Coffee tasting bitter lately? Give coffee buildup a big send-off with this quick, easy method for cleaning a coffee maker and carafe with vinegar and water. You'll be enjoying a fresh, delicious cup of java before you know it.

By Jan Soults Walker
Updated February 03, 2020
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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-tasting brew. But the germs and bacteria you can't see might pose an even bigger problem. One study by NSF International 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. Here's how to clean your classic drip-style coffee maker with just vinegar and water.

We'll also show you how to descale a Keurig coffee maker—it's the same materials, just a slightly different process. 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 do it right before hosting any coffee-loving guests.

coffee maker
Credit: Ed Gohlich Photography Inc

How to Clean a Coffee Maker

What You Need

  • Coffee maker
  • White distilled vinegar
  • Water
  • Coffee filter

Step 1: Mix Vinegar and Water

To clean your coffee maker, begin by filling the reservoir with a mixture of half white distilled vinegar and half 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.

Step 2: Brew and 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.

Step 3: Finish Cycle and Clean

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.

a plant and two pink mugs filled with coffee beside keurig coffee maker
Credit: Carson Downing

How to Clean a Keurig Coffee Maker

Don’t worry; cleaning your Keurig coffee maker isn't any more complicated than a traditional drip-pot version. Just as with a standard coffee maker, distilled white vinegar and water are your go-to Keurig cleaning solution.

What You Need

  • Keurig coffee maker
  • Dish liquid detergent
  • Towel
  • White distilled vinegar
  • Water
  • Empty mug
woman wearing plaid wiping down keurig with white towel
Credit: Carson Downing

Step 1: Wash Keurig Exterior

Before you begin to unclog or descale your coffee machine, you should give the exterior a good scrubbing. The reservoir, drip tray and its cover, and the holder and funnel may be washed in the dishwasher. However, do not put the reservoir lid in the dishwasher. Alternately, place them in a sink filled with hot water and about 1 tsp. of liquid dish detergent. Let them soak 15 minutes, then rinse well and towel dry.

cleaning keurig coffee maker with a toothbrush
Credit: Carson Downing

Step 2: Clean Keurig Interior

While the removable parts are washing or soaking, take a clean toothbrush and gently brush out any stuck coffee grinds in the K-Cup holder. While you’re in there, use a damp cloth to remove any buildup. Finish the job by wiping the exterior with a cloth dampened with an all-purpose cleaner.

If you notice any limescale deposits (white crusty buildup), simply soak part of your cloth in white vinegar, apply it to the affected area, and let soak for a few minutes. Wipe again and the white marks should disappear before your eyes. Finish by re-assembling the Keurig coffee maker.

woman wearing plaid pouring water from pyrex measuring glass into keurig
Credit: Carson Downing

Step 3: Run Vinegar Solution

Before you start cleaning a Keurig coffee maker, make sure it has no pods in it. Place a large empty mug on the tray. Empty any water from the reservoir and remove the water filter if you have one. Refill the reservoir to the maximum line with a solution of distilled vinegar and water in a 1:1 ratio. Turn your Keurig on, select the largest cup setting, and allow the vinegar solution to run through the machine as many times as it takes for "More/Add Water" to come on. Dump out the hot liquid from the mug in a sink after each brew.

Step 4: Let Sit and Rinse Reservoir

Let the Keurig coffee maker sit for at least 30 minutes. When time's up, take out the reservoir and rinse it with water to get rid of any vinegar residue. You may have to rinse a few times.

water pouring from keurig into pink coffee mug
Credit: Carson Downing

Step 5: Run with Water

Repeat Step 1 but with plain water to rinse out the vinegar from the machine. Again, place an empty mug on the drip tray. Pour water into the reservoir up to the maximum fill line. Use the largest cup setting and allow the water to run through the machine as many times as it takes for it to empty. Now you have a clean Keurig all ready to go for your next morning brew!

Step 6: Use a Descaling Solution (Optional)

If the mineral buildup in your coffee maker is particularly heavy or taste doesn't improve, repeat the process with a manufacturer-approved descaling solution. Keurig recommends descaling every 3-6 months for best results.

Comments (1)

June 18, 2018
What process would you recommend for those of us with Keurig Coffee Makers?