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How to Clean Your Coffee Maker in 5 Easy Steps

kitchen with coffee bar

 Madeline Tolle; DESIGN: Mandy Cheng

There's nothing quite like a nice, hot cup of coffee in the morning (and maybe again in the afternoon when you hit that mid-day slump). But, after a few weeks of using your coffee maker, you might notice some calcium buildup or that the taste of your favorite brew isn't quite like it used to be. Chances are you need to give your machine a nice clean.

Unlike French presses, pour overs, and percolators, cleaning your coffee maker is a little more involved than washing it in the sink with the rest of the dishes. And, unfortunately, a coffee maker can be one of the most bacteria-ridden things in your house. It's hot and moist, which makes it a perfect place for germs and yeast to grow and thrive. And if you don't clean it, those germs can get into your coffee. Calcium deposits from your water can also build up in your machine, making it difficult to brew a cup at all.

Here's how to properly clean your drip or cup coffee maker in 5 easy steps.

How Often Should You Clean Your Coffee Maker?

Ideally, you should do a deep clean of your coffee maker each month. When it comes to cleaning the pot, or carafe, you should clean that after every brew. A monthly cleaning ensures that your machine's heating element stays free of debris and buildup, which keeps allows the water to get hot enough to properly brew your cup of joe. Cleaning the carafe every day not only keeps coffee from staining the glass or aluminum, but it gets rid of any leftover coffee that could taint the taste of the next pot you'll make.

You should also be cleaning out the basket, which holds your coffee grounds, after every pot you brew. It's always a good idea to remove any residue and keep it nice and clean so you get an efficient and delicious brew.

If you don't keep up with cleaning your machine, you're asking for not only a ton of germs to hang out in your machine, but for your brew to taste bitter.

at home coffee bar ideas

Design: Emily Henderson Design, Photo: Sara Tramp-Ligorria 

Things You'll Need

  • Warm, soapy water
  • A sponge or small brush
  • Vinegar
  • Clean water
  • A microfiber cloth or paper towels

Luckily, it's pretty easy to give your coffee maker a good clean. Whether you have a traditional drip machine or one with pods (like a Keurig or Nespresso), you can use this method to make sure your coffee machine is squeaky clean inside and out.

Step 1: Power Down and Unplug

Most importantly, make sure your coffee maker is turned off and unplugged. You don't want any chance of getting shocked.

Step 2: Begin Removing Parts

To really get a deep clean, you're going to have to remove the carafe (pot) and the basket that holds your filter and grounds. If you have recently used your machine, be sure to discard any grounds that may be in the basket. These grounds can be composted or thrown in the trash. If your machine uses coffee pods, discard the pod, but know there will be no basket to remove.

Set the basket and carafe in warm, soapy water and wash them as you would the rest of the dishes. Some carafes and baskets are dishwasher safe, but consult your manual to be extra sure of what you can and cannot place in the dishwasher.

If your machine uses pods, carefully wipe out the space where you place the pod with a damp cloth or paper towel. Be sure to be extra careful around the sharp metal piece that pierces the tops of the pods!

Be sure to use a sponge or small brush to get into the nooks and crannies of the basket. Often, oils and residue from coffee grounds can get stuck on there, which can lead to a stale flavor in your coffee, so you want to be sure to remove any gunk.

If your basket is pretty grimy, let it soak in a sink full of warm, soapy water first. This will help the gunk come off more easily.

Clean out the carafe with a sponge or dishcloth, making sure to scrub around any crevices in the lid and base of the pot.

Step 3: Descale Your Machine

For both traditional drip and pod coffee machines, you can get rid of any calcium or magnesium buildup inside with a simple solution of equal parts water and vinegar. Simply pour the solution into the water reservoir, run the machine as you normally would (but without any grounds or pods in the machine!), and continue as many times as you think you need—normally, two rounds of the water-vinegar solution should give your machine a good cleaning. And when you do this, be sure to have a mug or the carafe at the ready to catch the dirty solution. Pour it out when the cycle is done. If you prefer, you can also purchase a descaling solution instead of making your own.

To clear away any remaining vinegar, run a couple of cycles of only water through your machine. This will ensure that no vinegar remains in the machine and that your next cup of coffee isn't extra acidic.

Step 4: Clean the Outside

If your machine is looking a little grimy, gently wipe the outside of it off with a damp cloth. This will remove any dust, water spots, or coffee splatters. If your machine has a surface that sits beneath the pot warms the carafe, gently wipe it off, too.

If you have a machine that has a drip tray underneath, you can remove this and wash it in the sink.

Step 5: Reassemble

Once all elements of your coffee maker are clean and dry, reassemble the machine. After that, you're all ready for your next brew.

Tips to Keep Your Coffee Maker Cleaner Longer

coffee maker

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Although it's a simple process to clean your coffee maker, prevention is always key. Each time you make a pot of coffee, be sure to wash out the carafe with warm and soapy water. Never leave grounds sitting in the basket (or a pod in the holder), and wipe out the basket after each use. If you can, leave the area where the basket is open after wiping it out so it can completely dry. Even these small steps will lengthen the life of your machine.

Article Sources
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    Taylor, Kristin. How Clean Is That Coffee Machine? Iowa State University Extension. February 24, 2019