How to Clean a Coffee Maker

We recommend you clean yours out at least once a month!
Michael Michael (175)
30 minutes

As I wrote my guide on setting the delay on a Mr. Coffee maker, I noticed that my coffee maker could really use a good cleaning. It was rather embarrassing!

Most coffee maker manufacturers recommend you thoroughly clean and descale your coffee maker at least once a month. Hopefully, you're doing light cleaning of your coffee maker more often, but try to make the "big clean" a habit. Write it down. Set a reminder. Whatever you have to do!

Keeping your coffee maker clean helps to keep your coffee tasting top-notch. When we allow the coffee grounds or other residues to build up, it affects the taste - often making the coffee taste more bitter and stale. It also becomes a breeding ground for bacteria that begin to build new civilizations in your coffee maker. Who wants that in their coffee?!

And descaling the coffee maker increases the overall lifespan of the coffee maker. Think of it like exercise and a healthy diet for your coffee maker. Over time, the minerals in your water (all water has them) will accumulate on the elements inside your coffee maker, such as your heating element. Eventually, this will cause your coffee maker to malfunction or break entirely. Descaling with vinegar helps to remove those mineral deposits and save the life of your coffee maker.

You'll notice that my coffee maker is a Mr. Coffee Optimal Brew Maker - which I love and recommend - but I've tailored this guide to work with just about any drip coffee maker. (Cleaning will be different for pour-over makers or french presses obviously, but you probably don't need a guide for those!)

Let's get to cleaning that coffee maker!

Mr. Coffee Coffee MakerMr. Coffee Coffee Maker ×1
Drying RackDrying Rack ×1
Bottle BrushBottle Brush ×1
SpongeSponge ×1
White Distilled VinegarWhite Distilled Vinegar ×1
Paper TowelsPaper Towels ×1
Dish SoapDish Soap ×1

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Coffee Maker Parts Removed

Depending on the kind of coffee maker you have, these part may include:

  • Carafe (glass or steel)
  • Filter basket
  • Water reservoir
  • Lid
  • Drip tray

Don't forget to clean any coffee accessories you might have too!

Coffee maker parts with soap and sponge

Use only a mild dish soap to clean the parts of your coffee maker. Harsh dish soaps with lots of chemicals have a tendency to leave a film on everything, and we don't want to be ingesting that with our coffee.

To clean the carafe and the water reservoir, scrub with a bottle brush. If you have build-up that's hard to remove on the bottom of your carafe, then let it soak in a mixture of white vinegar and water for a few hours.

Coffee Maker Parts in Dish Rack

Let your washed coffee maker parts dry off in a drying rack or use a towel to dry them.

Coffee maker with sponge and paper towel

Unplug your coffee maker for this step.

Using your mild dish soap, a sponge, and some paper towels wipe down the outside of your coffee maker to have it looking like new.

Coffee reservoir with White Vinegar

Using one-part vinegar to one-part water, fill your water reservoir until nearly full.

If you don't have a removable water reservoir, then you'll measure this in your carafe and pour it into your reservoir.

Coffee Maker Clean

Put your coffee maker back together, and make sure that your reservoir is full of your vinegar/water mixture.

Clean button on Coffee Maker

Now you'll want to run the vinegar/water mixture through your coffee maker to descale it. If your coffee maker does not have a "Clean" function like mine, then you can simply brew as you would coffee.

  • Press "Clean" or "Brew."

If you're using a "Clean" function, then this could take up to one hour.

If you're using "Brew":

  • Let mixture run for a few minutes.
  • Unplug coffee maker to allow the mixture to sit inside for a while.
  • Let sit for a half-hour.
  • Turn back on to finish brewing.
Coffee Carafe dumping water

Once you've let it run through the "Clean" cycle or brewed twice, dump out the mixture in the drain.

water reservoir filled with water

Fill your water reservoir with water and put it back in your coffee maker. If your water reservoir isn't removable, then use your carafe to fill it.

Coffee Maker Brewing

Run your coffee maker's brew cycle to let the water run through and clean out the vinegar.

Repeat steps 10 and 11 at least one more time - or until you don't smell vinegar in the brewed water anymore.

And you're done and ready to brew some actual coffee! If you need to clean more than just your coffee maker, check out this guide on how to make doing the dishes easier.

