How to Descale Keurig Elite the Proper Way

Updated on: April 13, 2023
Author: Nick
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How to Descale Keurig Elite

This detailed step-by-step guide will show you the proper way how to descale Keurig Elite coffee makers!

If you’re reading this guide that means your machine is probably yelling at you to descale it…

Or maybe you’re a little OCD and you want to descale your machine before it starts yelling at you…

Either way, you’ve come to the right place, because this thorough guide will show you everything you need to know to keep your Keurig Elite coffee machine working like a charm!

P.S. Being OCD in this case is better than procrastinating. 

Especially if you want your coffee machine to last longer… Just sayin’... 

So keep reading cause it’s time to pamper your Keurig coffee maker!

How to Descale Keurig Elite Coffee Machines

The Keurig K-Elite coffee makers are one of Keurig's older coffee machines, but still, a very powerful and reliable one, which is why the Keurig K-Elite earned a spot on our best Keurig coffee makers list!

So make sure you continue to regularly descale your Keurig K-Elite coffee maker to keep it feeling young and alive!

In other words, clean it so you don’t kill it…

Here’s what you will need during this pampering session:

  • Large ceramic coffee mug (minimum 12 oz)
  • Keurig descaling solution
  • Access to a sink

This is how long it will take to refresh your (coffee) baby:

  • Approximately 45 - 60 minutes

1. Prepare the Keurig K-Elite to Descale

  1. Empty the water tank as you don’t want to use stale water that has been sitting there for a while. You want fresh water to freshen up your machine!

  2. Make sure you remove the water filter from the water tank if you have one so that the descaling solution doesn’t ruin the carbon or charcoal water filter.

  3. If you accidentally forgot to remove the K cup coffee from the last brew cycle, then remove it now.

    Note that I said, “accidentally forgot”... 

    …Because if you are intentionally leaving the coffee pods in your machine then your Keurig coffee maker should be breaking up with you for physically abusing it. 
Descale Keurig Elite


You should always be using fresh and filtered water when you brew your cup of coffee.

2. Add the Descaling Solution

  1. Add the descaling solution to the water reservoir or water tank.

    It is best to use a Keurig descaling solution made specifically for Keurig coffee makers (see product below), but you can also buy generic descaling solutions or even make your own descaling solution from white vinegar or citric acid. More on these later on in this guide.

  2. Follow the instructions on the label, by refilling the empty bottle with fresh water and then adding it to the water tank. This is a 1:1 ratio of the descaling solution to fresh water. 

The great thing about this Keurig Descaling Solution is that it doesn't have a strong smell to it, unlike vinegar, which can leave a strong smell and possible aftertaste in your machine! It's also a quicker descaling process since descaling with vinegar will take approximately 3-4 hours.

3. Start the Keurig K-Elite Descale Process

  1. Place a large coffee mug (min 12 oz capacity) under the coffee spout. Don’t forget to do this or else you will create a huge mess on your kitchen counter.

    Once everything is in place, then you can start the descaling process.

  2. Next, make sure the machine is plugged in and powered on.

  3. Before starting to descale the machine, you want to make sure the auto-shutoff feature is either disabled or is set to more than 30 minutes (more on this later).

  4. Now, lift the brew head handle and then close it to activate the blinking of the cup size buttons (remember to ensure that there is no coffee pod in the machine).

  5. Then click on the travel mug icon, which brews 12 oz of liquid.

    Once the brew cycle is done, dump the hot liquid out in the sink. Then place the mug back in place.

  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until the “Add Water” light starts to flash.

  7. Now let your Keurig Elite coffee maker sit for 30 minutes to allow the descaling solution to do its thing inside the coffee machine.
Keurig Elite Descale

4. Fresh Water Rinse

  1. Once the 30 minutes are up, remove the water reservoir, rinse it, and then fill it to the max line with fresh water only.

