How to Clean an Automatic Coffee Maker: Complete Guide

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Have you ever wondered how to clean an automatic coffee maker? We all really enjoy a beautiful cup of coffee. The aroma, the delicate balance of fruity and slightly bitter flavors, it’s the perfect drink to wake you up in the morning, perk you up during the day and, probably in its decaffeinated form, to sooth you last thing at night.

Why Do You Need to Clean Coffee Makers?

In order for our coffee machine to deliver us that perfect cup of coffee every time, and to prolong the coffee maker’s life, it needs to be properly cleaned at regular intervals. You need to remove molds, the buildup of dissolved salts from the water you are using, and of course, the buildup of coffee solids.

So you don’t just want to do a quick wipe down of the casing and a rinse of the pot, but a proper deep down clean. If your machine isn’t cleaned thoroughly, you risk the following:

  • Bad tasting coffee – bitter, old and really not good to drink
  • Stomach problems – gas, bloating and diarrhea – especially if you are using an automatic cappuccino or latte maker
  • Shortened life of your automatic coffee maker

So a regular cleaning regime is a very good idea, both for your health and for the quality of your cup of Joe.

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

There are several things that the coffee machine owner can do to keep their machine clean and fresh for as long as possible. Mold is your big enemy, it’s mold which can make you sick if some gets into your coffee. So make sure that your machine doesn’t get left with a bit of coffee in the jug; when you’ve finished the coffee, throw the dregs away and clean out the jug with hot soapy water, rinsing well.

Never leave standing water in the water chamber. Damp attracts mold, as we all know. When the chamber is empty, and you have finished with the machine, you can wipe the inside of the chamber dry with a lint free paper towel. It’s also a good idea to leave the lid of the chamber open to allow the air to dry it out.

When it comes to water, some machines have filters, and that’s great. If your machine doesn’t have a filter though, using bottled water or filtered water will help prevent molds and residue build up.

(If you’ve ever used water from the faucet in your refrigerator’s cold water system, you will know how quickly mold can build up from seemingly clean water!)

How Often Should I Clean My Automatic Coffee Maker?

That is to an extent a function of how often you use your machine, and how well you look after it after you’ve used it. If you use your machine a lot, then it probably needs cleaning once a week. If you maybe only use it at weekends then once a month should work for you.

Don’t forget those coffee makers that you only use very occasionally, for example, the one in your RV, in your weekend cottage, in the shop, in the office. Check out coffee machines that your elderly folks and teenagers use, and make sure they are cleaned at least as often as you clean yours.

How to Clean an Automatic Coffee Maker

There are a variety of cleaning products and methods around; you may have heard of some of them. Here we give a list of the ways you can clean your coffee machine, and you can choose which one is right for you.

Commercial Cleaning Products

Many people like to avoid cleaning products which contain harsh chemicals, and this might be a consideration for you. After all, you are going to be drinking coffee from the cleaned machine. However, chemicals used for cleaning coffee machines are specially designed to be both effective and safe.

Of course, as with any cleaning product, it’s important that you follow the product directions very carefully, and I always give my machine a couple of runs through with plain water before I use it for brewing again, both the water and the milk sections.

Plain White Vinegar

White vinegar is an old fashioned cleaning product, great for cleaning glass, granite surfaces and more.

You should use culinary or food grade white vinegar, rather than cleaning vinegar, for your coffee maker.

Simply make “coffee” without using coffee grounds (if you need to have a pod in place for your machine to work, use an empty rinsed out one) and the white vinegar will clean out residues and also, of course, it acts as a mild disinfectant.

After using the white vinegar, run a few cycles through your coffee machine with just plain water, in both the water and the milk sides, and you won’t be able to detect any vinegar taste in your coffee.

Lemon Juice

In the same way as you can use white vinegar, you can use lemon juice. About 25% lemon juice in water, run through your coffee machine, makes a great cleaner. It’s very environmentally friendly, and if you happen to live in the south, and have a lemon tree, as I do, it’s just about free! Of course, do a couple of water brews afterwards to lose the taste of lemon.

Baking Soda

Another old fashioned method, use about a quarter of a cup of baking soda in the usual quantity of water and run the machine. Baking soda really does a great cleaning job, but you want to use warm water for the clean so that the baking soda dissolves completely.

Just do the usual coffee making run, without coffee, and remember to clean the milk side if you have one. Afterwards, as with all these methods, do a couple of plain water “brews” to ensure that your machine is completely clean with no funny flavors.


Many people swear by bleach, but with its corrosive properties we don’t recommend it, you should really consider other methods first.

It’s a great idea to replace your coffee machine from time to time. Sometimes it’s just time for an upgrade. There are so many cool models on the market, from entirely simple all the way up to super fancy. As we all love that great cup of Java, why not have the very best coffee maker you can afford, and add some real quality to your coffee break time?

Photo by pheezy

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