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Descaling Your Tassimo on the Cheap

We’ve had our Tassimo for about two years now, and I have to admit I’ve been wondering what effect our rusty water has had on the inner workings.

Yes, we use filtered water, but our filtered water is just rusty water run through a Brita [don’t get me started on the efforts we’ve gone through to get our water de-rusted… it’s town-provided and we had it under control for awhile, but then they changed the system and now we have a) rusty water and low enough pressure that the toilet won’t even flush or b) slightly more rusty water and decent pressure]. I have tried to clear the rust buildup out from the tank but it’s hard without a thin brush.

I’m not sure how long it takes for a usual Tassimo to light up with the DESCALE ME indicator, but ours did it a few weeks ago. It’ll still work with the light on but I don’t imagine it’s good for your machine.


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We have the same model but in black (the white one looks swanky!) and the descale light is on the bottom left of the indicator panel there, above the big round button, below the steaming coffee icon.

Naturally, seeing a new indicator on the machine, I consulted my manual. It said a bunch of confusing things in IKEA-style gibberish infographics. Why do people not use clear text anymore?! Anyway, from what I gathered, I needed my cleaning disc, the empty T-Disc with a bar code on it that tells the machine to run water through the system.

Problem #1 – We somehow lost our disc. It has a slot for safekeeping right on the back of theΒ  machine, but when I looked, I couldn’t find our disc. We think it got thrown out. But I didn’t really feel like spending the money (or waiting) to get a new one, so I started Googling.

Here’s a link for the cleaning T-Disc bar code, which you can simply tape to an already-used disc. Yes, you will get a gross watered-down coffee/hot chocolate/milk/etc in your cup, but that won’t affect the actual cleaning process. I should point out that I taped mine right over a coffee disc and by the time the descaling process was finished it was a soggy mess, but it does the trick for one-time use.

I’m jumping ahead, though, because we still had another problem.

Problem #2 – We didn’t have any descaler. Nobody told me I needed descaler! Apparently there is a recommended brand, but I again didn’t want to have to pay/wait for it. There is no descaler at the grocery store in town. I was stumped, and wanting coffee. Again with the Google…

  • VINEGAR – Seems like a good idea, right? But Tassimo recommends against it, and that’s because it’s too acidic. It might work, but it might screw up your reservoir. It’ll probably also taste gross after the fact.
  • CLR – Yes, people on the internet said to put CLR in the reservoir. But that seemed like a horrible idea to me — I use that stuff to clean my bathtub and I don’t really want to ingest it. It’s also not recommended for coffee makers with a built-in reservoir, but it’s allegedly okay for the type where the reservoir attaches, like our Tassimo model (the T20, I believe).
  • CITRIC ACID – This one is apparently good and easy, but I don’t know where to find citric acid. Word has it that Kool-Aid, the powdered kind you have to add sugar to, is a good source. But, there’s another way, and it’s what I used…
  • LEMON JUICE – The pure kind, as in, the stuff from the little yellow squeezy-bottle.

I used two tablespoons of lemon juice + one tablespoon of baking soda, and added it to just over 500 mL of water (from what I understand, you have to use at least two cups). But I still wasn’t sure what to do with my water/lemon/baking soda mixture.

Problem #3 – The Tassimo manual is basically in hieroglyphics. Luckily, the internet held one more answer for me, with Nerd Fever’s plain-English explanation of how the process works. Once you get your (homemade) solution into the back of the reservoir and your (homemade) cleaning disc into the usual place, you have to hold down the big ol’ MAKE ME COFFEE button, at which point the coffee-making indicator will blink along with the descale indicator.

Twenty minutes later I had a really disgusting cup of watered-down coffee, lemon juice, water and baking soda, and a soggy disc in the holder, but the descaling light was off and I was only out a buck for the lemon juice.

If you live in a place with easily-found descaler and want to spend the money it’s probably easier to just do things the ‘right’ way, and I don’t know if this had any negative effect on our machine, but I’m calling it a success.

50 Responses
  • John K
    September 14, 2013

    I just tried it and it worked for me too. Great advice – thanks!

