The Best Coffee Makers to Handle Hard Water

No coffee maker is made for hard water, yet all can handle it. Some can take quite a buildup before running into problems, minimizing the cleaning and maintenance. And that's the machines I want to introduce to you today. All have been around for years, tested and abused by hundreds of coffee lovers worldwide, yours truly included. Pick any one of the glorious seven, and you won't suffer hard water problems (if you stick with proper maintenance).

The 7 Best Coffee Makers for Hard Water. Our Picks

CHULUX Single Serve Coffee Maker

CHULUX Single Serve Coffee Maker

  • Material: Plastic Housing + Stainless Steel Inside Water Tank
  • Brand: CHULUX
  • Color: Black
  • Capacity: 12 Ounces
  • Human Interface Input: Buttons

I'll admit this is a great coffee maker for hard water merely because it's simple and cheap. For around $40, you get a tiny Keurig stand-in that's perfect for cramped kitchens, RVs, and remote cabins. And even if it falls apart in a year, you can replace it with a new one without any hard feelings.

CHULUX is compatible with Keurig 1.0 and 2.0 K-cups, and it can even work with ground beans, though you'll need to buy a filter, as it's not included. Unlike most bulky single-serve machines, it doesn't come with a large water tank. It fits only 12 ounces of water and is emptied at the end of every brew cycle, so you can experiment with coffee strength by using 5 to 12 oz of water.

Some buyers complain about CHULUX being too slow. And it is, compared to Keurig, but the machine brews a cuppa in under three minutes, which is still quite fast if you ask me.

Thanks to the streamlined design and minimal water contact inside the machine, it's perfect for dealing with hard water. CHULUX is extremely easy to clean and descale using white vinegar, citric acid, or commercial descalers.

Touch Choice T414S

Touch Choice T414S

  • Material: Plastic
  • Brand: Touch Coffee & Beverages
  • Color: Black
  • Capacity: 5.6 Pounds
  • Human Interface Input: Buttons

If you like single-serve coffee makers but hate adding water every time, you'll love this machine. It combines the best of two worlds: a huge 90-oz removable water tank and a lightning-fast 20-second brewing cycle. Instead of heating the whole tank, the device heats up as much water as needed for your cuppa to ensure you get a caffeine hit asap.

Besides, there are eight cup size options, from 8 oz to a full 26 oz carafe, though it won't be strong if you use a single pod. You can also choose among three strength options (mild, med, bold). Touch Choice is compatible with all types of K-cups, old and 2.0, as well as generic pods and Touch pods too if you want to give them a try. I wish it could also work with ground coffee, making it an ideal coffee maker.

Now for the hard water part. On the one hand, this machine is known for consistent brewing at 200 F, which is perfect for those who love their java piping hot. On the other hand, high temperature accelerates scale buildup, and you might need to clean the machine more often, especially if you notice your coffee getting cooler. Luckily, this machine fits the Keurig filter setup perfectly, making descaling a much rarer occurrence.

Cuisinart CHW-12P1

Cuisinart CHW-12P1

  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Brand: Cuisinart
  • Color: Black/Stainless
  • Capacity: 12 Cups
  • Human Interface Input: Buttons

Drip machines are much easier to descale than espresso makers, and this Cuisinart model is the best-rated coffee maker for hard water. The Clean light will start blinking whenever the buildup is too much for optimal operation, and you'll need to run a descaling cycle with vinegar, citric acid, or descaler, followed by clean water. While the coffee maker comes with a charcoal filter, it merely purifies water and improves the taste. If you want to minimize descaling, you'll need to use bottled water or an additional filter before filling the water tank.

This model comes with all the drip machines' staples: glass carafe, programmable delayed brewing, pause-and-serve, and 1-4 cup brewing cycle. Still, there are nice extras that make it a smidge better than the competition. For instance, the warming plate comes with three temperature settings instead of one, so your coffee won't get overheated. And the drip tray is removable to accommodate the tallest of travel mugs.

But it's the hot water system that made me take a closer look. It includes a separate 54-ounce water tank and heater that can work independently from the coffee machine or run parallel. So if you want to make instant oatmeal to go with your morning cuppa, you don't need to use a kettle.

BUNN BX Speed Brew

BUNN BX Speed Brew

  • Brand Name: BUNN
  • Capacity: 50 ounces
  • Color: Black
  • Fabric Type: Plastic, Stainless Steel
  • Item Weight: 8.00 pounds
  • Material: Stainless Steel

Don’t you just love the classic lines of this drip machine? It's so simple and streamlined, any kitchen will be happy to have Bunn BX, especially with its easy cleaning routine. And it has to be as user-friendly as possible because the machine heats the water and keeps it warm for a long time, promoting fast scale buildup. You may end up descaling every month if you skip the filter to soften the hard water.

