How to Clean a Coffee Maker: A Necessary Task Made Easy

Updated on January 27, 2018
wilderness profile image

Dan has been a homeowner for some 40 years and has nearly always done his own repair and improvement tasks. He is a licensed electrician.

Coffeepots Need Cleaned, Too

Coffeepot covered in scale?  It's time to clean it.
Coffeepot covered in scale? It's time to clean it. | Source

Periodic Coffee Maker Cleaning Is Necessary

Coffee makers, at least on the inside where we can't see, often escape the thorough cleaning they need on a periodic basis. Scale builds up (especially in areas with hard water) as do coffee oils, and this all needs to be removed.

While scale won't affect the taste of the coffee much and certainly won't hurt you, (it came from the water you're drinking, after all!) it will eventually plug the coffee maker. A pot of coffee will take longer and longer, to the point it won't work at all.

The build of coffee oils won't hurt you either, but it will affect the taste. Even good coffee will become bitter as the oils build over time. A good monthly cleaning will keep your coffee maker working properly while producing good coffee.

So, how do you clean a coffeemaker, right down to the inside of the tiny tubes carrying hot water to the top of the pot?

How To Clean A Coffee Maker

Cleaning a coffee pot turns out to be very easy. It's all in the vinegar.

Yes, white vinegar. The biggest problem is usually the scale from the minerals in the water being deposited on every surface in sight, and that scale is susceptible to the acid in vinegar. The coffee oils left behind are also removed by acid, so the vinegar is doing double duty by removing both.

This sounds easy, and it is. Just feed the coffeemaker some vinegar, following these directions:

  1. Rinse the carafe and add 2 cups of white vinegar, followed by 4 cups of water. It isn't necessary to measure too closely; the marks on the carafe will do fine.
  2. Add this mixture to the coffee maker, returning the carafe to it's normal position.
  3. Remove any paper filter and any coffee grounds. Remove and rinse the mesh filter if your machine has one. Replace the mesh filter and add a clean paper filter.
  4. Turn the machine on and let the cycle run to it's conclusion. With some coffee makers you can remove the carafe during the cycle without coffee spilling out; if so remove the carafe and allow the water to collect on the mesh screen inside. Watch carefully that it doesn't overrun inside the machine and replace the carafe when necessary. When the cycle is finished turn the coffee maker off and let it cool for five or ten minutes.
  5. Pour the "coffee" (vinegar and water) into a bowl while still warm and, using a clean dishcloth, use it to clean the exterior of the coffee maker as well as areas inside that don't get a flow of water. Wipe with a wet cloth to remove the vinegar mixture and wipt dry.
  6. If severe scaling was present, refill the vinegar/water mix and repeat.
  7. Run a pot of clean water through and repeat with a second pot. This will clean the coffee pot of any residual vinegar.
  8. Wipe the exterior clean of any excess water or vinegar mixture and you're done. Elapsed time; about 5 minutes plus whatever time it takes to make 3 pots of coffee.

