There comes a time in every coffee drinker’s life when they make that one pot of coffee that just tastes wrong. It may be too bitter, too acidic, or just flat-out weird tasting. Now, this could be for several reasons, but the most likely reason is that you need to clean your coffee machine.
The Importance of Cleaning Your Coffee Maker
Regularly cleaning your coffee machine is essential to maintaining both your machine’s life and the quality of coffee it makes. The reason being, that during the process of brewing coffee, deposits from the beans and water can build up inside the coffee maker, which can affect the coffee’s taste and your machine life if left unchecked.
The general consensus is that you should clean your coffee maker once a month. This is not a hard and fast rule though, you may need to clean it more or less frequently depending on how much coffee you make. The most common method for cleaning your coffee machine is to use vinegar. While this works, this article will give you the pros, cons, and alternatives that work even better.
Why Vinegar Is Effective
Vinegar is an extremely common solute used for cleaning coffee makers for many reasons. One of the biggest reasons is that most people have this acid on hand. To get rid of hard water and mineral deposits, you need acid to dissolve them. Not many people have a specific cleaning solution for coffee makers, but almost everyone has vinegar in their pantry.
Another benefit of using vinegar is that it’s inexpensive. While most cleaning solutions and acids are more costly and can only be used for one thing, vinegar is cheap and has many more uses in both cleaning and in cooking.
How To Clean Your Coffee Maker With Vinegar
The steps to cleaning your coffee machine with vinegar are extremely complicated. Here are the steps:
- Run one normal brewing cycle with a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water. (Use a filter as you would with normal coffee)
- Brew two normal cycles with plain water to rinse the coffee maker out. (If your coffee tastes like vinegar, repeat the rinsing)
In case you missed it, the above description was sarcasm. This method of cleaning is so easy you can have your kids do it as an extra chore.
Why Vinegar Is Inferior To Other Cleaning Solutions
Now, after reading the stuff about how vinegar is so easy to use and that it’s cheap, you may be thinking, “why would I need to use anything else?” Well, vinegar may be an inexpensive method for cleaning your coffee maker, but by no means is it the best method.
The key to vinegar’s inferiority lies in two factors. Its pH (acidity) and its concentration. Your most common type of vinegar, distilled white vinegar, has a pH of 2.4. Now, this is pretty strong. Your stomach, by comparison, has a pH of between 1-2 after eating a meal, so vinegar is pretty strong, but at the same time it isn’t.
The second factor, the concentration, is what really hampers vinegar as a good cleaning solution. The standard concentration of distilled white vinegar is only 5%. Now think about that number for a second, what else has that concentration? Beer does. And just like one beer isn’t going to make you intoxicated (unless you’re a super lightweight) Vinegar isn’t really going to cut it as an effective cleaning solution.
Now, a quick caveat to this: Some companies make a cleaning-specific vinegar. The company Heinz makes such a vinegar that is slightly stronger than normal, so that is something to look into.
So, if vinegar isn’t the best option for cleaning your coffee maker, then what is? Well, there are a whole host of cleaners and DIY solutes that you can use.
Cleaning Your Carafe with Salt and Ice
Before we get to alternatives to cleaning the actual coffee maker, let’s discuss a few methods of cleaning your carafe. Of course, the classic handwashing with soap and water will work. (Do NOT put your carafe in the dishwasher) However, it is not as effective at removing stains. For that, you need something extra.
Surprisingly, table salt and ice combined are a really effective stain remover. To remove stains from your carafe, simply mix in 4 teaspoons of salt, 1 cup of crushed ice, and 1 tablespoon of water. Gently stir this mixture until your carafe is clean, then rinse it out with room temperature water.
Cleaning Your Carafe Using Rice
Rice is another great absorbing agent. You know how everyone says to stick your smartphone in rice if you get it wet, right? Well, that’s why. Turns out, you can use rice when washing your carafe to give it an extra shine. Simply combine warm water, some dish soap, and a bit of rice in your carafe. Scrub gently until you are satisfied with its cleanliness, and rinse.
Baking Soda: A Multipurpose Kitchen Essential
Now we come to the alternatives to vinegar for coffee machine cleaning. The first is baking soda
Baking soda has been used as a cleaning solution and deodorizer for decades. If your coffee has been tasting and smelling bad then this is a great option. For this method, run one brewing cycle of a mixture of 1 cup of water and ¼ cup of baking soda. Afterward, run 1-2 brewing cycles of just water to rinse it.
NOTE: Make sure you use regular unscented baking soda. I only say this because companies now make scented baking sodas for pet odor removal. Using one of those types will create a whole new set of problems for your coffee maker.
