Its been too long, I know, I’ve been there before too.
Your coffee maker has been sorely neglected and now its finally time to bust out the vinegar and clean it inside and out.
Over time nasty coffee grime, bacteria, water impurities, and even mold will build-up inside your coffee maker reducing its effectiveness at making you that flavorful cup of Joe.
You know it and I know it, you need to clean your coffee maker more often but it doesn’t have to be hard or expensive – apple cider vinegar works just fine as does any kind of vinegar in your pantry.
There are of course descaling products and chemicals on the market that will take care of that build-up, but keeping another cleaning product in the house isn’t the solution for everyone.
Enter vinegar… or apple cider vinegar in this case.
Before you keep reading see this page click here if you are looking to clean a keurig machine!
Can You Use Apple Cider Vinegar to Clean a Coffee Maker?
You may open the cabinet and see vinegar, and then you read the label.
It’s Apple Cider vinegar.
You’ve read about cleaning your coffee maker with white vinegar, but that’s not what you have at home.
Can you use the Apple Cider vinegar in place of white vinegar?
The quick answer is yes, you can use ACV, it’s just as good as any other type of vinegar at cleaning and disinfecting.
You will however have to rinse your machine a few more times than normal if you go this route but by all means go ahead!
Here’s some things to bear in mind when cleaning your machine:
► If your coffee maker hasn’t been cleaned in a LONG time then you will have to devote more time to running vinegar through it – you will have to use more cycles than if you were cleaning a newer machine.
► People who have hard water and use it in their coffee machines may find that vinegar alone is not enough to descale, no matter how many cycles you run through it.
► Apple cider vinegar costs more than regular distilled white vinegar. If you don’t need to descale with a different product you should opt for using white vinegar instead of apple cider to save some money.
If You Have Hard Water
If you have hard water I would recommend you use some Urnex Dezcal instead of running cycle after cycle of vinegar through your machine. It does a better job at breaking up mineral deposits than vinegar and it will cost less money in the long run.
Simple Steps to Clean a Coffee Maker with Vinegar
You can clean a coffee maker with any kind of vinegar you like. Distilled white vinegar and apple cider vinegar clean just the same.
Here’s how to do it:
- Wipe down all parts of your coffee maker you can reach.
- Fill the water reservoir all the way with 1-2 parts vinegar to 1 part water.
- Begin the brew cycle and then pause it when it is half done.
- Let the coffee maker sit for 20 minutes.
- Finish the brew cycle.
- Rinse and repeat steps 2-5 until you are satisfied your water lines are clean and descaled.
- Run 2-3 brew cycles with water only to flush vinegar from the coffee maker.
Although you can clean just about any kind of coffee maker and mineral deposit with any kind of vinegar you will actually have more success using a vinegar with a higher concentration of acid. Most cooking vinegars have 4-5% concentrations of acid but if you use a cleaning vinegar like this one from Heinz with a 6% concentration you will be able to clean your your water lines a lot easier.
Curious what you are descaling? Look at the following video excerpt on what the heating element can look like on the inside of a coffee maker or espresso machine. Note that as mineral deposits build up it gets harder for the machine to heat your water up consistently to the correct temperature.
Sometimes it takes a lot of vinegar and many cleaning cycles to remove significant mineral deposits inside the boiler of your machine. If you are adverse to using any of these dedicated descaling products you can also try descaling with other household products.
Here is our post on cleaning coffee makers without vinegar.
The Magic of Cleaning with Vinegar
Given the current predicament that hot water and scrubbing off the inside of the machine clean aren’t viable options, human ingenuity takes over with a simple fix; vinegar.
Vinegar is actually one of the earliest, and yet, the most relied upon cleaning tools out there. The acetic acidic property of vinegar, formed through the fermentation of starches and sugars, is what makes it a great cleanser.
Tests show that vinegar is so effective it is able to kill 90% of mold and 99.9% of bacteria. The best part is that since vinegar is edible, it does not pose any health risks when accidentally ingested.