    • Jonny F
      February 6, 2015

      Hi well I was on vacation when my coffee maker needed to be cleaned. Didn’t feel like driving into the main town to buy a kit so I just used baking soda. Worked fabulously.

  • Lionel Hutz
    October 1, 2013

    Worked for me on the first Bosch machine, whichever model that is. Took 3 years for it to finally light up. Thanks for the tip, first result from Google.

  • Jennifer Munro
    October 22, 2013

    This was awesome! I was able to descale with things I had around the house…and your instructions made sense. Thanks!!

  • Aerielle
    November 28, 2013

    Just a tip if you use the barcode taped on an old disc, the ink from the printed barcode may stick to the barcode reader. I have read some people declaring their machine broken after doing this. What happens is the the machine will not kick into automatic mode (when you try to brew a cup of coffee) because the code can’t be read properly. All you have to do is use soap and hot water to remove it if this does happen. The printed barcode works perfectly if you lose the factory disc!

  • Rococoaster
    December 8, 2013

    Brilliant!!! I’m going to pick a lemon from my backyard, strain the juice & go for it. I’m lost without coffee & it’s been nearly a week! β˜•οΈ

  • natasha
    December 21, 2013

    I used the lemon juice method just now and it worked amazing!! better than the store bought stuff. There was so much debris that came out it was unbelievable! Thanks for the life hack! πŸ™‚

  • Judith
    December 22, 2013

    Here’s what I did. 1 polident tablet dissolved in 17 oz hot water. Pour into reservoir. Inser cleaning disk. Put 17 oz container under spout. Push start & hol for 3 seconds. After 20 minutes cleaning is done. Open & close disk &. Push start. Repeat 4 more times.

    • jeannie
      January 19, 2014

      i just used the polident tablet and it works like new thank you

  • Nikki {GFSS}
    December 30, 2013

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! I am totally writing a post about this and giving you major credit!

  • Dawn Lamy
    January 3, 2014

    Only had machine about 3 months! Have been at the lemon juice/bicarb soda for about 1/2 an hour and the descaling light is still on πŸ™
    I think I will have to buy the proper stuff but I would have preferred natural products as I have a chemical intolerance!!

    • Michelle
      January 4, 2014

      I don’t know what machine you have, but I followed this to the T and no problems, even though I have never heard of this Tassimo machine and mine doesn’t have a ‘disc’?? I just put this homemade solution on here and then followed the wikihow instructions. Hope that helps!! Good luck.

    • Nimet
      July 1, 2014

      Did you hold the coffee button down until they both start flashing? I didn’t do this at first and kept having to do it over and over again without the light going off. It will only go off if you press and hold the coffee machine “go” light for 5 sec.

  • Michelle
    January 4, 2014

    I used this on my Map Caffitaly capsule coffee machine, after having this machine for a year. Used the process suggested on wikihow with the recipe on here. After process finished after around an hour – the water I put through in the rinse cycle was so clear you could drink it!! Big success!! So happy. No more descaling light blinking. Awesome. And i didnt have to spend $27 on the official descaling solution. Thanks for the tip πŸ˜€

  • Deena
    January 22, 2014

    It really works … Thanks

  • Leigh D.
    January 22, 2014

    The lemon juice and baking soda worked to descale our Tassimo just fine. Thanks for a great tip, Shayla!

  • Liz Hokanson
    January 23, 2014

    WOW!!!!!!! It was a great success the lemon juice and baking soda did the trick THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!

  • Pszczolka
    February 15, 2014

    Worked brilliantly, thank you!!!

  • Thank you sooo much. I’m at my parents home in the burbs for the weekend and had I not found this article I may have had a coffee crisis!

  • Jeanette
    April 7, 2014

    Worked perfectly for me, too. Thanks! πŸ™‚

  • Charles
    April 26, 2014

    I would recommend against using lemon juice. It contains sugars and bits of finely strained lemons which can remain in your reservoirs and spoil, clogging the filter and creating molds, and altering the flavour. Diluted vinegar will work fine where citric acid would. Just rinse everything thoroughly and use the disc several times to rinse out the plumbing.

