How to Clean a Drip Coffee Maker – Steps for Exceptional Coffee

A clean coffee maker is essential for brewing exceptional coffee. Over time, oils, minerals, and residue build up inside your drip coffee machine, affecting taste and quality. Cleaning your coffee maker regularly removes these deposits, keeps your machine working properly, and improves the flavor of your coffee.

With simple cleaning steps and regular maintenance, your morning cup of joe can taste fresh and robust cup after cup. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the entire drip coffee maker cleaning process from start to finish.

Why You Should Clean Your Drip Coffee Maker

Cleaning your drip coffee maker regularly is important for several reasons:

Enhances Coffee Flavor

Over time, rancid coffee oils and mineral deposits from water can build up within the machine. This residue imparts staleness, bitterness, and other off-flavors to your coffee. Thorough cleaning removes these deposits so your coffee tastes fresh and robust.

Removes Bacteria and Mold

The warm, damp environment inside coffee makers promotes the growth of bacteria, mold, and mildew. Regular cleaning kills and removes these contaminants so they don’t taint the flavor of your coffee or compromise your health.

Extends Machine Life

Allowing oils and minerals to accumulate can clog tubes, spray heads, and other internal components. Proper cleaning keeps all parts clear and working efficiently for better performance and longer machine life.

Saves Money

Rather than investing in a new machine when yours stops working properly, regular cleaning can eliminate common problems to save you money on repairs and replacement costs.

Easy Maintenance

Cleaning a drip coffee maker takes minimal effort. With simple household items and about 10 minutes per month, you can keep your machine fresh and prevent major buildup issues.

How Often Should You Clean Your Drip Coffee Maker?

To keep your coffee maker in top working order, you should clean it:

  • Every 1-2 weeks – Quick rinses, spray head cleaning, and decalcifying as needed.
  • Every 1-3 months – Thorough wash of all removable parts with soap and water.
  • Every 6-12 months – Degrease and sanitize all interior components, tubes, and heating element.

However, frequency depends on factors like:

  • Hardness of water – The more mineral deposits, the more often cleaning is needed.
  • Frequency of use – Heavy use requires more cleaning than occasional use.
  • Coffee roast – Oily beans lead to more residue buildup than lighter roasts.
  • Number of coffee drinkers – More users create more oils and deposits.

Monitor your machine and increase cleaning as needed if coffee taste or brewing changes.

Drip Coffee Maker Cleaning Supplies

Gather these common household items before beginning the cleaning process:

  • Vinegar – An effective and natural descaling agent to dissolve mineral deposits. White distilled vinegar works best.
  • Water – For rinsing after washing and descaling procedures. Use filtered water if possible.
  • Mild dish soap – For washing removable parts. Avoid harsh detergents.
  • Soft sponges and brushes – For gently scrubbing stains and buildup. Check that bristles won’t scratch.
  • Old toothbrushes – Helpful for cleaning in tight spaces and small openings.
  • Cotton swabs – Useful for hard-to-reach areas. Avoid using paper towels or tissues that can shred.
  • Baking soda – Helps remove sticky oils and absorbed odors. Also useful for scrubbing.
  • Citric acid powder – An optional descaling agent that’s gentler than vinegar. Sold online and in stores.
  • Filtered water – Using filtered water for brewing will help reduce mineral buildup.

Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning a Drip Coffee Maker

With supplies gathered, follow these steps to thoroughly clean your drip coffee maker:

1. Unplug Machine and Allow to Cool

  • Unplug the coffee maker from the power source. Make sure heating plate and interior are completely cool.
  • Letting the machine cool prevents burns and ensures sediments are settled for better cleaning.

2. Wipe Down Exterior

  • With a damp cloth, gently wipe outer housing and surfaces.
  • Avoid wetting controls, power cord, or connectors.
  • This removes dust, drips, and splatters to keep machine looking clean.

3. Remove Water Reservoir and Filter

  • Lift out the water reservoir and removable water filter if your machine has one.
  • Rinse both under running water while scrubbing with dish soap and a brush.
  • Thoroughly rinse away all soap then allow parts to air dry before reinserting.

4. Wash Removable Parts

  • Remove any pieces that come out for cleaning like the carafe, lid, basket, funnel, splash guard, etc.
  • Gently wash removable parts in warm soapy water using a soft sponge or brush.
  • Rinse thoroughly and let air dry to prevent bacteria growth.

