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.

Most of the modern Keurigs make this very easy to do; they just pop out.

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.

Why Do Keurig Machines Clog Anyways?

Why Do Keurig Machines Clog

You’re in a hurry. That alarm on your smartphone didn’t go off as it was supposed to. Or maybe it did but you pushed snooze five times. And now you are late.

But, more than ever, you need your coffee, or you will not survive the day.

And now, wait, what?

Your Keurig machine is only giving you a half cup of coffee!

This is not a good start to the day. How did that happen?

If you are not following the instructions that came with your Keurig machine, it is inevitable that at some point, the machine will clog. Keurig and other k-cup devices, along with standard coffee makers, need to be descaled periodically to ensure that they continue to operate as designed.

With k-cup type machines in particular, it seems that they get clogged up with the build-up of minerals from the water and from tiny bits from the coffee grounds themselves.

So if all of a sudden, your Keurig is only brewing a half cup of coffee, it doesn’t mean that you need to throw it in the nearby dumpster and then head to your nearest barista to buy a new one. It simply means that some descaling and basic cleaning activities are in order.

K-Cup coffee makers are prone to clogs due to the calcification of of inner tubing and due to the coffee grounds that can get up into the puncture needle and even into the water discharge tubing.

More than normal coffee makers Keurig style machines need to be cleaned and descaled more often than regular coffee makers.

Related – Say goodbye to unpleasant odors and build-up in your coffee equipment. Learn the best methods to maintain your machines and enjoy a cleaner brew.

Keurig’s Offer Convenience to the Coffee Connoisseur

But You Have to Maintain Them!

If you find yourself frustrated because your Keurig now needs to be cleaned, try not to fret. While clogging does happen, just with any appliance, it needs to be cared for. And Keurig machines, in particular, are very lucrative kitchen appliances because of their simplicity.

Simply fill up the tank with water, pop in your pod and press start, and before you know it, your coffee will be ready. This saves you the time of having to grind your own coffee beans and is far less expensive and more time-effective than stopping at your local coffee shop.

While stopping at a Starbucks is definitely easy, it’s not always fast, and it is definitely not inexpensive. So, if you are on a budget but need your coffee to help you get going in the morning, a Keurig offers a great solution. Not only that, but k-cups tend to come in just about any flavor imaginable now. And not just coffee flavors. Your Keurig can brew apple ciders, teas, and so much more than just coffee, which means that there is something for everyone.

How to Keep Your Machine From Clogging

So, to keep your Keurig working, make sure that you follow the manufacturer instructions and clean the appliance from time to time.

In the least, you should clean the unit once every three to six months. And all you need for a quick and effective cleaning is some water, soap, and either white vinegar or a descaling solution that you can likely find in the cleaning aisle of your nearby grocery store.

Cleaning takes on average 30 minutes or less, and will ensure that you can continue to enjoy your coffee each morning, and won’t be faced with that half-cup experience ever again.

You can see this post for full instructions on cleaning your Keurig out and preventing future clogs.

Now a clogged needle is one thing but what if the problem is the lower needle? The exit needle?

What To Do If Your Keurig Bottom Needle Is Not Puncturing?

If your Keurig bottom needle is not puncturing this is sometimes the consequence of a clogged Keurig apparatus but more often than not caused by damage to the needle itself.

The most common instance in which users notice a clogged Keurig bottom needle (or exit needle) is when they are brewing coffee and the stream that flows from their machine appears to be thinner or impeded in some way. Frequently there will be an excess of coffee grind that makes it into your cup.

If you’ve noticed this problem occurring with your machine, you are in luck, for the process to clean a Keurig exit needle is simple.

Exit Needle Cleaning Process

Before you begin removing parts from your Keurig coffee maker to start the cleaning process, it is important to realize how sharp the exit needle is. This needle may be small, but one prick from its point can cause minor cuts and lacerations.

