Cleaning a coffee maker is fairly simple and straight forward. Even still it’s something that most people either never do properly or simply don’t do at all.
I for one had a coffee pot out of college that I used for the better part of a decade and I can’t remember a time when I properly cleaned out the machine. These days things are different. I care a lot more about my coffee and I know that clean coffee makers make better coffee in addition to being more sanitary.
The best way to clean a coffee maker is to cycle white distilled vinegar through a brew cycle and pause the brew mid-cycle. This holds the vinegar in the inner tubing allowing for disinfection and for the break down of accumulated mineral deposits.
The methodology changes a little bit depending on the coffee maker you are cleaning though and if you have an alternative style coffee maker then the steps change quite a bit.
Before I explain the basic cleaning procedures in more detail I wanted to give you a few links to jump to the style coffee maker you have.
Click on the link below that describes the type of coffee maker you have and are trying to clean.
How To Clean A Standard Drip Coffee Maker
The following instructions are for cleaning your coffee maker the best way possible, with white distilled white vinegar.
To start let’s summarize a few simple cleaning tips and answer a few common questions about the cleaning process and disinfecting coffee makers.
How Much Vinegar Should You Use? – The best way to keep a coffee maker clean is to run a cycle with a mixture of 1-part vinegar and 2-parts water…but this is only for maintenance. If you haven’t cleaned your machine in a long time (or ever) then you shouldn’t dilute the vinegar at all. You can see the following post for more instruction: How Much Vinegar You Need To Clean A Coffee Maker.
How Often Should You Clean A Coffee Maker? – You should clean your coffee maker out once a month even if you only use it periodically. When you use it often debris will build up inside the machine and when you use it infrequently bacteria can multiply inside the machine. See the following post for more on this topic: How Often Should You Clean A Coffee Maker.
Can I Use Baking Soda To Clean My Coffee Maker? – I never advise my readers to use baking soda because it can easily clog your coffee maker water lines and ruin it if you are unlucky. I go into this is greater depth in the following article: Can You Clean A Coffee Maker With Baking Soda.
The important thing to keep in mind is why cleaning it is so important.
For one, water slowly leaves mineral buildup in the lines, heating element, and pump. This slowly leads to poor water heating and slow brewing. Inadequate water heat will lower the flavor extraction during the brew leading to poor tasting coffee. The mineral deposits can also lead to poor taste if they build up enough.
Similarly the coffee and grind itself will leave behind oils in the filter basket, pot, and even the water chamber (assuming you use the pot to fill the chamber). The oils and residue left behind will become old and rancid and buildup over time negatively affecting the flavor of your coffee. If you care about getting a good tasting cup then you really need to be cleaning your machine on a regular basis.
Luckily it’s cheap and easy to do so with plain old inexpensive white vinegar. Here’s a video I made to help show you the process it’s short and too the point. Below the video I’ll point out in writing the important things to keep in mind.
Drip Coffee Maker Cleaning Instructions
Points to Keep in Mind
If you’re going to be cleaning out your machine with vinegar make sure you do it on a day where you can be around the pot for a good hour or so. Putting a vinegar water mixture through the brewing cycle may only take 10 min or so to complete but you will want to let the pot soak in it for a few minutes afterwards and then you’ll want to run another cycle or three of plain water to flush the vinegar from the mechanism.
The vinegar smell is one of the main reasons why some people don’t want to clean their machines out. In some cases a trace of vinegar is left behind that muddles up the next couple pots of coffee. Simply being there to run a few plain water cycles after the cleaning can minimize or eliminate this issue altogether.
After you finish cleaning your coffee maker you should try your best to not fill the water chamber from the coffee pot. If you can bring the faucet tot he water chamber or vise-versa or if you can use a water pitcher to fill the chamber you’ll need to do a full clean much less often.
The reason for this is the coffee oils that transfer from the coffee pot to the water reservoir when you use the pot to fill the reservoir. If you can minimize the transfer of oils into the chamber then the buildup of residue will be slower and you will get less rancid coffee flavors leeching into your fresh brew.
Also, if you happen to have a particularly dirty coffee maker then you may need to run two or three cycles with vinegar to completely clean the machine out. Some people find that pausing the brew cycle mid-way through also helps to breakup tough buildup that has accumulated inside water lines. It acts much like soaking does to loosen hardened grime.
Remember to do this periodically – it will not only keep your coffee tasting better but will also lengthen the life of your coffee maker and it’s internal components.
