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How to Clean a Coffee Maker: Avoid Bitter Coffee

Learn how to keep mold and yeast out of your coffee by following these steps to clean your coffee pot!

Is your coffee starting to taste bitter? Does your coffee maker take a long time to brew? Then it may be time to clean your coffee maker.

Cleaning a coffee maker doesn’t just give you a clean coffee pot. It may also improve your health. Read on to learn how to clean a coffee maker and ensure that you have the perfect cup of coffee in the morning.

Key Takeaways

  • Clean your coffee maker daily to prevent residue, mold, and improve taste.
  • Deep clean your coffee maker once a month using a 50-50 mixture of vinegar and water.
  • Alternative cleaning solutions include baking soda, lemon juice, and hydrogen peroxide.
  • French press coffee makers require daily cleaning and weekly deep cleaning with baking soda paste.

Why You Need to Clean Your Coffee Maker

All coffee makers need to be cleaned routinely. It doesn’t matter if you have a percolator, an automatic drip machine, or a French press. If not cleaned correctly, your coffee is going to start tasting bitter from the residue that coffee leaves behind along with mineral deposits from water.

Also, did you know that coffee makers are breeding grounds for mold and yeast which can cause allergic reactions? I don’t know about you, but when I make my morning cup of joe, I don’t want to be drinking mold along with my coffee!

What Vinegar is Best for Cleaning Coffee Maker

White vinegar is often considered to be the best choice. It’s usually cheaper than other types of vinegar. It’s also easier to remove any remaining vinegar from your coffee maker after cleaning.

Apple cider vinegar is another option. It has the correct acidity to work and is readily available.

How to Clean Your Coffee Maker

It does take some time to clean your coffee maker as you’ll be running it through several brewing cycles and giving the vinegar time to sit. So expect to spend around an hour or so cleaning your coffee pot.

However, cleaning the coffee pot is as easy as brewing a cup of coffee in the morning. It’s a task a beginner can do.

Gather Tools and Materials

  • Coffee Maker
  • White Vinegar
  • Water
  • Dish Soap
  • Toothbrush
  • Clean sponge or cleaning cloth
  • Clean towel

Daily Cleaning

  • Time: 5-10 Minutes
  • Difficulty: Beginner

You should make cleaning your coffee maker part of your daily routine. It improves the taste of coffee, prevents mold and yeast from forming, and prevents residue and mineral deposits from building up.


  1. Immediately after the coffee is done brewing, throw out the coffee grounds.
  2. Wipe down the basket and machine with a damp towel.
  3. At the end of the day, wash all the removable parts of your coffee maker in soapy water.
  4. Use a sponge or a toothbrush to get into the corners and grooves.
  5. Rinse well.
  6. Allow the parts to air dry.
  7. Wipe dry the water reservoir.

Another easy option for daily cleaning is to put dishwasher-safe parts into the dishwasher.

Deep Cleaning

  • Time: 1 Hour
  • Difficulty: Beginner

You should deep clean your coffee maker once a month. This will ensure that you don’t have any mold or yeast growing. It will also decalcify your machine and remove any residue that escaped the daily cleaning.

Follow the cleaning instructions below:

  1. Put a clean filter in the basket.
  2. Fill the water tank with the cleaning mixture.
  3. Run a brewing cycle.
  4. Sometimes you will stop the brewing cycle in the middle to let the parts sit for 30 minutes.
  5. Empty pot.
  6. Repeat steps 1-5.
  7. Replace filter.
  8. Fill with tap water.
  9. Run another brewing cycle.

How to Clean Your Coffee Maker with Vinegar

  • Time: 1 Hour
  • Difficulty: Beginner

1. Mix Vinegar and Water

You will use a 50-50 mixture of vinegar and water. I recommend using a liquid measuring cup to measure and pour the vinegar into the reservoir. Be sure to fill the reservoir with the vinegar mixture.

At this point, you’ll also want to put a clean filter in the basket.

2. Brew and Soak

Start the brewing cycle. When the cycle is about halfway, turn off the machine and let it soak for 30 minutes to an hour. This will remove the build-up of mineral deposits from your machine.

3. Finish the Cycle

When you have finished letting your coffee maker soak for 30 minutes to an hour, turn the machine back on and let it finish the brewing cycle.

Pour out the liquid in your coffee pot.

4. Flush with Water and Clean

You will now rinse the coffee maker to remove the taste of vinegar from the pot. First, change the filter in the basket. Next, fill the reservoir with tap water.
Turn on the machine to run another brewing cycle. Once it’s finished, clean all removable parts in soapy water. Dry it. There you have a clean coffee maker.

