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How to Clean a Coffee Maker


Brandon Pierce
September 18, 2022

So you've got a new coffee maker. How to clean a coffee maker probably doesn't enter your mind, but did you know that your coffee maker could be harboring mold and yeast over time? It's true.

According to a study by the National Science Foundation, half of all home coffee makers are full of the little beasts. This makes them the fifth most germy place in the average home. The thought of your morning cup having coliform bacteria in it - Yuck!


You probably make sure the coffee pot is clean after the brewing cycle, whether you clean it by hand each time or add it to your dishwasher load.

But what about the rest of the coffee maker?

Do you clean all the grounds out every time?

What about the carafe?

When is the last time you cleaned it?

You don't want yeast or other germs swimming in your morning cup. Still, there are other, less alarming reasons to clean your coffee maker regularly. Mineral residue and buildup, primarily if you use tap-water, can result in a bad tasting cup of coffee. 

Not sure the of the best way to properly clean all the bits and pieces of your coffee contraption? Search no more! It's pretty easy.

This article is a comprehensive coffee maker cleaning guide, arming you with everything you need to know. Stick around to learn the best ways to keep your machine sparkling so your coffee will taste just the way you like it every time you brew a pot.

Clean a drip coffee machine using vinegar

Your standard drip coffee maker is a hotbed for germs. You shouldn't just clean it when your coffee flavor changes. Make sure you attack it once a month, at least if you use it every day.

One of the best ways to clean your coffee pot is by using white vinegar and water. This method has the benefits of being cheap, effective, and straightforward. To clean your coffee maker this way, follow these steps at least every third month:

  1. Empty your coffee maker – Throw away the paper filter and make sure there aren't any coffee grounds in your coffee maker when you start the sanitation process.
  2. Create a vinegar solution. Your coffee maker may come with instructions telling you what ratio of vinegar-to-water you should be using. If not, try a solution of one part vinegar to two parts water.
  3. Fill your water reservoir with it and start a brewing cycle, but DO NOT run it all the way.
  4. Stop the coffee maker when it is halfway through the brewing cycle and allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes, up to an hour.
  5. After 30 minutes to an hour, resume the brewing cycle, and allow it to finish. 
  6. When the brewing cycle is complete, empty the carafe and filter and clean everything with hot tap water and dish soap.
  7. Fill the coffee pot with fresh water and pour it into your coffee maker's reservoir. Filter through three more brewing cycles, pouring out the old liquid and refilling the machine with clean water each time you start a new brewing cycle.
  8. Allow the device to stand for a few minutes between runs.
  9. After you've run the last brewing cycle, wash and rinse your coffee pot and filter basket either by hand or in the dishwasher. You can also use a mixture of baking soda, rice, and water to scrub the inside of the coffee pot if it has stubborn coffee residue or hard water stains.
  10. Wipe down the exterior of your coffee maker before putting it all back together.
  11. If you are worried that it will taste sour, just run a few more cleaning cycles for good measure. There is no sense in sacrificing coffee grounds to a cup that has a bitter taste because it still has white vinegar remaining in the system.

Descale a coffee maker without a vinegar solution

Are you sick of brewing coffee that has a vinegary flavor after you just cleaned it? Me too! One of the downsides of using white vinegar and water for purifying your coffee maker is that it can leave a vinegary taste in the machine for days.

If you'd like to avoid this, follow the same procedure as above, only use one of the many commercial descaling products on the market, such as this one or this one.

Alternatively, the instructions on the product should give you some ideas on how to maintain your coffee machine, usually recommending you purchase their preferred descaling product.

Note: It's not a good idea to clean coffee makers with bleach or other strong chemicals that aren't food-safe. Stick to white vinegar and water or products made especially for cleaning coffee makers to avoid ingesting toxic chemicals in your next cup.

Clean a drip coffee maker using CLR

Yes, you can use CLR (Calcium, Lime, and Rust Remover) to get a clean coffee maker. However, you cannot use CLR in a machine that leaves liquids remaining in one location, such as a French press or cold brew coffee maker. I only recommend going this far if nothing else works. If you are on month 36 of owning your coffee machine, maybe this is the best option for you.

