How to clean a coffee maker

Clean your coffee maker regularly to ensure a delish cup of java, every time.

how to clean a coffee maker
(Image credit: Bradley Pisney for Unsplash)

When was the last time you cleaned your coffee maker? If you can't remember, it's high time you gave this kitchen essential a rinse. Whether you have a fancy all-in-one espresso machine with all the bells and whistles or your standard drip, it needs to be cleaned regularly. 

This will ensure your coffee tastes fresh and your machine runs as efficiently as it should. Otherwise, mineral buildup can give your morning brew that burnt, tinny flavor (yuck). Not to mention, mildew and bacteria can build up in the reservoirs.

Not sure how to clean a coffee maker? We're here to help. There are a few different methods, and some more particular strategies for specialty machines (like Keurig coffee makers and Nespresso espresso machines). We've outlined them all below. So grab a fresh cup and get reading. 

Need a new machine? These are the best coffee makers of 2020. 

How to clean a coffee maker with vinegar

One of the most popular ways to clean a basic drip coffee maker is with vinegar. And it's pretty easy. Just fill your reservoir halfway with white distilled vinegar and top it off with water. The solution will sanitize your carafe and break down any mineral deposits that may have built up in the machine. (For particularly tough buildup, you can increase the amount of vinegar in the ratio.) 

Add a coffee filter in your basket as normal, and turn on your machine. Let it brew until the carafe is about halfway full, then turn it off and let the vinegar mixture soak for about an hour. 

Once the time has passed, turn on the coffee maker again and let it finish its cycle. Pour out the vinegar solution and refill the carafe with only water. Replace the filter, pour the water in the reservoir, and run another cycle to clear away any remaining vinegar taste or smell. 

When it's done, give your carafe a quick wash with soap and water and your machine is clean for tomorrow morning's cup of Joe! 

Alternatively, you can also use this same method, subbing white vinegar for lemon juice. Just use one third lemon to water ratio instead of half and half. Lemon is acidic like vinegar, so it's equally effective, but it doesn't have as strong of an odor as vinegar. You should still run an additional brew cycle once the lemon one is finished.

How to clean a coffee maker with baking soda

Don't have vinegar on hand? Baking soda can be just as effective, and chances are you already have a box in your pantry. Like it does for your fridge or mildewed linens, baking soda is great at eliminating odors in your coffee maker. 

Fill your carafe with warm water and add a quarter cup of baking soda. Mix together until the powder is dissolved, then pour into your reservoir and run a regular brew cycle. (Clumpy bits of baking soda could clog your machine even more.)

You can also use the baking soda residue to scrub your carafe. Once everything is done, run an additional brew cycle with water only. 

How to clean your coffee pot

Coffee pots do a lot of heavy lifting, and they can become scummy and stained over time. To wash them out, all you need is good ol' soap and water. Fill your coffee pot with warm water, and add a squirt of dish soap. Agitate the water to mix the soap and let it soak for a few hours.

Then, wipe the edges with a rough sponge and rinse. It should be good as new!

Battling tougher stains? You can try adding rice to the mix for a little extra scrub power. Or, create a paste from baking soda and water and let it sit. Enlist a microfiber cloth or an old fruit brush or toothbrush for more friction to scrape away any remaining stains. 

How to clean stainless steel coffee pots

Like with your glass coffee pot, baking soda can kick stubborn stains on stainless steel carafes, as well. Add one tablespoon of baking soda to your pot and fill the rest with hot water. Let it sit for a few hours up to overnight, and rinse with soapy water. 

If anything is still stuck on, repeat the method with double the baking soda plus a half-cup hydrogen peroxide. Let it sit for one hour before rinsing with soap and water. 

How to clean a Keurig coffee maker

Your Keurig coffee maker will take a little more legwork to get clean, but it's worth it. First, soak any removable parts (the drip tray, reservoir, and funnel) in a sink full of warm soapy water. 

While those pieces are soaking, use a small brush (an old toothbrush will do) to scrub the exterior and K-Cup holder. Wipe away any coffee debris or buildup with a damp microfiber cloth. Rinse off the cloth, spray on a little all-purpose cleaner (like Mrs. Meyer's) and wipe down the rest of the exterior. 

Wash, rinse, and dry the pieces that have been soaking in the sink. Reassemble your Keurig. From here, the process is a lot like cleaning your typical drip coffee maker. 

Fill your reservoir with half clean water — pour out any that has been sitting — and half distilled white vinegar. Now, find a comfy seat close to your coffee maker and grab a large mug. Select the largest cup setting and allow the solution to run through your Keurig, repeating until you have emptied the reservoir.

Still have that comfy chair? Rinse out the reservoir and repeat the process again, this time with clean water. It may seem like a lot of work, but we promise it will make your morning cup taste much fresher. Repeat the process every three to six months. 

How to clean a Nespresso coffee maker

The best way to clean a specialized machine like a Nespresso coffee maker is to purchase the manufacturer's descaling kit. They are pretty affordable (especially compared to those pricey pods), so it's worth keeping your machine in tip-top shape.

First, remove any loose parts and clean them in hot, soapy water. Reassemble your machine, and pour fresh water into the water container, adding a sachet of the descaling solution. Place a large container under your maker and turn the machine on.

To start descaling, you'll need to press the option for your specific machine. For the popular Inissia, Citiz, and Pixie press the two flashing buttons at the same time and hold for three seconds. From there, the machine will do all the work for the next 10 minutes or so. 

Once the machine has cycled through, refill the tank with fresh water and repeat the process. Exit descaling mode by pressing the same buttons that initiated the process. 

How often should you clean your coffee maker? 

For a fresh cup of Joe every time, you'll want to do some cleaning after every use. This means removing grounds, cleaning the brew basket, wiping down the lid, and soaking the carafe. 

The deeper cleaning methods we've listed (with vinegar or baking soda, for example) should be done every three months or so. If your home has well water or water with a heavy mineral content, it is advisable to do this process monthly. 

If your daily brew ever tastes bitter, burnt, or just a little bit off, it's time to show your maker a little extra TLC and give it a deep clean. Your machine will also tell you if it needs a bath if the coffee it produces takes longer than normal, or if the finished results are more tepid than piping hot. 

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Ann Loynd Burton
Ann Loynd Burton

After serving as an editor for luxury publications for nearly a decade, Ann Loynd Burton struck out on her own as a freelance writer covering design and lifestyle. Along with her work highlighting decor trends for Real Homes, Loynd Burton has covered interiors for such publications as Apartment TherapyAspireCottages & Gardens, and Galerie