Keurig Coffee Taste Bad Or Like Plastic, Vinegar? How To Make It Better

Mike C
Written By Mike C

I've been writing about coffee and espresso machines for 3 years. My goal is to provide you with helpful content that you can trust based on my own personal experiences, information from manufacturers, and tips and tricks I've gathered from other coffee and espresso machine users.

I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

How To Make Keurig Coffee Taste Better

We all have our favorite go to K-cups that we depend on to energize us in the morning. But what happens if one day your Keurig coffee starts to taste “off”, maybe like plastic, vinegar, bitter, burnt or just plain bad? There are a few possible reasons why this may be happening to you. Keep reading to learn what you can do to fix them and how to care for your brewer properly to reduce the chance of this happening again.

Keurig Coffee Tastes Like Plastic

If your Keurig is new, the plastic taste could be a result of what is known as outgassing. After a machine is manufactured, it is wrapped and protected with packing material. While it sits in the box on the shelf at a store or in a warehouse, the plastic parts in your machine begin to release gases that get trapped inside the packaging. When you go to use your machine, these gases can mix with the water and cause a plastic taste in your cup of coffee.

To get rid of the plastic taste in a new Keurig coffee maker, you should run some cleaning cycles and then descale using an odorless solution made by Keurig. For the cleaning cycle, it is best to use a rinse pod. Alternatively, just run a hot water cycle by brewing without a K-cup in the chamber. Repeat this a few times.

If you’ve had your machine for awhile, it is possible that what you are tasting is the plastic from the K-cups you’ve been brewing. These pods do come in contact with very hot water. You may want to consider buying a reusable K-cup made of stainless steel and using your own coffee grinds. You’ll also want to run the hot water cleaning cycle and descaling cycle before using the reusable pod for the first time.

Keurig Coffee Tastes Like Vinegar

Have you run vinegar through your machine to try to clean it? If so, there is likely vinegar residue in your machine that is ending up in your cup of coffee. This is especially likely to happen if you did not dilute the vinegar with water first.

Keurig warns that you should not descale with vinegar. White vinegar has 5-8% acetic acid. In addition to making your coffee taste bad, vinegar can wear down metal parts inside your Keurig and cause leaks. As a result, using a DIY solution with vinegar can also void the warranty on your coffee maker. The best way to clean is with a Keurig solution that contains safer types of acids that won’t cause damage.

To get rid of the vinegar taste, try running some cleaning cycles. Ideally you would use a rinse pod. If you don’t have those handy, just run a hot water cycle by brewing without a K-cup in the chamber. Repeat this a few times. If the vinegar taste remains, run one or two descaling cycles using the solution made by Keurig.

Keurig Coffee Suddenly Tastes Burnt, Bitter or Bad

A common mistake that can lead to burnt, bitter or bad tasting coffee is over brewing a K-cup. Never use a K-cup twice. Also, if you like to make medium or large cups, it is best to use a dark or medium roast pod. If you like lighter roasts but you want a large cup, you should brew two pods into your mug. You also don’t want to use any expired K-cups that have a loose or punctured foil seal.

It is important that you try to remember to eject the used K-cup right away when you are done making your coffee. If you leave the used pod in the brewing chamber, used coffee grinds can end up building up inside it around the exit and entrance needles. Then, when you go to brew pods in the future, those used grounds will get mixed in and maybe even end up in your cup. This will give your Keurig coffee that burnt, bitter or bad taste.

First you will want to follow the steps below to clean the pod holder and needles. Then, you will want to follow these instructions to descale your machine using the solution made by Keurig.

How To Make Keurig Coffee Taste Better With Regular Care


Be sure to fill your water tank with fresh drinking water daily. Avoid using distilled water as it lacks minerals that help your coffee taste better. Instead, use tap water, filtered water or bottled water.

If you know your tap water is “hard” (meaning high in minerals), then a filter will be important for helping you maintain the life of your coffee machine. You will also want to descale more often. If you are not sure about the level of minerals in your water, then you can always get a low-cost water testing kit.

Replace Water Filter

keurig water filter change kit for better coffee taste

Most Keurig coffee brewers have a charcoal water filter. A charcoal filter will help remove chlorine, calcium and other impurities from your water. Without one, these minerals can build up in your machine more quickly. This can impact the taste of your coffee.

Water filters should be replaced every two months or 60 tank refills. It’s best to set a reminder for 60 days once you swapped yours. However, if you use your machine multiple times a day, you may want to consider a more frequent replacement schedule. Learn how to change Keurig water filters.

Keurig-branded water filters usually only cost between $1.50 and $3.50 per cartridge. Plus, there are many starter kit options to choose from. A two pack will last you four months, a six pack will last for one year, and a 12 pack will last for two years.

Use Rinse Pods

keurig rinse pods for better coffee taste

Over time, residue and oil from coffee grinds can build up in your coffee maker. A Keurig rinse pod is the easiest way to clean your K-cup pod holder. These pods contain a special formula that can rinse away the leftover coffee residue and oils. Keeping your pod holder clean will give you a better tasting cup of coffee.

Keurig advises using a rinse pod once a week. However, if you often use your brewer to make hot chocolate, tea or a variety of flavored coffees, you may want to use them more often. Learn how to use Keurig rinse pods.

Clean Pod Holder And Needles

To prevent any coffee ground buildup in your machine, it is important that you regularly clean the pod holder and needles inside your machine that pierce the K-cups so water can flow through. Depending on how often you use your machine, you may want to do this weekly or monthly.

There are entrance and exit needles at the top and bottom of the pod holder. These are sharp so please use caution while cleaning and be careful. If you have a Keurig 2.0, you can use the orange cleaning tool that came with your machine. Otherwise, use the paper clip method:

  1. Straighten one end of a paper clip.
  2. Turn off the brewer and unplug it and remove the water reservoir.
  3. Grab the sides of the pod holder and remove it from the brewer by gently pushing up from the bottom and pulling away.
  4. Remove the funnel from the pod holder by pulling on the sides until it detaches. If this is your first time removing it, you may need to apply some extra force.
  5. Insert the straight end of the paper clip into the tube at the bottom of the pod holder. Then move it around in a circle a few times. Rinse the pod holder with water and set it aside.
  6. Open the handle and look underneath to see the two holes of the top entrance needle. Insert the paper clip into each and move it around to clean.
  7. Reassemble the funnel and put the pod holder back in place.
  8. Take a look elsewhere inside the unit’s brewing chamber. If you see coffee grinds anywhere, take a soft toothbrush or lightly dampened cloth and try to remove them.
How To Clean Keurig Needles With A Paper Clip


Even if you are using a water filter, you should descale every 3 to 6 months. Many Keurig 2.0 models will let you know that it’s time to clean by displaying a message. If your tap has a higher level of minerals (known as “hard water“), then you should consider cleaning your Keurig more often. Not sure? Get a water testing kit.

Keurig makes its own descaling solution that works with all models. The safe formula has no odor and acts fast to remove mineral build up with gentle citric acid. Using this solution won’t cause any harm to your brewer.

You can buy the solution alone or as part of a bundle with rinse pods and filters that will also help you keep your machine clean. If you have the K-Duo model, be sure to check out this K-Duo cleaning bundle.

Once you have the descaling solution, follow these instructions to descale your Keurig.

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