Besides killing off germs inside coffeemakers, vinegar also makes for a great descaler.
Firstly, let’s keep in mind that tap water is unfiltered. It contains many molecule-sized impurities. The level of impurities depends on each location. You might have heard of hard water, which contains plenty of impurities. Of course, our bodies are in a way hardwired to handle the impurities. Unfortunately, our machines aren’t. Through time, these impurities build up and this affects the taste of coffee.
Descaling is the term referring to the process of removing the impurity build-up in our coffeemakers and vinegar makes a great, cheap and convenient tool for it. Descaling is an often overlooked process of the coffeemaker care aspect. Failure to descale not only results in poor-tasting coffee, the mineral build-up is also known to cause harm to your machines.
Again, it should be emphasized that vinegar is safe for our bodies since this it is edible. This is a great upside especially for households which have children since one does not have to worry about keeping commercial descalers out of reach of children.
Furthermore, vinegar is safe not only to our bodies but also to the environment compared to cleaners which have chemicals contained in them. One does not also have to worry about properly disposing of these chemicals. On the other hand, one can simply dispose of vinegar anywhere since it is a biodegradable product.
Why You Should Clean Your Coffee Machine… And How Often You Need To Do It
When your coffee machine is dirty it not only affects the life of the parts inside it, but the mineral deposits and clogged lines will lead to water not being heated properly and affecting the brewing temperature.
The mineral build up inside the machine can also have an impact on the taste of the coffee you’re going to get out of it.
It is surprising how often people take incredible care in every aspect of the making of their coffee, but neglect to keep their machine in a decent enough state to work to its full potential.
It is recommended to clean your coffee maker once a month to keep it in good shape and get the best coffee and the longest life span of your machine.
How to Clean Your Coffee Maker with Apple Cider Vinegar
The method for cleaning your coffee machine with vinegar, whether plain white or apple cider, is the same. You just need to run the machine without the coffee, but instead of water use vinegar solution (usually two parts water to one part vinegar).
If you have the option to pause the brew for roughly half an hour to give the vinegar a chance to properly descale the machine, it really helps. To then get rid of the taste of vinegar from the machine, run it again with just water to give it a rinse. Apple Cider vinegar will have a longer lasting flavor in your coffee maker, so it will require extra rinses to completely flush the flavor out of your coffee maker.
Beyond the coffee maker itself, clean your basket and carafe with soap and water and dry properly. Remember to also wash the outer area of the coffeemaker using a damp cloth.
What’s The Difference Between White Vinegar and Apple Cider Vinegar?
Well in terms of cleaning they are both acidic enough to achieve great results, but white vinegar is cheaper and leaves less of a taste behind in the machine. While you can certainly use apple cider vinegar to do the job, you’re using more expensive vinegar and making the job longer and more laborious.
The taste will require you either get used to your coffee tasting a little weird for a while or you’ll need to rinse your machine more than once or twice, maybe 5 or 6 times, to get rid of the flavor from your equipment.
Cons of the Vinegar Method
Though vinegar maybe the embodiment of the ultimate coffeemaker cleaner, that is not the case as it has some drawbacks.
Firstly, some vinegar may produce a very powerful odor that kills all the excitement in considering it to clean your coffeemaker. As a result, repeated rinsing is necessary and this takes a lot of time, effort and water to complete.
Secondly, vinegars have their limitations in cleansing. Dezcal and Full Circle Descalers are found to be more effective in killing more bacteria three and a half times faster than when using vinegar. Also, vinegar is not as effective in removing grease in machines. Repeated attempts are necessary to break down and ultimately remove grease but as mentioned, commercial descaling products are available which can do the same task much more quickly.
The most common method of cleaning a coffee maker is with vinegar, usually white vinegar because it’s the cheapest option and of the types of vinegar it is the least difficult to rinse from your machine afterwards.
Although white vinegar is cheap and effective, and it may be the lesser of the evils where the leftover vinegar taste is concerned, but it still flavors the machine until a good few rinses later. If you’re not prepared to put up with the potential contamination of your morning roast then you can use other solutions.