Bunn coffee machines are known for their super-fast brewing. The water is kept hot inside the tank to brew a full carafe in under three minutes. Whether you pour 4 or 10 cups worth of water, the results will be delicious and bold without burning the beans or introducing a bitter aftertaste.

I left the two most controversial features for last. The proprietary carafe spout works fine and prevents spills in most cases, though it doesn't seem to work as well for some buyers. And the warming plate has no auto-shutoff, so it will keep heating the carafe for as long as the machine is on. It's great for those who like to nurse the carafe throughout the day, though others consider it a fire safety hazard.

Cuisinart DCC-1150BK

Cuisinart DCC-1150BK

  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Brand: Cuisinart
  • Color: Black
  • Capacity: 10 Cups
  • Human Interface Input: Buttons

If you like the classic drip coffee maker but want to avoid glass carafe cracking, go with this model. Its sleek and elegant stainless steel carafe keeps the coffee warm for a couple of hours without making use of the warming plate. The design could be improved, as the carafe is a bit tricky to clean due to the small opening on top, but it's still preferable to unreliable glass pots and warming plates that overheat java and turn it bitter.

This Cuisinart does include your favorite drip coffee machine features, like pause-and-serve, automatic shutoff, and 24-hour programmable brewing. I wish they'd make the sound signal a bit quieter or gave me the option to turn it off, as it tends to wake me up before the alarm goes off.

The cleaning feature is nice to have, though I'm not sure it's all that different from a regular brewing cycle. With an indicator blinking angrily at you every morning, it's difficult to ignore the need to descale, so I'd say the machine takes care of itself, even if you still need to provide water and vinegar.

Mr. Coffee BVMC-PSTX95

Mr. Coffee BVMC-PSTX95

  • Material: Plastic
  • Brand: Mr. Coffee
  • Color: Chrome
  • Capacity: 10 Cups
  • Item Weight: 9.7 Pounds

Every feature you can dream of is present in this sleek drip machine. It's super-quiet and capable of delayed brewing, so you won't wake up an entire household with your morning coffee rituals. Even the display is dimmable, making it perfect for dorm rooms and studio apartments.

If you're in a hurry, sneak a cuppa without spilling coffee all over the place, thanks to the automatic pause-and-serve feature. And once the cycle is done, the double-walled stainless steel carafe will keep the coffee hot for a couple of hours. The freshness timer runs as long to remind you to enjoy your java while it's still hot and delicious. After two hours, the machine turns off automatically to keep your utility bills manageable and prevent unfortunate accidents.

Mr.Coffee comes equipped with a filter that removes up to 97% of chlorine from water to deliver delicious java, but it doesn't protect your machine from scale buildup. Luckily, the cleaning indicator will light up when the descaling time comes. While you're waiting for the device to cool down for cleaning, you can remove and fill the water tank and coffee basket for easy cleaning.

BUNN GRB Speed Brew

BUNN GRB Speed Brew

  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Brand: BUNN
  • Color: Black
  • Capacity: 10 Cubic Feet
  • Item Weight: 8 Pounds

This is another model that isn't much different from Bunn BX, though it's a bit more affordable. Besides, the mostly-black body makes it a bit sleeker and easier to fit with any kitchen design.

Otherwise, expect the same features you'd get from any classic Bunn drip coffee machine. There's fast 3-minute brewing, a drip-free carafe, and the warming plate to keep your coffee hot inside the glass pot. You can pause the brewing cycle to serve a cup or two. And the full brew volume is easy to control, as all the water from the tank is used every time.

However, I wouldn't recommend this model if you're not comfortable with the machine being turned on all the time. The fast brewing would be impossible otherwise, so there’s no automatic shutoff.

How to Choose the Best Coffee Maker for Hard Water?