  1. To begin the exit needle cleaning process all we have to do is lift the Keurig handle to the lid.
  2. Next, we must remove the Keurig K-Cup holder assembly. This piece of the Keurig can be removed by pinching its left and right side. Slight jostling of the piece may be necessary during this step.
  3. Now, we must separate the Keurig funnel from the K-Cup holder assembly. To remove the funnel from the assembly, one must pull each piece away from each other until a faint “snap” reveals their disconnection. (Keurig users who are removing this piece for the first time may experience some difficulties)
  4. Next, one must insert a small pointed object into the needle compartment found on the bottom of the Keurig K-Cup Holder assembly. Many users find that a paperclip works best for this task. The paper clip should help to remove any debris from the needle compartment, however, if the debris in the compartment is extremely dry, this task may produced better results when performed under running water
  5. While completing this cleaning of the exit needle compartment and the K-Cup holder assembly, it may also prove to be wise to clean the Keurig’s puncture needle. This needle can be found under the Keurig lid. The same paper clip should complete this task as well.

Unfortunately if the exit needle isn’t clogged but rather bent then repair may be possible but replacement may be the best course of action.

In some cases an exit needle that is only slightly bent and not puncturing the bottom of the K-cup can simply be bent back but this weakness will probably fail eventually and a replacement of the part or machine will be necessary.

Most clogs can be remedied by cleaning and maintenance but damage is another story. Let’s look further into the diagnosis of a Keurig that is only partially clogged.

How To Tell If Your Keurig Is Partially Clogged

If your Keurig machine been shorting your cup, brewing intermittently, or not brewing fast then there might be a partial clog rather than a complete blockage?

If this does sound like your machine, don’t worry, most always these problems can be fixed quite easily just with the same cleaning procedures we’ve already discussed. In most cases these have nothing to do with the internal pumps that make a Keurig work.

Here is the standard checklist for clearing most partial clogs that happen in k-cup brewers, alternatively we have a full article here all on clearing the most common blockages in a Keurig machine.

Your Keurig Cleaning Checklist

  1. Clean and descale your Keurig
  2. Unclog your Keurig’s needles
  3. Remove internal Keurig clogs

When trying to target and remove a particular clog from your Keurig machine it is important to always complete each step on the checklist, for if your machine is already experiencing one clog it is highly probable that another has already begun to form.

Cleaning and Descaling Your Keurig

First, you need to fill your Keurig’s water chamber with a 50/50 mixture of water and white vinegar

Next, begin brewing with your Keurig (using a already used K-Cup over and over again if your Keurig requires a K-Cup to present before brewing).

Third, repeat steps one and two until you the machine’s water filter is empty.

Next, fill the empty water filter with cold water.

Finally, run this water through your machine until there is no vinegar left in your machine.

Unclogging your Keurig’s Needles

First, you need to open your Keurig’s lid and gather a paper clip.

Next, partially bend the paper clip until part of it is able to be inserted into the Keurig’s needle

Third, insert the paper clip into the holes surrounding your Keurig’s piercing needle

Finally, repeat these steps, though this time focus on your Keurig’s exit needle (you will have to disassemble your Keruig’s K-Cup holder from the needle compartment)

Removing Internal Keurig Clogs

Removing clogs from the inside of your Keurig machine is very simple. To begin, start by:

First, waiting for the water inside of your Keurig to cool (especially important if it was recently used).

Second, remove your Keurig’s water filter and set it off to the side.

Next, rotate your Keurig into and upside down position over your sink. The lid should be the closest part to the drain.

Finally, give your Keurig a few hefty taps on the bottom. This may sound like an elementary solution, but this treatment has been known to dislodge clogs within the Keurig’s mechanism.

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.

Related Articles

Do Travel Mugs Fit Under Keurig Coffee Makers
The Smallest K-Cup Coffee Makers
K-Slim vs K-Mini (Plus)
K-Mini vs K-Mini Plus
Difference Between K-Compact, K-Classic, and K-Select
Keurig K-Duo vs K-Duo Plus vs K-Duo Essentials
K-Cup Coffee Makers With Bold or Strong Setting
K-Cup Coffee Maker Reviews
What Does The Keurig Strong Button Do
Keurig vs Cuisinart
Best Biodegradable & Compostable K-Cup
Do Keurig Machines Make Good Coffee
K-Mini vs K-Compact
K-Express vs K-Mini
K-Slim vs K-Express vs K-Compact
Difference Between The K-Supreme Plus & K-Supreme Plus SMART
K-Elite vs K-Select
K-Elite vs K-Supreme
Keurig K-Café vs Nespresso Vertuo Plus
Keurig K-Supreme Plus SMART Review
K-Café vs K-Latté

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.

Wait, Wait...There's More!