What Else Can I Do to Ensure a Great Cup of Coffee?
For many coffee makers, it helps to replace the charcoal water filter every now and then too. Water going into the reservoir passes through the charcoal filter on the way to the heating element. By routinely replacing this filter you may see less mineral buildup inside your machine resulting in incrementally better coffee.
How Can I Prevent Mineral Buildup and Moldy Scaling in My Coffee Maker?
There are things you can do to prevent your machine getting dirty, like using filtered water, but even this won’t prevent the need to descale your machine. You’ll most likely need to give your machine a good clean every month or so, depending on how often you use it. You would think that since a coffee maker essentially brings water to a boil it would stay clean, but coffee contains oil and as you know, water and coffee don’t mix. The oil always remains and slowly builds up.
You might then be wondering, coffee makers are equipped with heating material and heat kills bacteria so how come these molds are able to resist and thrive in my appliance? Well, the hot water our coffeemakers generate is not hot enough to kill bacteria (water must be boiling hot or at least a hundred degrees Celsius). In addition, it takes quite some time for the bacteria to die. Running boiling hot water over the contaminated surface is not enough to save us from a dirty cup of Joe.
Relatedly, the bacteria can transfer from inside the machine to carafes by means of air, or through the coffee itself. This doubles the health risk and drives home the point of the importance of cleaning our coffeemakers.
The short answer to the question is that it’s not really preventable to stop the build-up. How you prevent an issue is to keep up on the cleaning and descaling every month or so. This will keep your machine in great operating condition.
Can You Clean A Coffee Maker With Apple Cider Vinegar?
Unless you have a well stocked pantry at all times you may find yourself all out of distilled white vinegar when it comes time to clean the coffee maker.
I know that many people go seemingly forever between coffee maker cleanings and when the bug strikes to get this task off your to-do list you want to take advantage of it. If however you only have apple cider vinegar on hand (or baking soda) please do your best to hold off until you can get to the store and buy a jug of regular old white vinegar.
If you can’t wait then yes, you can use apple cider vinegar to clean your coffee maker. It works just fine. The only problem is it costs more to use and you will have to rinse your machine out a few extra cycles to get the taste out.
I’ll go into the topic in depth below but you may want to see the following post for information on better ways to clean any coffee maker.
Regular Vinegar vs Apple Cider Vinegar
According to Good Housekeeping, using white distilled vinegar is one of the simplest way to clean a coffee maker. This will keep your coffee maker in good condition as well as deliver great tasting coffee all the time.
In my experience this is also the case and it’s usually the cheapest option of them all too.
Both distilled white vinegar and apple cider vinegar are acidic to the same 2.4-2.5 pH due to their 5% acetic acid content. The acid in both vinegars will clean and descale coffee maker heating elements and water lines exactly the same. The only difference is the distinct fruity flavor left behind by apple cider vinegar that will have to be flushed away with extra fresh water.
When cleaning your coffee maker with vinegar, here are some important things to remember:
Here are the items you will need:
- A Dirty 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:
- Discard carafe content. Remove all contents of the carafe and rinse it with water. Make sure to empty the coffee filter and discard all coffee ground.
- Mix equal parts of water and 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 normal brew cycle and stop midway. Turn off the coffee maker. Allow the solution to sit in the carafe and the chamber for an hour. This will soften any calcified content and stain in your coffee maker.
- Finish the brew cycle. After an hour, turn on the coffee maker and complete the remaining brewing cycle.
- Empty 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.
Make sure to see this article for more on how often to do this to your machine.
Cleaning With Apple Cider Vinegar Leaves Tannins
Yes, you could clean your coffee maker with the apple cider variety. It has adequate acidic pH levels to get the job done but the tannins will leave behind a taste in your coffee maker than will not rinse off as quickly and easily as you’d like.
Some people complain about the smell of white vinegar in their home but this is easy to dissipate and rinse from your machine. Apple cider vinegar will leave a lingering taste that will make your coffee a bit under-performing for some time.
