How to Clean and Care for a Coffee Maker

You can keep your Mr. Coffee (or other drip coffee maker) looking like new, even after years and years of daily use. Here's the scoop on how to clean a coffee maker.

Coffee pots are arguably the most important appliance in some homes; the coffee they brew helps to wake us up and keep us motivated throughout the day. (Here’s when to drink your first cup of coffee, by the way.) It’s only fair that we give them love, too.

Have you ever wondered how to clean a coffee maker? Coffee pots can take a beating in the kitchen and after a decade of daily use even the sturdiest of machines can falter. We’ve got the secret to keeping everybody’s favorite appliance looking fresh, clean and brand new.

How to Clean a Coffee Maker

Here’s exactly what you need to clean your coffee maker, and how often you need to clean it. Remember: the better that you take care of your coffee maker, the longer you can count on it for your morning cup of joe.

1. Clean the carafe, brew basket and lids after each use

It may be surprising to learn that coffee pots can be a hotbed of bacteria and mold, so it’s important to clean them out as often as possible. To avoid built-up residue and the development of any unpleasant flavors, wash the carafe, brew basket and lids after each use.

Most pieces of drip coffee makers are dishwasher safe. If they’re not (or you’re not sure), clean them out by hand in warm, soapy water. Keeping a clean coffee maker ensures tasty coffee, so get ready to reveal your inner barista by making specialty coffee drinks at home.

2. Deep clean all parts of your coffee maker once a week

For a weekly deep clean, be sure to remove all the parts of your coffee maker and soak them in a bucket of hot water and dish soap. This process will help to remove any set-in stains, grime and built-up coffee residue that can lead to that old, burnt taste we associate with  (shudder) some gas station coffee.

3. Clean the inside of your coffee maker once a month

inside of a coffee makerAlaina DiGiacomo/Taste of Home

Minerals in your drinking water can build up in the machine, clogging tubes and making it hard to brew coffee. To avoid this, you’ll want to clean out the inside of the coffee maker once a month. Here’s how:

  1. Make a natural cleaning solution with 50% white vinegar and 50% water.
  2. Place a coffee filter in the brewing reservoir, and pour in the water and vinegar solution.
  3. Brew a pot of coffee as usual. The acids in the vinegar solution will break down any leftover coffee oils and flush out any built up bacteria.
  4. After the brewing process is complete, turn off the machine and let the vinegar and water sit in the coffee pot for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Dump out the solution, then run clean, fresh water through the brewing process once or twice (or a few more times!) to flush out any taste of vinegar.

If you don’t want to use vinegar, you can make solutions with lemon juice or baking soda instead.

How Long Do Coffee Makers Last?

There’s no definite answer when wondering how long do coffee makers last, because each coffee maker is different. Some people estimate that the typical machine brews about 1,000 cups before it dies, while others have had theirs for decades (having brewed many more than 1,000 cups!). However, there are preventative measures that will extend the life of your beloved coffee maker. Specifically, cleaning the inside on a monthly basis gets rid of buildup that typically makes your coffee maker unusable much sooner.

Other reasons you might need to replace your coffee maker include the water not getting hot enough to brew anymore (when the water isn’t hot enough, it doesn’t extract all of the flavor from the coffee grounds that it should). Or, some of the buttons simply aren’t working.

Once you do decide your coffee maker is no longer usable, check out our guide to buying coffee makers and our Test Kitchen’s personal picks for the best coffee maker. Or, go the Keurig route—but make sure you know how to clean a Keurig, too!

Having a clean coffee maker is only the beginning. For a fresh-tasting cup of coffee, avoid these 10 mistakes when brewing. While you’re at it, don’t forget about all of the other hidden places to clean in your house—whether it’s the kitchen range hood filter or the garbage disposal.

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Laura Denby
Laura is a New York-based freelance food writer with a degree in Culinary Arts from the Institute of Culinary Education and a degree in Journalism from Penn State. Her work has appeared in Taste of Home, Chowhound, the Culture Trip and Patch.