How To Clean A Coffee Maker: Enjoy Better Tasting Coffee!
Nothing beats the ritual, aroma, and flavours of our morning coffee routine. Unless your coffee maker is dirty, of course. Suddenly, off-flavours are finding their way into your brew, and it doesn’t smell quite right.
Let’s do something about that! Keep reading for Home Grounds' guide on how to clean your coffee maker and enjoy a better-tasting cup.
What You Need
- 475 ml distilled white vinegar
- 475 ml water
- ¼ cup distilled white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- Mild dish soap
- Non-abrasive sponge
- Paper towels or microfibre cloth
- Coffee thermos, coffee maker, or espresso machine
At a Glance
One clean 1-litre coffee maker
How To Clean A Coffee Maker With Vinegar
A gigantic mug of medium-roast drip coffee is my favourite way to ease into the morning. But last weekend, that little slice of bliss was not to be.
Once the drip machine stopped brewing, something was definitely off. The fragrant, aromatic morning brew I'd been expecting smelled flat, stale, and almost rancid. A quick peek at the glass carafe and inside of the water reservoir revealed the culprit: brownish streaks of rancid coffee oils left behind from coffees brewed far too many weeks ago. It was time to clean my drip coffee machine.
Cleaning a drip coffee maker can be done with vinegar, lemon juice, citric acid, or a dedicated coffee maker cleaner or cleaning solution. But for most of us, vinegar is the cheapest option – and the one we’re most likely to have on hand.
1. Run Vinegar Through the Coffee Maker
Combine equal parts vinegar and water to make a cleaning solution. To determine how much vinegar to clean a coffee maker, divide the capacity of your water reservoir in half. Pour the vinegar solution into the water reservoir.
Press start and run the vinegar-and-water solution through the machine using a regular brew cycle. Make sure the glass carafe is there to catch the output.
Pro Tip: If your coffee maker has a cleaning cycle and recommended cleaning product, it's best to follow the manufacturer's instructions instead of using the vinegar-and-water method.
2. Rinse and Repeat
When the first cycle is finished, pour out the solution in the glass carafe and fill the water reservoir with plain water. Run clean water cycles through the machine until no vinegar remains.
Pro Tip: The best way to test for remaining vinegar is to use your nose. We recommend at least two cycles with fresh water. Then give it the sniff test. If you still smell vinegar, rinse again until you have a clean coffee maker.
3. Disassemble the Coffee Maker
With the exception of the base, which contains the heating element, wash all the removable parts of your coffee maker in hot, soapy water.
As the machine parts are drying, wipe down the coffee machine's warming plate with soapy warm water, a non-abrasive sponge, and vinegar.
Pro Tip: If you want to keep your glass carafe looking shiny and streak-free, hand-dry it immediately with a lint-free cloth.
4. Cleanliness Is Next to Coffee-ness
Once you've given your coffee maker a thorough deep clean, preventing your next morning coffee mishap comes down to three things:
- Regularly washing your coffee pot with dish soap
- Descaling your machine with vinegar as needed
- And cleaning the coffee maker ASAP after brewing dark roasts
Why Clean a Coffee Maker?
Every time you make coffee, oils and coffee residue from coffee grounds are left behind in the glass carafe, the filter basket, and on the warming plate. Over time, the oils become rancid, which leaves a stale, bitter, unpleasant aftertaste to each successive cup of coffee you brew (1).
A clean coffee maker guarantees the best performance and coffee quality. Almost every electric drip coffee maker models need to be thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis.
How Often Should You Clean A Coffee Maker?
The frequency with which you brew coffee in your coffee machine determines how often you need to clean it. We suggest every one to six months.
The type of beans you use can leave more or less oily residue behind. As a general rule of thumb, the darker the roast, the more oily the coffee beans. If you tend to brew many Italian or French roasts, your coffee maker will need to be cleaned more often.
Another factor that impacts how often you'll have to clean your coffee maker is your water hardness. Water hardness refers to the levels of magnesium, calcium, and other metals in your water (2).
Coffee consists of 98% water, so it is greatly impacted by the quality of the water you use (3). While hard water can affect the taste of the final brew, it also leaves behind mineral deposits on your stainless steel pans, bathtub and sink fixtures, and in your coffee maker. This is why it's important to descale your coffee machine regularly.
Using a water filter can help to minimize mineral buildup and keep your coffee maker brewing better coffee for longer. However, avoid using water softeners. They remove too many minerals, which makes your coffee taste flat.
How to Clean a Coffee Pot with Vinegar
The vinegar solution takes care of most stains, oils, and residue left by your coffee, but sometimes, stubborn stains on your glass coffee pot require more of a deep clean.
The best way to clean coffee pots is to add ¼ cup of warm, distilled white vinegar and 1 tablespoon of baking soda to the pot and fill it the rest of the way with hot water. Let the baking soda mixture sit for up to 30 minutes.
Once time's up, pour out the vinegar and baking soda solution and thoroughly wash with soapy warm water and a non-abrasive sponge.
Cleaning Different Types of Coffee Makers
Basically, you follow the same basic steps when cleaning different types of coffee makers. Disassemble the coffee machine, wash any removable parts in hot, soapy water, and run a vinegar and water solution through the machine into the carafe. Then, rinse and repeat, if necessary.
We recommend following the manufacturer's cleaning instructions whenever deep cleaning any components. Also, while the removable components of most coffee makers are dishwasher-safe, running the glass carafe through the dishwasher may not remove coffee stains and can leave streaks across the glass. Here's a list of our cleaning guides for different coffee makers:
- Cleaning a Cuisinart coffee maker,
- Cleaning a French press,
- How to clean and descale your Keurig machine,
- or Removing stains and mould from your coffee thermos.
Keeping your coffee maker clean ensures you'll enjoy delicious coffee for years to come. To avoid stale-tasting coffee, be sure to wash your coffee pot and brew basket with dish soap daily. Then, depending on how often you make coffee, perform this process for how to clean a clogged coffee maker on a monthly basis.
What tips and tricks have you found for cleaning your coffee brewer? Leave us a comment below, tag and follow us on Instagram, subscribe to us on YouTube, or chat us up in our Home Grounds Facebook group.
To clean any coffee maker without vinegar, you can use lemon juice. Fill the water reservoir with one part lemon juice to one part water and follow the same instructions above.
To clean a Keurig coffee maker, follow the same steps above using vinegar and water. Most Keurig machines also come with a special tool you can use to unclog any coffee grounds from the pod-piercing needle.
Yes, vinegar kills mould in coffee makers. Mould can thrive in the moist environment of a coffee machine. If you are concerned about mould, run a normal brew cycle using the 50/50 vinegar-and-water mix till the carafe is half-full. Then turn off the coffee maker and let the machine sit for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Elvira Di Gesu. (2019, May 30). How Oily Coffee Beans Can Ruin Your Espresso Machine and Coffee Taste. Retrieved from https://espressocanada.com/blogs/news/how-oily-coffee-beans-can-ruin-your-espresso-machine-and-coffee-taste
- Scale Deposits. (2023, March 20). Water Quality Association. Retrieved from https://wqa.org/learn-about-water/perceptible-issues/scale-deposits/
- Coffee Science. (2018, June 18). How to Choose the Best Water for Your Coffee. Retrieved from https://www.coffeescience.org/how-to-choose-best-water-for-coffee/