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How To Clean A Coffee Maker


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updated: May 21, 2024

If you’re like me, even the smell of coffee perks you up in the morning, so my coffee machine gets some serious use. I’m sure there are plenty of others out there who love starting their day with the energy boost from a good cup of steaming hot coffee or espresso, but it doesn't always occur to people that the coffee maker needs to be scrubbed and cleaned, just like other household items.

This appliance can often be forgotten since you’re not drinking directly from the coffee pot or machine, so it might not occur to you to clean it regularly. But giving your coffee maker a deep clean is good for your machine and for you. Here are my tips and tricks for keeping your coffee maker clean and maintained over time with advice from a professional in the industry, Courtney Walsh with Homeaglow Cleaner.

What you need to prepare

Before getting started, make sure you have the proper tools and ingredients to clean your coffee maker. You’ll begin by completely emptying the water out of the machine and giving the filter a good scrub with soap and warm water. When you gather your materials, make sure you have sponges and a washcloth, white distilled vinegar, dish soap, and baking soda.

Walsh recommends creating a “cleaning solution of equal parts water and white vinegar. Create a few cups of this mixture depending on the capacity of your coffee maker.”

The full step-by-step guide

This isn’t something you need to do daily, but when it comes time to deep clean your coffee maker, here are some steps to take to get it squeaky clean and looking like new again.

Step 1: Read the manual

It’s always a good idea to read the particular manual of the specific machine you purchased to know how to properly clean it. “When cleaning small household appliances like a coffee maker, it’s important to read the directions carefully so you don’t damage your machine,” says Walsh. “Generally, people focus on removing the coffee bean oils and limescale or mildew in the water tank.”

Step 2: Spot clean oils and buildup

Any buildup on the water tank or in your French press can be cleaned quickly first with soap and warm water. “Coffee oils in your French press or that escaped the drip filter can be easily removed with a sponge and warm, soapy water,” Walsh says. “Rinse thoroughly to ensure that all soap residue is gone.”

Step 3: Run the vinegar mixture through the machine

To give your machine a really deep, nice clean, use a vinegar mixture and let it soak. “Running diluted white vinegar (equal parts water and vinegar) through your coffee maker’s water tank can help remove minerals or mildew,” shares Walsh. “For a more effective clean, let the vinegar mixture sit for 30+ minutes.”

Step 4: Rinse

After cleaning the machine with the vinegar mixture, remove any of the vinegar smell or possible taste by rinsing the machine thoroughly. “Afterwards, run your coffeemaker one to two times with only water to thoroughly rinse out your coffee maker,” Walsh suggests.

Daily cleaning routine

These tips work well for a deep clean every so often. If you’re looking for ways to keep your machine clean on a regular basis, wash the carafe of the coffee machine and the filter with dish soap and warm water after each use, or at least every few uses.

How often should I clean my coffee maker?

You can keep the carafe and filter clean on a regular basis, as mentioned above, but in reference to deep cleaning your machine, every so often will do. Walsh recommends a deep clean generally “once a month for daily coffee brewers.”

Other pro tips

Cleaning a coffee maker is pretty straightforward. Other appliances might have unique, specialized cleaning tips or chemicals you can use, but when it comes to your coffee maker, using natural cleaners like white vinegar or baking soda can keep it clean and running properly.

Tip 1: Vinegar is a great natural cleaner

The vinegar and water mixture (50/50) is really the perfect way to clean any coffee maker. You can run the machine as you would normally and let the vinegar do its job. It’s a great natural sanitizer, and it can help break down any buildup within the machine, especially when mixed with hot water and giving it time to soak.

Tip 2: Let it soak

It’s extremely important to let the vinegar work its magic by letting it soak for at least half an hour, if not a little longer, before running the machine and letting the mixture go through the entire process. Letting it soak for the proper amount of time can reduce any buildup of gunk that the machine has acquired throughout many uses.

Tip 3: Be sure to run water through

After letting it soak, run water through the machine. Do this at least once, if not a few times, to ensure the vinegar taste or scent is removed.

Tip 4: Baking soda also works wonders

As you can tell from what’s previously been mentioned, vinegar works extremely well, but so does baking soda — especially if you have a coffee pot that is covered in strong stains. A few tablespoons of baking soda mixed with piping hot water, ideally boiling, is a great way to fight those stains. Let it sit for a bit, at least half an hour, if not more. You can always clean the coffee maker first with baking soda to remove any stains and then go through the process with the vinegar mixture for an added sanitized clean.

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Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What is the best thing to use to clean a coffee maker?

This might be an obvious one at this point, but vinegar is really your best natural cleaner for your coffee machine. “Vinegar is great to effectively descale your coffee maker. For espresso machines or very high end coffee makers, you can use a commercial coffee maker cleaner like Urnex,” Walsh says.

Does vinegar really clean a coffee maker?

As a big fan of all purpose cleaners, bleach, and Clorox wipes, I had my doubts about vinegar, but it really is an incredible natural cleaner, especially according to Walsh. “Yes, vinegar is an effective descaler to remove minerals and residue from your coffee machine. To get the bitter taste [out] of your coffee machine, run a brew twice with only fresh water.”

Is vinegar or baking soda better for cleaning a coffee maker?

Maybe you really can’t stand the smell of vinegar and would rather not use it. If that’s the case, baking soda can work as an alternate option. Generally, you can make a mixture with hot water and around a third or fourth of a cup of baking soda to run through your coffee maker. It’s important to make sure that you clean out this mixture thoroughly by running the coffee machine at least twice with just warm water.

How do I get the bitter taste out of my coffee maker?

The solution to this is where the rinse comes in. As long as you remember to run your coffee machine without any filters or anything inside, just hot water, at least twice to flush out any baking soda or vinegar depending on what you use, any taste should be eliminated. If it’s not, just run it one more time.

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