Getting the fruity flavor out of your machine will be like getting the smell of coffee out of your mug the next time you try to drink fresh water from it…it lingers.
Make sure you run a water and vinegar cycle through your coffee machine just like you normally would. I like to use a 50/50 ratio for the first run and then if I do more runs I pull back a bit.
The trick to getting the smell and taste out is to run a lot more plain water cycles to rinse your system. With plain vinegar it’s easier to get back to a “blank” taste but it will take longer if you use apple cider vinegar.
You Can Also Clean A French Press with Vinegar
Every now and then I like to pull out my favorite French press coffee maker and soak the fine mesh plunger in the same apple cider vinegar solution. It does a good job and keeping those tiny holes clean.
You can read more about how I do this here.
On a related note you can check out this post for another good way of cleaning your coffee maker when you don’t have white vinegar on hand. It takes a lot of lemons though – be forewarned.
Here are Some Other Ways to Clean a Coffee Machine
There are many easy ways to clean the coffee maker.
This refers to every day cleaning or every time you use the coffee maker.
- Wash the carafe and the coffee filter after every use.
- Always follow manufacturers’ instruction whether parts are dishwasher safe or hand wash only.
- Always check parts of your coffee maker.
- If you keep coffee maker inside a cupboard, always make sure that all parts are dry to avoid any mold and mildew build up
This refers to a scheduled procedure when the coffee maker undergoes a complete cleaning.
Use Baking Soda – You can also use baking soda when cleaning your coffee maker although you do have to be careful using this method.
The process is similar to using vinegar. Mix baking soda with lukewarm water. Always use lukewarm water to completely dissolve the baking soda. Pour the baking soda solution inside the water chamber. Press the brew button and run a full brewing cycle. Throw away the water. To wash the coffee maker, fill the water chamber with full brewing cycle. Run a full brew. Watch if the water is clear or not. Often, it will take two full brewing cycle to completely wash off the baking soda solution.
Use Vinegar and Salt – Mix water, vinegar and add some salt. Salt is a natural antibacterial. By adding salt, it will help you disinfect the coffee maker especially if mold and mildew had grown in the tube the carries the water from the chamber to the filter.
Denture Tablets – Many coffee maker owners agree that denture tablets are great cleaners. It helps remove calcified content and freshens up the coffee maker to deliver great tasting coffee, like a new coffee maker.
Fill the carafe with water. Dissolve 1 or 2 denture tablets. You can use even generic denture tablets. Pour the denture tablet solution in the water chamber. Run a full brewing cycle. Discard the used water. Fill the water chamber again and run a full brewing cycle to wash off any remaining solution. Unlike vinegar and baking soda, you only need one full brewing cycle wash to clean up the coffee maker.
If you use other kinds of alternative coffee brewing devices these methods can work well too. In fact a lot of people find my guide to cleaning their Aeropress helpful. It also covers a few of the same products and techniques.
How to Take Good Care of 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.
You don’t really need to buy a new coffee maker when you feel like the coffee you are getting does not taste as good as before. All you need to do is first check your coffee maker and ensure that all of its parts are clean. If you see any signs of calcification or white build up, act fast. Use any of the deep cleaning methods mentioned here to ensure that your coffee maker works well.
Are Dedicated Coffee Maker Descalers Better Than Vinegar?
Yes, obviously the acidic properties of vinegar can clean the crud out of a coffee pot but in the real world you have to do this a lot to keep things as clean as possible.
The best way to keep a coffee maker clean is to use a dedicated appliance cleaner designed to break up all the calcium and mineral deposits. If you are using un-filtered water, especially water from a well, you may end up with larger particle debris clogging up your system.
There is a very inexpensive product called CleanCaf that you can pick up which will be better at descaling your machine but it is also formulated to cut through the coffee oils that buildup over time. These oils are the weak spot with vinegar as vinegar doesn’t clean coffee oils up very well.
CleanCaf isn’t the only option either. There are a few other options listed here.