How to Clean a Coffee Maker – A Step by Step Guide

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Last updated on April 7, 2021


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While there are endless options of coffee makers to choose from, all coffee makers have one thing in common; keep your coffee maker clean and clear of unwanted issues like limescale buildup, and you’ll have a great (and safe) cup of joe every time. But how exactly do you clean a coffee maker?

The good news is it's not as complicated as you might think. Just as regularly cleaning your toaster oven, microwave, and stove will keep them running smoothly, cleaning your coffee maker properly will help extend its life and of course, brew a great tasting cup of coffee. 

Whether you have a simple single drip coffee maker or a complex digital appliance like a Ninja or Keurig, you can get your machine's inner working sparkling like new. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Clean a Single Drip Coffee Maker

Single drip coffee makers are great for brewing big batches of coffee to last the whole day. Even better is how easy it is to clean and maintain these machines.

Step 1: Clean the Brew Basket or Water Reservoir

Cleaning out the brew basket or the water reservoir is essential to maintaining that fresh, crisp flavor in your cup of joe. Over time, oily residue from your coffee can build up in the container and alter the taste of your brew. Remove your brew basket or reservoir and clean it with warm soap and water.

Some can be cleaned in the dishwasher, but be sure to read your owner’s manual first as some are not dishwasher safe. You don’t have to clean out your water reservoir after every use, but you should clean it out and replace the water on a weekly basis. 

Step 2: Clean Any Removable Parts

Coffee makers consist of several removable parts including the carafe or glass pot, a carafe lid, a filter basket, and a water tank. More complex machines like a Keurig or Ninja may include other removable parts like a removable base that collect excess drips.

Every time you use your coffee machine, you should clean out these removable parts with a simple soap and water solution. Never use an abrasive chemical or harsh sponge as that could damage the parts of your machine. Rinse the parts off, dry them, and re-install them back onto your machine. Be sure to wipe down the outside of your machine using a damp towel as well.

Step 3: Get Rid of Mineral Buildup With a Vinegar Rinse

As water flows through your coffee machine, mineral deposits from your water source will accumulate in the inner workings of your machine over time. If you don't remove these mineral deposits, then your coffee maker may take longer to drip your liquid gold, or you might find there's a funny almost mineralized taste to your coffee.

Luckily, cleaning out this gunky buildup is easy with a simple vinegar rinse. To do this rinse, you will need to mix together one part white vinegar and one part water. For the best results, you should use distilled water when doing your vinegar rinse.  

1) Start by filling your coffee reservoir with the vinegar solution, place a filter in the basket, and turn your machine on to let the vinegar solution run through it.

2) Once 3/4 of the solution has run through, turn off your machine and let the solution sit for roughly 30 minutes. This will allow the vinegar mix to break down and dissolve the mineral buildup.

3) Once thirty minutes is up, turn your machine back on and continue letting your solution run through.

Step 4: Flush the Vinegar and Clean Out All the Parts

Once the cycle has finished, pour out the vinegar solution. Now it’s time to flush out your coffee maker with water to get rid of any lingering vinegar.

To do this, simply place in a new filter, add water to the reservoir, and run a new brewing cycle. Once the cycle is complete, dump out the water, and repeat with water for a second cycle. Once the second cycle is complete, your coffee maker is ready to go!

How to Clean a Keurig Coffee Maker

While Keurigs and other single serve coffee makers operate differently than your traditional drip coffee makers, the cleaning  process is much the same.

Here’s what you’ll need to do to clean out your Keurig machine. 

Step 1: Wipe Down the Exterior 

Using a warm towel, wipe down the exterior of your machine. Be sure to remove the water tank and wipe down the base and sidewall. Be careful not to saturate the buttons or display screen with too much water, a simple wipe down should do the trick.

Step 2: Clean Your Keurig’s Interior

Coffee grinds can get stuck to your Keurigs interior so it's important to clean them out. You can do this by using a clean toothbrush and scrubbing away any buildup.

Sometimes, you will find a limescale buildup (a white or green crusty layer). You can get rid of the limescale deposits by dipping the toothbrush in white vinegar and scrubbing at it gently.

Step 3: Wash Removable Parts

Your Keurig has several removable parts including the reservoir, the cover, the drip tray, and the holder and funnel. Remove these parts and wash them with soap and water. Stay away from abrasive chemicals.

Step 4: Run a Vinegar Solution

Fill your water reservoir to its fill limit with one part white vinegar and one part water. Then, set a large mug on your drip tray, and program your machine to brew the largest mug possible. Before you start brewing, make sure that there is no pod in the machine and take out the water filter if your machine has one. 

1) Now, run your machine to brew a cup.

2) Once your cup is brewed, empty the cup and continue brewing until your machine gives you the alert to add more water.

3) Once the brew cycle is completed, let your machine sit for 30 minutes to allow any mineral buildup to dissolve. 

4) After the 30 minutes is up, rinse out the reservoir and clean it with soap and water to remove the vinegar scent.

Now, you are going to repeat the brewing process, but with water  Fill the reservoir with clean water (you can use distilled water for the best results), and allow your machine to brew the biggest mug until your machine gives you the "add more water" alert. Once completed, your machine is all clean and ready to go.

Step 5: Invest in a Descaling Solution (Optional)

If your Keurig suffers from extreme mineral buildup, then you might need to use a descaling solution. A descaling solution works much like a vinegar rinse. If you are going to use this method, be sure to use a solution that is compatible with your machine.

FAQ: Cleaning Your Coffee Machine

Still curious about how to get your coffee maker in tip-top shape? Here are some frequently asked questions to help you along.

How Often Should I Clean My Coffee Maker?

You should clean removable parts after every use or at least every week. Mineral buildup takes some time to occur, so it's best to use a vinegar solution every 1-3 months. A descaling solution rinse can be done every 3-6 months.

Can I Use Soapy Water to Clean My Coffee Maker?

You should always use a soapy solution to clean the removable parts of your coffee maker. Never run a soapy solution through your coffee maker as this could damage your machine. When wiping the exterior of your machine, be sure to be careful around buttons and electronic displays.

Does Vinegar Kill Bacteria in a Coffee Maker?

Yes. Vinegar acts as a disinfectant because it is composed of 5% acetic acid. This will kill nearly any bacteria in your machine.

How Do I Keep Mineral Buildup From Accumulating in My Keurig?

Tap water, especially hard water, will cause limescale buildup. Over time, soft water can as well. You can minimize the amount of mineral buildup in your machine by using filtered or distilled water, however, over time, the buildup can still occur.

While prevention is possible, the best way to eliminate buildup is by running a vinegar solution or a descaling solution. The level of buildup over time will determine how often you need to descale. 

Final Thoughts on How to Clean a Coffee Maker

Keeping up with cleaning your coffee maker is one of the simplest ways to extend the life of your machine. We hope that these tips on how to clean your Keurig or drip coffee maker will come in handy the next time you get ready to clean yours out.

Be sure to let us know how it goes in the comments section below! 



About the author, Nadia El-Yaouti

Nadia El-Yaouti is a postgraduate at James Madison University where she studied English and Education. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and three kids. When she's not exploring new and improved ways of cleaning and organizing the kitchen on a budget, you can be sure to find her traveling the world with her little family.