  2. Once you place the water tank back in place, lift the brew head handle to activate the blinking of the different brew sizes.

  3. Then press the travel mug button which will brew a 12 oz cycle.

    Don’t forget to leave the coffee mug under the coffee spout and dump out the hot liquid every 12oz!

  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the descale light on the Keurig K-Elite turns off.

    Keep in mind that you might have to refill the water reservoir more than once until the light turns off.

    That’s how you know that the coffee maker is no longer in the descaling mode and it’s ready for use!
Keurig Elite Brewer Stand

Tips for Descaling Keurig Elite Coffee Makers

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you descale Keurig K-Elite coffee makers:

  • Don’t forget to use a 12 oz large ceramic mug or else you will have a huge mess on your hands. The drip tray can only hold so much liquid and it’s not enough for the descaling process.

  • Stay close to the machine since you will need to dump out the coffee mug waste water during the descaling process.

  • You don’t want to leave your machine before steps 1, 2, and 3 are completed. If your machine’s auto-shutoff feature is activated, then the machine exits the descaling mode before you are actually done descaling. This can cause issues.

    N.B: To avoid this issue, either disable the auto-shutoff feature or set it to the max, which is 120 minutes (2 hours). Make sure to do this before you start descaling because once the Add Water light starts flashing, you won't be able to access the settings to change it.

  • During the fourth step “Fresh Water Rinse”, when the water tank empties, it doesn’t mean the descaling is complete. The descaling process is complete once the “Descale” light on the Keurig coffee machine is turned off.

  • Even though white vinegar is commonly used to clean coffee machines, it seems that the Keurig Elite is uber-sensitive. So a non-Keurig descale solution or white vinegar has been reported to cause issues during the descaling process.

  • After the descaling is complete, we recommend that you remove and clean the brewing head or pod holder from any remaining coffee grounds. Just be careful not to prick yourself with the exit needle. 

Cleaning Other Parts of the Keurig Elite

The Keurig Elite and most Keurig coffee machines work with needles in a way that it pierces through the K cup. It lets the water go through the coffee grounds inside the coffee pod, and then through the Keurig exit needle at the bottom of the K cup.  

Keurig Elite Exit Needle

Because of that exit needles can get clogged too! 

A telltale sign the needles are clogged is if you see grounds spill over the k-cup holder. 

So it’s not only the water tank and the insides of your Keurig that need some love. You have to clean the needle as well. 

To clean the exit needle, remove the k cup holder and detach the funnel as shown in the image above. The exit needle is on the bottom of the pod holder. Grab a small paper clip, straighten it and insert it into the exit needle and wiggle it around to loosen up any coffee grounds.

Keurig Descale Light

It is very important to descale your machine as soon as the descaling light turns on. 

Now we don’t mean going to work late because the light went on while you were making your morning cup of joe… Unless you want to, haha! 

If you don’t treat your machine with love and care, then your Keurig machine won’t give you tasty coffee or tea. It’s as simple as that.

But sometimes, you will notice that even after you descale your machine and follow all the steps outlined in this guide, the descaling light remains on. 

If that’s the case, then check out our detailed guide to the dreaded Keurig descale light so you can get this issue resolved asap.

Descaling Solutions for the Keurig K-Elite

There are many descaling solutions available online and some people swear by white vinegar as a cleaning solution. 

As we mentioned earlier, some Keurig Elite owners have reported that there have been descaling problems when using white vinegar or a non-Keurig descale solution. 

So we do recommend that you use the Keurig descale solution that we mentioned earlier. We will share another link below for you.

Keurig Descaling Solution

The Keurig descale solution is meant to be diluted with water before using it. Keurig recommends using a 1:1 ratio of the descaling product and fresh water. 

Keurig promises that their descaling product will yield better-tasting drinks because it reduces the chances of flavor carrying over between brews. Plus it ensures the clearing of mineral deposits and calcium deposits!

