When you have a Nespresso machine at home, all you need to do is hit the button for a fantastic cup of joe.

Your device makes excellent coffee, but unfortunately, it can’t do everything. One of those things is to clean itself—that’s something you need to do.

Quick Answer: How do you clean a Nespresso machine?

Cleaning a Nespresso coffee maker involves two processes. Regular cleaning removes coffee oils and other residues, and occasional descaling removes limescale buildup, which affects the machine’s performance. Use Nespresso’s descaling solution or another coffee descaler, or make your own.

How to Clean a Nespresso Machine (For Better Coffee at Home)

You spent good money on a Nespresso, and you expect great coffee. However, if you don’t clean and descale your machine, your coffee will go from great to good to mediocre.

So, let’s go through the cleaning process together and discuss when and why to clean your Nespresso machine.

Why do I need to clean my Nespresso machine?

Coffee is a naturally oily product. Oils collect inside your machine over time whenever you brew a cup, leaving a bitter residue.

Even with the finest coffee beans and the most sophisticated coffee machine, making a good cup of coffee with a dirty machine is impossible.

You need to clean your Nespresso machine because it accumulates built-up coffee oils, which can stick to the machine’s parts and clog it up.

This residue tastes bitter and smells funky, so it’s best to keep the device clean if you want the best coffee possible.

If you don’t clean your machine, the residue will affect your coffee and the Nespresso negatively:

  • Your brew will start to taste bitter.
  • The coffee machine will emit an unpleasant smell.
  • The coffee residue will cause clogging, eventually making the device unusable.

Cleaning your coffee equipment removes that built-up residue and always ensures that your coffee tastes fresh and your Espresso lasts for many years.

How much oil is in coffee?

Coffee beans can have anywhere from 11 to 17% oil, depending on the type of bean. Without the oil, coffee would not taste good because caffeine has a bitter taste.

However, that oil doesn’t come without a price.

The price is that we have to clean our machines. Otherwise, the oil will do what oil likes to do—gunk things up.

It’s difficult to determine the amount of oil in brewed coffee. The first variable is whether the coffee beans are Arabica or Robusta.

Arabica beans have a lower caffeine content than Robusta beans, but their fat content is 15-17%. Most coffee we drink consists of Arabica coffees, although blends often include Robusta beans for their spicy, earthy tones.

Dark roasted coffee beans.

The next factor that affects the oil level in your cup is the roasting process, and the final factor is brewing.

When you brew a cup of coffee, almost all the oil is extracted from the beans. However, five times as much coffee goes into a coffee brewed in a mesh filter or a French press.

Most of the oil stays in the grounds, but some of it leaches through, and leaching is the primary source of oil in coffee machines.

How to deep clean your Nespresso machine

You should change the drip tray, capsule container, and water daily. However, a deeper cleaning needs to be done every couple of weeks. The model affects some of these steps, but this is the basic process.

Here’s how to clean your Nespresso machine:

  1. Clean and rinse the water tank. Begin by removing the water tank and emptying it into the sink. Before refilling the tank with drinking water, hand wash it with a bit of dish detergent and thoroughly rinse it. Then, you can put the clean tank back on the Nespresso maker.
  2. Using a soft cloth, clean the capsule container. First, lift the coffee maker’s lid to eject the Nespresso capsule. Next, remove its container so you can hand wash it with dish soap and water. Once you have cleaned it, return it to its original position.
  3. Clean out the drip tray. Simply remove the tray, clean it with soap and warm water, and put it back.
  4. Preheat the machine. When it’s finished, the light will go from blinking to steady.
  5. Start the cleaning procedure. After the light is steady, place a container on the cup tray. Make sure it can hold 4 cups or 1 liter of water. Next,  press the on button three times, and the cleaning procedure will begin. It will take about 2 minutes for the water to start pouring out, and the entire rinsing should take about 7 minutes.

Never use harsh or abrasive cleaners when cleaning your machine. Instead, use mild, unscented detergents. Soft cloths are recommended instead of sponges.

Cleaning a Nespresso is essential, but you need to descale your machine every once in a while, too. I will discuss that process in the next session.

What’s the difference between cleaning and descaling?

