Homeowner Helpers: Why you need to clean your coffee maker

Rinsing out the carafe or wiping down the exterior of your Keurig won’t cut it: you really need to clean your coffee maker regularly. Here’s why.

Coffee machines can be a hot bed of germs and gunk. If you think about it, it makes sense: there’s moisture, a warm environment and an item that doesn’t get cleaned very often — all three of which encourage growth of bacteria, germs and even mould. In fact, an analysis by the National Sanitation Foundation found that coffee reservoirs were in the top 10 of the germiest places in the home.

The foundation recommends washing removable parts such as filter baskets and your carafe after each use. Use the dishwasher, if the items are dishwasher-safe, or by hand in hot, soapy water. It also suggests wiping outer surfaces of your unit every day with a clean, damp cloth.


Those are easy enough to do. What we often neglect is the not so easy — the internal components. These should be cleaned every 40 to 60 brew cycles, or at least once a month.

The best way to clean your machine without damaging it is to follow the instructions in your owner’s manual, but often a simple and eco-friendly option involves using white vinegar, which will both sanitize and decalcify your machine, according to the Good Housekeeping Research Institute.

why you need to clean your coffee machine drip coffee makerDrip machines


Mix equal parts water and vinegar in your reservoir, add a paper filter to your basket and brew. Don’t forget to place your carafe underneath. For a deeper clean, stop brewing hallway through, let the machine sit for at least half an hour and resume.

Once you’ve “brewed” a full pot, put it through another brew cycle (with a fresh filter) using water only. You may need to do this more than once.

Inside the chamber, use a grout brush or old (and clean) toothbrush to get to hard-to-reach spots.


This video from Consumer Reports also shows how to get tough stains out of your carafe:


Single-use machines


Keurigs and other similar single-brew coffee makers can lull you into thinking you don’t have to be proactive about cleaning them. After all, they have a prompt when they need to be de-scaled, right?

why you need to clean your coffee machineBut just like a drip machine, a single-use one needs regular cleaning, too, especially if it gets a lot of use.

And the process for cleaning them is similar to a drip machine. You’ll want to take off all parts that can be removed, like the reservoir and lid, mug stand, coffee pod holder and drip tray and wash them all in warm, soapy water.


Clean all exterior surfaces of the machine itself with a clean, damp cloth and don’t forget the pod holder area as well.

Fill the reservoir half with vinegar and half with water and brew until it’s empty. Of course, you won’t want to insert a pod while you’re doing this. Then repeat the process with water only.

If you have a Keurig, it’s worth noting that if you use vinegar rather than their de-scaler solution, you may have an issue should you ever need to call the warranty department. But whichever option you choose, it’s good to get in the habit of tackling this chore regularly; the easiest way to remember is to pick a day of the month, like the first Saturday, and clean your machine whether it tells you it’s time to de-scale or not.


The best part? A clean machine will mean a better tasting cup of Joe.

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