Cleaning The Coffee Maker

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This coffee pot definitely needs cleaning.The area where water is added is covered in scale that needs to be removed.Add two cups of white vinegar to the carafe,followed by 4 cups of water for about 6 cups total.Rinse the mesh filter clean of any coffee groundsAnd add a clean paper filter.Turn the coffee maker on and let it cycle, cleaning itself.Letting water collect when the carafe is removed during the production process.Be careful not to let the steam burn as the level of water collecting in the filter is checked.The white particles in the mesh filter is scale removed from inside the coffee maker.The clear vinegar/water mix has turned brown from old coffee oils that have collected inside.The scale was easily wiped off after cleaning, using the warm vinegar/water mixture.Job complete, and ready to make real coffee once more.
This coffee pot definitely needs cleaning.
This coffee pot definitely needs cleaning. | Source
The area where water is added is covered in scale that needs to be removed.
The area where water is added is covered in scale that needs to be removed. | Source
Add two cups of white vinegar to the carafe,
Add two cups of white vinegar to the carafe, | Source
followed by 4 cups of water for about 6 cups total.
followed by 4 cups of water for about 6 cups total. | Source
Rinse the mesh filter clean of any coffee grounds
Rinse the mesh filter clean of any coffee grounds | Source
And add a clean paper filter.
And add a clean paper filter. | Source
Turn the coffee maker on and let it cycle, cleaning itself.
Turn the coffee maker on and let it cycle, cleaning itself. | Source
Letting water collect when the carafe is removed during the production process.
Letting water collect when the carafe is removed during the production process. | Source
Be careful not to let the steam burn as the level of water collecting in the filter is checked.
Be careful not to let the steam burn as the level of water collecting in the filter is checked. | Source
The white particles in the mesh filter is scale removed from inside the coffee maker.
The white particles in the mesh filter is scale removed from inside the coffee maker. | Source
The clear vinegar/water mix has turned brown from old coffee oils that have collected inside.
The clear vinegar/water mix has turned brown from old coffee oils that have collected inside. | Source
The scale was easily wiped off after cleaning, using the warm vinegar/water mixture.
The scale was easily wiped off after cleaning, using the warm vinegar/water mixture. | Source
Job complete, and ready to make real coffee once more.
Job complete, and ready to make real coffee once more. | Source

FAQ On Cleaning a Coffee Maker

Q Vinegar has quite an odor - is there anything else I can use?

A Yes - lemon juice will work nearly as well, either from a bottle or fresh. Citric acid is another option. Both contain acid, just as vinegar does.

Q Will this work on older percolating coffee pots?

A Yes, although some die hard coffee lovers insist that those coffee pots should never be cleaned - just wipe off the exterior.

Q Will vinegar clean my teapot?

A Yes, using the same basic procedure.

Q Can I re-use the same mix for a second go-round of cleaning if needed?

A Yes - very little of the acid has actually been used in the process. Do let the coffee maker cool down, however. It's not a good idea to pour water into either a hot carafe or onto the hot elements inside the machine. Let both cool before adding even hot water.

Cleaning your own coffee maker

How often do you clean your coffee maker?

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Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Dan Harmon

    Comments

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      • wilderness profile imageAUTHOR

        Dan Harmon 

        5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

        That should work, although you might have to run it through twice.

      • Bedbugabscond profile image

        Melody Trent 

        5 years ago from United States

        All I have on hand is apple cider vinegar. Would it be alright to use instead of white vinegar?

      • alahiker28 profile image

        Vicki Parker 

        5 years ago from the Deep South

        I clean my coffee pot with vinegar as you suggest, but the brownish color will just not come off. I'm not worried about it because it's been cleaned, but I do wonder how to get that awful stain removed.

      • wilderness profile imageAUTHOR

        Dan Harmon 

        6 years ago from Boise, Idaho

        @somethgblu - are there any job openings? My company doesn't provide coffee at all. :-)

        @De Greek - thank you, as well. I hope it was of value.

      • De Greek profile image

        De Greek 

        6 years ago from UK

        What a great article! Thank you ;-)

      • somethgblue profile image

        somethgblue 

        6 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

        I don't use it much anymore as I live only ten minutes from work and have found that my company has my favorite kind of coffee . . . free coffee!

      • wilderness profile imageAUTHOR

        Dan Harmon 

        6 years ago from Boise, Idaho

        LOL Maybe I would make a house call, at least for a good cup of coffee!

      • somethgblue profile image

        somethgblue 

        6 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

        I like the added flavor my filthy, grime encrusted coffee maker provides bit thanks for the tips, do you make house calls?

      • wilderness profile imageAUTHOR

        Dan Harmon 

        6 years ago from Boise, Idaho

        I'm not sure of the workings of a "french press", but it's anything like a drip coffee maker I would bet it would clean up nice.

      • Natashalh profile image

        Natasha 

        6 years ago from Hawaii

        I think I'll adapt this for my French press. I run it through the dishwasher, but it just does not get the coffee gunk out of the screen. This could help! Thanks.

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