Cleaning removes coffee oil residue and brews better-tasting coffee. The descaling process successfully dissolves the mineral scale on the heating element, extending the machine’s life.

Descaling is a cleaning technique that removes limescale buildup. Limescale is a chalky deposit that can interfere with the operation of a coffee maker.

Descaling is necessary because drinking water is not 100% water. Most urban areas treat their water with minerals, making tap water a bit like a vitamin that we all take daily.

However, these minerals are tiny particles of rocks, and if they are left long enough, they will turn back into their natural stone state.

As a result, some of the minerals in the water remain in your machine.

Excessive scale build-up can affect the quality of your coffee and keep it from working correctly. Ultimately, the mineral build-up can clog your device.

Both cleaning and descaling a coffee maker are necessary to keep the inner workings of your Nespresso functioning as designed.

Therefore, you need to clean and descale your coffee maker to ensure your equipment continues producing better-tasting coffee.

Where do the minerals in the limescale come from?

The minerals in limescale come from drinking water, and not all water has the same level. Water with higher concentrations of minerals is called “hard water,” and it does more damage to coffee machines than soft water.

Calcium carbonate is the primary mineral in limescale. However, it can also contain magnesium hydroxide and calcium sulfate. These minerals are naturally present in most water we drink.

They are collected by water as it travels from its source to your tap.  Limescale often can be seen around plumbing fixtures and water heaters in households with hard water.

In addition, limescale is common on machines with heating elements, such as coffee makers.

However, limescale is not harmful to drink. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), limescale may have some beneficial health impacts, such as helping you in meeting your daily mineral needs.

However, it is not beneficial to the health of your machine.

How do you know it’s time to descale your Nespresso?

Your Nespresso model might come with an indicator light that will flash when it is time to descale the machine. However, if you have hard water, you might need to clean the machine more frequently. In addition, not all models have the indicator.

Here are some other signs to look out for:

  • Your coffee has a burnt/dirty flavor.
  • When you use your machine, it makes odd noises.
  • Your device pours coffee at a slower rate than usual.
  • Your morning brew isn’t as hot as it should be.

Limescale build-up has an insulating effect on heat transfer surfaces, which is why coffee makers with excessive build-up brew can’t make hot water efficiently.

How to descale your Nespresso machine

Although descaling a Nespresso can be performed fast and efficiently, you should have your owner’s manual handy because the descaling process differs a little from model to model.

Nespresso descaling solution packet.

To descale your nespresso Machine:

  1. Prepare your machine. Take any capsules in your coffee maker out.
  2. Remove any capsules from your machine. Put water and the descaling solution into the machine’s reservoir. Fill the water reservoir slightly more than halfway (around 4 cups or 1 liter) with warm water. Make sure there is enough room for the descaling solution.
  3. Place a container beneath the brew head. Make sure your container can hold 4 cups or 1 liter. If you forget the container or use one that is too small, your descaling solution will spill across your counter.
  4. Start the descaling process. This is when your owner’s manual comes in handy. Locate the descaling section in the manual and follow the steps to start the descaling mode. Before you start, double-check that you have a container under the brew head.
  5. Repeat to rinse. After the water runs through, Nespresso suggests running the solution through the machine one more time. You might wish to run water through the system several times to ensure that all of the descaling fluid is rinsed away. If you don’t, the first cups of coffee you prepare may have an unusual taste.
  6. Turn off the descaling mode. Don’t forget to exit descaling mode once you’ve finished rinsing. Exiting descaling mode is typically accomplished with the same button combination used to start it.

You should rely on your manual the first time you descale because the process is different for every model of Nespresso machine.

On some models, you need to hold down one button, and two or three on others. Here’s a cheat sheet for you:

  • The VertuoLine features a single button that you must hold down for approximately seven seconds.
  • The Pixie, Inissia, and CitiZ versions have two flashing buttons that you hold simultaneously for around three seconds.
  • Press the three coffee buttons on the Prodigio at the same time. Hold them in place for three to six seconds.

In this complete article, you can find an in-depth look at the different ways to descale your Nespresso machine and how to turn on the descaling mode on your machine.

How do descaling solutions work?

Descaling solutions work by dissolving the minerals in scale. When you use the chemicals in your machine, the dissolved minerals will exit the device in a liquid, allowing you to get rid of them for good.

