How to Clean a Coffee Maker (+ Why and How Often You Should Do It)

How to clean a coffee pot

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Many people have to start their morning off with a cup of coffee for that energy boost and early-morning pick-me-up. Often, those who partake in such a morning ritual choose to brew their own coffee at home, as it’s less expensive and quicker than a trip to a coffee shop. If brewing a hot cup of java every morning is a central part of your morning routine, then knowing when and how to clean your coffee maker is crucial to making the best tasting cup of coffee. In this article, we discuss why, when, and how often you should clean your coffee maker – plus tips on how best to clean it. 

Why You Should Clean Your Coffee Maker

Wondering why it’s important to clean your coffee maker? Here are some of the top reasons why. 

  • You’ll get a better coffee flavor.
    A buildup of mineral deposits (scale) and coffee residue from water can affect the flavor of your coffee. Plus, coffee grounds have natural oils that will leave a residue on both your coffee pot and cup. Be sure to wash your coffee pot in the dishwasher (if dishwasher safe). Or, you can use hot, soapy water to eliminate the buildup. By cleaning your coffee pot, you can remove oil residue which can leave a bitter flavor in future cups of coffee.

  • Eliminate buildup to ensure optimal coffee flavors and brew time.
    Calcium and other mineral deposits can build up in your coffee maker, which in turn, restricts water flow and causes lower brewing temperatures. Lower brewing temperatures can dilute coffee flavors and cause an increase in brew time. 

  • Stay healthy.
    One study found that around 50% of homes identified had mold and yeast in their coffee reservoirs – both of which are known triggers for allergies and can have negative impacts on your health. Regularly cleaning your coffee maker can prevent this growth and the adverse effects it can bring. 

  • Make coffee taste its best.
    Whether you’re buying coffee from your local roaster or buying a can of store-bought coffee, it just tastes better if you’re brewing from a clean coffee maker. Your coffee will have a rich, full-bodied taste versus the bitter, weak coffee you get from a unit with scale and coffee residue buildup. 

How Often to Clean Your Coffee Maker

You should clean your coffee maker after every use – remove the grounds and clean the carafe, brew basket, and lid. Descaling to remove mineral deposits should be done at least every three months. However, if you tend to fill the water reservoir of your coffee maker from a rinsed carafe or if your home has hard water (water with heavy mineral content), the residue may build up more quickly. In such cases, a monthly cleaning is highly recommended. 

Some coffee makers have a visible or audible cleaning signal and that usually precedes a forced downtime. You can avoid this downtime by being proactive with your cleaning and maintenance. Other coffee makers have a cleaning cycle set-up, which is usually explained in the manual. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning. 

How to Clean and Descale a Coffee Maker

Before we discuss the step-by-step guide on how to clean a coffee maker, here’s what you need to prepare beforehand:

  • Soft cloth
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Sponge
  • Vinegar (for descaling)
  • Paper towel (optional)

How to Clean a Coffee Pot

Here’s a step-by-step guide you can follow:

  1. Fill the coffee maker for a whole pot with 1 part water and 2 parts white vinegar. Brew a pot without grounds.

  2. Repeat the first step, running the same water through a second time. 

  3. Rinse your baskets with clean water. Then, run one more pot with water and one scoop of coffee grounds in the basket to eliminate any remaining vinegar taste or smell.

  4. Once you’re done with the coffee maker itself, spray the inside of the pot using a spray bleach cleaner. Let it sit for a minute.

  5. Wipe out the inside. Then, rinse with hot water.

  6. If you burned coffee on the inside or outside of the pot, you may use a cloth or a scratch-free sponge to scrub to stains clean. 

How to Clean a Coffee Maker with Soap and Water

Here’s a detailed guide to clean a coffee maker with soap and water:

  1. Remove filter and brew basket. After each use, remove the brew basket and discard the grounds and any disposable filters.

  2. Partially fill your sink (or any suitable container) with hot water.

  3. Add dishwashing liquid to the water. Choose a brand that’s formulated for oil removal.
     
  4. Place the brew basket and permanent filter (if any) into the soapy, warm water. Wash with a soft cloth or sponge to remove any oily residue or coffee grounds.

  5. Discard any remaining coffee and rinse the carafe in warm water. Add a little of the warm soapy water. Then, clean the carafe with a sponge brush.

  6. Rinse the carafe, brew basket, and permanent filter with warm water. Wipe it with a soft cloth and set to dry.

  7. Dip a soft cloth or paper towel in the soapy water and wipe down the outer lid, inner lid, and brewing area to eliminate any residue. Then, dampen a cloth in fresh water to wipe away any soap residue. 

  8. When the parts are dry, reassemble your coffee maker. 

How to Clean a Coffee Maker with Vinegar

Use this process to descale your coffee maker and remove the calcium mineral buildup. Before you start, check your coffee maker’s manual to ensure that cleaning with vinegar is recommended by the manufacturer. Note that there are some brands that don’t advise it, usually because of the metal parts. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to cleaning your coffee maker with vinegar:

  1. Empty your coffee maker. Then, remove and clean the brew basket, permanent filter, and carafe with hot soapy water. Remove the water filter (if applicable). Then, replace the empty filter basket and carafe. 

  2. Mix equal parts water and white vinegar, enough to fill your water reservoir. One way to do this is to fill the chamber half with vinegar, then fill to the top with water. But if you can’t see the level in your brewer, combine it separately to add.
     
  3. Fill your water reservoir with the water and vinegar solution. If you use paper filters, place a paper filter in the brew basket. 

  4. Run your coffee maker through half of a drip cycle. Stop it so the solution can sit in the water channel and reservoir. Allow the solution to sit for about 30 to 60 minutes in both the carafe and reservoir. 

  5. After about 30 to 60 minutes, resume the brew cycle and finish brewing the water and vinegar mixture through the coffee maker. Discard the solution from the carafe and replace the paper filter (if using).

  6. Fill the water chamber with plain water and run it for a full brew cycle. Discard the brewed water and replace the paper filter (if using).

  7. Let the coffee maker cool down and repeat the full brew cycle with water.

  8. Clean the carafe, filter basket, and permanent filter with hot soapy water. Changing the water filter is a good idea if your brewer has one. 

  9. Thoroughly wipe the exterior of your coffee maker with a soft cloth. 

The Bottom Line

Cleaning your coffee maker regularly is a must if you want to ensure the longevity of your machine, ensure your health, and produce a great tasting cup of coffee. To clean your coffee maker, make sure to follow the step-by-step instructions detailed above. Good luck!

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