How to Clean Coffee Makers

Because of the amount of organic material that courses through the inside of your coffee maker, it’s important to clean it regularly and thoroughly. Cleaning your coffee maker correctly not only decreases health concerns, but keeps your cups of Joe tasting their best. Whether you use a commercial product or an off-the-shelf grocery item, you can keep your java tasty and safe with a few, simple steps.

Coffee Maker Components

Rather than putting your coffee maker in the dishwasher or sink all at once — which you may not be able to do, based on its electronics — separate your cleaning task into three steps: rinse the internal workings by running a cleaning agent through it; hand wash the pot and other removable components; and scrub the exterior base.

Pre-Clean the Coffee Maker

You won’t need to completely scrub the pot or other components to remove all of the cosmetic discoloration first — you’ll need to run liquid through the maker at least twice, and won’t need to remove unsightly stains for this. Soak the pot, cup, filter, reservoir or any other detachable parts to remove any obvious debris. You can soak these items in hot water, soap or vinegar to loosen any coffee or water minerals that might come free during your cleaning run. Rinse the components thoroughly with water and use a paper towel to wipe and rinse the parts. Check the paper towel to see if it wipes clean. If the paper towels does not pick up significant amounts of obvious dirt, reassemble the coffee maker.

Cleaning the Inside of a Coffee Maker

To get at the inside of the coffee maker, make a pot of “cleaner” using a commercial product or vinegar. White vinegar is a popular choice for cleaning coffee pots because it’s a natural acidic, non-toxic, non-chemical cleaner that breaks down minerals and other residue from water, as well as any coffee. Use a solution of one part vinegar and two parts water; use more or less vinegar depending on how dirty the maker is. Run the cycle as you normally would make a pot of coffee, with a clean filter.

After you have made one pot, wait five to 10 minutes and run the vinegar through a second time. The longer you wait, the more time the vinegar has time to work on breaking down deposits. Don’t let the pot completely cool or remaining debris will harden. During this waiting period remove the filter and use a soft sponge or brush to loosen debris. Rinse thoroughly and replace. For your second cleaning, you can use the same water/vinegar ratio or reduce the amount of vinegar. Rinse the pot thoroughly before you refill it to remove any debris loosened by the first cleaning.

After you have cleaned the coffee pot with this method twice, rinse the pot, filter and cup one more time and run the cycle with water. If you have distilled, de-ionized or filtered water, those will provide a better cleaning than tap water, depending on your municipality’s water or whether or not you have a water softener.

If you feel the vinegar solution or commercial cleaner adequately cleaned the maker after one cycle, run two more cycles using water only. Use a “sniff test” to gauge the maker’s cleanliness after each cycle.

Cleaning the Pot, Reservoir and Cup

Once you’ve completed cleaning the machine twice and rinsing it once, turn it off. Remove the pot, filter, water reservoir and cup, depending on what type of coffee maker you have, and let them cool enough so you can work with them without burning your yourself. Don’t let them completely dry to prevent any debris from sticking to the pot.

Washing and soaking these parts will be easy. Remove them it from the coffee maker and soak in hot, soapy water to remove any light soils. Use a sponge or soft brush to work the rim, spout and interior of the items. Use a more abrasive item to clean any discoloration from the outside of the pot, especially the bottom, and the handle. To clean the cup and reservoir, follow the same procedure you used to clean the pot, but add a more targeted cleaning with a toothbrush or other item that lets you get into small areas.

Cleaning the Base

To clean the base, unplug it and let it cool. When it’s not hot to the touch, wipe it down with a commercial cleaner or more vinegar. Let it stand for five to 10 minutes so baked on debris can loosen. Use an abrasive sponge, tooth brush or other tool to remove debris and to lighten any discoloration. Rinse with a damp sponge. If you used vinegar for the initial wipedown, clean it with soapy water, then rinse with clean water.