Keurig Rinse Pods

Keurig has also created rinse pods that look exactly like a regular k cup coffee pod. These rinse pods help you keep your brew head or K cup pod holder clean and they recommend using these pods once a week. 

They have both the Keurig descaler and the rinse pods in one package on Amazon, see below:

Vinegar Descaling Solution

Yes, we did advise against descaling the Keurig Elite with vinegar…

…But we know some of you are just stubborn and you want to use white vinegar instead. 

How to Descale Keurig Elite with Vinegar

So we decided to guide you through this as well because we are nice and we care! Plus we don’t want you to screw up your Keurig Elite coffee machine…

When using white vinegar, you also have to dilute the solution with fresh water. Because using vinegar on its own will most certainly destroy your machine. 

You will not be able to remove the vinegar taste from the machine or your beverages.

Similar to the Keurig descale solution, you want to use a 1:1 ratio of white vinegar to fresh water.

Unlike the Keurig descaling solution, this process will take approximately 3 to 4 hours because you have to let the water/vinegar solution sit inside the coffee machine parts for 2.5 to 3.5 hours.

Again, we advise against using this solution to descale your Keurig Elite coffee machine. It might be fine for other Keurig models, but for this model, it seems to cause problems.

Citric Acid Descaling Solution

Citric acid is another way for you to descale your Keurig Elite coffee machine. 

I bet you didn’t even know that…

Many people don’t actually know this, but indeed you can because citric acid has similar cleaning properties as vinegar.

To prepare the descaling solution just add 1 to 2 tablespoons of citric acid powder to 4 cups of fresh water, then add this mixture to the water tank.

Then go through the descaling mode again for a squeaky clean coffee machine!

Similar to the water and vinegar descaling process, this process will take approximately 3 to 4 hours.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should you Descale your Keurig K-Elite?

According to Keurig, it is recommended that you descale Keurig K-Elite every 3 months, or when the descale light or descale notification turns on.

Regularly descaling your Keurig coffee maker will ensure the clearing of mineral buildup in your coffee machine, which will affect the taste and quality of your cuppa joe!

Why does my Keurig Elite keep saying descale?

The Keurig Elite coffee maker should get out of descaling mode on its own once it is done descaling. 

If the descale light remains on, then you should troubleshoot this issue. Learn how to do this here.

Can I use vinegar to descale my Keurig Elite?

Yes, you can descale your Keurig Elite with vinegar, but we advise against it. Some have reported some issues during the descaling process and you want to avoid these problems to keep your baby working safely!

How do I descale my Keurig Elite with vinegar?

If you want to descale your Keurig Elite with vinegar as opposed to the Keurig descaling solution, then follow the same steps outlined earlier, but have the coffee maker sit for 2.5 to 3.5 hours. Here's a quick overview of the process:

  1. Prepare the Keurig Elite: remove any used or unused coffee pods, empty the water tank and remove any water filters (if you are using one)

  2. Add the Descaling Solution: add fresh water and white vinegar using a 1:1 ratio. For example, 14 oz (400 ml) of water and 14 oz (400 ml) of white vinegar.

  3. Start the Keurig Elite Descale with Vinegar: start brewing 12 oz cycles until the add water light starts flashing.

  4. Fresh Water Rinse: before rinsing with fresh water, let the machine sit for 2.5 to 3.5 hours. Make sure the auto-shutoff feature is disabled. Once the rest time is done, rinse the water tank then fill it with fresh water to the max line. Then brew 12 oz cycles until the descale light turns off.

Final Thoughts

That’s it my fellow Keurig owner! 

We hope that this super detailed guide on how to descale Keurig Elite was helpful. 

If you’re a visual person, then check out this YouTube video below on how to clean the needles in your Keurig brewer! 

Nick loves coffee... Actually, he NEEDS coffee! So, he has dedicated his time to learning all he can about this magical bean. He can make a mean latte, is obsessed with flat whites, and is always up for a cup of java!
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