How To Clean A Coffee Maker

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The best-tasting morning brew starts with a clean coffee maker. Here’s how to do it with or without vinegar.

Clean coffee maker on a white kitchen counter with a freshly-brewed cup and plate of cookies

Your coffee maker probably isn’t as clean as you think. In fact, a public health study found that coffee maker reservoirs are among the germiest places in homes.

Why You Need to Clean Your Coffee Maker

Sure, coffee makers are kitchen champs that heroically brew our morning jolts of caffeine. But they’re also warm, damp environments. Know what likes growing in such conditions? Nasty stuff, which is why your coffee maker might be full of mold.

On top of that, coffee machines accumulate mineral buildup. That’s because most water contains minerals like calcium, magnesium, and sodium. Although good for our bodies, these minerals can leave a residue that ruins your machine as well as your morning cup.

Signs You Need to Clean Yours

Wonder if you need to clean your coffee maker? There are definite signs that it’s time to do so. Here are a few.

  • Your regular coffee tastes odd.
  • It takes longer to brew a pot than it used to.
  • Your coffee maker makes noises but doesn’t brew.
  • Your coffee maker is louder than normal.
  • Your coffee maker spews coffee everywhere.

How to Clean Your Coffee Maker with Vinegar

1. Dump the old coffee and any grounds in the basket. Return the basket and pot to place.

2. Fill the water reservoir with 1/2 hot water and 1/2 white vinegar. Together, these loosen and remove limescale and other mineral buildups inside your coffee maker.

3. Run the machine like you would if you were making coffee. When the cycle is complete, pour the hot vinegar water back into the reservoir and run another cycle.

4. Once the second cycle is finished, empty the pot and wash it in hot, soapy water.

5. Wash the basket in hot, soapy water, too. Use an old toothbrush if necessary to thoroughly remove any coffee residue from the basket’s crevices.

6. Fill the reservoir with clean, cold water, run another cycle, and dump the pot. Repeat this twice more to make sure all of the vinegar is out of the machine. (On the last run-through, add a pinch of baking soda to the empty pot. Baking soda reacts with vinegar by fizzing — if there’s no fizz, you know the vinegar is completely gone.)

7. Remove water spots from the machine’s exterior using a lint-free cloth. Dip it into vinegar and scrub any stubborn spots, then wipe with plain water. Buff it dry with a lint-free cloth.

8. Rewash the coffee pot and basket, either by hand with hot, soapy water or in the top rack of your dishwasher. Let them completely dry before putting them back into your machine.

How to Clean Your Coffee Maker Without Vinegar

If you’re out of vinegar or would rather not use it, here are some vinegar-free ways to clean your coffee maker.

Using lemon juice: Use 1/2 cup fresh or bottled lemon juice in place of the vinegar in step 2. Add enough hot water to the juice to fill your reservoir and proceed with steps 3-8.

Using baking soda: Add 1/4 cup of plain baking soda to your coffee maker’s reservoir, then fill it with hot water. Follow steps 3-8 to finish cleaning your coffee maker.

Using borax: You can find borax in the laundry section of most supermarkets or online. (20 Mule Team is one brand.) Powdered borax can decalcify and clean your coffee maker. To use it, add 2 tablespoons of borax to your coffee machine’s reservoir, then fill it with hot water. Follow steps 3-8 to finish cleaning.

Using hydrogen peroxide: Plain 3% hydrogen peroxide, the kind you get in a brown bottle in the first aid section, can also clean your coffee maker without using vinegar. To do this, add 1 cup to your machine’s reservoir, then fill the rest with hot water. Follow steps 3-8 to finish cleaning.

How Often Should You Clean Your Coffee Maker?

If you want to keep your coffee maker working like new and producing the best-tasting coffee, make a habit of cleaning it on schedule.

Daily: Wash the removable parts (the pot and lid, plus the filter basket) after each use. To remove the oily coffee residue, use hot, soapy water. If you can’t get your hand into the pot to scrub it, use a baby bottle brush.* Sprinkle salt or baking soda inside if you need added scrubbing power. Or, put them on the top rack of your dishwasher.

Monthly: To keep your coffee maker in the best condition, clean it monthly using one of these methods. It’s best to do this on schedule, even if your machine has a light or button that reminds you to clean it. Those reminders are notorious for not working after a year or so, even though there’s plenty of life left in the machine if you keep its pump free of mineral buildup.

How to Clean A Filthy Coffee Pot

If your coffee pot begins to grow a dark brown film, or you forget about it, and the bottom scorches, it’s not hard to clean it.

Use lemon and salt: Fill the pot with water and dump it out. Then sprinkle enough coarse salt (Epsom, Kosher, or even rock salt) on the bottom to cover the mess. Cut a lemon in half, use the cut side to scour the mess, and then wash it in hot, soapy water.

Or a detergent tablet: If you’d rather take a hands-off approach, pop a dishwasher tablet into the pot and fill it with boiling water. Wait an hour, dump out the mess, and rinse it until you don’t see suds.

Not only will cleaning your coffee maker help it work better, but it will also make for a much better-tasting brew. Enjoy!

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  1. some of them can be a pain to clean ,I was thinking about getting a Keurig

    1. you still have to clean Keurig pots! In fact, I have had several that I have had to return because they start making half cups. Sometimes cleaning and descaling helps, sometimes, not.

    2. Katie Berry says:

      Have you tried popping the cup and other removable parts into the dishwasher every few days?

  2. We need to clean our coffee pot! Thanks for the post, and the reminder! : )

    1. Sierra Jordahl says:

      Thank you for the tips!

  3. Thanks Charlene I just adore brewed coffee and thank you for the tip I have a Sunbeam coffee maker but then again in Australia we all use Sunbeam coffee makers.

  4. Ugh! Recycled coffee? Talk about grounds for divorce. Haha. Glad you found a workaround! And thanks for the tips!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      My pleasure! And I agree, recycled coffee is the WORST!

    2. “Grounds” for a divorce… groan. Lol

    3. Near Offutt says:

      I make my usual pot 12 cups with a rounds 1/2 cup of dark roast grounds, pour it into a jar and put that in the fridge. Then I add 1/4 espresso grounds IMMEDIATELY for a 2nd pot. I then mix the two pots. The mixed used grounds are then added to the composter. The coffee is strong and tastes fine. Using day old grounds doesn’t sound sanitary, a warm, moist, organic mixture setting over night sounds like a perfect place to grow fungus or bacteria! I will try the vinegar method of cleaning! Using Bar Keeper coffee pot cleaner didn’t seem to help much, still had to scrub the reservoir with my Libby brushes.

  5. I followed your cleaning suggestions and my pot went from 26 minutes to 13 minutes to make a pot.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Excellent news!

  6. Charlene,

    Reminds me of when my ex mother in law would get so angry with me when I would refuse to drink her day old coffee she would leave sitting out till the next day. It would have this disgusting film on it and she would hit the ceiling when I dumped it and started a new pot.

    I just cleaned my coffee maker using your instructions and it was a breeze, thanks so much! ?

  7. Linda Marr says:

    We clean our stainless steel coffee pot carafe with a dishwasher tablet. Add the tablet, fill pot with boiling water and put on the lid. Wait 1 hour and you have a sparkling clean pot. Just follow with a couple more hot water rinses. We have been doing this for several years now!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Thank you for sharing that, Linda!

  8. Lonnie Hoffkins says:

    I’m curious as to whether anyone has just used Windex instead of vinegar. I know it really gets my carafe spotless and I triple-rinse it when done.

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