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The Best Way To Clean A Drip Coffee Maker & Coffee Pot

cuisinart drip coffee maker

Your coffee machine is an important part of your morning ritual. Make sure you never have to go a morning without a cup of joe by regularly cleaning your brewer to keep it working at its best. Some parts need to be cleaned daily or weekly, while deeper cleaning for other parts is needed less often. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about how to clean a coffee maker with or without vinegar to get rid of bacteria and mold.

If you have a machine from one of these brands, click the relevant link for more specific steps on how to deep clean your machine:

Daily Cleaning For Your Coffee Maker

Always unplug the machine from the wall outlet before cleaning. Never submerge the machine in water. Never use an abrasive tool like steel wool.

Try to leave the brewer lid open when not in use for more air circulation. This will slow bacteria growth. Discard any used grinds when you are done using it for the day. If you use a paper filter, simply throw it away. If your machine has a permanent filter, dump the grinds in the trash and rinse it with soapy hot water to kill bacteria and mold. Let it air dry. Do the same with any other removable parts your brewer may have, like a brew basket, drip tray, etc.

Wipe the area around where the coffee dispenses with a soft, damp towel.

If your machine has a water tank, empty it at the end of each day. Then fill the water reservoir with fresh water.

Glass Coffee Pot Cleaning

If you have a glass coffee pot, wash it after every use with a sponge or brush and mild soap. A curved pot cleaning tool is a great way to never miss a spot. You can also put a glass pot in the top rack of the dishwasher. If your pot has a lid, be sure to separate it from the carafe.

Stainless Steel Thermal Coffee Pot Cleaning

If you have a stainless steel pot, you need to use a bit more caution while cleaning. Never use an abrasive sponge or metal tool to clean the carafe. These will scratch the steel. Only use a gentle sponge or brush and mild soap to wash by hand after every use.

Over time you may notice coffee stains forming inside the thermal carafe. I suggest you check your user manual for removal steps specific to your machine. The general steps may go as follows:

  1. Put a filter in the brew funnel and add two teaspoons of the powdered dish detergent.
  2. Pour one pot full of water into the coffee maker.
  3. Place the carafe under the funnel and close the lid.
  4. Run a brew cycle. When it ends, remove the funnel and throw away the filter.
  5. Rinse the funnel thoroughly with clean water.
  6. Let the water with detergent sit in the carafe for at least 15 minutes.
  7. When the time has passed, use a soft brush to wash the carafe’s inner and outer rim.
  8. Use a soft cloth, gentle soap and warm water to wash the carafe pour lip and lid.
  9. Pour out the contents of the pot. Rinse the pot and lid well with fresh water.

Weekly Coffee Maker Cleaning

Wipe down the outside of your machine using a soft towel and water or a gentle cleaning spray. This is a good way to remove any fingerprints or dust and debris.

If your coffee maker has a water tank, you should be sure to wash it every week. A public health group called NSF International did a study in which 50% of the coffee machine water tanks they sampled had mold or yeast growing. Yuck! Most owners were unaware that this was happening.

Remove any water filter holder and cartridge if your model has one. Use warm, soapy water and a gentle sponge to wash the water tank. Let it air dry, then add back the filter and refill with fresh water.

Replace Water Filters Every 2 Months

Some machines have a charcoal water filter in the water tank. The filter helps remove mineral deposits and other impurities from the water used to brew your coffee. You should replace the filter every 2 months or every after using 60 full water tanks.

Changing the filter at the suggested time or more often is the best thing you can do to keep your coffee tasting as good as it did on day one. Your machine will probably still brew without one. However, over time the lack of one can lead to the buildup of minerals in your machine. As a result, you’ll need to descale more often than owners who do use water filters.

Descaling A Coffee Maker

The water used to brew coffee causes limescale buildup inside your machine. While not toxic, this can impact the brewer’s water flow, temperature and performance. It can even affect the taste of your drink. Descaling, also known as deliming or decalcifying, is the name of the deep cleaning process that removes these minerals. You need to do this deep cleanse in addition to the basic cleaning above.

