Keurig Not Brewing? What To Do

As the latest trend in home coffee making has swept the nation, it’s left in the wake an arsenal of clogged, unkempt, and impotent coffee makers. Or maybe just hot water brewers.

While the Keurig can be a great addition to the home for quick brewing when you just gotta run, many find them to have a short lifespan.

Many people aren’t aware that the Keurig brewer needs to be cleaned as often as bi-weekly.

Additionally, the company has released a line of cleaning pods that help the hygiene of the brewer. These fit like normal K-cups in the machines portion pack holder, and are a great way to clean out the flavor of old coffee or in between varieties of K-cups.

So grab your Phillips #2 Screwdriver, a paperclip, and let’s discuss how to diagnose these problems and get your Keurig back from hot water dispenser to quality coffee maker.

Diagnosing the Problem

Is the Keurig actually broken?

Although your Keurig is reduced to little more than an appliance taking up counter-space, the thing might not actually be broken. Chances are you bought the best Keurig you could justify not all that long ago and it still looks brand new, right?

The Keurig is a relatively simple machine that is designed to do a few tasks. Among the menu screen you’ll notice it’s ability to brew coffee from a K-cup, and prepare water from it’s trough (just under a boil) for making tea or even coffee if you don’t have a coffee maker on hand or an remaining pods.

The Basic function of the Keurig is to take sealed K-cups of whatever variety you might have, and puncture them and deliver hot water to brew a select amount of coffee. It’s helpful to understand that aspect of the machine, because often problems will stem from either the discharge needle, which allows coffee flow downward into your mug, or the spray needle which is where water flows from above and through the k-cup.

This equates to a very short brewing time, which is why the Keurig has the potential to make great cups of coffee. However, the Keurig itself has to function properly first.

The Keurig brewer has many common issues so let’s dissect what is actually ailing the machine. So let’s delve into the common issues with the machine.

Slow to Brew Or Only Producing Small Increments

This mean the upper discharge needles or exit needle is clogged. This can force water up through the spray needle as well so cleaning both at the same time is recommended. This is where our paper clip comes in handy.

Unplug the machine and remove the water reservoir. Then lift the front handle as if you were going to load the machine with a K-cup. From here, notice the needles and the portion pack, this is the funnel-like assembly which is removable. Applying pressure to the portion pack holder (on the fin closest to you) should allow it to give. With the fin depressed the needle will motion downward and retract into the walls of the portion pack holder.

This area can be quite slick to the touch, so despite the needles retraction, one can slip. At no point should you put your fingers into the chamber. Once the pack is free you’ll be able to remove and clean the needles.

Cleaning the exit needle can be done thoroughly by soaking the portion pack in hot water and vinegar. If vinegar isn’t on hand try these alternatives. The paperclip comes in handy to push into the bottom of the exit needle if there are excessive hard water scales build up. However, it’s important not to try and push the paperclip all the way through as the excessive force could damage the exit needle.

If you’re finding it difficult to clean the needle itself then you can press the two soft plastic buttons on the side of the frame to release the pack from the casing, making the needle easier to access.

While waiting for the portion pack to soak, flip the Keurig’s top open again and look for the discharge needles, located in the center of the bottom of the lid. Find the two openings and probe with the straightened paperclip.

Be careful and avoid the sharp needle. It’s also advised not shove the paperclip too deep as the water line is connected to this apparatus and is easily damaged.

The Keurig is Not Dispensing Coffee or Water At All?

This is perhaps the most common complaint with the Keurig, though it’s actually just a sign that the machine is ready for regular maintenance. More specifically, there are likely grounds stuck in the brewers entrance needle.

There’s hope for your machine yet, because if you’ve saved the box you Keurig’s water filter came in, there should be a small bag with a plastic orange apparatus inside.

  1. First, power off the brewer. Open the lid and make sure there’s no extra grounds visible in the chamber or leftover k-pod hanging around.
  2. Next, notice the text and symbols on the brewing maintenance accessory. Face them upright and fill the central bulb with water. Then carefully transfer into the brewer. there should be printed arrows on the rim, face them toward you. Make sure the accessory is seated correctly in the chamber, as misuse is likely to damage the very needle we are trying to clean. You may have to manually lower the fin of the portion pack (as we performed above, to remove the pack) to ease the accessory into the chamber without spilling water from the bulb.
  3. Now raise and lower the lid four to five times. As you perform this action, grounds should begin to unclog themselves from the entrance needle and appear in the central bulb. There will be a slight resistance as the lid comes down, make sure one final time that everything is aligned and nothing is being damaged.
  4. Remove the cleaning pod, and power on the Keurig. It’s recommended to run a few hot water cycles through the machine as grounds may have been loosened up in the process but not extracted. Now, test the brewer a final time with a fresh K-cup!

If this hasn’t solved your problem, the clog may have occurred deeper within the system, perhaps in the water line.

If you have an air compressor on hand, it is easy to blow air through the unit and expel any delinquent grounds from the water line. Remove the reservoir and find the spot where water passes into the main heating chamber of the machine.

Is The Problem In Your Water?

One thing most Keurig owners don’t consider before making their purchase is what tap water is going to be used with their machine. While city tap water is typically stripped of minerals, water from a well source however is full of minerals like calcium, that buildup in the brewer and clog water lines easily.

Even if your brewer is still producing coffee, the buildup of minerals in the lines can change the taste of your morning brew drastically. The interaction between acidic coffee and minerals can make for an unpleasant taste profile.

DANGER WILL ROBINSON: Water Under Pressure

Doesn’t Robot look like a giant percolator anyway?