5. Clean Spray Head

  • Remove spray head and disassemble any pieces.
  • Soak in warm soapy water then scrub with an old toothbrush to remove residue.
  • Rinse thoroughly, reassemble, and reinsert into coffee maker.

6. Descale Interior

  • Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in the reservoir or carafe.
  • Pour mixture into the water reservoir, or directly into the coffee maker if no reservoir.
  • Run a brew cycle allowing vinegar solution to flow through.
  • This dissolves mineral deposits from the heating element, tubes, and other interior parts.

7. Rinse Away Vinegar

  • Once the descaling brew finishes, fill reservoir or carafe with fresh water.
  • Run another brew cycle with just water to rinse away vinegar taste and odor.
  • Dump out rinse water and repeat as needed until smell dissipates.

8. Scrub Interior With Brush

  • Dip an old toothbrush or small cleaning brush in diluted dish soap or baking soda paste.
  • Reach into the interior to gently scrub stains in the spray head holder, on tubes, or the heating element.
  • Take care not to detach any interior pieces or scratch surfaces.

9. Clean Carafe

  • If your coffee maker has a glass carafe, fill with equal parts water and vinegar.
  • Microwave the mixture 2-3 minutes until warm (do not boil).
  • Let sit 5-10 minutes to dissolve residue.
  • Empty carafe and wash with dish soap and a bottle brush.

10. Reassemble and Brew

  • Once all parts are cleaned and dry, reassemble your drip coffee maker.
  • Fill with fresh filtered water and run a full brew cycle before making coffee.
  • This preps the freshly cleaned machine and lines with fresh water instead of cleaning solution.

And you’re done! Following this thorough cleaning routine keeps your coffee maker fresh and coffee tasting great.

Quick Cleaning Between Full Washings

For quick cleanings between complete washings, do these simplified steps:

  • Brew a plain water cycle to rinse interior and lubricate parts.
  • Wipe down exterior with a damp cloth to remove dust and drips.
  • Remove water reservoir and rinse under tap while scrubbing sides.
  • Clean spray heads by removing, soaking in warm soapy water, scrubbing, and rinsing.
  • Check for mineral buildup and run a descaling cycle if needed.
  • Wash carafe, lid, basket, and other removable pieces as needed.

Perform these quick cleanings every 1-2 weeks along with full cleanings every 1-3 months.

How to Clean Specific Drip Coffee Maker Brands

While general cleaning principles stay the same, specific coffee maker models may have unique parts needing special attention.

Here are some tailored tips for properly cleaning popular drip coffee maker brands:


  • Use the “Clean” setting to run hot vinegar through the system.
  • The stem of the spray head unscrews for thorough cleaning.
  • Use a pipe cleaner to clean the exit needle into the carafe.

Mr. Coffee

  • Remove the brew basket and reservoir for easy cleaning by hand.
  • Access the spray head through the hinged unlocked cover rather than unscrewing.
  • Use a paper clip to clear clogs in the decalcification port.

Black & Decker

  • B&D machines have a removable spray head panel for easy access.
  • Clean the separate funnel piece from the brew basket.
  • Carefully scrub the convex heating element surface.


  • Prevent mold growth by fully emptying unused water daily.
  • Remove sprayhead, water tank, and funnel adapter for cleaning.
  • Clean overflow standpipe and funnel locking tabs.


  • Descaling solution can be added to the water reservoir for an interior cleanse.
  • Wash drip tray, K-cup holder, and other exterior parts.
  • Gently clean metal puncturing assembly beneath K-cup holder.

Common Problems When Cleaning Drip Machines

While cleaning your coffee maker, you may encounter a few common issues:

Vinegar Smell Lingers

  • Run multiple fresh water brew cycles to rinse away vinegar.
  • Scrub vinegar-soaked parts with baking soda and rinse well.
  • Fill reservoir with water and baking soda then brew.

Mineral Deposits Remain

  • Allow more time for vinegar to dissolve buildup, or use citric acid.
  • Use a brush to gently dislodge stubborn sediment.
  • Check spray head holes for clogs.

Mold or Bacteria Persists

  • Hand wash parts using very hot, soapy water.
  • Disinfect by soaking parts in a 50/50 vinegar and water solution.
  • Use a sanitizing brew cycle if your machine has this setting.