How Often To Descale Coffee Maker?

A good rule of thumb is that a you should descale every 2 or 3 months. This is true if you are using filtered water, bottled water or tap water with a low to normal mineral count. Regular descaling will extend the life of your coffee maker.

You should descale monthly if your tap has “hard water,” meaning it contains higher level of minerals. This will cause the limescale to buildup inside your machine even faster. If you are not sure about the level of minerals in your water, get a low-cost water testing kit.

If you start to have any of these issues, you will also want to descale your coffee maker ASAP:

  • brew speed is too slow
  • the volume brewed is less than you expect
  • coffee does not come out
  • machine makes a rumbling noise

Can You Descale A Coffee Maker With Vinegar or Baking Soda?

If you look in your user manual, you may see that the descaling instructions use vinegar. Some will even say to use a cup of baking soda to clean. If you have some around and you are comfortable with that, go for it. Follow the steps below. Many manufacturers advise against using vinegar. White vinegar contains 5-8% acetic acid and apple cider vinegar has 5-6%. This type of acid can wear down metal and cause leaks. Vinegar is also less effective than other cleaners at removing oils left by used coffee beans. Plus, it may leave a taste or odor which may make your drink unpleasant. That isn’t how I like my coffee to taste…

Instead, I think the best way how to clean a coffee maker without vinegar is with one of the below commercial solutions. They have safe and effective acids that are odorless and won’t impact the taste of your drink.

Coffee Maker Descaling Solutions

Impresa Descaler

Impresa Descaler - how to clean a coffee maker

The Impresa descaler is a top selling coffee machine cleaner. It has citric and sulfamic acids. Both of these are gentle on metal. Each pack contains two bottles. Each bottle can be used twice.

Essential Values Descaler & Cleaner

Essential Values Descaler - how to clean a coffee maker

The Essential Values cleaning solution has a citric acid that is both odorless and powerful. Each bottle is good for two uses. A two pack will provide four doses. That’s a year supply if you descale every three months. 

How To Descale A Coffee Maker With A Descaling Solution

Once you have your solution, follow these simple steps:

  1. If your machine has a filter holder in the water tank, remove it.
  2. Prepare the solution following the steps on the descaler packaging. It will tell you how much solution and how many cups of water to add to the tank.
  3. Make sure there are no grinds in the basket. Insert a filter.
  4. Place the pot under the outlet. Begin a brew cycle as you normally would.
  5. When half of the solution has been brewed into the pot, turn the unit off. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes. This will give the solution time to clear mineral buildup from the inside.
  6. Turn the unit on again and brew the remaining solution into the pot.
  7. When done, discard the contents of the pot. Rinse it thoroughly.
  8. Put a new filter into the machine. Add a pot full of fresh water only to the brewer.
  9. Brew all of the water through to rinse away any descaler residue. You may want to repeat this rinse cycle a total of two times.

How To Clean A Coffee Maker With Vinegar

  1. If your machine has a filter holder in the water tank, remove it.
  2. Add equal parts (50 / 50) white vinegar and water to the water tank. Other DIY recipes call for one cup of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and the rest of the tank filled with water.
  3. Make sure there are no grinds in the basket. Insert a filter.
  4. Place the pot under the outlet. Begin a brew cycle as you normally would.
  5. When half of the vinegar-water solution has been brewed into the pot, turn the unit off. Let it sit for at least half an hour.
  6. Turn the unit on again and brew the remaining vinegar-water solution into the pot.
  7. When done, discard the liquid in pot. Rinse it thoroughly with warm soapy water.
  8. Put in a new filter. Add a pot full of clean water only to the brewer.
  9. Brew all of the water through to rinse away any vinegar and odor. Repeat this at least two or three times until the vinegar smell is gone.

If you have a single serve pod coffee maker, see my specific guides on how to descale a Keurig, Nespresso Vertuo or Nespresso Original.

Your coffee maker should stay in great shape if you follow all of these steps. If you also drink tea, check out my guide on how to descale a tea kettle.

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