Nobody dreams of sitting in a cozy chair, sipping on a steaming hot mug of chunky, sour, burnt coffee. If you’ve found yourself wondering why your coffee tastes bad, wonder no more. It’s probably taking a turn for the worse because your coffee maker is dirty.
But we’re not just talking about a few stray coffee grounds and a little hard water buildup. Oh no. It’s much worse than that. Prepare yourself.
Your Coffee Maker is a Scary Place
You might be surprised to learn that your kitchen—not your bathroom—is the most bacteria-laden room in your house. Half of all home coffee makers have yeast and mold in the coffee reservoir.
A small percentage of coffee makers even have coliform bacteria, an indicator you may have E. Coli brewing in your pot. Thoroughly disgusted? So are we.
If it’s been a few weeks or—gasp!—months since you last scrubbed down your machine, it’s time to set aside a little time and give that hardworking coffee maker some tender loving care. Let’s get cleaning!
Types of Coffee Makers
Everyone has their favorite way to brew, so rather than tell you to stick your Mr. Coffee pot in the dishwasher and call it a day, we’re going to go over the optimal cleaning methods for several coffee maker types:
Drip Coffee Maker
Glass Pour Over (i.e. Chemex)
How to Clean a Drip Coffee Maker
Despite the rapid growth in popularity of those single-serve coffee makers, 50 percent of U.S. households still own a good old drip coffee maker. In fact, quite a few people own both single-serve and drip machines. Here’s what you need to clean your drip coffee maker:
A damp cloth
Paper coffee filters
Dish soap (a fragrance-free, degreasing variety is best)
Dish brush, bottle brush, or Chemex coffee maker brush
Small grout brush (optional)
Carefully wipe inside the chamber with a damp cloth to remove loose grounds, dust, or other debris that may be lurking there. If you notice grime lurking in any corners, scrub it with a brush. For tight spaces, try a small grout brush.
Fill your coffee maker’s water chamber halfway with white vinegar. Fill it the rest of the way with water.
Put a paper filter in the basket to catch any hard water deposits or other debris that may be loosened.
Brew half of the water/vinegar mixture, then turn your coffee maker off. Leave the vinegar mixture to soak in your coffee maker for at least half an hour—a full hour is better.
Turn your coffee maker back on, and allow it to finish brewing the rest of the vinegar/water mixture.
Change the paper filter, refill the water chamber, and let the full cycle run to rinse the system.
Rinse a second time to eliminate any lingering vinegar scent or taste.
Using warm water and some dish soap, thoroughly scrub inside the carafe. If there are any markings on the outside of the carafe, you’ll want to avoid using anything abrasive on the exterior. Instead, use a sponge or dishcloth.
Wipe down the outside of your coffee maker to remove dust and oils that tend to build up over time.
If you notice limescale or calcium deposits that don’t budge when you wipe out the water reservoir, try using a cleaning or descaling product formulated specifically for coffee makers.
Tip: If you have a lot of trouble with calcium deposits, make sure to use filtered water when you brew your coffee.
Clean your drip coffee maker this way at least once a month, more frequently with heavy use.
How to Clean a French Press Coffee Maker
You just love the way your coffee tastes from a French Press, but cleaning it can be a real drag. Do you scoop the grounds out with a spoon? Do you hold your french press over the garbage and slap it like a ketchup bottle?
No. Do not do those things. We have a better way. You’ll need:
Remove the plunger from your French press, then fill the maker with some warm water. Swirl the water around to loosen the coffee grounds.
Hold a mesh strainer over your kitchen sink, and quickly pour the water and grounds into it. The water will drain into your sink, leaving the coffee grounds in your strainer and your French press perfectly empty. Presto!
Toss the grounds in the trash (so you don’t clog up your kitchen plumbing). Even better, put the used coffee grounds into your compost.
Use a brush, a bit of dish soap, and some warm water to scrub away oils and coffee stains. For persistent coffee residue, sprinkle some baking soda on your brush, then scrub away.
Rinse well, so your next cup doesn’t taste like soap.
Dry with a soft cloth.
You can clean your French Press this way each time you use it, but if you’re pressed for time (No pun intended!), you can get away wiping the interior with a damp cloth instead. Just be sure you give it a good cleaning on a regular basis, and always let it dry well.
How to Clean a Pour Over Coffee Maker
Maybe your biggest hurdle to deep cleaning your sleek pour over coffee maker is that you can’t fit your hand inside it. You can choose to live with those crusty coffee stains in the bottom of your coffee maker or use our totally painless, but very effective, cleaning method.
