should remove the option of using vinegar altogether.

Which Descaling Solution Is Best?

cleaning automatic coffee machine

There are several types and variations of descaling products available, all of which are superior to vinegar, but which is the best descaling product for cleaning coffee machines?

The truth is, most descaling products that are designed for coffee machines are very effective and will not cause any damage to the machine.

The only exception to this is if your machine uses a thermoblock water boiler. This is usually the case in automatic coffee machines. In this instance, try to avoid any descaling products that use citric acid, as this will damage the aluminum boiler in the coffee machine.

The effectiveness of descaling products compared to vinegar is the type and strength of the acid used in these products.

The best descaling products for coffee machines are those that make use of citric, sulfamic, and lactic acid. These acids are highly effective for descaling a coffee machine, even one that has a high build-up of scale. 

Using any descaling product or solution that makes use of one or more of these acids is the best option for a coffee machine.

Descaling Solution Vs. Vinegar: Pros And Cons

We have established that vinegar is not ideal for descaling a coffee machine and that commercial descaling products are superior, but to make the comparison more clear, here is a list of the pros and cons of using both of these types of products to descale a coffee machine.

Descaling Solution: Pros & Cons

ProsCons
  • Descaling solution is very quick and effective
  • Descaling solution containing citric acid may damage aluminum components
  • Descaling solutions do not leave behind unwanted flavors or odors
  • Descaling products are slightly more expensive than alternatives
  • These products are very affordable
  • Descaling solutions are not always readily available
  • There is a very wide range of products available to suit your coffee machine
  • Vinegar For Descaling: Pros & Cons

    ProsCons
  • Vinegar is very cheap to buy
  • Vinegar will leave behind unwanted flavors and odors present in coffee after brewing
  • Vinegar is always available and easy to find
  • Vinegar will damage aluminum components
  • Vinegar will remove some scale
  • Vinegar is largely ineffective for descaling coffee machines
  • Using vinegar to remove any scale requires many descaling cycles
  • Conclusion

    Many states that vinegar is a fine product to use for descaling a coffee machine. However, this is not entirely true. Vinegar is only partially effective for descaling and is not nearly as effective as a dedicated descaling product.

    Descaling solutions and products are far more effective for cleaning a coffee machine of scale and other contaminants. 

    It is always preferable to use a descaling solution rather than vinegar for cleaning a coffee machine, even though it costs about 10c more to purchase.

    Do yourself a favor and use a commercial descaling product for cleaning your coffee machine, rather than ruin every subsequent cup of coffee brewed in the machine with the taste of vinegar.