How to Clean a Coffee Maker

Do you know what's growing in your coffee maker? Use these quick tips to make sure you're brewing a clean cup every time! 

Amanda Thomas
5-minute read
Episode #187
The Quick And Dirty
  1. Use dishsoap and a sponge to scrub the removable parts from the machine
  2. Use either a long brush or a mix of water and salt to clean the carafe of the machine
  3. Once a month, run a full cycle with vinegar to clean out the inside of the machine

If you’re like me, you like your morning cup of Joe to get you going. My husband and I tend to drink a couple cups each day to get, and keep, us going.The thing that many coffee drinkers don’t realize is that their coffee maker could be filled with bacteria, mold, and scale deposits. Not only do those additional “ingredients” affect the taste of the coffee, but they can also be giving you an unwanted dose of gross with each cup you drink.

There was a study published in November of 2015 that revealed between 35 and 67 different bacteria living in the coffee makers they tested. This study focused on a particular brand of single cup coffee makers, but similar findings have been discovered in the past with other types of coffee makers. That means that, no matter what type of coffee maker you use, it likely has some level of unwanted bacteria floating around in it.

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Luckily, cleaning a coffee maker is a very easy process. It takes just a minute or two each day, and then about five minutes of hands-on work each month. Going through the quick steps to clean your coffee maker on a regular basis will help ensure that you are getting the best tasting coffee on the block and aren’t getting any of the additional ickies in your brew.

Daily cleaning of your coffee maker

On a daily basis, it’s important to take a few steps to clean out your coffee maker. Bacteria loves warm, damp environments, so it makes sense that it can start to grow in the coffee maker.

To clean your coffee maker each day, first allow it to cool. The water that gets sent through the machine gets very hot, so opening the top door can release a bunch of steam the can cause burns. Also, some coffee carafes are made of glass. If you take the glass carafe straight from the heating element to cooler washing water, it may cause the glass to shatter. To make sure that you are staying safe, turn off the coffee maker and allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes before cleaning it out.

An easy way to remember to let your machine cool off before cleaning is to simply turn it off when you pour your last cup, and clean it when you bring that cup back into the kitchen when you’re finished.

Once the coffee maker is cooled, open the top and remove the used grounds. Toss them into the trash, or put them in your compost pile if you use them for your gardening.

Next, remove the filter basket, carafe, and any other removable parts from the machine. Use a scrubby sponge, a small dab of dishwashing soap, and warm water to wipe down all the parts. Rinse all the parts well and immediately dry them with a clean dish towel to prevent water spots from forming on them. Water spots show that a residue has been left on the surface, and residue means the taste of your coffee may be altered. Keep your coffee tasting great by making sure all the soap and water spots are removed from the equipment each time.

Many parts of your coffee maker can be cleaned in the dishwasher, but dishwashers are notorious for leaving water spots on items. If you do wash the parts in the dishwasher, I recommend pulling the pieces out of the dishwasher before they dry and giving them an additional rinse and towel dry to make sure all those water spots are removed.

If the carafe of your coffee maker is difficult to clean inside, there are a couple different methods you can use. The first is to buy a baby bottle brush that can fit inside and scrub the sides of the carafe. These are available in the baby section of most retailers, including big box stores, grocery stores, and discount stores. The second option is to add 1 cup cold water, ½ cup ice cubes, and ¼ cup rock or table salt to the carafe. Once you have this mixture inside, swish it around, allowing the cubes and salt to knock on the sides. This will release a good amount of the oily coffee buildup from the inside of the carafe.

Monthly cleaning of your coffee maker

Now that you’ve been cleaning your coffee maker parts on a daily basis, there is just one more step for you to take on a monthly basis to make sure that the inside of the appliance gets cleaned as well. Even though you are only running water through the machine, it can still get a nasty buildup of calcification from the minerals in the water. Luckily you probably have a natural cleaner for your coffee maker in your kitchen already: white vinegar.

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When you’re ready to clean your coffee maker, you’ll need just a few things:

  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Coffee filters
  • Time to run two or three brew cycles

After cleaning your carafe, fill it with equal parts white vinegar and water. Pour this mixture into the water reservoir (where you normally add the water to brew a pot of coffee), and place the carafe under the basket. Add a filter to the basket to catch any of the gunk that is going to be released when you descale with the vinegar mixture.

Once the machine is set up, turn it on and brew about ½ of the liquid. When the reservoir is about half empty, shut off the machine and allow it to sit for 30 to 60 minutes. By allowing it to run, then turning it off, you’ve filled the water lines with the vinegar mixture so they can work their magic of removing the hard water buildup.

After you’ve let the vinegar do its work, turn the machine on again and allow it to finish the brew cycle. When it’s done, turn it off and allow it to cool before emptying both the carafe and the filter basket. Fill the water reservoir again with water only, replace the filter with a clean one, and run the cycle again to rinse the water lines. If you still smell vinegar at the end of this rinse cycle, allow the machine to cool and repeat the rinse cycle again.

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And with those quick and easy steps, you have a good as new coffee maker waiting to brew your next cup of Joe.

Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.