How to Unclog a Keurig Coffee Maker & Fix Common Problems

How to Unclog a Keurig Coffee Maker

When you are in a hurry, there is nothing as frustrating as your Keurig only offering you a half cup of coffee. If this happens, it is a surefire sign that your Keurig is clogged and in need of a cleaning.

Many Keurig coffee maker owners don’t realize that their Keurig needs to be cleaned at least every three to six months if not more often for heavy coffee drinkers.

So, if you want to make sure that your Keurig will always deliver that full cup of coffee that you desire, make sure that you are following the manufacturer’s directions for proper maintenance.

In fact, descaling regularly will remove the build-up of minerals that can have a negative impact to the taste and quality of your coffee. Depending on the mineral composition within your water source, calcium deposits or scale can build up on the inside of the brewer, and while it is not toxic, it can certainly hinder performance.

Cleaning your Keurig: How to Do It Quickly With Little Effort

When you are ready to clean your Keurig, make sure you unplug it (very important) and let the machine cool for at least 30 minutes before you begin.

Then, remove the water tank and lid, followed by the stand that your coffee mug sits on. And, open the top of the machine to remove the k-cup holder.

Wash all of the parts that you removed from the machine in warm soapy water, and then dry them thoroughly. These parts are dishwasher safe too so if you want to run them through a cycle then that will work too.

If you have a paperclip handy, unbend the wire, and then carefully insert the free end of the paperclip into the tiny holes that pierce the top of the k-cup.

These holes often get clogged with old coffee grind, oils, and even calcified minerals. Be sure to wiggle the paperclip gently around the inside of those holes to break up the debris and get it all out just like you would working floss between your teeth.

Next, carefully turn the machine upside down. Do not shake the unit, but tap it gently with the palm of your hand to remove any loose debris that may be further up the water line.

Then, turn the unit back over and with a clean cloth and more of that warm soapy water, clean the cup holder and the exterior of the machine.

Finally, put the Keurig back together, and fill the water tank with a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar. After you make sure the unit is completely dry, plug it back in and run the machine without a k-cup until you have worked your way through the water-vinegar mixture. This will work to keep the internal water lines as free of calcification as possible.

You may even want to repeat the vinegar step with clean water (no vinegar) to ensure that any residue from the vinegar is completely drained from the machine. Pour the dirty water down your sink.

The entire process shouldn’t take you much more than 30 – 45 minutes, and it will definitely be worth your time to keep your product functioning like new.

If you plan to clean your product on a regular basis, you will also be far less likely to run into a situation where you don’t get that full cup on a busy morning or your Keurig keeps giving you “phantom” error messages.

Will Cleaning Out a Keurig Fix Other Keurig Problems?

In my experience of all the error messages most have to do with the routine maintenance and cleaning procedures we just covered or messages that tell you to add more water!

There definitely are a number of typical problems that happen with Keurig machines that have nothing to do with clogged needles or calcified water lines but there are a number.

Let’s look at a couple common ones now.

Why Does My Keurig Say to “Add Water” When There Is Already Water in the Reservoir?

You’ve just refilled your Keurig’s water reservoir and placed it on its base, but just as you’re about to brew a cup, you realize your machine is still asking you to “add water.” What could be the problem?

Well, there are a few potential factors that might cause your Keurig some confusion when it comes to the water reservoir. We’ll go over each one here and provide the solutions.

1.   Is Your Water Reservoir Seated Properly?

The first thing you should check when your Keurig is having trouble detecting the water level in the reservoir is simple: be sure the reservoir is situated fully and properly on its base. If it’s crooked or not fully in place, the machine will simply think there’s no reservoir connected at all. Remedy this, and you should be good to go.

2.   Have You Tried Simply Dumping the Water, Rinsing the Reservoir, and Refilling it?

I know, this is a pretty obvious answer. It’s like the Keurig equivalent of taking out a video game cartridge and blowing on it. But sometimes this is the only quick fix you’ll need to get your Keurig up and running again.

3.   When Was the Last Time You Descaled Your Keurig?

We don’t have the space to get into why hard water scale in your brewer could cause it to think there’s no water, but it’s certainly a possible factor. It has a lot to do with the sensor at the bottom of the reservoir, which can malfunction if you haven’t properly descaled the machine in a while.

4.   Are You Using Distilled Water?

This last potential reason for your Keurig’s water level confusion might seem a bit odd. The fact is, Keurig machines just don’t like distilled water. Again, it has to do with the water level sensor. The science is a bit over my head, but it has something to do with the amount of solids in the water. Distilled water doesn’t contain any solids, which makes it difficult or impossible for the sensor to gauge the levels.

Hopefully that clears up your issues with your water reservoir. If you’re still having trouble after trying these solutions, you should contact the Keurig customer service team.

Why Isn’t My Keurig Making a Full Cup of Coffee?

What could be more humbling than being shorted by your own coffee maker? For anyone who owns a Keurig single-serve coffee maker, this can be a frustrating experience.

So, what causes a Keurig to make a “short cup,” an what can you do to fix it?

What’s Causing Your Keurig to Brew a “Short Cup”

There are three potential causes for a working Keurig coffee maker to make less than a full cup of coffee:

  • The needle is clogged (as we’ve discussed above).
  • The brewer needs to be descaled (as we’ve discussed above).
  • You have removed the water reservoir during the brew process.

We’re just going to assume that if you did the last one, you now know not to do that in the future if you want your full cup of coffee. So, we’ll skip that one and focus on the first two and what you can do to remedy the situation

Clogged Needle

If you think your brewer might be brewing a short cup because of a clogged needle, follow the easy steps we outlined at the start of this article to correct the issue.

The reason the needle may be the problem is that it may only be partially blocked. As water flows through at a slower pace the Keurig machine may be turning the brew cycle off prematurely due to the length of the brew and not due to the amount of water cycled through the grounds.

Brewer Needs Descaling

If flushing the entrance needle didn’t solve your problem, it’s possible your brewer needs to be descaled.

The descaling process varies from one Keurig machine to the next, but they all involve a similar set of steps which I also outlined at the start of this article.

Typically, you will dump a bottle of descaling solution or vinegar into the water reservoir, fill the rest with water, and then proceed to run as many water-only cleansing brews as needed to completely empty the reservoir. After that, rinse the reservoir thoroughly and run several more water-only cleaning brews to rinse out the machine.

The descaling works to prevent the short-cup problem by taking stress of the pump and heating element which may be working to hard to overcome mineral deposits or coffee oils inside the machine.

The best way to go after most Keurig problems is to give it a really good cleaning first and then see if the problem is still there.


Head blogger at "Top Off My Coffee Please" and lover of great coffee.

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