How to fix the dreaded red and yellow light on a Nespresso Vertuo

Simon Atkins
2 min readFeb 28, 2020

For God’s sake, let it run dry.

Please clap as many times as you can (50?) at the end of the article! I make a few bucks a month from this article and it keeps me in coffee.

If you’ve made it here, chances are you’ve become frustrated with all the advice about the “red and green” light and the confusion from Nespresso’s own customer service representatives. Fear not, help is at hand.

Treat the yellow and red light as if it was a yellow and green light; it’s a descaling issue. I know, I was also in denial after two failed attempts. Just trust me and follow these steps:

  1. Do all these steps within 2 minutes of each other, or the machine resets itself. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  2. Acquire some descaling liquid or powder. It doesn’t have to be Nespresso’s own-brand; You may even be able to do it with just water.
  3. Turn the machine on and make sure there’s no capsule in the thing.
  4. Fill the tank with descaler and 900ml of water.
  5. Push the button and lever (silver bit on the front) down for 3 seconds. The light will turn orange. If the machine just turns off, repeat this step.
  6. Push the lever down once. The light will slow blink orange. Make sure you have a large receptacle under the spout.
  7. Push the button once. The descaling will begin and should last 20 minutes or less.
  9. At that point the machine will stop and wait to go into rinsing mode. Wash the tank out otherwise your coffee will taste of descaler (but it might whiten your teeth?)
  10. Press the button once to begin the rinsing mode.
  12. The orange light will slow blink to tell you the process is done.
  13. Press the lever and the button down for 3 seconds to exit.
  14. You are done! Drink coffee.

If you’re as attentive as I am, you’ll have been topping up the water tank during the descaling process every time it runs dry like an idiot. Apparently Nespresso thinks it’s obvious you should let it run dry, which must be why they left it out of their instructions.

If you don’t let it run dry, the descaling process will continue to run indefinitely and you’ll be left standing, caffeine deprived, refilling the water tank until the rest of humanity dies out and the sun swallows the Earth. You’re welcome.



Simon Atkins

Software Developer with shameless visual design tendencies, based in Edinburgh. Well travelled. Got evacuated once.