Here's what you need to know for drip coffee makers:

  1. Make a mixture of one part CLR to eight parts tap water.
  2. Remove all coffee grounds from the machine.
  3. Add the solution to the reservoir and run a complete brew cycle.
  4. Wait 30 minutes.
  5. Dispose of the solution, refill the reservoir with fresh water and filter out the remaining liquid for at least two or more brew cycles.
  6. Rinse the exterior and wipe it down with a cloth before using it again.

Are you curious about how to clean your Keurig machine? Keep reading! You'll use the same procedures as above, with a few tweaks.

How to clean a Keurig machine with vinegar

Keurig recommends using only distilled water in their devices and promotes their descaling products for maintaining it. That cleaner works great, but if you would rather use vinegar instead, here are your instructions.

  1. Remove all removable pieces and soak them in soap and tap water.
  2. Wipe down the exterior of the machine with a water-and-vinegar solution soaked in a soft cloth.
  3. Replace the filter.
  4. Add the vinegar solution to the reservoir. Your machine may have come with instructions for the proper ratio of white vinegar to water. If not, try one part vinegar to two parts water.
  5. Run a brew cycle without a K-cup.
  6. Empty the mug each time, rinse and repeat until the remaining cleaner has cycled through, leaving an empty reservoir.
  7. Run additional brew cycles with plain tap water to rinse out the vinegar taste as needed.
  8. Allow it to air dry.

How to clean a Keurig machine without vinegar

Is that bitter vinegar taste still haunting you from before? No worries. Cleaning your Keurig has never been as easy as these steps.

  1. Remove all removable pieces and soak them in warm water and dish soap — clean any grounds from around the cupholder.
  2. Clean the exterior of the machine with dish soap and water, and replace all of the removable parts.
  3. Fill the reservoir with a descaling solution, following the instructions on the product.
  4. Run a brew cycle without a K-cup. Empty the mug after each run, and repeat until the reservoir is empty.
  5. Run an additional brew cycle with fresh water.
  6. Make yourself a fresh cup!

Clean your coffee machine in one of these ways at least once every few months to keep your morning cup fresh and delicious. If you have particularly hard water, it's best to clean once per month.

We've covered the best ways to clean coffee makers designed for hot coffee. But what about cold brew coffee makers? How can you keep your machine free of buildup and permanent residue? Since most cold brew coffee makers are straightforward devices, it's quite easy to keep them clean.

How to clean cold brew coffee makers

With soap and water

If you are using a carafe-style brewer with a filter, cleaning is effortless. Just toss the grounds, disassemble the coffee maker and pop it in the dishwasher, or hand-wash in warm, soapy water. If washing by hand, you can leave it to soak for an hour or so, if you'd like.

With descaling solution

If you prefer, you can use a commercial descaling product.

coffee machine cleaner

Disassemble your cold brew coffee maker and soak the parts in a solution of the descaling product and water for a couple of hours. 

Follow the instructions on your descaler to make the solution.

 Rinse the parts in hot water after they have finished soaking. Allow it to air dry.

With vinegar

Disassemble your coffee maker and soak in a solution of two parts water to one part vinegar for about 30 minutes. Rinse and allow to air dry before reassembling.

How to clean a keg-style cold brew system

If you are using a keg brewer, cleaning is a little more involved, but there is a product on the market that is designed just for this equipment. The Urnex 1-2 Cold Brew Cleaning and Sanitizing Kit is perfect for removing coffee residue and buildup within keg-style cold brew coffee systems.

The kit includes a cleaning solution that you'll want to use first, and a sanitizing solution to use after the cleaning solution.

  1. To use the cleaning solutions, dilute them in water according to the instructions and run the resulting mixture through your machine.

  2. Run a second cycle using fresh water.

  3. Next, dilute the sanitizing solution according to the guidelines and run it through the machine.

  4. Allow the device to air dry.

    The manufacturer of the Urnex 1-2 Cold Brew Cleaning and Sanitizing Kit recommends completing the cleaning and sanitizing cycles twice per week.


Hopefully, this how to clean your coffee maker guide has provided you with all the information you need to keep your machine brewing fresh, delicious coffee every time. Now go clean your coffee pot and enjoy your next cup.

Brandon Pierce

About the author

My name is Brandon and I love cold-brew coffee. If you're a fan of everything homebrew, then we'll get along just fine. I also enjoy riding my Onewheel around town, and going on adventures with my future wife! As an online work-from-home advocate, it's important that I stay connected to the world while being able to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

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