How to Clean Your Coffee Maker without Vinegar

Sometimes you want to clean your coffee maker without using vinegar. Vinegar can be hard to rinse out so for the first few pots you brew after deep cleaning, your coffee maker may have an odd taste. Also, some people do not care for the smell of vinegar in their house.

So here are some cleaning solutions to help you clean your coffee maker without using vinegar.


  • Time: 30 Minutes
  • Difficulty: Beginner

If you’d like to, you can use hard alcohol to clean your coffee maker. Vodka works well.

  1. Make a 25% mixture of alcohol to water. Depending upon the size of your coffee maker, you may use 2 cups of vodka to 6 cups of water.
  2. Pour the mixture into the water reservoir of your coffee maker. Put a clean filter in the basket.
  3. Run a brewing cycle.
  4. Throw out the liquid.
  5. Replace the filter.
  6. Fill the reservoir with tap water.
  7. Run a brewing cycle with fresh water.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 once or twice as you’ll want to flush your coffee maker with fresh water two or three times.
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Baking Soda

  • Time: 30 Minutes
  • Difficulty: Beginner

Baking soda is another good option for cleaning your coffee maker.

  1. Make a mixture of 1 cup of water and ¼ cup of baking soda. Stir
  2. Pour the mixture into the reservoir.
  3. Run a brewing cycle.
  4. Remove the dirty water.
  5. Fill the reservoir with fresh lukewarm water.
  6. Run a brewing cycle again.
  7. If the water is clean, you can stop. If the water is not clean, repeat steps 5-7 until the water is clean.


  • Time: 1-3 Days
  • Difficulty: Intermediate

Bleach is not recommended for use on home electric drip coffee makers. It’s slow, dangerous, leaves mineral deposits, and is overkill for getting rid of mold and yeast. There are other safer and better methods for cleaning your coffee maker.

However, if you insist on cleaning your coffee maker with bleach, make sure to be in a well-ventilated area as the fumes are caustic. Ensure to remain with the coffee pot during the brewing cycle. You need to prevent people from accidentally drinking the mixture.

  1. Mix 1 tablespoon of bleach into a gallon of water. Do not use more bleach than this!
  2. Fill the reservoir with bleach water.
  3. Run a full cycle.
  4. Immediately turn off the coffee maker as you want to prevent bleach water from hitting the heating plate as much as possible.
  5. Repeat until all of the bleach water is used up.
  6. You will now rinse the coffee maker with fresh water.
  7. Run 5 gallons of water through the brewing cycle.
  8. Smell the final batch of water. It should have no scent. You can also test the PH level of the final rinse water. If it’s a PH level of 7 then you’re good. Otherwise, you’ll need to continue to run water through the brewing cycle until the scent of bleach is gone or the PH level reaches 7.
  9. Air-dry the coffee maker in the sun for 1 day or on the countertop for several days. Any bleach left in the coffee maker will leave white specs as it dries. If you see white specs, run more fresh water through the machine.


  • Time: 30 Minutes
  • Difficulty: Beginner

Borax is another option for cleaning a coffee maker without using vinegar.

  1. Fill the reservoir to the top with water.
  2. Add two tablespoons of borax.
  3. Run through a brewing cycle.
  4. Pour out the liquid.
  5. Add fresh water to the reservoir.
  6. Run through another brewing cycle to rinse the coffee maker.
  7. Repeat steps 5-6 two or three times to ensure that all the borax has been removed from the coffee maker.

Dish Soap

  • Time: 1-2 hours
  • Difficulty: Advanced

Dish soap is not recommended for deep cleaning of a coffee maker as it’s difficult to remove. Although you can and should use dish soap to wash all of the removable parts daily.

To deep clean your coffee maker with dish soap follow these steps:

  1. Disassemble the housing and functional components.
  2. Wash everything by hand.
  3. Rinse thoroughly.
  4. Reassemble the coffee maker.
  5. Run a cycle with fresh water to remove any soapy residue.

Hydrogen Peroxide

  • Time: 30-45 Minutes
  • Difficulty: Beginner

Hydrogen peroxide is another alternative to vinegar. It’s a disinfectant, so you can be certain it will kill any mold and yeast in your coffee maker.

Follow these steps:

  1. Put 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide into your coffee carafe. Fill the carafe to the brim with water.
  2. Pour it into the water reservoir.
  3. Run a full brewing cycle.
  4. Pour out the liquid.
  5. Fill the reservoir with tap water.
  6. Run plain water through brewing cycles until all odors and traces of hydrogen peroxide are gone.

Lemon Juice

  • Time: 30 Minutes
  • Difficulty: Beginner

Lemon juice is an excellent choice for deep cleaning your coffee pot. It doesn’t leave a nasty residue and odor like vinegar does. And you can immediately brew a cup of coffee to make yourself an espresso romano.

