Need to clean your coffee maker or Keurig system but don’t want to use vinegar? Maybe you can’t use vinegar for some reason.
Read on I will give you the best alternatives to cleaning your coffee maker with vinegar right here and the absolute best alternative of them all (aside from buying a commercial cleaning product) is to use lemon juice.
How to Clean Your Coffee Maker Without Using Vinegar
Sometimes you just don’t have enough vinegar on hand or you just don’t want to use fancy vinegar for cleaning. I get it.
Although vinegar is one of the best all-natural and safest household cleaners around a lot of people don’t like to use it because of the potent vinegar small it leaves behind.
If you use apple cider vinegar to clean then the lingering smell (or taste) is even greater.
Some people only have expensive cooking vinegars on hand like apple cider vinegar or balsamic. Although these vinegars have the same acidity of white distilled vinegar they are not cost effective to use as a cleaning agent alone.
Probably the most common way to clean the water deposits and coffee oil residue out of the coffee maker and pot is to use regular old household white vinegar. The reason being is it’s relatively high PH or acidity.
White vinegar tops my list of best ways to clean a coffee maker but it’s not the only natural option.
The average jug of white vinegar that you find at your local grocery store has a ph level around 2.4 with a 5% concentration of acid. This will do a good job of cleaning out and disinfecting coffee maker water lines just fine but there are other ways to get the job done too.
Some use baking soda but I think lemon juice is the next best alternative with the exception of using products like Dezcal.
In my opinion the best alternative to using vinegar is lemon juice as it has nearly identical acidity and ph levels of vinegar.
The main difference is the source of acid.
Vinegar is acidic due to its acetic acid component as opposed to the citric acid component which found in lemon juice. Both will do exactly the same job at cleaning out your Aeropress made of plastic, your French press made of glass and metal, and your coffee maker typically made out of plastic, silicone (tubing), and metal.
Is it Worth it Using Lemons to Clean the Coffee Maker
On the whole a lemon juice and water cocktail will clean out the inside of your coffee make just as well as a standard vinegar concoction (described here) but it will a lot harder to get enough pure lemon juice out of lemons if you are squeezing them yourself.
You could on the other hand buy straight lemon juice but the cost will be a lot higher using lemon juice over white vinegar for the volume of lemon juice you’ll need to clean your coffee maker lines.
Typically you need to run a full coffee pot (12 cups) to fully clean out the insides of your machine. 1/3 to half of that will be either vinegar or lemon juice. It’s a lot cheaper to buy bulk vinegar than it is to buy bulk lemon juice but if you really don’t care to use vinegar then by all means pick up a big jug of lemon juice and have at it.
It’s best to clean out your machines more often than not so make sure to see this post on how often is best for coffee maker cleaning.
There is however one more reason why using lemon juice might not be worth it – although the acidic levels of lemon juice will help to descale your coffee maker the lemon juice won’t be that great at actually breaking up coffee oils that have accumulated inside the device over time.
Lemon juice may be a great acidic disinfectant that can break up calcified water lines while killing germs but it isn’t that good at cutting through oils that accumulate.
There are however more options for cleaning coffee makers that don’t include vinegar or lemons. You can see the list right here.
Can You Clean Coffee Oils From Your Machine With Lemon Juice
Oils need to be cleaned up periodically because they go rancid and affect the taste of the coffee you make but vinegar and lemon juice alone are not as good at getting this job done.
Some people turn to baking soda to get the pot cleaned but I contend that using baking soda to clean your coffee pot is not the best idea because the pot can get clogged up too easily.
To get baking soda into your coffee pot it must be well dissolved first which adds another step to the cleaning process. Even if you dissolve baking soda into your water before using it to clean your machine you still run the risk of it not flushing out completely which can ruin the performance of your coffee machine over time.
Baking soda is a great option for disinfecting and cutting through oils on household surfaces but I just don’t think it’s right for this job.
This is especially true if you need to descale and clean out a Keurig coffee machine because they use a pump to circulate water for the brewing process rather than physics and gravity.
You wouldn’t want to ruin your Keurig water pump machine by running baking soda through the water lines – those machines cost to much to replace.
The Most Effective Way to Descale & Clean Your Coffee Maker
There are actually a handful of similar products on the market that are made specifically for cleaning a coffee makers water system. They breakup the hard water stains and mineral deposits and are also formulated to remove the coffee oil buildup throughout the system.
If you really want to get your coffee maker as clean as possible I would look into products like De’Longhi’s EcoDeCalk which is a natural descaler for coffee machines or my personal favorite Urnex Dezcal Coffee and Espresso Machine Descaling Powder which has no smell at all and is more effective at breaking up limescale deposits and oil than either vinegar or lemon juice.
These products are both non-toxic and very safe and they are super inexpensive so it’s a no brainer to use them in my house. Of course use your best judgment but please do something. Those coffee pots are kind of gross if you never take the time to clean out the lines.
I should also note that if you use a plastic travel mug very often then the lemon juice is also more than capable of cleaning out the porous nature of your plastic parts if you soak it. This will eliminate many stains and smells from hundreds of cups of coffee. You can see more about how I get this done on my travel mugs here.
Finally, one more time, here are a number of ideas for descaling those water lines neatly listed in a single location.