You know how to make coffee. Do you know how to clean your coffee maker? This vinegar-and-water method is nontoxic and easy.
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You know how to make coffee. You could do it in your sleep (in fact, some days, you probably do). But do you know how to clean a coffee maker? Keeping a clean coffee maker is just as important to the flavor as the right ratio of coffee beans to water. Although there are a few methods, the best way to clean a coffee maker is also the simplest. Here's how to do it in less time than it takes to binge watch a few episodes on Netflix.

Why You Should Clean Your Coffee Maker

A dirty drip coffee maker will make your coffee taste bitter, burnt or stale. Not only that, but excess buildup on the coffee maker could result in germs and mold buildup over time. This commonly happens when you let old coffee and coffee grounds sit in the carafe and filter. Another reason to clean your coffee maker regularly is that a sludgy coffee maker will degrade quicker, meaning you'll have to replace it or repair broken parts. The good news is, it's easy to clean a drip coffee maker—and you can get yours sparkling clean with safe, eco-friendly ingredients and products you probably already have around your house.

Coffee maker on a designed background
Credit: Getty Images / Blade_kostas

How to Clean a Coffee Maker

It's a good idea to clean your coffee maker after you're done using it for the day—the process takes anywhere from one to two hours, and you don't want to be doing this chore if you or a family member needs an immediate java fix. You could clean your machine during a time when you're already in the kitchen, such as when you cook dinner. Here's how to do it, according to Evan Spessard, associate manager of PR and marketing at Mr. Coffee.

What You Need to Clean a Coffee Maker

Steps for Cleaning a Coffee Maker

  1. To clean your coffee maker, start by filling the carafe completely with a water and vinegar solution. Spessard says, "Ideally you should aim for a mixture of half white vinegar and half water." He adds, "We recommend using white distilled vinegar when cleaning your coffee maker. The acetic acid in white vinegar actually helps remove calcium buildup and kill bacteria. You can also use apple-cider vinegar but the stronger taste may linger."
  2. Let the solution sit in the carafe for a few minutes minutes to sanitize and gently remove any mineral buildup on the glass.
  3. Fit the coffee maker with a filter (either reusable or paper) and pour the water-vinegar solution into the reservoir. Turn the coffee maker on and brew half of the solution.
  4. Turn the coffee maker off and let the remaining solution sit in the reservoir and the carafe for 30 minutes. The heat of the coffee maker will boost the vinegar's cleaning and sanitizing qualities.
  5. Turn the coffee maker back on and finish brewing the solution.
  6. Pour the solution down the kitchen sink and remove the filter. Clean the filter if it is reusable, or replace it with a new one if it is paper.
  7. Next, run your coffee maker with just water. Spessard says, "We recommend you run the coffee maker twice—full carafes—after cleaning with the vinegar mixture."
  8. Finally, use a hot, damp rag to wipe away buildup and residue in the crevices of your coffee maker.

How Often Should You Clean Your Coffee Maker?

To avoid coffee stains and a bad odor from your coffee maker, wash the carafe and any removable parts shortly after every time you brew your daily coffee. Don't let the grounds sit in the filter, and avoid keeping brewed coffee in the carafe for too long. It's also a good idea to keep the lid to the reservoir open for an hour or so after you've cleaned the pot; this fights mildew and mold buildup. If you take these daily coffee maker maintenance steps, you can plan on doing the full vinegar-water solution clean once every couple of months—or whenever you notice your coffee tastes bitter.

What NOT to Do When Cleaning a Coffee Maker

The crucial thing to remember is to never use a commercial or toxic cleaning agent, like bleach, anywhere on your coffee maker. That's why the vinegar-water solution is the best way to clean your coffee maker: It's nontoxic, safe, cheap and readily available.

Don't skip the water-only steps, either. If you brew coffee immediately after using the vinegar solution, your coffee will taste like vinegar!

If you've never cleaned your carafe and drip coffee maker, it's definitely time to give it a try. This is the perfect easy and simple spring cleaning task to make you feel accomplished. Now that you know how to clean your coffee maker, you can put your new skills to the test.