    Also, don’t add baking soda with acid – it neutralises the acid, defeating the purpose, and makes a bunch of salt. If you’re concerned about too much acidity just use a vinegar dilution, not straight vinegar.

  • Wendy
    April 27, 2014

    Amazing it works thanks so much!

  • Pamela Nesbitt
    May 17, 2014

    Thanks for all of the great advice. I am going to try this.

  • Kathy
    July 27, 2014

    Hi Shayla, I’m also a northwestern Ontarian! I was born and raised in Dryden ON. I just tried your “Natural” lemon juice, water and baking soda idea! Thank you for posting it. We had recently moved and I have no idea where my instructions for descaling are let alone the descaling tablets. I am happy to know there is a “natural” solution that works instead of using chemicals!! Thank you so much!!

  • Jamie
    August 16, 2014

    I would go without using the baking soda. The point of using lemon juice is that it’s acidic, and the baking soda is basic. So by mixing the two, you just neutralized the two and defeated the purpose of using them. Just use straight vinegar and water, 50/50. Works for me. Done it three times. You could use straight water and think you did the job, but you can’t see inside to know if it did the job. This is a fact, acid removes calcium. If you mix the opposite( baking soda), you neutralize the acid. Of course, you can add more water to weaken the vinegar. If you need proof, test it on an egg, as the shell is made of calcium(or used egg shells). Bosh may recommend against all this, because they have an interest in selling their descaling tablets. Test all solutions in different cups for yourself. Mind you, your tassimo heats the solution, and will work at a much faster rate.

  • Erica
    August 20, 2014

    Tried it; awesome!! Thank you!

  • Kathryn Kroo
    September 1, 2014

    I tried your method and the descale red light is STILL on

  • linda
    October 13, 2014

    From what I understand, the pot works with the light on, it’s just that folks don’t want to ignore a ‘warning’ light…
    So, why not just disable or cover the offending light, and proceed with the coffeepot as usual, cleaning with whatever solution periodically? Does the coffeepot know or care what solution is used, as long as it works?
    Don’t let these types of decisions suck up your valuable time, people. It’s what ‘they’ want.

  • Roy
    November 11, 2014

    You can get CITRIC ACID in powder form from a pharmacy or chemist shop, and it’s really cheap. I user it for descaling kettles, shower heads and steam irons etc.
    I have a Tassimo coffee maker, as yet it hasn’t required descaling but when it does I’ll be using the citric acid.

  • Janice S
    November 11, 2014

    I just tried this and it totally worked! I used the lemon juice and baking soda method. I was surprised by how little ” junk” came out, but ran it through 3 more times and stuff still came out. My red light came on and I was able to use the machine for a couple of months, til it stopped one day. Now it is back up and running. Totally keeping this diy idea.

  • Stewart B
    November 22, 2014

    Haven’t tried it yet but I love the solution you propose and from reading the other comments, I think it’ll be a success for me as well. Thanks so much.

  • kirk eby
    December 20, 2014

    This worked 100000%. took my machine over an hour but it worked. i even linked this on Facebook because it worked so well.


  • Ian
    January 16, 2015

    I’m doubtful as to whether you’ve actually achieved anything other than just turning the light off.

    I still have the disc for mine, but no descaling solution or tablets. I put the disc in, filled the reservoir with water and held the button in until things started happening.
    The machine happily ‘descaled’ itself with nothing but water and the light went out. I’ve done it twice now (several months apart).

    I suspect the device has no ability to tell if it needs descaled or not, it probably just has a simple counter that tells it how many hot drinks it’s made and after a certain number it demands you run a descaling cycle (my car has a similar light on the dashboard – it has no idea how much I’ve revved the engine, how hot it’s been or anything other than the distance travelled. The milege counter can be reset by pressing a button – I get mine serviced once a year and the garage usually reset it, but once they forgot and I had to press the button myself. I didn’t change the oil or anything else. but the car seemed satisfied with what I’d done!).

    Once you’ve run one it sets the counter back to zero.
    You’ve satisfied the machine’s demand and turned the light off but I don’t know if you’ve actually removed any scale from the machine (and neither does the machine).

