How to Clean a Coffee Maker With Vinegar

cleaning a coffee maker

The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 2 hrs - 2 hrs, 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0-$5

A buildup of coffee residue and mineral deposits (scale) from water can affect the flavor of coffee and clog the components of your coffee maker. Over time, this can impair your brewer's efficient drip operation. You also might notice your coffee becoming increasingly bitter from the residue if you don't clean the brewing basket and other parts regularly. Plus, the moist environment of leftover coffee grounds can lead to the growth of yeast, mold, and bacteria.

Regular maintenance will help your coffee maker perform well and last longer. Fortunately, it's fairly simple to clean a coffee maker. Follow these steps for how to clean a coffee maker both with and without vinegar.

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tools for cleaning a coffee maker with vinegar
The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Soft cloths

Materials

  • Dish soap
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Paper filters (optional)

Instructions

How to Clean a Coffee Pot With Vinegar

Use this process to descale your coffee maker (remove the mineral buildup). Before you begin, check your coffee machine's manual to ensure that cleaning with vinegar is recommended by the manufacturer.

There are some brands that caution against the use of vinegar, usually because of their coffee maker's metal parts. In these cases, you can clean your coffee pot with soap per the second set of instructions.

  1. Remove and Clean the Parts

    Empty your coffee maker. Remove and clean the carafe, brew basket, and permanent filter (if you have one) with hot soapy water. Remove the water filter too, if applicable. Then, replace the empty filter basket and carafe.

    remove the parts of the coffee maker
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu 
  2. Mix Vinegar and Water

    Mix equal parts white vinegar and water. How much vinegar you use to clean a coffee maker depends on how much it takes to fill half the water reservoir.

    You can add vinegar directly into the machine followed by water if you're able to view the levels. Otherwise, mix the water and vinegar in your carafe or another container.

    make a vinegar solution to use in cleaning
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu 
  3. Fill the Reservoir and Add a Filter

    Fill your water reservoir with the vinegar and water mixture if you didn't mix it in there directly. Also, if you use paper filters, place a paper filter in the brew basket.

    fill the reservoir with the vinegar solution
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu
  4. Run Half of a Drip Cycle

    Run your coffee maker through half of a drip cycle, stopping it so the vinegar-water mixture can sit in the reservoir and the water channel. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes to an hour in both the reservoir and the carafe.

    run half of a drip cycle
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu
  5. Resume the Brew Cycle

    After 30 to 60 minutes, resume the brew cycle to finish running the vinegar-water mixture through your coffee maker. Then, discard the mixture from the carafe, and replace the paper filter (if using).

    pour out the filtered through cleaning solution
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu
  6. Run a Cycle With Water Twice

    The general practice is to run vinegar through your coffee maker once, followed by two rinse cycles with water. But if you have stubborn scale or residue, you can repeat the vinegar steps prior to the water rinses.

    Fill the water chamber with plain water, and run it through the system for a full brew cycle. Discard the water, and replace the paper filter (if using). Allow the coffee maker to cool down. Then, repeat a full brew cycle with water.

    run the next two cycles with water
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu 
  7. Clean the Carafe and Brew Basket

    Clean the removable filter basket, permanent filter (if you have one), and carafe with hot, soapy water. A change of water filter is also a good idea if your brewer has one. Finally, thoroughly wipe the exterior of your coffee maker with a damp soft cloth.

    rinse the outside of the carafe in warm soapy water
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu 

How to Clean a Coffee Maker Without Vinegar

If you can't or don't want to use vinegar to clean your coffee maker, you can still take steps to remove residue and scale. For this method, you'll use just water and dish soap.

tools to clean a coffee maker with soap and water
The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu 
  1. Remove the Brew Basket and Filter

    Remove the brew basket, and discard the grounds and any disposable paper filter. Also, remove the permanent filter if you have one.

    removing the brew basket from the coffee maker
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu
  2. Run Hot Water

    Partially fill your sink or a large container with hot water.

    run the sink with hot water
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu
  3. Add Dish Soap

    Add dish soap to the water. Ideally use a brand that is formulated for removing oil.

    add soap to the warm water in the sink
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu
  4. Clean the Brew Basket and Permanent Filter

    Place the brew basket and permanent filter (if you have one) into the hot, soapy water. Wash thoroughly with a soft cloth or sponge to remove any coffee grounds and oily residue.

    remove the brew basket from the machine and place it in warm soapy water
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu
  5. Clean the Carafe

    Discard any remaining coffee, and rinse the carafe in warm water. Add a little of the soapy water, and thoroughly clean the carafe with a soft cloth or sponge.

    use a sponge to clean the pitcher
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu
  6. Rinse With Warm Water

    Rinse the brew basket, permanent filter, and carafe with warm water. Wipe with a dry cloth, and set them on a drying rack.

    set the rinsed coffee maker parts aside to dry
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu
  7. Wipe Down the Coffee Maker

    Use the soft cloth dipped in the soapy water to wipe down the inner lid, outer lid, and brewing area of the coffee maker to remove any residue. Then, dampen a cloth in fresh water to wipe away any soap residue.

    pat dry the coffee maker
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu
  8. Reassemble the Coffee Maker

    When the parts are dry, put your coffee maker back together.

    reassemble the coffee maker once dry
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

How Often to Clean a Coffee Pot

You should clean your coffee maker after every use, removing the grounds and cleaning the brew basket, lid, and carafe. A deeper cleaning to remove mineral deposits should be done at least every three months.

If your home has hard water (water with heavy mineral content), or if you tend to fill the water reservoir of your coffee maker from a rinsed carafe (not washed), the residue might build up more quickly. In this case, a monthly cleaning is recommended.

Some coffee makers have an audible or visible cleaning signal, and that usually precedes a forced downtime. You can avoid the downtime by being proactive with maintenance. Other brewers have a cleaning cycle setup, which is usually detailed in the manual. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning.

Tips to Keep Your Coffee Maker Cleaner Longer

  • Use demineralized water when brewing coffee.
  • If you are using the carafe to fill the water reservoir, do so only if you clean the carafe with hot, soapy water after each use.
  • Don't leave wet, used grounds in the coffee maker for any length of time.

Tip

K-cup brewers, such as Keurig machines, also will need a detailed cleaning to remove coffee residue from the impact needle and brewer. Always follow the manufacturer's detailed instructions. In general, you can use dish soap and white vinegar to clean these machines. Plan on weekly minor cleanings, a water filter cartridge cleaning every other month, and a thorough descaling at least every three months.