Most people probably realize that coffee makers require a certain amount of maintenance, and one of the most common ways is to use vinegar. However, some people might prefer to use something else.
Here, we’ll look at some alternatives to help answer the question of how to clean a coffee maker without vinegar.
Why bother cleaning your coffee maker?
Before we look at how to clean a coffee maker, let’s take a moment to think about why it is so important.
Of course, it’s always advisable to keep all your home appliances in good order, but when it comes to coffee machines, there are some specific reasons why you should make an extra effort.
First, warm, damp coffee machines are the ideal breeding ground for harmful bacteria – in fact, investigations have shown that many home coffee makers harbor more germs than the average toilet seat or bathroom door handle.
Secondly, if you don’t regularly clean your machine, it can result in a build-up of limescale. This will reduce the lifespan of your machine and decrease its efficiency.
Finally, and just as important for the dedicated coffee drinker, coffee made in a dirty machine will taste inferior to that made in a coffee maker that is well maintained and in optimum condition.
Why not use vinegar?
To effectively clean a coffee maker, we need to be able to remove limescale, kill bacteria and dislodge and remove old coffee grounds that have become stuck inside the machine.
The good news is that there is a readily available, cheap and safe substance that does all three extremely well – vinegar! For generations, vinegar has been the go-to product used to clean all manner of household items, in fact since long before electric appliances even existed!
However, the big problem with vinegar is that while it is an extremely effective cleaning agent, it does tend to leave a pungent odor in the coffee machine that will spoil any coffee you try to brew. It takes quite a few rinses (or vinegary cups of coffee!) before the odor goes away.
This means many people prefer to look for other natural cleaning agents that have all the magical properties of vinegar – but without the smell.
If you want to use vinegar, check out this video to learn how.
Lemon juice – a magical substitute for vinegar
Perhaps the best substitute for vinegar is lemon juice. It has the desired properties of vinegar and can be used in the same way – all without the unpleasant odor left after cleaning.
The reason vinegar is so effective is that it contains acid; lemon juice does too, in the form of citric acid. Citric acid kills bacteria, mold, and mildew, removes soap scum, breaks down calcium deposits, removes hard water stains and removes lime and rust.
Lemon juice contains around 5-8% of this amazing elixir.
The only disadvantage is that you need to crush quite a few lemons to obtain enough juice to clean your coffee machine, making it more expensive than just relying on good old vinegar. (It is also possible to use store-bought lemon juice.)
How to use lemon juice to clean your coffee machine
To clean your coffee machine with lemon juice, you need to make up a solution of around 50% lemon juice and 50% water. You need enough to fill one carafe, so the volume will depend on the coffee machine you have at home.
Before starting the cleaning cycle, it might be a good idea to clean all the removable parts like the filter and nozzle separately in warm soapy water or in the dishwasher.
Empty the coffee machine of any water that remains in the reservoir and fill up the reservoir with the lemon juice/water solution. Hit the brew button and brew about half a carafe (obviously without using any coffee!).
When the carafe is about half full, switch the machine off and leave it to rest for half an hour. After this time, come back and switch it back on to allow the second half of the cleaning solution to pass through the machine into the carafe.
When the cleaning cycle has finished, discard the lemon juice water and run a further cleaning cycle with plain water. This will rinse out the lemon juice solution from the machine. If there is still a lemon smell, one more cleaning cycle should do the trick.
And that’s it!
Check out this video to see a different method using powdered citric acid.
Cleaning a dirty carafe
If you want to remove coffee stains from a dirty carafe, a neat trick is to use baking soda. Baking soda is not so useful for cleaning a coffee maker internally but is excellent at breaking down those stubborn stains.
To do this, simply make up a solution of baking soda and hot water. Fill the carafe with the solution and leave it to stand for around 15 minutes. When the water is cool, you should easily be able to wipe away the stains from your carafe.
Tips for keeping your coffee-making equipment in good working order
If you are a regular coffee drinker, you should probably be washing the removable parts (carafe, lid, filter etc.) daily.
You should decalcify (using lemon juice, vinegar or a commercial decalcifying product) once a month in hard water areas or once every two to three months in soft water areas.
Using filtered water will mean you won’t need to decalcify as often – and your coffee will probably taste a lot better too!
Keep your machine clean for germ-free and better-tasting coffee
Whether you decide to use vinegar, lemon juice or a commercial cleaning agent bought from a store, it is important not to forget to clean your machine regularly.
This will ensure you can always drink optimum-tasting coffee – and that your coffee machine doesn’t become a breeding ground for unpleasant germs that can easily make you sick.
Which kind of coffee maker do you use? How do you keep it clean? Do you use vinegar? What do you do about the odor? Have you tried lemon juice? If you have something to add, please leave us a comment – and if you found this article useful, please don’t forget to share!
My name is Kathy Gallo, Editor of Daily Cupo, a Coffee buff. The guide you find here is designed exactly for you, and it is our hope that you find it not only interesting but also actionable.