Descaling solutions are usually acidic, while the scale has a basic pH.

The reaction between the acid and alkaline compounds creates carbon dioxide gas and a soluble salt mixture. The CO² dissipates in the air, and the removed salt remains in the water that gets thrown away.

So whether you use the descaling solution that the manufacturer sells, a different commercial descaler, or a DIY solution, they all contain acid compounds.

Can I clean a Nespresso machine without a descaling solution?

You can clean your machine without the descaling solution by using vinegar or citric acid powder. Some people prefer the powder because of the vinegar smell, but most people have vinegar handy.

Vinegar in a small cup.

If you choose to use vinegar:

  1. Fill the Nespresso water container with an equal mixture of white vinegar and water.
  2. Follow your machine’s instructions for descaling.
  3. After the cycle is complete, drain the vinegar and water solution and rinse the container.
  4. Add around a cup of water to the reservoir.
  5. Run the machine to flush out the vinegar.
  6. If the first cup after cleaning has a vinegary flavor, simply run another cup of water through the machine.

The citric acid method has one additional step—dissolving the powder, but that’s not a big deal.

Although strained lemon juice has citric acid, it is not cost-effective.

If you are concerned about a homemade solution voiding the warranty of your machine, Nespresso states the following in the descaling guide for the Lattissima One:

“Other solutions (such as vinegar or store-bought descalers) may cause damage to your Nespresso machine).”

They would prefer that you use their solution, but using another method will not void the warranty. They only want you to buy their solution because that’s money in their pocket.

Tip: Check out this complete article on the seven ways you can descale your Nespresso machine at home.

Hacks for getting the best flavor from your Nespresso

Not all the hacks in the world will produce superior coffee if your machine isn’t cleaned and descaled. Still, here are a few other techniques that can take your Nespresso coffee from good to great.

Use your own coffee

If you want to brew your favorite brand (or don’t want to waste coffee pods), a few reusable pods designed for Nespresso machines are available.

The primary distinction between the VertuoLine approach and the Original Line machines is how the coffee is brewed.

A side-by-side comparison between a Nespresso VertuoLine coffee cup and an Original Line coffee cup.
Nespresso VertuoLine cup on the left. Nespresso Original Line cup on the right

Original Line Nespresso machines create high pressure before pumping water through the capsules. Typical espresso machines work similarly.

In the Vertuo models, water is pushed into the capsules and then spun around to mix the water and grinds.

This approach requires that replacement capsules must be able to handle high-speed spinning. The CAPMESSO Reusable Coffee Capsule (available on Amazon) is suitable for the Vertuoline.

A word of caution: In its limited warranty, Breville, the parent company of Nespresso, explicitly states that:

“Any defect resulting from the usage of non-genuine Nespresso capsules will not be covered by this warranty.”

Use filtered water

If you live in an area with hard water, consider using a filter to remove some minerals. To test for water hardness, you can buy a test kit, use one of the many DIY tests, or go to your municipal water supplier.

Most municipalities must post information about water quality, including water hardness.

Heat your coffee cup

Baristas use this trick in coffee shops, so why can’t you?

Most espresso machines include built-in cup warmers. However, Nespresso does not.

You can, however, heat your mug by microwaving it (with water in it!). This will keep your coffee hot for a longer time.

Run the machine without a pod

If you want your coffee hot, run a cycle without the coffee pod. Doing so preheats the water for the next cup.

Nespresso argues that their coffee tastes ideal at the preset temperature, but they aren’t drinking the coffee—you are.

Unfortunately, this hack only works on the Original Line machines.

Final thoughts

To keep your Nespresso clean, you need to clean it regularly. However, cleaning it is not good enough.

You will also need to descale it occasionally to remove limescale, which can affect the machine’s performance.

Do both, and your Nespresso will make great-tasting coffee with every cup.

If you’re interested, you can check out some coffee recipes that you can prepare with your Nespresso machine!

Nespresso coffee recipes to try

Picture of Jeffrey, Author at Your Dream Coffee

On my coffee blog you will find everything you need in order to start brewing coffee at home. Ranging from the basics; to the newest coffee recipes everybody talks about! You can learn more about me here.

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