How to Clean Your Coffee Maker the All-Natural Way

Clean tastes better, and we have the steps to prove it. Learn how distilled white vinegar is the inexpensive secret to perkier-tasting coffee.

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If your brew is a little blah, perhaps your coffee maker is due for a cleaning. We tend not to clean them as often as we should, which can lead to some major ick factor and less-than-awesome-tasting coffee.

NSF International, a public health and safety organization, found the coffee machine water reservoir is the fifth germiest place in most homes, with even more germs than a bathroom faucet. What's more, mineral deposits and other buildup over time can slow down your machine and lead to a muddy-tasting cup of joe.

A good deep-cleaning of your drip or single-serve coffee maker, like a Keurig, is the solution. You probably already have the ultimate all-natural cleaner in your pantry: distilled white vinegar. Once you eradicate oily residue and impurities with a deep-clean, you'll be amazed at how much better your coffee tastes. So let's get cleaning!

How Often to Clean a Coffee Maker

Cleaning frequency varies with how often you use your coffee maker, but if you're like most of us and use your drip coffee maker or Keurig just about every day, follow these guidelines.

Drip Coffee Maker

Daily: Wash the baskets, filters, and carafes in warm, soapy water by hand or via dishwasher. (Most thermal carafes require handwashing.)

Monthly: Give your coffee maker a deep cleaning to reduce mineral buildup and keep mold and germs from taking up residence. As for coffee makers with grinders, consult your instruction manual for detailed instructions on how to safely clean your coffee maker and grinder (if the grinder is removable). 

Keurig Coffee Maker

Weekly: Wash the removable components—K-cup holder, mug tray, and water reservoir—with warm, soapy water.

Every two months: Descale your Keurig every other month, or whenever the descale light goes on.

What You Need:

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Water
  • Carafe or mug

How to Deep-Clean a Drip Coffee Maker with Vinegar

Follow this easy five-step, deep-cleaning procedure every month for better tasting coffee and a longer-lasting coffee maker. Before starting, ensure the water chamber is completely empty.

Step 1: Pour

Pour equal parts distilled white vinegar and water into your coffee maker's water chamber.

Step 2: Brew

With the basket and filter chamber empty, activate the switch to brew.

Step 3: Stop and Sit

When half the liquid has brewed, turn off the coffee maker and let the solution sit for about an hour.

Step 4: Resume

When an hour is up, turn the coffee maker on again to finish the cycle.

Step 5: Rinse and Repeat

Discard the solution and run several brew cycles with clean water until the smell of vinegar is gone.

How to Deep-Clean a Coffee Carafe 5 Ways

Now your drip coffee maker is thoroughly clean, but your supposedly clear carafe is anything but. While you should wash your carafe after each use, life happens, and your carafe gets to looking yellowed and dingy over time.

To prevent coffee from staining your carafe in the first place, wash out your carafe with warm water and dish soap at least once a week. Rinse well to prevent soapy-tasting coffee.

If you've lapsed in your regular cleaning regimen (no judgment here, we get it) and your carafe is in need of a deep clean, you have options. Choose the one that suits you best, and repeat about monthly for a coffee carafe as sparkling clean as your machine.

  • Vinegar and Baking Soda. Make a paste of equal parts baking soda and water, and then use it to scrub the inside of your carafe until clean. If you have a stubborn area, add a bit of vinegar, which results in a fizzy chemical reaction that helps remove the stain.
  • Lemon Juice and Salt. In your carafe, combine 3 tablespoons salt, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 cup crushed ice. As you swirl it around, the lemon pulls out stains while the ice and salt scrub the sides. Rinse with cold water and then sponge away any remaining stains.
  • Denture Tablets. They remove coffee stains on dentures, so put them to work on your carafe, too. Fill your carafe with warm water, add two anti-bacterial denture tablets, wait about 15 minutes, scrub, and then rinse.
  • Dishwasher Detergent. Many carafes are not dishwasher-safe, but that doesn't mean you can't use dishwasher detergent to get rid of tough stains. Fill the carafe with boiling water, add 1 tablespoon dishwasher detergent (powdered or liquid), and let it sit overnight. By morning, the detergent will have pulled the stains out of your carafe.
  • Coffee Cleaner. Likely the most expensive and least environmentally friendly option of the bunch, using a commercial coffee stain cleaner may be the most effective way to remove stains from your carafe. Just remember to follow the instructions on the back of the bottle.

How to Descale a Keurig Coffee Maker With Vinegar

While there are specialty Keurig descaling products commercially available, a mixture of equal parts distilled white vinegar and water does the trick naturally and is less expensive. Do this every other month, or whenever the descale light tells you to. Before starting, ensure the water chamber is completely empty.

Step 1: Pour

Put 2 cups each, water and distilled vinegar, into your Keurig's water chamber and set a mug in place to catch the vinegar water.

Step 2: Brew

Start the brew cycle without a K-cup in the water chamber and keep running brew cycles until the "add water" indicator lights up.

Step 3: Rinse, Refill, and Repeat

Empty and rinse the reservoir, refill it with fresh water, and run several brew cycles until you no longer smell the vinegar.

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