How to Clean a Dirty Coffee Maker (Safe & Natural)

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Can you start your day without coffee? For many Americans, the answer is, “heck no!”

We can all sing the Folgers theme song, and we all agree that it’s one of the best parts of our morning routine… Unless your coffee tastes like an ashtray. If your coffee tastes “off,” it’s probably not the beans.

It means it time to clean your disgusting coffee maker.

Over time, calcium deposits can form inside your coffee maker. These deposits can become breeding grounds for bacteria, leading to bad coffee.

Cleaning the coffee pot is never at the top of anyone’s to-do list, but it’s essential. Not only to improve the taste of your coffee, but to keep you from being exposed to harmful germs.

Here is how to clean a dirty coffee maker (and pot) so every cup tastes just like it should.

Related: The Beginner’s Guide To Pour Over Coffee

Decalcifying a Traditional Coffee Maker With Vinegar

white vinegar for cleaning

Distilled white vinegar is an all-natural cleaning agent and a decalcifier. It removes both the calcium buildup and the bacteria and mold that can grow inside the machine.

Most regular drip coffee makers recommend decalcifying with white vinegar every three to six months.

It is the easiest and safest way to clean your machine. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Remove all coffee from the carafe. Drink up if there is any left in there you caffeine addict!
  2. Remove the filter and discard all the grounds. Rinse the filter basket and the carafe and make sure there are no grounds stuck in anything.
  3. Fill your carafe halfway with distilled white vinegar and the rest of the way with water. Pour it into the water reservoir. It should fill to capacity.
  4. Start a brew cycle. Midway through the brew cycle, turn off the coffee maker and let it sit for an hour or so. Then turn the coffee maker back on and let the brew cycle finish.
  5. Water will become discolored and gross. This is good, that means the vinegar is working. Discard the old cruddy water and rinse out the carafe.
  6. Now, with plain freshwater, run three more complete brew cycles. Allow it to cool slightly between cycles before refilling the water chamber to avoid an accidental steam facial. Rinse the carafe and refill with fresh water each time.
  7. Wash the carafe and basket in hot soapy water and wipe everything down. Leave the parts out to dry thoroughly.

What if You Have a Keurig?

Keurigs are convenient, but as with anything, there is always a trade-off.

They have significantly more inner workings than traditional coffee makers. Which means, they can harbor more germs and bacteria.

Don’t let that scare you. It just means you need to clean it more often!

Once a week, wash the mug tray and K-cup holder in warm soapy water. Remove the water filter. Wipe everything down, rinse and let dry before you put it all back together.

Replace the filter cartridge every two months and follow the instructions on the new cartridge to ensure you are doing it properly.

Descale your machine every three months. It is very similar to your standard coffee pot. Turn the machine off, empty the water, add the cleaning solution or baking soda and run through the brew cycle until clean. Then let sit for a bit and rinse thoroughly.

Do Commercial Coffee Cleaners Really Work?

The simple answer is yes, commercial coffee cleaners work.

Most coffee makers recommend using vinegar to decalcify your coffee maker, but if the smell of vinegar wafting through your kitchen makes your stomach churn, there are odor-less options.

We like Affresh pods for single-use machines. If using an all-natural solution is important to you, be sure to read the ingredients carefully.

Clean Your Coffee Maker With Lemon Juice

person squeezing lemon juice

Can’t stand the smell of vinegar? Lemon juice (which smells really nice) is a great alternative.

Lemon juice has enough acidity to work as a cleaning agent. Here’s how to use it to clean your coffee pot:

Fill your water reservoir with equal parts lemon juice and water. Run a brewing cycle halfway through. Pause it and let the water/lemon mixture sit and soak for about 15 minutes. Then continue running the brewing cycle.

When that cycle is complete, run an additional cycle with water only to make sure that all the lemon juice is gone.

Clean Your Coffee Pot With Baking Soda

Baking soda is the pantry equivalent of a miracle drug – you can use it to clean all sorts of things!

To remove dirt and mildew from your coffee pot using baking soda, start by pouring one cup of water and ¼ cup of baking soda into your coffee carafe. Swirl it around to mix it together. Once the baking soda is dissolved, pour it into your reservoir.

Run a full cycle, and when it’s done, run an additional cycle with water only. No matter what you use to clean your coffee maker, you always want to make sure that you run a full cycle with just water to make sure all of the other residue is gone.

Clean Your Coffee Maker With Dish Detergent

A bit of liquid dish soap and water goes a long way to cleaning a dirty coffee maker. As long as you know how to take your coffee pot apart (and put it back together) you can clean it with the same soap or detergent you use to wash your dishes.

Not sure how to take your coffee maker apart? Consult the manual that came with it or Google the instructions for your make and model number.

Once the coffee maker is disassembled, wash each part individually with soap and water. Wash all parts by hand – not in the dishwasher – and make sure that each piece is thoroughly rinsed of all soap residue before putting it back together.

Plop Plop Fizz Fizz: Alka Seltzer Can Clean Your Coffee Pot

If you have Alka Seltzer tablets in your medicine cabinet, bring three down to your kitchen – they’re perfect for cleaning out a dirty coffee maker.

Here’s how to do it:

Fill the reservoir with water and drop in three Alka Seltzer tablets. Let them sit and fizz for 15 minutes, then run a full cycle to run the mixture through the system. When that cycle is complete, run two additional cycles with water only to make sure all of that fizzy residue is completely gone.

Clean Your Coffee Pot With Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is another effective household product that you can use to clean your dirty coffee maker. Combine one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water and add it to your reservoir. Run a full cycle, then run two additional cycles with water only.