…and if you have a water filter inside your coffee maker don’t forget to switch it out or cleaning it on a timely basis too. Not all machines have these but they are often forgettable and easily replaceable. It will do little good to clean your coffee maker but continue using an old or dirty water filter – the water after all is one of the most important factors in getting a good cup of coffee.
How To Clean Other Types Of Coffee Makers
Cleaning instructions will be very different for alternative brewers so let’s go over the most common alternatives right now.
Keurig Cleaning Instructions
Cleaning out any of the modern Keurig machines is going to be fairly similar to cleaning out a traditional coffee maker. You are still going to use white vinegar but there are some slight differences too.
You are also going to have to clean out the needle that pierces the k-cup as well as the k-cup holder. You may even have to clear clogs out of the tubing leading into the needle.
Because of these differences and other I made a video all about cleaning a Keurig inside and out. You can see that video below.
Keurig does make and sell k-cup rinse pods ands their own cleaning solution that can be used instead of vinegar. I own both of those products and I’ve used them enough times to know that although they work well they aren’t necessary if you clean your machine out with vinegar once a month or so.
Even still, you can see product links to those cleaning products as well as other accessories I personally use and/or recommend on my Keurig accessories page.
You should also see the following post for more on how to unclog a Keurig.
Moka Pot Cleaning Instructions
Most people don’t call a moka pot a coffee maker but it is a coffee making device that need to be cleaned so let’s summarize the procedure here.
Most aluminum moka pots do not ever get washed with soap and water because the oils collect on the aluminum and cure it. So long as you always rinse your pot out after use and the sink and allow to air dry then the pot will always make great tasting moka.
Now having said that there are lots of nooks and crannies in a moka pot and there are small parts like filter screens and gaskets that do need to be removed and cleaned in the traditional sense to keep the device working it’s best.
Because stovetop espresso makers are so unique I made a full article explaining the process of keeping it clean and operational. Check it out through the following link.
French Press Cleaning Instructions
Cleaning a French press isn’t usually thought of as a complicated chore. The pot is just a small pitcher after all, made of glass, plastic, or stainless steel in most cases.
The cleaning problem really has more to do with the plunger, filter screens, and even the method for discarding grounds from the carafe because it’s not a great idea to just rinse them all down the sink.
Most French press plungers can be fully disassembled by unscrewing the screen off the rod that extends down from the handle. Once you unscrew the screen it will usually come apart into all the individual pieces.
If you do this often you can usually put the pieces in the dishwasher unless your press uses a lot of cheap plastic in it’s construction. The alternative method and the one I use only every now and then is to soak the parts in a shallow bowl full of vinegar. This cuts through all the coffee oils and debris that tries to build up between uses.
If you don’t get to cleaning your screen soon enough and find coffee grind stuck in the screen then you’ll probably have to scrub the screen with a fine bristled brush after soaking it in vinegar.
In my regular use of French press coffee makers none of that was ever challenging though. The tough part was getting rid of all the spent coffee grind without washing it all down the drain. I came up with a method in 2013 that I still use to this day…I even made a full post dedicated to the process that you can see below.
Nespresso Cleaning Instructions
Nespresso units are very similar to Keurig units, or any other k-cup or pod based coffee maker. They can be cleaned with Nespresso branded cleaning products or you can use plain white vinegar – which is what I do.
You are basically going to follow the same procedure as a drip machine, fill the water reservoir up with vinegar, or a diluted vinegar solution and run the brew cycle a few times.
With Nespresso units that only make espresso you can’t pause the cycle mid-brew because it’s so short so you will have to brew a few “shots” of vinegar sequentially to get things clean.
In some ways it’s harder to fully clean the Nespresso machines because you can’t pause the cycle meaning mineral buildup inside the machine is more likely to be a problem.
I also believe that bacterial accumulation is more likely as well so it’s pretty important to clean these devices out more often than other coffee makers.
Aeropress Cleaning Instructions
The Aeropress is a basically just a precise contraption made from hard plastic and gaskets. For the most part cleaning it at home is as simple as disassembling the parts and placing them in a dishwasher on the top rack.
To extend the life of the unit however handwashing is always best so you’ll need a bottle brush to get that job done.
The gaskets will also need a good scrubbing to keep the device working it’s best. See the following post on this site for more detailed instruction on cleaning and maintaining your Aeropress.