Leaks Form

  • Check for cracked interior parts like tubes or water reservoir.
  • Ensure spray head, caps, tubes, and filter are properly seated.
  • Descale mineral deposits around fittings and gaskets.

With some troubleshooting, you can resolve these issues and keep your coffee maker fresh and clean.

Tips for Extending Time Between Cleanings

To maximize time between deep cleanings, implement these best practices:

  • Rinse interior parts immediately after brewing while still warm.
  • Only use filtered water to limit mineral deposits.
  • Rotate between a few different roasts instead of the same oily beans daily.
  • Brew half batches to limit oils passing through the system.
  • Let machine air dry fully after washing before reassembling.
  • Clean spray heads when changing coffee brands.
  • Wipe down exterior surfaces frequently using damp cloth.
  • Descale as soon as flow slows, indicating mineral buildup.

With routine light cleaning, you can go longer between thorough washings. But remember to stay vigilant cleaning parts like carafes, lids, reservoirs, and filters where molds and bacteria accumulate most rapidly.

Why Cleaning Is Essential for Great Drip Coffee

While it may seem tedious at times, cleaning your drip coffee maker regularly is essential for great coffee flavor and better machine performance.

The steps don’t take much time, especially if you stay on top of it with weekly quick cleanings. The rewards are fresh tasting coffee made to perfection in a well-running machine.

Saving a few dollars by skipping cleanings can actually cost you more in the end if repairs or replacement becomes necessary. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when caring for your coffee equipment.

So don’t neglect this important maintenance. Follow the guidelines outlined here to keep your drip coffee maker spotless and your coffee tasting its absolute best. Your taste buds will thank you!

Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning Drip Coffee Makers

Many coffee lovers have questions about properly cleaning their drip coffee machines. Here are answers to some of the most common FAQs:

How to clean a drip coffee maker – steps for exceptional coffee?

Follow these key steps: 1) Unplug and allow to cool. 2) Wipe down exterior. 3) Remove and wash removable parts. 4) Clean spray head. 5) Descale interior with vinegar. 6) Scrub interior with brush. 7) Clean carafe. 8) Rinse by brewing water. 9) Reassemble once dry.

What is the best way to clean a coffee maker with vinegar?

To clean with vinegar, mix equal vinegar and water. Run the mixture through a brew cycle. Rinse by brewing plain water 2-3 times. Allow 30+ minutes for vinegar to dissolve buildup. Scrub parts with brush and baking soda paste.

How do you deep clean a Keurig coffee maker?

For Keurigs, start by descaling interior using Keurig descaling solution or vinegar. Disassemble removable parts like drip tray, pod holder, and drip plates to hand wash. Scrub exterior with a damp cloth. Soak metal puncturing parts in soapy water. Rinse by running plain water cycles.

How do you clean the inside of a drip coffee maker?

Use a mix of vinegar and water to descale interior parts. Remove spray heads and scrub off residue with a small brush. Dip a brush in baking soda paste to scrub the heating element, tubes, and other stains. Rinse away descaling agents by running fresh water through a brew cycle 2-3 times.

How often should you descale a coffee maker?

Frequency depends on water hardness and machine usage, but a good rule is: 1) Keurigs – Descale every 3-6 months. 2) Drip machines – Descale every 6-12 months. 3) Espresso machines – Descale every 3-6 months. Perform descaling more often if flow seems restricted.

What is the best descaling solution for coffee makers?

White distilled vinegar is the best home descaling solution. For a gentler option, use citric acid powder mixed with water. Some manufacturers make machine-specific descaling solutions. Avoid bleach, metal cleaners, and other harsh chemicals that could damage your machine.

How do I descale my Cuisinart coffee maker?

Cuisinarts have a “Clean” setting for descaling. Mix equal vinegar and water in the reservoir. Turn on the Clean setting and allow the solution to cycle through. Follow with 3-4 plain water cycles to rinse. Disassemble parts like the spray head for hand scrubbing.

Why does my coffee maker have a vinegar smell?

The vinegar smell comes from descaling residues left behind. To remove the odor, brew fresh water cycles 2-3 times. Scrub reservoirs, carafes, and spray heads using baking soda and water. Run another water cycle with some baking soda in the reservoir to absorb odors.


Cleaning your drip coffee maker regularly improves flavor and extends the machine’s lifespan. Follow the procedures outlined here using common household cleaners. With a little routine maintenance, your daily cup of coffee will taste pure and delicious. Happy brewing!