Regularly descaling your Nespresso machine is crucial to extend the life of the machine and to ensure it keeps producing high-quality and tasty coffee the way it was designed to.
In this guide, we’ll take you through the step-by-step process you need to follow to descale your Nespresso® U machine.
NOTE: The are several models of U machines on the market such as the U SOLO, U Milk and U Pure. This guide will work for all of these machines.
The process should be undertaken a minimum of once every 3 months to avoid long term damage to your machine.
There are many makes, models and brands of coffee machine on the market. This guide is intended only for the range of Nespresso U made by De’Longhi. If you have a different machine, please check out our other guides HERE.
Which Descaler? Nespresso offers their propriety descaling kit, which you can purchase from any Nespresso machine retailer. We think this is a little expensive and prohibits people from descaling their machines as often as they need. You can pick up our eco-friendly alternative here on Amazon which works out cheaper and better for the environment
Why Listen To Us? Well, because we KNOW coffee! In fact, we make our own coffee, coffee machine cleaners, and reusable capsules which we've sold to over 41 countries. Our team ouf experts include Tristan (an engineer), Claire (a food writer) and Richy (a barista). So, whether you're looking for a recipe or repair guide, we've got you covered 💚
Table of Contents
What is ‘Descaling’
All coffee machines build up deposits of calcium and lime over time. These come from tiny amounts of mineral salts that are naturally found in our water supplies. They’re completely harmless, and in fact we need them to stay healthy, but they will build up in hot water appliances over time.
“Descaling” is the act of stripping these mineral deposits from your machine’s internal surfaces. To keep your Nespresso functioning properly, you should remove these buildups by descaling regularly.
How Often Should You Descale Your Nespresso Machine?
Nespresso recommends that you descale your machine every three months or 300 coffees – whichever comes first.
That means if you use your machine often you may need to descale more frequently. Some examples descaling frequencies are shown in the table below.
|Number of coffees per day||U Descaling Frequency|
|1-2||Every 3 months|
|3-4||Every 3 months|
|5-8||Every 2 months|
The frequency of descaling also largely depends on what is known as your ‘water hardness’ – which essentially means how much mineral salts are present in your town or city’s water supply. Areas with high water hardness will require you to descale your machine more often, and areas with low water hardness can reduce the amount of maintenance required.
Some models of Nespresso machine including the U have a warning light that flashes to alert you that the machine needs to be descaled.
How Long Will Descaling Take?
The entire process to descale your Nespresso should take between 20 and 30 minutes.
What You Will Need.
To descale your Nespresso U, U Solo, U Milk, or U Pure machine, you’ll need a descaling solution kit. A two-pack kit that works for all machines costs about $20 from the Nespresso website. Alternatively, we’ve created our own descaling product which gives you 4 doses and works out a little bit cheaper.
Learn More: You can also our list of most recommended coffee machine descaling products reviewed here!
What you’ll need:
- Descaling Solution
- Clean water
- A cleaning capsule or one of our Green Pods (empty), to clean the brewing unit. (optional)
How To Descale The Nespresso U (Solo, Milk, Pure)
The descaling process can will take you around 20-30 minutes. We recommend decaling first, and then taking the extra time to also clean your extraction unit as this tends to build up with coffee residue over time.
When mixing up the descaling mixture, make sure to read the instructions to determine the correct ratio of water to add. If using our Green Pods Descaler you’ll need to add 1L of water for 1 sachet of descaler.
Here’s our step-by-step guide to descaling your Nespresso U coffee machine: note that the U has a built-in descaling warning light which will come if the machine’s sensors pick up that descaling is required.
- Turn on the machine. Empty the drip tray and make sure that all capsules have been removed from the slot. Place an empty 1 litre or bigger container under the spout.
- Fill the water tank with around 500ml of clean water and descaling solution. Mix thoroughly and return the tank to the machine.
- Turn the machine on as per normal by pressing any button.
- When the light stops flashing you can activate the descaling mode. To do this, press and hold all 3 buttons simultaneously for 3 seconds with the sliding door closed.
- Wait for the machine to beep. Now open the sliding door and press and hold the 3 buttons again for 3 seconds
- When the machine beeps and the 3 buttons blink rapidly, descaling has been successfully activated. Now close the sliding lid to start the descaling routine.
- Wait until all the mixture has run through the machine, then pour the mixture into the water tank again. Press any button to restart the process.
- When the mixture has run through the machine twice, empty the container and rinse the water tank thoroughly with clean water
- Fill the water tank with clean water and press any button to clean the machine. Allow all the water to run through the machine.
- When the water has run through the machine, empty the drip tray. Now press all three buttons simultaneously for 3 seconds to exit the descaling program.