Steps to clean a coffee maker with lemon juice:

  1. Begin by running a brewing cycle of just plain water through the coffee maker.
  2. Add ½ cup of lemon juice to lukewarm water and pour it into the reservoir.
  3. Run the brewing cycle.
  4. To remove the lemon, run one or two brewing cycles of just water through your machine. Or, as mentioned above, you can immediately brew a cup of coffee and make yourself an espresso romano.
  5. Dab a sponge in lemon water to wash the coffee carafe.

Salt and Ice Water

  • Time: 15 Minutes
  • Difficulty: Beginner

If your carafe is looking grimy, a mixture of salt and ice can be used to clean it. You will need a cloth, large spoon, and crushed ice to begin.

Steps to Clean Your Carafe:

  1. Combine crushed ice and table salt in the carafe.
  2. Use a cloth and a large spoon to rub the salt and ice mixture against the sides of the carafe.
  3. Rinse the carafe.
  4. Wash the carafe.

How to Clean a French Press Coffee Maker

A French press coffee maker requires a different set of steps for both daily and deep cleaning.

Daily Cleaning

  • Time: 10 Minutes
  • Difficulty: Beginner
  1. Finish your coffee and let the French press cool
  2. Empty the grounds with your hand or a spatula
  3. Toss the grounds in the trash can or a compost bin. Do not toss them into the sink. The grounds will cause the sink to clog. Don’t worry about a few grounds going into the sink, that won’t cause a problem.
  4. Add lukewarm water and dish soap.
  5. Pump the plunger up and down until the water is foamy. This will clean the inside and remove the coffee oil.
  6. Dump out the soapy water.
  7. Fill with fresh water and repeat.
  8. Then scrub the carafe with a sponge or brush.
  9. Rinse until the water is clear.
  10. Dry with a clean towel.

Deep Cleaning a French Press

  • Time: 1 Hour
  • Difficulty: Beginner

It is advised to deep clean your French Press weekly.

  1. To deep clean a French press, you will first need to complete a daily cleaning. See the steps above.
  2. Disassemble the plunger.
  3. Set the pieces on the counter.
  4. Clean each part of the French press with a paste made of baking soda and water. To make the paste, pour some baking soda into a bowl and add a small amount of water.
  5. Scrub the French press with a sponge or bottle brush.
  6. Get rid of hard water buildup in your coffee maker with a 50-50 solution of vinegar and water. Use this solution to scrub your French press until the buildup is gone.
  7. Rinse the parts in freshwater.
  8. Allow them to air dry on the counter.
  9. Reassemble your French press.

How Often Should You Clean Your Coffee Maker?

It is advised to wash your coffee maker every day. However, you only need to deep clean your coffee maker once a month. Unless you have a French press. A French press will need to be deep cleaned weekly.

Is Descaling Solution Better than Vinegar?

Vinegar is usually cheaper and easier to find than a descaling solution. Descaling solution is however, specifically formulated for coffee pots. It will keep your machine running without a problem. Also, take note that the manufacturer of your coffee pot may not honor a warranty claim if you use vinegar instead of a descaling solution.


Can Bacteria Grow in a Coffee Maker?

Bacteria can grow in a coffee maker because residue from previous uses and mineral deposits from water build up inside. Yeast and mold can easily take hold and contaminate your morning coffee.

What is the Difference Between Descaling and Cleaning?

While there is no real difference between descaling and cleaning, descaling deals with mineral deposits, and cleaning also deals with grime and bacteria.

Does Descaling Make Coffee Taste Better?

Descaling does make your coffee taste better because you remove impurities from the water. Mineral deposits change the quality of the water and coat the inside of your coffee maker.

Can You Run Soapy Water Through a Coffee Maker?

You can run soapy water through a coffee maker. However, only use a tiny splash of dish soap, as the suds can be tricky to flush through and may contaminate your coffee.

What Does the Clean Button Do On a Coffee Maker?

The clean button on a coffee maker cleans the coffee maker. Once you press it, it starts a cleaning cycle that flushes the system to remove impurities.

Is CLR Safe For Coffee Makers?

CLR (calcium, lime, rust remover) is safe for coffee makers, provided you use it following the manufacturer’s guidelines.

In Conclusion

The best way to keep your coffee maker clean is with constant maintenance.

Wipe your machine down after every brewing. Wash your coffee maker daily. Also, give your coffee maker a deep clean once a month.

If you follow these instructions, you’ll avoid growing mold and yeast, and your coffee will taste delicious.

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About the Author

Sara Dennis

Sara Dennis is a coffee-loving freelance writer, homeschool blogger, and mom of six kids. In her free time, Sara loves reading books and researching more efficient and effective ways to keep a clean house, homeschool her children, and blog better while making a home for her large family.