How to Clean a Coffee Maker

We recommend you clean yours out at least once a month!
Total time: 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!