How To Clean A Coffee Maker

Clean

When I was a new bride, I had no idea how to clean a coffee maker, nor even that it was necessary to do so. Back then, my husband’s preferred way to make coffee was by dumping out half of the old grounds from the morning before, replacing half with fresh grounds and then starting the pot.

I, on the other hand, have always been a coffee snob.  So, the instant I got to the machine, I’d dump out his watery brew and start a fresh pot. This drove my frugal husband crazy, just as his reuse of day-old grounds drove me nuts.

Plus, no matter who made the coffee, it always tasted somehow “off.”

Coffee blender and boiler with coffee seeds in a kitchen interior

I blamed his Bunn coffee maker, which he loved because it spat out a full pot of coffee in less than three minutes, and which I hated for the same reason. Coffee snobs know the water needs to be in contact with the grounds longer than that for the best flavor. It was a rough first year of marriage, to say the least.

One morning when my husband slept late, I decided to see if I could somehow improve the taste of our morning coffee and, thus, the flavor of our mornings. So, I called my mom who patiently explained how to clean a coffee maker.

Twenty minutes later, the coffee tasted better. Not as strong as I like, but still better. When that Bunn finally broke (and no one can prove I did it), we bought a coffee maker that I love. Now we have perfect coffee every morning… so long as I’m the first one up.

How To Clean A Coffee Maker

Coffee maker and electric kettle on counter

Signs You Need to Clean It

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

Why Coffee Makers Need Cleaning

Coffee makers are kitchen champs, working daily to brew our morning jolts of caffeine. But they’re also warm, damp environments. Know what likes growing in such conditions? Nasty stuff.

And, yes, your coffee maker might be full of mold.

On top of that, coffee makers accumulate mineral buildup. That’s because most water contains minerals like calcium, magnesium, and sodium. Although good for our bodies, these minerals can leave behind a residue.

Over time, layers of residue build up and can plug the pump in your coffee maker. When that happens, your machine may stop brewing or take longer to make a pot. Buildup clogging the spout can send hot coffee sputtering on your counter. And, of course, the loosened buildup can get into your morning cuppa, making it taste weird.

Got a Keurig?

Here’s how to clean a Keurig and fix a broken one.

Black coffee in a cup

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 their places.
  2. Fill the water reservoir with 1/2 hot water and 1/2 white vinegar. Together, these two will loosen and remove lime scale and other buildup inside the coffee maker.
  3. Run the coffee maker like you would if you were making coffee. When the cycle is complete, pour the hot water/vinegar back into the reservoir and rerun it.
  4. Once the second cycle has finished, empty the pot and wash it in hot, soapy water to remove any brown film and stains.
  5. Wash the basket with hot soapy water, too. Use an old toothbrush if necessary to thoroughly remove coffee residue from the basket’s crevices.
  6. Fill the reservoir with clean, cold water and run the pot. Repeat this cycle with fresh water twice to make sure all of the vinegar is out of the coffee maker.
  7. Remove water spots from the exterior of the machine using a lint-free cloth dipped in a 50-50 solution of white vinegar and water. Buff dry with a lint-free cloth.

How Often Should You Do This?

Coffee grounds in spoons on top of coffee beans

Clean Baskets and Pots Daily

Coffee beans contain oil, with darker varieties having more of them than lighter roasts. Like any oil, the ones in coffee go rancid with time. That, too, can affect how your morning cup tastes.

So, after each use, be sure to wash the basket and pot in hot, soapy water to remove that oily residue. If you can’t get your hand into the pot to scrub it, use a baby bottle brush instead. Wipe the machine’s exterior daily after use, too.

Need more oomph to scrub away old residue? Sprinkle some salt or baking soda into the pot for added cleaning power.

Clean the Machine Monthly

Our new coffee maker tells us when it needs cleaning, so now even my husband takes care of it on occasion. If your machine doesn’t nag you, then make a note to clean it monthly using the vinegar method described above.

Not only will this help your machine function efficiently, but it will also make for a much better tasting brew.

16 Comments

  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. Katie Berry says:

    I’m on my way. Thanks for the invite, Julie!

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

    1. Sierra Jordahl says:

      Thank you for the tips!

  4. Charlene@A Pinch of Joy says:

    It’s the little things that make a marriage work! Great post on a chore I never quite get around to — you make it sound so easy I think I can do it! Thanks for sharing on Busy Monday!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Thanks, Charlene!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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! ?

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