Why are these seven machines better at dealing with hard water than others? It all comes down to four crucial factors:

  1. Simple design. The fewer coffee maker parts come into contact with hot water, the faster and easier descaling will be. If you imagine hard water deposits covering the insides of a superautomatic espresso maker, you'll get why manufacturers recommend using bottled or filtered water.
  2. Water filter. Charcoal won't cut it, as it improves water taste without softening it. You need a filter to get rid of calcium and magnesium ions dissolved in the water, and for that, you need a sophisticated filter or a reverse osmosis system.
  3. Cleaning indicator. Even a simple LED is better than nothing, as it reminds you to descale whenever the buildup gets too much for proper coffee maker operation. Don't ignore the light, and your coffee maker will remain in perfect working order for years.
  4. Self-cleaning coffee makers. A cleaning cycle may differ from regular brewing by keeping the hot water inside the reservoir for a longer period and slowing down the water flow through the system. It's designed to get as much of the buildup dissolved in the shortest amount of time.

Unfortunately, each of these adds to the coffee machine price tag. So if you can remember to descale regularly, you can skip the LED indicator and self-cleaning features to save a few bucks.

How Does Hard Water Affect Different Coffee Makers?

Scale deposits build on any hot surface inside the coffee machine, whether it's a drip coffee maker or a superautomatic espresso machine. And the consequences of this buildup are usually the same, even for the best home coffee maker for hard water.

The heating element usually suffers the most limescale damage. The buildup is a heat insulator, meaning the water doesn't reach the optimal temperature at the beginning of the brew cycle. And you get an under-extracted lukewarm cuppa you have to reheat in a microwave. In case your machine stops providing hot coffee, descaling should be at the top of your to-do list, as the problem is likely connected to the scale on the heater.

The water system inside the coffee maker suffers from scale too. As the tiny tubes are slowly overtaken with buildup along their circumference, the water flow gets slower. By the end of the normal brew cycle, you don't get a full cup or carafe and complain about the shoddy engineering. But the problem is likely caused by poor cleaning and maintenance on your part.

Finally, scale buildup affects java aroma and flavor. The more hard water deposits your coffee maker suffers, the blander coffee it will produce. You may notice your favorite beans going flat. Before tossing them, try brewing in an Aeropress or pour-over pot, and if the coffee tastes fine, the problem is likely caused by limescale buildup in need of hasty descaling.

How Often Do You Descale a Coffee Maker in a Hard Water Area?

No manufacturer specifies the exact water hardness levels and descaling intervals. However, I've scoured the user manuals of the most popular brands along with those that made it to my shortlist. In the table below, you'll see the descaling instructions specified by the manufacturers.

Brand Descaling
AmazonBasics every 6-8 weeks
Black and Decker every month
BUNN every 2-4 weeks
CHULUX not specified
Cuisinart every 6 months
Hamilton Beach every month
Keurig every 3-6 months
Krups every 2-4 brew cycles
Mr. Coffee every month
Nespresso every 600 cups
Ninja every 1-2 months
OXO every 90 brew cycles
Technivorm (Moccamaster) every 100 brew cycles
Touch Beverages every 3-6 months

If your machine comes with a cleaning indicator, you should descale when it first turns on, regardless of the figures above. And the intervals may be a bit shorter or longer depending on how hard water is and whether you use a filter.

How to Descale Your Coffee Maker

I urge you to pay attention to the user manual and follow instructions for cleaning and descaling. In general, the descaling process includes several critical stages. For instance, you should:

  1. Turn off and unplug the coffee maker.
  2. Let it cool to room temperature.
  3. Discard the grounds or pods.
  4. Clean and wipe down the outside and the carafe.
  5. Fill the water reservoir with a mixture of water and vinegar (citric acid or commercial descaler).
  6. Let the descaling mixture sit inside the water tank for 30 to 60 minutes.
  7. Turn on the coffee maker and run the complete brew cycle or ‘Clean’ cycle.
  8. Discard the water from the carafe.
  9. Refill the water tank with clean water.
  10. Run another brew cycle without coffee to get rid of the descaling smell and taste.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you understand that there's no such thing as a 'hard water coffee maker'. Sure, some devices are better at handling scale buildup and easier to clean, but there's no way to avoid the cleaning and maintenance unless you're willing to throw out the machine every time a cleaning indicator blinks on. To make your life easier, use my advice and pick a coffee maker that's simple and sturdy, easy to descale and keep in top shape. And you won't need to worry about buying bottled water or installing a reverse osmosis system.

My final word of advice is: skip electric machines altogether and go with a pour-over kit or Aeropress if you're that wary of descaling. Though your electric or stovetop kettle will still need to be cleaned from time to time.

Renat Mamatazin

Renat Mamatkazin

2021/04/20

Founder and owner of Lion Coffee and 3ChampsRoastery, 1st place winner of Ukrainian Barista Championship 2017. Interested in travelling, football and Formula-1 (besides coffee, of course).

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