Here’s our step-by-step guide to descaling your Nespresso U coffee machine: note that the U has a built-in descaling warning light which will come if the machines sensors pick up that descaling is required.
Congratulations: Your machine has now been successfully descaled!
Download: Get a copy of our descaling cheatsheet below
Next we recommend cleaning the capsule holder of your machine to remove and coffee residue.
Cleaning Your Nespresso U
It’s hard to get in the habit of rinsing you’re Nespresso machine after every use. Unfortunately, because of this, coffee sediment can build up in the spout of the machine over time and can even block the whole system.
To clean the coffee buildup inside the spout try straightening out a paper clip, pipe cleaner, or q-tip and scrape up around within the spout. Once done close the lever in rinse through a couple of times to wash out any particles that have become dislodged.
Coffee grinds can also get built up against the spikey pyramids inside the capsule mechanism that are used to pop open the foil lid of the coffee capsules. This can result in a blocked or stifled flow as the water has trouble passing through the pods.
We recommend using an old toothbrush to scrub the inside of the capsule mechanism clean from time to time to avoid this from happening. Again, once done close the lever in rinse through a couple of times to wash out any particles that have become dislodged.
Frequently Asked Questions
We get a lot of questions about the descaling process. Here’s some of the answers to these frequently asked questions.
Q. How much descaling solution should I use in my U Nespresso machine?
Each descaling product comes at a different concentration, so you’ll need to read the instructions on the label to see how much to use, and how much water to add. In terms of the total amount of solution to mix up, we recommend making enough to completely fill the water tank on your machine.
Q. How often do I need to descale my U Nespresso machine?
Nespresso recommends that you descale your machine every three months or 300 coffees – whichever comes first.
That means if you use your machine often you may need to descale more frequently.
1-2: Every 3 months
3-4: Every 3 months
5-8: Every 2 months
8-10: Every month
Q. Can you use vinegar instead of descaling solution?
Scientifically speaking, cleaning your Nespresso machine vinegar is almost exactly the same as with commercial descaler solution.
Unfortunately, however, vinegar tends to peel off the scale build up in flakes which could clog your machine causing irreparable damage. We’ve heard numerous cases of people having to throw out their Nespresso machine because of this. We’d recommend sticking with a commercial descaling product.
Q. What is a descaling solution made of?
Descaling solution is generally an acidic chemical that is capable of dissolving mineral salts such as oxides and carbonates. Notable descaling agents include acetic acid, citric acid and lactic acid. These are all food safe chemicals, however citric and acetic acid do impart a more noticeable taste to the machine, thus lactic is typically preferred.
Q. Can you make descaling solution?
You can make your own descaling solution using vinegar or citric acid, though we’d recommend using a commercial descaling product in a concentration that is proven not to damage your machine.
Q. Can I use any descaler in my Nespresso U?
Yes, in fact, you can use it for any brand of coffee machine.
Q. What happens if you don’t descale your coffee machine?
Scale builds up inside the pipes restricting the flow of water. If this happens inside the thermoblock (Nespresso’s heating element) water won’t be able to reach its optimal brewing temperature. When this happens it’s impossible to extract the full flavor from the coffee pods and the flavour will become weak. Severe scale buildup can clog water flow completely, causing a machine to stop working.
Q. Is descaling solution toxic?
Our Nespresso descaling solution is completely non-tox and ecofriendly. It’s made from lactic acid which is food safe in moderate doses. Other descaling solutions may use caustic chemicals such as sodium hydroxide which is highly toxic, so please check the label if unsure.
Q. Can you descale with baking soda?
We don’t recommend using baking soda to descale your Nespresso machine.
Final Thoughts And Recommendations
It’s essential to descale your U every 3 months or 300 coffees – whichever comes first. This will not only increase the life span of your coffee machine, but also keep your coffees tasting great and fresh.
Descaling takes around 15 minutes and consists of 2 descaling runs and 2 rinse runs.
You can use any brand of descaling product in your Nespresso U, as long as you dilute it with the correct amount of water to the manufacturer’s instructions.
We recommend using our Green Pods Eco Descaler. Its comes with 4 sachets (1 year’s supply) which are perfectly portioned. Its environmentally friendly, and it’s also more cost-effective than the name-brand Nespresso Descaler.
- ✔️ ENJOY BETTER TASTING COFFEE: Infrequent descaling is the #1 reason your coffee is tasting bad. Descale and you’ll taste the difference.
- ✔️ SAFE FOR YOU AND YOUR MACHINE: Our Eco Descaler is safe for all machine parts. It leaves no harmful residues and does not cause corrosion within the coffee machine.
- ✔️ WORKS ON ALL COFFEE MACHINES: Designed and tested on all leading coffee machines including Nespresso, Keurig, Dolce Gusto, Caffitaly, Breville, Delonghi, and more.