Tips on how to clean a coffee maker without vinegar effectively with common ingredients you may find in your home at any time.
Your coffee maker is no different from any of your other kitchen appliances or cookware in that it needs a good clean on a regular basis.
A telling sign that your coffee maker may be in need of one is a bitter-tasting cup of coffee. Even though nothing has outwardly changed with regards to the brewing process.
Over time stains and residues will inevitably build up. These are just the physically visible indications for the need to clean your coffee brewing appliance.
The build-ups which are not visible to the naked eye are probably even more worrying.
So, why do you need to clean your coffee maker?
The need for hygiene should be the number one reason to clean your coffee maker.
Coffee is, after all, a beverage that you consume. If your appliance is dirty, it stands to reason that your cup of coffee is not going to be clean.
In 2011 a germ study was done by the health and safety organization, NSF International. They found that the coffee maker was one of the top five places in the average home containing unfriendly growths of bacteria.
In a small percentage of the appliances tested the bacteria coliform was detected which is commonly found in fecal matter.
The same study mentioned above also found evidence for the growth of mold in coffee makers. Molds, whether you like it or not, are present in almost all homes.
They can spread quickly through the dispersion of millions of asexual spores. Most common molds enjoy environments that present them with warmth and moisture.
Yeast is similar to mold in that they are members of the fungus kingdom. The 2011 germ study mentioned above also found evidence of the presence of yeast in uncleaned or irregularly cleaned coffee makers.
Like molds, yeasts also enjoy warmth and moisture.
The build-up and regular ingestion of one or all of the above microbes can lead to allergic reactions. Even infections of the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts are possible.
The boiling water in coffee makers does kill many of these nasties. But leaving your coffee maker uncleaned is only inviting health problems.
Cleaning your coffee maker for purposes of hygiene becomes even more important if you or members of your family have compromised immune systems.
The second important reason you will need to regularly clean your coffee maker is that the build-up of stains and residues can cause your appliance to operate less efficiently.
Residue build-up can be caused by the actual brewing process. As well, certain minerals present in the water your home has access to create a build-up.
Residue build-ups can also have an effect on the taste of your coffee.
The source of your home water may be what is referred to as “hard water”. This is simply water containing calcium bicarbonate and, sometimes, magnesium bicarbonate ions.
The heating and cooling of “hard water” can cause a hard chalky residue to accumulate over time. This accumulation can eventually interfere with the “plumbing” in your coffee maker.
A regular clean with just water and soap is generally not sufficient. In the case of limescale, it can lead to the creation of soap scum as the soap combines with the calcium carbonate.
Limescale is alkaline and is best cleaned using a mildly acidic solution. We will explain how to descale a coffee maker without vinegar a little further on.
The actual brewing process can also lead to residues usually consisting of the various oils found in your coffee grounds.
While these may not interfere with the general operation of your coffee maker they can have a negative effect on subsequent coffee brewing by altering the final flavor.
Additionally, they are very unsightly.
Vinegar, specifically white vinegar, is a popular cleaning agent in many homes due to its:
It is important to mention that vinegar should be diluted before application as a cleaning agent.
Most commercially available vinegar products do not exceed 5%. But it is still an acidic solution that has corrosive qualities and can damage surfaces.
• Popular – due to its ease of availability and effectiveness
• Availability – can be found in most household pantries
• Effective – vinegar’s acidic nature makes it effective as both a general-purpose cleaner and mild disinfectant
• Ease Of Use – is widely used as a general-purpose cleaner for a host of other areas in many a household
Vinegar may have good advantages as a cleaner, but it does have a few disadvantages:
• Only mildly disinfectant – vinegar is not effective against all forms of bacteria and molds
• Corrosive – if undiluted vinegar can have a corrosive effect on some surfaces, especially over time. If solutions exceed 10% concentration they can even be damaging to human skin. They even remove minerals from glass.
• Unpleasant Smell – vinegar has a pungent odor that doesn’t make it enjoyable to work with. However, that odor can be reduced by diluting it.
• Lingers On Surfaces – if surfaces cleaned with diluted vinegar are not rinsed it can linger.
While this might not be an issue with countertops, it can be unpleasant if those surfaces come into contact with foods or beverages. As would be the case with your coffee makers.
• Mild Cleanser – vinegar needs time to be effective. Don’t clean your coffee maker with diluted vinegar moments before your guests are expecting cups of coffee.
Diluting some white vinegar with water. Use 1 part vinegar to 1 part water in your coffee maker’s water reservoir.
Let the solution stand for 15 minutes or so before running a complete brewing cycle.
By detaching the removal parts and soaking in a mixture of water and white vinegar.
If you use the first option remember to flush out your coffee maker by running 2 or 3 cycles using just water. If you decide to use the second option remember to rinse the parts with clean water before re-attaching.
Dip a clean sponge or cloth into a diluted mixture of water and white vinegar.
Using it to wipe the surfaces of your coffee maker is a good way to clean the exterior of your device.
Diluted vinegar is an effective general-purpose cleaner and disinfectant. Some people might be put off by some or all of its disadvantages as mentioned above though.
It is for this reason that you may be pleased to know that there are alternatives to cleaning coffee makers without vinegar.
