I’m getting ready to do a series of posts on cleaning a coffee maker and it occurred to me that the average person probably doesn’t know how much vinegar it takes to clean a coffee machine (or coffee pot).
Vinegar is widely accepted to be one of the best natural acidic cleaners for hard water stains and mineral deposits. Unlike harsh chemicals vinegar leaves behind a perfectly safe residue and odor that can easily be rinsed away with plain cold water.
If you use apple cider vinegar to clean then the flavor may linger a bit longer however.
If you live in areas with hard water you are going to need to use more vinegar to clean your coffee pot than people who live with soft water. Spring water or well water users may also need to use more vinegar due to higher amounts of minerals in the water.
In fact, high minerals in the water can make it hard for vinegar to fully decalcify water lines so you may need to use more than you might first expect. See this post for more info on how much vinegar will clean out your coffee maker.
If you are into using alternative products I’ve got a full list of standard options and alternative cleaners here for you to browse.
Avid coffee drinkers are also going to need to use a bit more vinegar than occasional drinkers will. This is because they are more likely to care about an untainted flavor and because they are using their machines more often and therefore making the insides of the machine dirtier faster.
If you have a 12 cup coffee pot then you will want to use 4-6 cups of white vinegar to 6-8 cups of plain water. If you haven’t descaled or cleaned your pot in a long time (think years if ever) then just use a bit more and repeat the cleaning process to help loosen up the gunky buildup.
Make sure to see my full guide to cleaning any coffee machine here for in depth video instruction.
If you are ambitious it’s good to lightly clean your pot every month or so but you can certainly do it less frequently than that. If you do intend on cleaning your machine monthly then you should be able to get away with doing a 1-2 mixture of vinegar to water ratio and maybe even 1-3 in places with soft water.
In any event cleaning your coffee machine is very simple and the cost of white vinegar is negligible so it’s worth doing more frequently than every couple years.
I recommend seeing this post about cleaning your coffee maker without using vinegar too for more ideas.
In future posts I’ll be breaking down more questions people have about cleaning coffee pots and then eventually posting a big guide on the topic.
In the mean time feel free to keep reading for elaboration on this topic.
You Have to Use Enough Vinegar to Clean Your Coffee Maker – Don’t Skimp
Imagine this: You woke to a good day. You had your day planned out. Everything seemed to be working your way. It’s time for a good cup of coffee to jumpstart your exciting day ahead. You prepared your coffee maker and got in going to brew. You went for a shower, got dressed. Now, you sat down for a quick breakfast with your much-awaited morning drink.
After a sip, you took a hard look at your cup. Something is definitely not right.
You took a second sip. Definitely, there’s something wrong. Your coffee taste bitter, odd.
When was the last time you cleaned your coffee maker?
Did you even use enough the last time you tried?
It takes a lot of vinegar to kill bacteria and decalcify tubing inside your machine.
When cleaning an Aeropress or soaking a travel mug it’s easy to see and smell when your equipment is clean, not so with drip coffee makers.
It’s Time to Clean your Coffee Maker
When you have been using your coffee maker for quite some time, you know the quality of the coffee that it can produce. If you notice that there’s a sharp change in the taste of your everyday morning cup of Joe, it’s a warning. You need to act fast.
Foul tasting coffee is actually a sign that you have a lot of germs built up inside your machine and it may be getting a bit unsanitary inside. At this point a deep cleaning can help to remove hard water deposits, prevent staining, and clean out rancid coffee oils that typically get left behind after brew cycles.
I like to deep clean my coffee making equipment once a month or so but there are good reasons to do it more often. See this post for more on how often you should deep clean your equipment.
How Did the Coffee Maker Become Dirty Anyway?
Any and all equipment requires cleaning. That’s a fact.
Coffee makers requires more attention because they make edible drinks and are in a near constant state of warm moisture on the inside.
If you carefully look into the process and mechanism of coffee maker, you will begin to imagine that several parts of the coffee maker can be home to molds and bacteria.
- It’s always wet. Water is the second important ingredient of coffee brewing. This means the coffee maker is always wet. A moist environment is the birthing pod of bacteria and molds. If this gets into your cup of coffee, you will end up sick. The idea alone is enough to make one gag.
- Calcification can occur. Water carries minerals. Over time, these minerals can build up and form scales inside the coffee maker. This will make your coffee sour.
- Coffee drippings will stain the hot plate. Once you remove the carafe, there will be drippings from the filter and it will stain your hot plate. This will leave ugly, blackened spots on the plates.
- The carafe itself will have stain. Coffee has a strong color that can stain any surface if constantly exposed to this liquid.
There are dedicated cleaners designed to be used on coffee makers like Dezcal and many people use lemon juice or vinegar to disinfect and decalcify but when used carefully baking soda can clean a coffee maker that uses soft water. It will disinfect just fine so long as you don’t use too much and so long as you make sure it all dissolves before using it.
I use baking soda from time to time after removing grounds from my French press and only once in a blue moon on my drip coffee maker. Even still you can see my guide to using baking soda here if you want to give it a try.
Luckily we can Cheaply Use Vinegar to Clean our Coffee Equipment
Using a vinegar is one of the easiest and quickest way to clean a coffee maker. Here is a simple step-by-step guide to use vinegar when cleaning your coffee maker. Also note how much vinegar is needed to clean your coffee maker.
Here are the items you will need:
- Coffee maker
- White Vinegar – 4 cups, or just enough to fill half of the carafe
- Hot soapy water
- Damp dish towel
- Dry dish towel
How to prepare:
- Empty the carafe. Remove all contents of the carafe and rinse it with water. Make sure to dump out any coffee ground left in the filter.
- Mix equal parts of water and white vinegar. As a rule of thumb, fill half of the carafe with white vinegar and add water to make it full.
- Run a half brew cycle. Start a brew cycle. When halfway through, turn off the coffee maker. Let the solution set for an hour. This will soften any build up and stain in your coffee maker.
- Complete the brew cycle. After an hour, turn on the coffee maker and finish brewing.
- Discard the water-vinegar solution. Make sure to discard all of the water-vinegar solution.
- Run a fresh water cycle. Fill the water chamber with fresh water and run a full cycle. Let the coffee maker cool for a few minutes. Run another full water cycle. It will take about 2 to 3 full water cycles to remove the vinegar smell.
- Wash the carafe and filter basket. Prepare a hot soapy water and wash the carafe and filter. This will remove stain from the surfaces.
- Reassemble. Put all the parts together and enjoy a fresh, great tasting coffee again.
Tips to Better Care for Your Coffee Maker
Cleaning your coffee maker regular will prolong its quality. Here are three simple reminders to keep your coffee maker in tiptop shape.
- Always wash removable parts after use. Discard coffee grounds after you brew. Don’t let it sit on the filter for hours because it will be a breeding ground for molds.
- Remove minerals build up every month. These calcium build up affects the speed of coffee drip and it will turn your coffee into a sour drink.
- Make the carafe shine bright as new. You can rinse it with water after usage. But if you want to deep clean it, fill the carafe with hot water, add some mild detergent and a little rice.
Additional tip: If you don’t want to use vinegar, you can choose a healthier alternative – lemon juice. Lemon juice has a natural cleaning agent that helps manage stains.
After this thorough cleaning process, it’s time to check on your coffee maker. Brew a fresh cup of coffee. If the uninviting taste occur, maybe it’s a good time to change your equipment.