You’ve probably seen this message before. Well, minus the Lost In Space reference. This warning can come at any time, even if brewing continues on as normal. However, could be a sign of something sinister at work within the Keurig brewer.

This typically indicates that something is caught in the water line. That could be coffee grounds or scales from water buildup.

The best solution for this does require some vinegar. As we will be filling the reservoir with a half vinegar, half water solution and performing a several hot water brews to pull the cleaning vinegar solution through the machine.

The hot vinegar product may be slightly discolored when it gets to your cup. This is a good sign, as it means that we’ve picked up some stray debris in the brewer.

If the water hasn’t changed color, don’t fret, it may indicate that the issue with the brewer does in fact have to do with your water quality. Consider replacing the filter after all the vinegar is removed from the machine.

The best way to test that your machine is free from vinegar is to continue brewing hot water, but add some baking soda to the mug that’s awaiting hot water. If the water begins to bubble upon reaching the mug and it’s baking soda content, then you’ve still got vinegar in the machine. Otherwise, if no reaction has taken place, then you’re safe to try a K-cup and get back to brewing.

Keurig is Making Strange Noises, But Not Producing?

Keurig not brewing problemLet’s define the strange noise. Chances are you have some experience with the machine prior to it breaking down on a leaving you stranded on a caffeine-less highway. Make sure the sounds are different than those of water heating in the reservoir.

If it’s a continuous noise that sounds like water rumbling, then it’s best to power off the machine quickly. It’s worth a little light investigating with some simple troubleshooting by simply powering the machine on again and restoring the factory settings in the menu.

If the problem persists then this could be an issue with the heating element or sensor. Unfortunately this is a job for the folks at Keurig, unless you possess some technical electrical prowess.

Keurig Isn’t Powering On Or Powers Off Suddenly

Troubleshooting the power issue on your Keurig coffee machine requires a combination of basic cable checks to ensure the device is properly plugged in as well as resetting your home’s circuit breaker. Be certain to insert the machine’s power cable into an alternative grounded outlet.

Alternatively, there are settings in the menu that will power your Keurig off suddenly and without notice if not addressed. Let’s check the auto off timer and on/off features in the menu settings:

  • Press the menu button or ‘i’ icon, depending on the model, and scroll through the options until you come upon the power settings.
  • Here you can program auto on and off timers and power saver options which will turn the machine off if idle for certain durations.
  • Make sure none of these setting are prohibiting your brewer from working properly.
  • If “OFF” is not indicated, power off and reset brewer to factory settings.

Alternative Uses For Your Remaining K-cups

So you’ve had no luck fixing your Keurig brewer thus far, and you have all these K-cups still. It’s a frustrating place to be in, as K-cups can be expensive. Well there’s luck for you yet. If you’ve got some basic coffee making equipment then we can create some beverages to tide you over.

  • K-cup Espresso: This has been my go to since my many repeated efforts to fix my brewer have fallen flat. If you’ve got even the simplest of espresso makers, then you’ve got a great use for the coffee in the K-cups. The reason being, this is the perfect amount for your espresso makers handle to process, and the coffee has been sealed to keep freshness intact. Take a paring knife and carefully trace the edge of the k-cup’s seal. This will reveal a small amount of grounds sitting in a miniature filter basket. Carefully empty the grounds into your espresso makers handle and perform a basic draw on the machine.
  • Grinds for Steeping: Although it’s obnoxious, you got rid off your trusty Bunn coffee maker, and replaced it with a brewer that hardly works and creates a ton of waste in it’s wake, the Keurig cups are still useful. As Stated, these guys are fresh and feature good coffee. So dig out one or two of those old coffee filters, and empty the contents of the K-cup into the center of them. Take some string and tie the top, creating a small tea bag. Get water up to boil on the stovetop, or even with the hot water from the brewer if it still maintains that function. Now steep your coffee bag in the hot water for roughly 25 seconds. This is some delectable fresh coffee. Enjoy!
  • Many Uses For Hot Water: If the Keurig Brewer is still producing quality hot water, then you can use it in the kitchen to create instant oatmeal quickly, ramen dishes, or water to clean with. Skip the microwave or the stovetop pan, this is quick and reliable.
  • Seed Starters: After you’ve tried some of these options for your unused K-cups instead of throwing them out altogether, try saving them for Spring and using them for the perfect seed planters. These are more than just little cups to fill with soil. The basket allows for drainage of excess moisture.

These Solutions Haven’t Worked?

If the previous solutions haven’t worked then perhaps it’s time to throw in the towel and contact Keurig (1-866-901-BREW) or email them to see if the brewer is still under warranty. When you call their line the recorded message will not say anything about warranty claims, you’ll be selecting the option for replacement parts and providing the Keurig service center representative with the serial number, so make sure you’ve located that.

Older models will typically have the number listed behind the reservoir and behind the drip tray. Whichever is easier for you to access at the time. If you have  newer model like the 2.0, then access the serial number behind the cold water reservoir on the back of the unit.

These are the only spots you’ll be looking for the serial number on Keurig brewers.

typically Keurig will service your request and only require the portion pack holder be sent to them. So, if your brewer breaks, you will have an almost complete brewer on hand that you can use for spare parts in the future, if needed.

Now that we’ve made it out of the caffeine-less jungle, hopefully you’re in for a hot brew soon. In the meantime, why not peruse our selection of coffee making gear in case you want to upgrade from the k-pod eating Keurig.

Brian Mounts

Head blogger, editor, and owner of "Top Off My Coffee", a website that has been educating readers about coffee brewing techniques and equipment since 2012.

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