Starting with your pour over coffee maker at room temperature, fill the bottom portion with a handful of ice cubes or one cup of crushed ice. If you have a smaller coffee maker, you may need a bit less ice.
Add four teaspoons of table salt, one tablespoon of water, and a tablespoon of lemon juice (optional).
Swirl the mixture around brusquely. The salty ice will scrub away dried-on coffee gunk, while the water keeps it from being abrasive enough to scratch your glass. If the glass isn’t too frosty, you’ll be able to see when it’s clean.
Pour the ice, salt, and water down your drain. Rinse the coffee maker well with cold water. Putting hot water into the cold glass could cause it to break.
If there is any remaining residue (it’s unlikely), you can repeat this process, or use the Chemex brush, or any long-handled brush, and some dish soap to scrub your pour over coffee maker.
You can do this after every use, but if you rinse well between uses, you can get away with doing it twice a month.
How to Clean an Aeropress Coffee Maker
Lower acidity and faster brew time than most other brewing methods helped the Aeropress grow in popularity. Its simple design makes it a breeze to keep clean.
The rubber seal around your Aeropress plunger works like a squeegee, helping to prevent build-up. To get yours in tip-top shape, you just need the basics.
Disassemble your coffee maker per the manufacturer’s instructions. Most cold brew coffee makers are basically a pitcher with a filter basket you fill with coffee grounds, which extends down into the water. Disassembling should be straightforward.
Using some dish soap and a sponge, wash the pitcher inside and out. Dry and set aside.
Always rinse your filter between uses. If you start to see buildup clogging the filter, clean it with a brush and dish soap. Flush it thoroughly with hot water. Dry all parts before reassembling.
To help prevent mildew growth, clean your cold brewer after every batch.
How to Clean a Percolator
If you don’t already know how to make coffee with a percolator, you’re missing out on a low-maintenance, environmentally friendly way to make a good cup of coffee.
With proper care, a percolator will last you many years. Just a quick hand washing after each use is perfect. You don’t really need our help with that. But eventually, you may start getting tough stains inside the percolator that just won’t budge. Grab a few simple, but powerful tools.
Allow the water to cool, then scrub inside the coffee maker with a brush.
Discard the water and rinse well.
Next, fill your percolator with half water and half white vinegar. Let it perk through, then discard the water.
Run a third cycle of fresh, clean water to rinse any remaining residue.
While you’ll want to hand wash after each use, you can do this deep cleanse monthly, or less often if you don’t have problematic buildup.
Permanent Coffee Filters
While you’re scrubbing the rest of your coffee maker parts, don’t forget to clean up your gold or stainless steel mesh filters. They tend to gather oily residue and get clogged up quickly.
After brewing your coffee, you should empty and rinse them well every time. But what can you do if they start to get clogged with brown goo?
First, make sure you leave the filter in your drip coffee maker when running a vinegar cycle through. The vinegar will cut through a lot of the oil.
Next, handwash the filter with hot water and fragrance-free, degreasing dish soap. You can use a small brush to scrub the filter, working soap through the mesh. Just be careful not to press the brush so hard that you damage your filter.
Rinse thoroughly, and your filter is ready for use.
If you find that nothing you try unclogs the mesh, it may be time to replace your filter. Some are dishwasher safe and resistant to oil buildup.
You have this perfectly functional appliance in your kitchen serving the sole purpose of making dirty things clean again. So why not use it for your coffee maker?
Well, cleaning your brewing equipment in the dishwasher is an option for getting glass and dishwasher-safe plastics squeaky clean, but it also leaves those parts vulnerable to breakage and warping. Even Bisphenol A (BPA) free plastics can leak other potentially hazardous chemicals when exposed to the heat of your dishwasher.
Whether it’s Chemex glass or the filter basket for your machine, chances are good broken parts won’t be easy or cheap to replace. Hand washing is the best way to protect your coffee making equipment, especially if it was on the expensive side.
Don’t Forget The Accessories
Your coffee maker isn’t the only thing that affects the taste of your brew. Be sure to clean all your tools, such as grinders, after every use.
Rinse them with hot water and pat dry with a towel. If the hot water doesn’t remove all the coffee residue, a quick wipe with a damp cloth should do the trick.
Keeping your coffee maker and all your tools clean will ensure you brew the best possible cuppa every time.