Hydrogen peroxide is an effective cleaning agent – but it’s not something you want to drink, so running those two additional water-only cycles is a must!

Can You Use Bleach to Clean Your Coffee Maker?

No! Do not use bleach to clean the inside of your coffee maker! 

No coffee machine makers recommend bleach — not one. Only kamikazes with a death wish would ever recommend this.

Common sense will tell you this is not a good idea. Bleach is highly corrosive and can do damage to the inside of your coffee maker, not to mention the damage it can do your body if any residue remains in the pot.

Just as bleach is not recommended to clean the inside of stainless steel dishwashers, it is not recommended to clean coffee makers.

Do you really want to drink out of something that had bleach flowing through it anyway?

Daily Tips for Keeping Your Coffee Maker Clean

  1. Leave the water reservoir cover open when not in use – this way, it can try out completely between uses and will eliminate the chance of growing mold.
  2. Wash removable parts (carafe, basket, gold filter) after each use with soap, or even better put them in the dishwasher.
  3. If you ever see grounds in your filter basket, remove them and wash the basket. Grounds that get stuck in the machine can affect its performance.
  4. If you notice grounds in your K-cup holder, remove them with a sponge. If normal brewing is still causing you troubles, there might be coffee grounds stuck in the needles. Grounds can block the water from flowing through correctly. Make sure to unplug the machine and gently use a paperclip to get rid of the grounds causing the clogging. Once unclogged, rinse and begin using your Keurig normally.

Related: The Beginner’s Guide To Mushroom Coffee [A Fungus Among Us]

The 5 Best Coffee Makers to Replace Your Old Brewer

Not in the mood to clean or scrub your coffee maker? If your coffee brewer is way past due for a good cleaning, you may be better off buying a new one (and then keeping up with the cleaning regularly).

If you’re in the market for a new coffee brewer, here are five of the best coffee makers to replace your old machine.

Mr. Coffee Occasions Coffee Maker

Mr. Coffee Occasions Coffee Maker

In the mood for a latte? Feeling like a cappuccino? Prefer a classic French roast drip? The Mr. Coffee Occasions Coffee Maker pretty much does it all.

This all-in-one coffee machine includes a 10 cup carafe to make regular drip coffee from your favorite grounds. But what’s really great about it is that it also comes with an attachment so you can brew K-Cup coffee pods.

It also comes with a 15-bar pump and a built-in frothing wand so you can make espresso and all sorts of fancy coffee drinks.

Whether you want a single cup, a full pot, or a specialty coffee drink, this versatile machine can do it all.

Cuisinart PerfecTemp 14 Cup Programmable Coffee Maker

Cuisinart PerfecTemp 14 Cup Programmable Coffee Maker

Like your coffee piping hot? The Cuisinart PerfecTemp 14 Cup Programmable Coffee Maker uses technology to deliver you the hottest cup of coffee ever.

The programmable feature allows you to set your brew time up to 24 hours in advance, and it includes an indicator light that lets you know when it’s time to clean and decalcify the machine.

This stylish coffee maker includes a 14 cup glass carafe with a stainless steel handle and features Brew Strength Control so you can select regular flavor or bold flavor.

There’s a self-cleaning feature, setting for auto turn off, and a Brew Pause option so you can enjoy a cup while you’re waiting for the rest of the pot to brew. You can also check out Cuisinart’s SCAA coffee maker for a more high-quality (and costly) option.

Keurig K-Classic Single Serve Coffee Maker

The Keurig K-Classic Coffee Maker

The Keurig K-Classic Coffee Maker is, well, a classic! Super easy to use and perfect for when you only want one cup, this coffee maker brews coffee, tea, hot chocolate and all sorts of other beverages.

This Keurig is designed for use with K-Cup coffee pods only, but it is compatible with the My K-Cup reusable coffee filter. With the My K-Cup filter, you can brew any of your favorite grounds, even if they aren’t already packed in a little pod.

Need a cup of coffee now? This coffee maker brews a single cup in less than one minute.

Moccamaster KBG Coffee Brewer

Moccamaster KBG Coffee Brewer

If you take your coffee seriously, the Moccamaster KBG Coffee Brewer is worth splurging on. Designed to brew a 40-ounce pot in only six minutes, this coffee maker features two hot plate settings so you can have your cup of Joe at 175 or 185 degrees.

This coffee brewer has a sleek, stylish look and includes an auto drip-stop brew basket, a glass carafe and a pre-immersion drip-style system, so you get the perfect brew, every single time.

Looking for a coffee maker that will look super cool on your countertop? The Moccamaster KBG comes in all sorts of metallic hues and eye-catching colors, making it one of the most stylish coffee brewers by far.

BUNN Classic Speed Brew Coffee Maker

BUNN Classic Speed Brew Coffee Maker

When you need to make a full pot of coffee fast, the BUNN Classic Speed Brew Coffee Maker can handle it. The technology built into this coffee maker brews ten cups in just four minutes, perfect for when you need to serve multiple cups in a short amount of time.

This BUNN coffee maker includes a drip-free carafe, a switch-activated warmer plate to keep your coffee at the perfect temperature and a taller funnel that allows the water to flow quicker without overflowing your coffee grounds.

Never Skip the Morning Brew Again

The next time you notice your coffee tasting funky, don’t worry.

You’re well equipped to get it tasting delicious again. Keep your coffee machine clean and happy, and you can give the local barista a run for their money. You’ll be humming that Folger’s tune again in no time!

You may also be interested in: 6 Tasty Thai Coffee Recipes [Sugar, Spice & Everything Nice]

Jessica Heston

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