    I plan to try mine with some citric acid (Bosch list the ingredients as CITRIC ACID, MALEIC ACID, SULFAMIC ACID, SODIUM BICARBONATE but they give no indication of quantity. The sodium bicarb has no purpose other than to make the tablet fizz when you drop it in and stir the other ingredients around).

    • Luke Berry
      March 16, 2015

      Ian, you are right; after 400 cups delivered the machine will declare it needs descaling, by running the program you just reset the counter as it assumes (stupidly in the case of using Lemon juice) that the user has used the proper descaling tablet.

      The main active ingredient in the descaling tablet it sulfamic acid – the citric and bicarb are the fizzing agents. I am a high school science teacher so have easy access to sulfamic acid, use two teaspoons in 500ml to descale.

      • tash
        March 19, 2015

        Does anyone have the barcode available to download to replace the cleaning disc? I have lost mine!

        • Cortney Sawatzky
          April 7, 2015

          I need it too please

          • Lesley
            August 14, 2015

            Can someone please post the t-disc bar code again. I am having trouble finding it and these links do not work.
            Thanks so much!

          • Will
            September 3, 2015

            You can use this wiki page to create your own barcodes it’s not a PDF but it does contain the appropriate code. The proper barcode is the 07879 (the 5 is the check digit and auto generated). Steps to print 1. Download app 2. Run app 3. In the “List” box make sure 07879 is the only number and click the > button 4. Click Print (optionally print to PDF to save time).

      • ShintaOtsuki
        January 17, 2016

        This can’t be the case since I tried 3 times to just run water through the descaling process and the light is still on

    • Cheryl
      February 4, 2016

      My machine is about 5 years old. Gave to my father and I got it back about 3 or 4 years ago. My ex used it until we split up and the last 2 years its rarely used – I don’t drink coffee, so just occasional chai latte or peppermint mocha. Today I had a mocha and the descale light came on so I’m guessing that’s the first time ever. I ran it through with whatever water was in the reservoir at the time and nothing else, no solutions. Water came out a little cloudy and when it was finished the red light went out. The next time it happens I’ll try some lemon juice in there. Thanks for all the suggestions.

  • Jeff
    May 24, 2015

    Tried this method and it worked like a charm. The engineer in my would like to think there is some sort of sensor (infrared or piezo?) in the machine that is analyzing when the lines are getting somewhat blocked or obscured by the mineral build-up, but I’m skeptical they go that far. Also, my minimal chemistry training tells me that the basic baking soda (sodium bicarb) is working against the acidic lemon juice to essentially weaken it somewhat. There is obviously a mild reaction that takes place that I could be convinced was “activating” the mixture in some way to make it more effective, but I’m skeptical of that too. In any case, my annoying light is off and I’m makin coffee again! πŸ™‚

  • Jeff
    May 24, 2015

    Just as a quick follow-up… regardless if I all I did was to reset the counter and light in the machine with this approach, there is no doubt that we have hard water, as evidenced by build-up in our sinks, baths, dishwasher, etc., so there has to be some in the coffee maker lines as well. Not sure if this method completely does the trick, but the acid certainly has some effect, and the placebo affect makes me feel better. Also, it was cheap, quick and easy, and shouldn’t have hurt the machine… so what the hell, I’m goin with this! πŸ™‚

    • Will
      September 3, 2015

  • SuzAnne Michele Gordon-Freise
    February 16, 2016

    It didn’t work for me! πŸ™

  • Angie
    April 9, 2016

    it worked!!! Excellent! πŸ™‚

  • Gary Hollinshead
    May 6, 2016

    or the other option pick up all purpose descaler tablets Β£1 asda wilko or tesco Β£1.50

  • judy
    June 15, 2016

    Lost my yellow cleaning disc, Nerds Fevers sight is no longer running with this info…where do I get a “disc cleaning bar code”?

  • Lory
    June 26, 2016

    Hi! Do you think that will work if i print the barcode on paper an i stick with transparent duct tape? I don’t have where to print on labels sheets…

  • […] internet bought me a solution when I stumbled upon the post of a fellow Tassimophile. Shayla, of Northern Exposure, suggests adding two tablespoons of lemon juice and one tablespoon of baking sodaΒ to a full […]

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