Surprising Cleaning Method: Using Denture Cleaning Tablets
A more unusual cleaning hack is using denture cleaning tablets. The cool thing about denture tablets is that it combines the useful elements of baking soda and lemon juice. Most denture cleaning tablets have a combination of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), citric acid, and a couple of other ingredients.
To clean your coffee maker using denture tablets, fill your coffee maker to the max line, drop two denture tablets in, let them dissolve, and run a brewing cycle. Afterward, run another cycle of just water to rinse out the coffee maker.
A huge benefit of using denture tablets over other options is that they are completely odorless. While other options like vinegar and lemon juice can give off and leave unpleasant odors during cleaning, the denture tablets will not.
Heavy-Duty Cleaning: Using Commercial De-scalers
Now, say you don’t want to put vinegar or lemon juice in your coffee machine, no problem. There are commercial descaling compounds that will perform the same cleaning. The steps are exactly the same as using vinegar, you just use the specified amount of de-scaler prescribed on the packaging
When deciding between using a de-scaling agent over vinegar, it basically comes down to cost-effective, reliability and preference. While vinegar may be cheaper, the de-scaler is probably more reliable. Also, you won’t get that pungent odor during the cleaning that you would with vinegar.
How to Clean a Coffee Maker with Bleach
Ah, bleach, the liquid that keeps clothes white as snow, and can also keep your coffee maker clean as a whistle. Now, you may be wondering if using bleach is safe for cleaning a coffee maker, and it is.
To clean your coffee maker using bleach, combine 1 cup of bleach with 3-4 cups of water in your coffee maker and run a brewing cycle with this mixture. I would recommend running at least 2 rinsing brewing cycles afterward just to be safe. Also, it may be prudent to wear gloves when mixing the water and bleach.
NOTE: Mix the bleach and water BEFORE you pour it in the coffee maker. Pouring straight bleach into your coffee maker could damage the inner components.
How to Clean Coffee Maker with Hydrogen Peroxide
If you want to bring out the big guns with cleaning your coffee maker, then Hydrogen Peroxide is a worthy candidate. This extremely common disinfecting agent is extremely strong (keep out of reach of children).
To clean your coffee maker with Hydrogen Peroxide, pour one cup of it in your coffee maker, and fill the rest of it with water. Run a brewing cycle, and run 1-2 more cycles with just water to rinse.
How to Clean a Coffee Pot with CLR
Another hard-hitting cleaner, CLR (Calcium Lime and Rust Remover) is a commercial cleaning substitute for vinegar and lemon juice.
To use CLR to clean your coffee maker, run a brewing cycle with water to rinse. Then, combine 1 cup of CLR with 8 cups of water and run another brewing cycle. And of course, run 1-2 more cycles with just water to rinse out your coffee maker.
Lemon Juice Is An Excellent Substitute For Vinegar
Using lemon juice instead of vinegar to clean your coffee machine is basically just exchanging one type of acid for another. Vinegar is a type of acid known as acetic acid, and of course, lemon juice is citric acid. Both have equal acid concentrations and are readily available. So basically, what it really comes down to is preference.
To clean your coffee machine using lemon juice, run a brewing cycle of just water to rinse out the water reservoir. Next, combine ½ a cup of lemon juice and ½ a cup of water and let it sit in the reservoir for 15 minutes. Then, run the brewing cycle with the lemon-water mix, and run another 1-2 cycles with water to rinse. Also, you may want to rinse all removable parts with soap and water.
Cleaning Coffee Maker with Muriatic Acid
If Hydrogen Peroxide and CLR are the heavy weapons of cleaning, then Muriatic Acid (a.k.a hydrochloric acid) is the atomic bomb. Only use Muriatic Acid if you have extra stubborn stains and deposits that won’t go away with the other methods. Also, only use this method on the detachable parts of your coffee machine.
To use Muriatic Acid, pour four cups of water in a large or bucket, and mix in 1 cup of muriatic acid. Place all the detachable parts of your coffee maker in the mixture and let them sit for 3-4 minutes. Have another bucket ready with a mixture of water and baking soda. The baking soda will neutralize the acid and properly remove all the deposits.
NOTE: Muriatic acid is EXTREMELY corrosive. Make sure you wear safety glasses and gloves when handling muriatic acid.
Conclusion: Find a Method that Works for You
When it comes to cleaning your coffee maker, what really matters is finding a method that works best for you. Whether you want to stick with vinegar or try one of the other methods, the important thing is to keep your coffee maker clean so you can enjoy delicious coffee and keep your machine running smoothly.
Hi my name is Larry, a coffee aficionado from the US. I have already visited Colombia, Sumatra, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Jamaica in my pursuit of finding the best-tasting coffee beans. I currently write from Bali and enjoy the relaxed life that you can find only in Indonesia. Welcome to my coffee world!