Your coffee maker is full of bacteria, mineral deposits, and mold…
And yet you continue to make coffee in it every day without questioning it.
Think about it – would you use the same coffee cup day in and day out for months or years on end without scrubbing it down with soap every now and then?
No, I don’t think anyone would.
Trouble is though that although you may scrub down the filter basket and coffee carafe all the time the actual water lines running from the reservoir, over the heating element, and through the machine to the rain spout never dry out.
They never get scrubbed. They are never disinfected, and they continually grow mineral deposits that limit the machines ability to bring water up to the correct temperature.
Sure you run a bit of vinegar through the machine from time to time but does that really do any good?
Do you realize just how much that vinegar is improving the situation?
Unless you are doing it the right way (which is unlikely) your cleaning is barely changing things at all.
Why Vinegar Works & Why it’s Not Working in Your Coffee Maker
Here’s the simple truth, the acetic acid levels in vinegar (normally 5-6%) will generally kill 99% of bacteria when applied for roughly 10 minutes but this process won’t work nearly as well if you are unable to scrub the vinegar into the infected surfaces.
Many types of bacteria have “a slimy matrix around them” that must be scrubbed off before the disinfecting properties of the acid to start the killing. Source
On a countertop this is possible but in the plastic tubing contained inside your coffee maker this is not possible.
Also, how many coffee makers take 10 minutes to cycle?
Also, do you water down your vinegar when you cycle it through the system? Most people do taking a 5% acid solution and watering it down to a 1-2% solution. This would take even longer to achieve a large bacterial kill rate.
What about mold or mineral deposits?
According to people smarter than me typical vinegar applications can kill roughly 82% of all “types” of mold spores after a full hour of surface contact. Source
That means that even if you ran vinegar through your coffee maker for a full hour straight you could still theoretically have mold in your system because vinegar doesn’t even kill 18% of all mold species.
And for mineral deposits like hard water or calcium buildup it can take a good thirty minutes of soaking plus scrubbing with a wire brush to break up thin layers of mineral deposits… since you can’t scrub the inner tubes or heating elements of your coffee maker just imagine how long it might take!
Running a cycle of vinegar through your coffee maker every now and then isn’t getting the job done!
Do this instead.
If you don’t clean out your coffee maker very often then you may need to just buy another or plan on going through a lot of vinegar over the course of a few days.
1. You have to commit to cycling your coffee maker will full strength vinegar (5-6%) to get the cleaning job done and you have to pause the brew cycle for about an hour each time you run a cycle. When you pause the brew cycle all of the water lines will be full of vinegar meaning all bacteria, mold, fungus, and mineral deposits are in constant contact with the vinegar.
2. After pausing the cycle for a an hour then flush the system with a full reservoir or two of plain water to flush out any minerals that may have flaked off during the vinegar soaking.
3. I would then recommend cycling full strength vinegar with hour long pauses through the machine a few more times a day for the next few days followed by a couple rinse cycles of plain water.
4. Just keep repeating until your vinegar and rinse cycles start looking like they have no physical debris floating around in them.
Basically every long soak of vinegar will kill more bacteria and breakup and/or dissolve more calcium leaving bits of those minerals floating free in the water.
Even after you perform this long cleaning process 8-10 times you still may have a good deal of mineral buildup in your coffee maker and you may still have some mold left inside that will never be killed by vinegar.
After doing a bunch of exceptionally thorough vinegar cleanings you should then mix together a very light mixture of hot water to baking soda which is bale to kill different mold species than vinegar alone.
You will not want to use more than a teaspoon of baking soda per carafe of water because the baking soda will need to fully dissolve into the water so as to not further clog up your coffee maker water lines.
In regular household surface cleaning baking soda is scrubbed to fully kill and remove mold, mildew, and bacteria but you can’t do that in a coffee make so you will still have to run multiple rinsing cycles to ensure all of the dissolved baking soda is flushed from your system.
Lastly, You Gotta Do This Often!!
Most people only clean their coffee maker out every couple months or so… or only when their machine gives them a notification that it needs to be descaled.
In real life however it is way harder to revive and clean out a coffee maker that has gone this far into the abyss.
Running full batches of vinegar through your machine once or twice a week will go a long way to keeping your coffee sanitary and tasting it’s best.
We are also a huge proponent of using dedicated coffee maker cleaners and descalers to supplement natural cleaning agents like vinegar and baking soda.
See this page to read our thoughts on some of the most popular coffee maker cleaners on the market today:
They probably don’t need to be used weekly but they are good to have around for occasional use.