How to clean a coffee machine

Find out how to clean a coffee machine so that your brew tastes consistently good

how to clean a coffee machine: Swan SK22110BLN, Retro Pump Espresso Coffee Machine
(Image credit: Swan)

Everyone wonders how to clean a coffee machine sooner or later. You’ve taken the time to pick the best coffee machine (ideally from our list of top buys), but once it’s in your home, ensuring it keeps delivering delicious drinks demands the correct cleaning and maintenance. 

The type of coffee machine – whether that’s a filter coffee maker, pod coffee machine, or espresso or bean-to-cup design – will dictate exactly what care is needed, but all require both cleaning and descaling. Get all you need to know to ensure your coffee maker stays in tip-top shape here.

And for more cleaning tips and techniques, see our cleaning pages. 

How to clean a pod coffee machine

Pod coffee machines are straightforward to clean because of their design. You can wipe the coffee outlet with a clean damp cloth, as well as the rest of the exterior. Parts such as the drip tray and capsule holder may need cleaning by hand, or could be dishwashable. Check the manual that came with it, or find it online. Take a look, too, for any manufacturer’s instructions on cleaning your pod coffee machine internally.

How to clean an espresso coffee machine

You can wipe the outside of an espresso machine with a clean damp cloth as necessary. You should also clean the water tank, drip tray and grid according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

The head which dispenses water into the coffee should be cleaned as stated in the manual. The filter holder (portafilter) and the filter basket can become blocked by ground coffee, and a pin can be used to remedy this – one may be supplied with the machine.

The steam wand should be cleaned immediately after use. A shot of steam will remove any remaining milk and the wand’s exterior can be wiped with a clean damp cloth. The end may also be removable for rinsing and unblocking, depending on the particular model.

How to clean a bean-to-cup coffee machine

A bean-to-cup coffee machine needs to be cleaned regularly and thoroughly. Many will prompt you to clean and descale.

As with an espresso machine, the steam wand should be cleaned after each use in order to keep it working properly. A shot of steam and wiping with a clean damp cloth are essential to keep it hygienic.

Elements such as the bean container, water tank, drip tray, filter baskets and the portafilter, coffee funnel, spout and the inside of the machine will need cleaning as per the instructions. 

How to clean a filter coffee machine

You’ll need to clean all the removable parts after each use: often they’ll be dishwasher-proof, or you can wash them up. Wipe the hot plate with a soft damp cloth when it’s cooled down, too. You should also wipe down the outside with a soft, damp cloth.

Check the instructions to find out if the machine has a cleaning cycle and what this needs – a vinegar solution followed by cycles with clean water may be recommended, for instance. Otherwise, follow the descaling process (see below) recommended in the manual to keep the inside of a filter coffee machine in good shape. 

How to descale a coffee machine

Removing the limescale from a coffee maker – in other words descaling it – is important to stop it getting blocked or leaking. More sophisticated machines might warn you when this task is due, but whether the machine has an indicator or not, it does need descaling regularly. The more you use the machine, and the harder the water where you live, the more frequently it will need descaling.

If your machine were to stop working completely, or become noisy, or fail to make coffees as well as it did before, this is the first job to tackle, too.

What can be used to descale a coffee machine?

Check the manual – or search online if you haven’t hung on to it – because if you use a non-approved descaler you could invalidate the warranty on your machine. The manufacturer might recommend a descaler, but, if not, you can buy descalers online or in supermarkets. 

Bear in mind that some descalers are designed for all types of coffee machine, but others are specific to a particular type, for example pod coffee machines, so check the descaler description as well as your coffee machine manual. We'd recommend the following:

  • With a five-star rating and plenty of rave reviews for its results, Home Master Kettle Descaler does the business. You can use it on metal or plastic designs. Just boil half a kettle full of water, unplug, drop the sachet in and leave for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Ivitro CalSolve Kettle Descaler is also five-star solution according to its users, as well as the team at Real Homes. You’ll get 40 doses in the pack, so you can keep on descaling at low cost. All you need to do? Dissolve the powder in hot water and the limescale will vamoose. Oh, and it’s not smelly either.
  • After an eco-friendly solution? Ecozone Kettle & Iron Descaler is made with 100% citric acid. It takes half an hour to do its work, so you won’t be waiting long for a fur-free appliance. Oh, and it’ll sort out the iron for you, too.

How to descale a coffee machine with vinegar

Check the instructions for your machine: some allow vinegar to be used, while others say it could damage the machine. If vinegar is ruled in, you can run a cycle using a vinegar solution according to the guidelines. Be aware that you’ll need to repeat the process with water afterwards – more than once – to rinse the machine. 

Note that you definitely shouldn’t use bleach to descale your coffee maker.

We have more ways to use vinegar to clean your home – you'll be amazed what it can do!

More cleaning tips: 

Sarah Warwick
Sarah Warwick

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes – long enough to see fridges become smart, decorating fashions embrace both minimalism and maximalism, and interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves testing the latest home appliances, revealing the trends in furnishings and fittings for every room, and investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper. For, Sarah reviews coffee machines and vacuum cleaners, taking them through their paces at home to give us an honest, real life review and comparison of every model.