How to Clean a Coffee Maker with Vinegar

Clean Coffee Maker2Coffee Maker Cleaning Solutions

You've probably noticed that the market is flooded with the newest, latest, best products to clean your coffee maker.  And, there's a good chance that your coffee maker manual recommends you purchase their "special" coffee maker cleaner.  But have you ever wondered if you really need to go all out?  Do you really need to spend $5 a month to rinse out a coffee maker?  In some cases, you may need to purchase a specific cleaner (please read your own manual carefully), but often the professional coffee cleaning solutions are simply basic descalers and solvents.  You can almost always replace a purchased coffee maker cleaner with a homemade vinegar solution and save your money for more exciting things, like a new batch of freshly roasted coffee beans. 

Why: How to Clean a Coffee Maker with Vinegar?Glass Vinegar Bottle

We get asked a lot about our recommendations for how to clean a coffee maker.  But why are we suggesting this particular topic? That's a very good question.  Why vinegar?  Well, vinegar for many reasons actually!  We like to recommend vinegar first and foremost because it is natural and will leave behind zero toxic residues.  Whatever you pour into that coffee maker, is, in some form or fashion, going to come into contact with your next batch of coffee.  We really aren't a big fan of drinking chemical particles along with our French Roast, and we figure you aren't either.  Vinegar is excellent for coffee maker cleaning in particular because its acidic properties make it terrific for eliminating mineral build-up, lime scale and all the coffee oils that linger behind after brewing.  Did we also happen to mention that it's very inexpensive?  And safe for the environment? 

Steps to Clean a Coffee Maker with Vinegar

Create Vinegar Solution

First things first.  You'll have a tough time cleaning your coffee maker without the proper vinegar solution.  You'll find that there are a wide range of opinions over the proper water/vinegar ration.  Some would cast their vote for 100% vinegar, while others will recommend a ratio as low as 1:8.  You can really go anywhere in the range, and the proper ratio will depend greatly upon the buildup in your coffee maker, ie: if you've been regularly cleaning your coffee maker once a month since you got it vs. your coffee maker doesn't know the meaning of cleaning.  We like to recommend a one-part vinegar (white vinegar is our favorite) to two-part water solution.

Secret Recipe

1 part white vinegar
2 part water


We know, it's almost too easy to be considered secret, but just humor us.

Coffee Maker Cleaning Steps

Pour your water vinegar solution (whatever amount your pot holds) into your coffee maker, with filter in place.  Turn your coffee maker on to brew, and allow the entire solution to brew through.  Toss the solution and let your machine cool for 15-20 minutes.  If you feel like there's still oil reside and build-up, go ahead and run another batch of vinegar water through.  We recommend a three cycle process to really ensure a clean coffee maker.  After you've completed the vinegar cleaning, run at least 2 cycles with pure, clean water to remove any lingering vinegar.  French vanilla vinegar is pretty bad.  Trust us.

Salt ShakerCoffee Pot Cleaning

If your coffee pot isn't looking brand new after your brewing cycles, go ahead and fill the entire pot with vinegar and allow it to sit for approximately 3-4 hours.  Then make sure to wash with warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly.  For extra stubborn residue, you can scrub with a sponge or a steel wool pad.  Another good way to remove build up is to add rock salt and swirl around.  The sharp edges of the salt particles will scrape off residue.

Cleaning the Outside of the Coffee Maker

For the outside of your coffee maker, you can use 100% vinegar.  Fill a spray bottle, spray onto a soft cotton cloth and wipe down all areas of the coffee maker.  For extra tight spots, you can use a cotton swab dipped in vinegar. 

Benefits of Cleaning Your Coffee Maker

The instructions on how to clean a coffee maker with vinegar are very straightforward and easy to follow.  They almost seem to simple to really be effective, but they are not.  After cleaning, your coffee will taste better than ever.  All those lingering coffee oils become rancid over time, and as they build-up within your machine, they transfer that rancid flavor to your coffee, causing it to taste bitter.  Not only will you enjoy better tasting coffee, you will extend the life of your coffee maker.  Mineral deposits that build up, known as scale, can accumulate as lime scale and mineral scale, both of which affect the heating unit and water flow. This not only slows down your coffee maker, but it effects efficiency and can quickly clog the coffee maker.

How Often Should You Clean a Coffee Maker with Vinegar?

We recommend once a month.  If you have extra hard water, you may want to increase this to every other week.  And, if you've gone a long time without cleaning, it might be a good idea to increase frequency of cleaning for awhile, just to ensure all oils and scale have been removed.  But, with a regular cleaning schedule in place, you should be able to get by easily with a simple once a month schedule.  Promise to treat yourself to a new batch of coffee beans with each cleaning and you'll find that you probably won't ever forget a cleaning again.  In fact, you might even look forward to it.