How to Clean a Coffee Maker for a Better Tasting Cup of Joe

Remove gross buildup inside your machine with this easy method for cleaning a coffee maker and carafe.

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10

Your coffee maker might not be as clean as you think. Some of the warning signs of a dirty coffee maker are clear: Oily sludge and mineral buildup eventually form on your coffee maker and pot, creating stains, gumming up the brewing process, and producing bitter coffee. But the germs and bacteria you can't see might pose an even bigger problem.

One study by NSF International, an independent public health organization, cites coffee makers as the fifth germiest place in your home, with half of the reservoirs tested containing yeast and mold. These organisms can cause allergic reactions or even infections, so without proper cleaning, your coffee maker could make you sick.

The good news is that you can learn how to clean a coffee pot to look sparkling and (nearly) new in just a few easy steps. We'll walk you through how to clean a classic drip-style coffee maker with just vinegar and water. No matter which kind of coffee maker you have, you'll need to set aside a little time to allow the vinegar to work, so don't try this right before you need to brew a fresh pot.

coffee maker pulled from cabinet
Ed Gohlich

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Coffee maker
  • Cleaning cloth

Materials

  • White distilled vinegar
  • Coffee filters

Instructions

How to Clean a Coffee Maker

If you use your coffee maker every day, plan to clean the machine about once a month. Occasional coffee drinkers might only need to do this every three to six months. But if you notice visible buildup around the pot or basket, or if your coffee tastes off, it's time to clean your coffee maker.

  1. Fill the Coffee Maker with Vinegar and Water

    To clean your coffee maker, begin by filling the reservoir with a 50-50 mixture of white distilled vinegar and water. You can increase the ratio of vinegar to water if your coffee maker has a particularly nasty case of buildup. The vinegar not only sanitizes the coffee maker and carafe, but it will also dissolve any accrued mineral deposits.

  2. Brew and Let Soak

    Position a filter in the basket, and turn the brewer on. About halfway through brewing, turn the coffee maker off, and allow the remaining vinegar solution to soak in the carafe and the reservoir for about 30 to 60 minutes, depending on how much buildup you need to clear away.

  3. Finish the Cycle and Flush with Water

    Turn the coffee maker back on and allow it to complete the brewing cycle. Toss the paper filter, if there is one, and pour out the vinegar solution.

    Now you can flush the vinegar scent and taste from the coffee maker. Fill the reservoir with fresh water, put a filter in the basket, turn the coffee maker on, and let it complete the brewing cycle. Remove the filter, pour out the water, and repeat with clean water for a second cycle. Wipe down your coffee maker and coffee pot with a clean cloth.

How to Clean a Keurig Coffee Maker

Cleaning a Keurig coffee maker requires many of the same steps and materials outlined above. You will need distilled white vinegar to remove scale and buildup, as well as dish soap to scrub away coffee residue from each part. Some removable parts of a Keurig coffee machine can be washed in a dishwasher. Follow our full step-by-step instructions for cleaning a Keurig to keep your small appliance functioning at its best.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is cleaning a coffee maker with vinegar harmful to the machine?

    No, vinegar is recommended for cleaning coffee makers.

  • Are there alternatives to vinegar that you could use to clean a coffee maker?

    Baking soda is an alternate choice. Mix 1/4 cup of baking soda with a cup of warm water and run the coffee maker. Then, flush out the baking soda mixture by running clean water through the coffee maker once or twice.

  • If I use vinegar to clean my coffee maker, will my coffee taste like vinegar after?

    The taste and scent of vinegar should be eliminated if you run clean water through the machine once or twice after cleaning.

  • Does a specialty coffee maker cleaner work better than vinegar?

    Use a descaler to clean your coffee maker if vinegar doesn't work. However, for moderately dirty coffee makers, vinegar works well.

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