You probably know that you should regularly clean the removable parts of your coffee maker by washing them in hot soapy water or placing them in the top rack of the dishwasher. (Whether you actually do that is another story!)
But regular cleaning is not enough to keep your coffee maker in good working order. Every once in a while, a deep cleaning is needed to remove buildup that can make your cup of coffee taste bitter, stale, or just plain unpleasant. This deep cleaning process is called descaling and is designed to clean the internal components of a coffee maker as well as deep clean removable parts like filter baskets and carafes.
“What is descaling? All water contains minerals and these minerals, over time, create scale in the internal tubes of your machine,” said Jacques Paradis, internal coffee expert and trainer at Philips home appliance, explains, “which leads to flow problems and the coffee is not as hot as when you bought your machine. By following the manufacturer’s recommendations, your machine will always give you great tasting coffee.
Ahead, with the help of Paradis and other experts, we break down all the steps you need to know to keep each type of coffee maker in top condition, from regular cleaning recommendations to deep cleaning and descaling instructions, including the tools you need. For the job.
Cleaning a coffee maker, regardless of the type of machine, generally does not require expensive or specialized products. These are the tools and products to reach for when your coffee maker needs cleaning.
Most components of the coffee maker – from the filter basket to the carafe – can be cleaned with warm soapy water; many are also machine washable (check your machine’s user manual to determine if the parts are dishwasher safe). It is important to clean these parts after each use to prevent the machine from developing buildup that will result in a bad tasting cup of coffee.
Dobie Pads are anti-scratch scouring pads that are excellent for gently removing stains and buildup from delicate materials like glass. While a regular sponge is fine for washing a coffee carafe, a Dobie pad can come in handy if you frequently find persistent stubborn stains on the glass.
If washing the inside of a coffee carafe with a traditional sponge causes discomfort, a long-handled coffee pot cleaning brush is a great solution to the problem of washing an awkwardly shaped item.
Coffee stains aren’t just for your white work shirt! They will also show up on coffee makers, both on the outside of the machines and as buildup in the carafe. To remove stubborn coffee stains from glass, use a paste of baking soda and water to gently scrub away buildup.
Cleaning the exterior of a coffee maker is as easy as it gets: simply wipe down the unit with a damp microfiber cloth. Microfiber is recommended for the job because it’s soft enough to use on scratch-prone plastic and stainless steel, yet tough enough to remove stubborn buildups of mineral deposits and oil.
Even with regular maintenance, all coffee makers will need to be descaled. Although commercial descalers are available, white vinegar is recommended by experts and is a more economical choice than the descalers sold by coffee maker manufacturers. White vinegar can also be applied to a microfiber cloth and used to remove stains from the exterior of the machine. Never use commercial glass cleaners like Windex or products containing ammonia to clean a coffee maker.
For those who hate the smell of vinegar, commercial descalers will be a good alternative. Urnex descaling powder can be used on a variety of coffee makers including drip brew models, espresso machines, single serve pod/capsule machines and other small appliances that tend to develop scale such as tea kettles, clothes steamers and humidifiers.
Drip coffee makers should be cleaned regularly after each use by washing the carafe and filter basket with dish soap and hot water. “If you skipped this routine because you were late for work and you see stains on your carafe,” Paradis says, “try scrubbing with some baking soda and water.”
Follow these steps to deep clean a drip coffee maker, which should be done once a month to maintain the machine:
- Step 1: Pour 1-2 cups of white vinegar into the reservoir (less for small capacity machines, more for larger capacity machines) and fill the remaining space with water.
- Step 2: Let stand 30 minutes.
- Step 3: Run the vinegar solution through an infusion cycle.
- Step 4: Empty the vinegar solution and rinse the decanter.
- Step 5: Run 2-3 brew cycles with clean water to flush out the vinegar.
How to clean grind and brew coffee makers
Grind and brew coffee makers require a bit more maintenance than standard drip machines. The carafe and filter basket should be washed in hot, soapy water after each use. Then, once a month, the machine should be thoroughly cleaned and descaled. Depending on the design of the machine, it may also be necessary to clean the coffee bean chute regularly; manufacturers suggest every two weeks.
- Step 1: Unplug the machine and remove the carafe, grinder basket, filter basket, lid and stand and reservoir cover from the machine, and hand wash with warm soapy water or in the top rack of the dishwasher.
- Step 2: Using a damp microfiber cloth, wipe down the exterior of the coffee maker, including the grinder basket housing, being careful not to wet the grinder motor – making sure the cloth is barely damp, this will help protect the engine.
- Step 3: Using a damp microfiber cloth and a small drop of dish soap, wipe down the carafe plate to remove coffee residue and stains. Then rinse the cloth and wipe the plate with clean water to remove any foam residue.
- Step 4: Descale the machine using the same method as for drip coffee makers (above).
How to Clean French Press and AeroPress Coffee Makers
Paradis recommends cleaning the French press and AeroPress after each use with hot, soapy water. This includes draining the floor and washing the entire unit including the container, strainer and plunger. Once a week, perform a deep clean to remove the buildup of oils in the coffee and minerals in the water.
- Step 1: Empty the used coffee grounds, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to dislodge any stuck-on coffee grounds, if necessary; Avoid using metal utensils as they can scratch or chip the glass.
- Step 2: Disassemble the components and rinse them individually with lukewarm water, then reassemble.
- Step 3: Fill the carafe with warm soapy water and insert the plunger. Immerse the filter in soapy water several times to remove coffee oil residue and any stuck-on grounds.
- Step 4: Empty the soapy water, rinse each component and let the device air dry or dry it with a soft towel.
How to Clean a Keurig and Other Single Serve Coffee Makers
“Single-serve coffee machines are low-maintenance for everyday use,” says Paradis, “but after 400 coffees brewed, you’ll need to descale your machine.” A Keurig representative recommends descaling every three to six months.
To deep clean and descale a single serve coffee maker, follow these steps:
- Step 1: Unplug the device and let it cool down if it has been used recently.
- Step 2: Wash the water tank and lid, drip tray and filter basket with warm soapy water. Dry them and put them back in the machine.
- Step 3: If the machine is equipped with a milk frother, remove the lid and whisk from inside the frother, then wash the inside of the frother, lid and whisk with warm soapy water. Dry all parts thoroughly with a soft cloth, then reassemble.
- Step 4: Descale the machine with a white vinegar solution using the same method as for drip coffee makers (above).