Our guide makes picking the perfect espresso machine for any occasion a breeze!
Odin Odin (180)

We love good coffee of all kinds, but there’s something extra special about the way a fresh-pulled shot of espresso goes down… that rich ambrosia scent, that nutty roasted goodness filling the morning air. It’s pure bean magic. Recreating that coffee shop magic at home has become a necessity for anyone working from home. Still, there’s a conflicting mess of information out there about which espresso machine is “the best.” Fifteen unique espresso machines for fifteen unique situations! We wanted to do something a little different and find just the right espresso machines for various homes and budgets. And so, here is the fruit of our passion for the high-tech world of the best espresso, our gift to all you fellow bean-lovers desperate for the perfect home pull—the fifteen unique espresso machines for fifteen unique situations. True Espresso Machines vs. Pods Note that all of the machines listed here are true espresso machines. We don’t like using pods because of the environmental downsides and the hassle, and we generally don’t think the taste is as good as a properly pulled shot (even from a cheaper espresso machine!). There are many faux espresso machines on the market, too, which fail to provide the 15 bars of pressure needed to pull a true espresso. We include a couple of stovetop espresso makers because of their usefulness and novelty status, but be aware that you’re not getting a “true” espresso with anything that can’t produce a high level of pressure. What is espresso? True espresso has a rich tiger-striped crema on the top due to the high-pressure method of making the espresso. Bars of pressure Espresso is an Italian coffee brewing method that has gained international recognition as a staple for coffee aficionados and average drinkers alike. Espresso is made by forcing a small amount of near-boiling water through coffee grounds at a minimum of 9 bars of pressure (one “bar” is a measurement of pressure which is equal to the atmospheric pressure at sea level, so “9 bars” is nine times the pressure of the atmosphere at sea level). Crema top True espresso also has a rich tiger-striped crema on the top due to the high-pressure method of making the espresso. The heat and pressure strip essential oils from the coffee grounds, and the aeration created by this process helps produce the foam. Many machines are equipped with a portafilter that increases this aeration effect and thereby creating the effect of a fuller crema. However, it must be noted that the use of a portafilter doesn’t create a true crema — one that is filled with the oils from the coffee beans — it only creates the appearance of one through pressure and aeration. Espresso beans and pressure The best way to get crema from an espresso machine is to select fresh beans from a region known for its espresso bean (which have a high oil content), ensure that the pressure and temperature are right, grind the beans fresh and finely, and tamp the espresso grounds down with around 30lbs of pressure, so the water is passed through them at the right speed. Repair, warranties, and machine lifespan Espresso machines work because they generate a lot of heat and pressure. This is great for your morning espresso but plays havoc with all but the most sturdily-built machines. Sometimes, defects in build quality that might not be otherwise apparent will end up emerging after a few uses due to that pressure and heat — plastic parts, especially, are vulnerable to this. It’s vital to have a warranty in place to protect your investment! Why do espresso machines break? One of the many reasons why people become frustrated when buying an espresso machine, only to have it fail around six months in, is because they expect it to continue functioning without any maintenance. because of the high pressure and heat that these devices operate under, certain types of maintenance are absolutely required. A build-up of minerals on the inside of the espresso machine’s pipes will, for instance, increase the pressure of the water passing through those pipes (a smaller diameter within the pipe equals greater pressure), and over time this added pressure can exceed the limits of what certain parts of the machine can handle. How long do espresso machines last? Carefully cared for, an espresso machine should last years — even the cheapest espresso machines should last two years before needing a major servicing. Eventually, of course, certain interior elements like rubber hoses or gaskets will also need to be replaced — but this can usually be done by any capable DIYer, or by a local appliance repairman, or even a volunteer from a local Maker Space. Our recommendation: extended appliance warranty All of this said, we strongly recommend getting an extended appliance warranty on any expensive piece of machinery — on top of the at least one year of comprehensive warranty for parts and labor that any reputable company will provide. There’s always the chance when dealing with mass-produced machinery that your device has a random defect. In this case, it’s vital to have a warranty in place to protect your investment. In the end, with proper maintenance and care, however, a good espresso machine will last years and provide you with multiple daily pulls of crema-topped goodness.