A guide to cleaner and better-tasting coffee.
If the thought of sipping down some coffee and coliform bacteria makes you want to scrub your tongue with a steel coat brush, it’s best to clean out your coffee maker every now and again. If you don’t, yeast, mold, and other bacteria can grow in there, and believe us when we say they’re not as tasty as coffee creamer.
Some sources cite that roughly half of all humans admit they don’t clean their coffee maker nearly enough, making their machines a bit, err, unpalatable. Fear not, we’ve got the goods on how to make yours look (and taste) like new.
If you haven’t cleaned your coffee maker in a while (or ever) we recommend deep cleaning the whole thing. After that, you can keep up regular maintenance without as big of a hassle. The idea is this: disassemble your coffee maker piece by piece, and tend to each part separately. Some items can be thrown in the dishwasher, others have to be manually cleaned.
The first step to restoring your coffee maker (or as we refer to it, the sweet giver of life) is to clean the brew basket. Most baskets can go right in the dishwasher, but read your manual to make sure. A nice little bath in the sink with some soapy water (we like Dawn for this job) will also do just fine. If you’ve got a single serving coffee maker, you might not have a brew basket but you probably do have a water reservoir. Clean that the same way, by giving it a nice dip in the sink with a sponge and some dish detergent.
Never underestimate the power of some good old suds. Clean your carafe after every use with some soap and water or, if your manual gives you permission, stick it in the dishwasher. Tough coffee stains can be treated by filling the carafe with one part baking soda and two parts hot water, then letting sit overnight.
All the coffee that didn’t land in your cup may have landed on the hot plate. If you have a single-serve coffee machine, it’s the surface that holds your mug. Since moisture breeds germs, it’s a good idea to clean off this place every time you make coffee. Simply sponge off with some soapy water, or for tougher baked-on coffee, sprinkle a little baking soda on top and wipe it clean with a wet sponge.
Every 3-6 months, you should descale your machine, which is just a fancy way of saying run some vinegar and water through it. Vinegar (or brand-specific descaling liquid if your machine requires it) removes any mineral buildup inside the coffee maker. Mix equal parts water and vinegar and “brew” into the carafe as you would actual coffee. Turn the coffee machine off about halfway through and let the vinegar sit for an hour to do its descaling thing. Then turn the machine back on and allow it to finish its brew cycle. To avoid a vinegar taste later on, flush the system out by running several rounds of plain water through its system.
Germs love moisture, so using a soapy sponge to wipe down your machine every week is a good idea. So is leaving your reservoir’s lid open, which helps dry things out and combat bacteria.
K-cup or single-serving coffee makers have a “needle” that often gets clogged, confusing even the most avid coffee aficionados (and creating highly unnecessary conditions for morning temper tantrums.)
To clean it out, first, turn off your machine to avoid any electrical shock, then remove the pod cartridge by lifting the handle as if you were going to insert a new coffee pod. Instead, lift out the cartridge with one hand and twist the cap off the bottom of the cartridge with the other. Use the end of a paperclip to unclog the hole.
That’s it. 6 easy steps to a sparkling clean coffee machine. Following this guide will ensure you keep the germs at bay and your coffee tasting great. It’ll also eliminate that voice in your head every time you brew a cup of joe (“Should I be cleaning that thing?”) The answer is yes, even if you have to make a cup of coffee for the energy to clean the coffee maker.