How to Clean a Drip Coffee Maker

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Dear Home Ec 101:

I just discovered your site – very, very cool – and wondered about easy ways to clean coffee makers. I have been doing a cycle with a few tablespoons of vinegar and the rest of the pot water about once every month or so.

I have also heard you can use a denture tablet fill the tank of your drip coffee maker with hot water, drop in a denture tablet and let it dissolve. Turn the coffee maker on; once all the water has dripped into the coffee maker empty it, then refill the coffee maker with fresh water and run it through its cycle again to rinse.

Any other ideas?
NoisyKat in Texas

clean a coffee maker

Dear NoisyKat in Texas,

It certainly sounds as though you have a handle on coffee maker care.

My first job was at Waffle House. You can hush now. I was in high school. As you may imagine, I ended up cleaning a lot of coffee pots.

glass coffee pot with visible ice and lemon in itWhenever a pot of coffee was left on the burner for too long, they were cleaned with lemon*, ice, and salt. The salt and ice acted as a mild abrasive, while the lemon juice acidified the mess and took care of the burnt coffee odor. Just load the ingredients in the carafe and shake, shake, shake it.

At home, once a week, I toss the filter basket and carafe in the dishwasher. Before I reassemble the unit, I wipe the hot water dispenser and the warming plate.

Once a month, I run a mixture of 2/3 water and 1/3 vinegar through the machine, followed by two pots of plain water.

Need a new coffee pot? Here’s a selection of drip coffee makers you can shop from the comfort of your home and have it delivered.

In the restaurant, we also ran a flexible wire through the line that dripped the hot water into the filter basket, which removed calcium deposits that would build up in highly used machines. Regular use of vinegar will take care of the build-up for home use.

You can find everything you wanted to know about how a drip coffee maker works at

*Don’t throw that lemon out if you have a garbage disposal. Turn the disposal on and drop in the slice. The oils from the rind leave behind a fresh, natural lemon scent.

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5 thoughts on “How to Clean a Drip Coffee Maker”

  1. I tried Vinegar, and I also tried non-chlorine bleach. These days, I have an easier solution. I don't have a drop coffee maker anymore. I use a French Press instead. I think it makes better coffee too.

    • I have a friend who says the same thing, swears by her French press. I received one as a gift and used it a few times just for fun. It was…interesting. However, when I started using my French press exclusively after my drip coffeemaker died, it became quite easy for me to cut my coffee consumption from several cups a day to perhaps one, if I really felt like I "needed" it. The sludge at the end of every cup is quite unappealing. I will be buying a new drip coffeemaker as soon as I can manage it!

      • It didn't work for me – cutting down. Nope. I just kept making another French Press full! I've cut down now, and switched to drinking more tea just recently.

        I will stick to the French Press though, as although I agree with you on the sludge issue, I think the coffee from it tastes better.

        Also, and to keep on topic here, the French Press is a lot easier to clean!


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