Possibly the easiest and most accessible alternative to diluted vinegar. Detach the removable parts of your coffee maker and wash with water and a little dish washing liquid.
Remember to follow the instructions that came with your appliance when detaching those parts. For those parts that cannot be removed, you could use a little dish washing liquid on a damp sponge or cloth.
After cleaning run a couple of brewing cycles using water to thoroughly rinse your device.
Lemon juice has a similar level of acidity to that of vinegar. It works as a cleaner and disinfectant in the same fashion.
Lemon juice, like diluted vinegar, also works well as a mild limescale remover. Lemon juice is commercially available if you don’t have access to any lemons.
The advantage of using lemon juice is that it does not have the pungent odor that vinegar has. It is also not as corrosive.
Again, rinse out your appliance by running a couple of cycles with water to remove any lemon juice residue.
Baking soda is a mild alkali. This makes it a good purpose general cleaner, especially with regards to grease and dirt.
Simply fill your coffee maker’s coffee pot with some lukewarm water and a ¼ cup of baking soda. Transfer this solution into your coffee maker’s water reservoir and run a brewing cycle.
Discard this dirty water. Repeat as many times as necessary until the post brewing cycle water looks clean.
Borax is alkaline like baking soda and has been a traditional household cleaner for a long time.
It will not leave any chemical residue after use. However, you will need to flush out any borax solution as it is very soluble.
Place 2 tablespoons of borax into your water reservoir and run a brewing cycle. To flush out your coffee maker simply run 3 or 4 brewing cycles with water.
Another organic compound you will probably find in many a pantry.
This is a great way to descale a coffee maker without vinegar.
Cream of tartar is acidic and a by-product of wine making. It works well to help remove stains and is effective against limescale.
Additionally, it can be mixed with lemon juice or vinegar.
Place 3 tablespoons into your coffee maker’s water reservoir. Stir until dissolved. Run a complete brewing cycle.
Once your coffee pot is full, allow the water to cool, then scrub using a sponge and discard. Run another brewing cycle with just water to flush out your appliance.
Designed to help keep teeth clean for those people wearing dentures.
It is actually a mild bleach (sodium hypochlorite). Many brands of denture cleaner can also contain baking soda and citric acid.
Simply drop two tablets into your appliance’s water reservoir containing warm water. Stir until completely dissolved.
Run a complete brewing cycle and follow up with another two cycles using water to flush out your device.
Another alkaline or more commonly known as anti-acid tablets.
Common ingredients are citric acid, baking soda, and aspirin. These ingredients help to make it a mild, but effective general purpose cleaner.
Place 2 tablets in the water reservoir and another 2 in the filter cup (without a paper filter). Wait about 15 minutes until the fizzing stops, then run a brewing cycle.
Flush out your coffee maker by running another 2 or three brewing cycles using water.
One of the cheaper methods of cleaning your coffee maker.
Alcohol is actually an ingredient in many cleaning products, such as mouth wash. It also works well as an odor remover and detergent.
Mix water with vodka or other clear alcohol until you have a 25% concentration by volume.
Pour this into your water reservoir and run a complete brewing cycle. Follow this up with another 2 cycles using just water to flush out any water-alcohol solution.
You can also clean surfaces using your water-alcohol solution to remove stains and/or other residues.
Commonly used as a general-purpose cleaner in many households.
It is very important to remember to dilute the bleach before use as it can be corrosive.
Mix 4 cups of water with 2 tablespoons of bleach and pour it into your water reservoir. Top up your water reservoir to the maximum mark with more water.
Run a single complete brewing cycle. Flush out your coffee maker with a few more cycles using water only.
You are able to clean your coffee pot with hydrogen peroxide.
It is a common ingredient in certain cleaners, including mouthwashes.
It works extremely well as a cleaner and disinfectant.
Pour 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide into your coffee maker’s pot and dilute with water up to the maximum mark. Pour this solution into your water reservoir and run a single complete brewing cycle.
Flush out your coffee maker with another 2 complete cycles using fresh water.
Has been used to help remove stubborn stains and works very well as a limescale remover. Precautions must be taken as this compound is very corrosive.
Only use in diluted form!
Mix 4 parts water with 1 part muriatic acid in a container such as a plastic bucket. Add the acid to the water and not the other way round!
Prepare another bucket with a solution of water and baking soda. Detach all removable parts from your coffee maker and soak in your water-acid solution for 5 to 7 minutes.
With suitable protection transfer these parts to your bucket of water-baking soda solution. This will neutralize the muriatic acid.
Be careful as a mild chemical reaction might take place. Rinse all parts with clean water thoroughly before re-attaching to your coffee maker.
The ice and salt work together to help remove mineral deposits, grease, and other residues.
Additionally, you can use some white vinegar.
It is a little bit of an unusual way to clean a coffee maker without vinegar but can be quite effective.
Mix ice, iodized table salt, and water (with a little white vinegar if you want) in a container. Soak your detachable coffee maker parts in this solution.
Allow at least an hour for the cleaning action to take place. Wipe down with a clean sponge before thoroughly rinsing and re-attaching.
Many good quality brand coffee makers should have instructions and product suggestions for limescale removers. You can find the information on their websites or Youtube channels.
Some brands even sell their own limescale removers.
Follow your coffee maker’s suggestions, if possible, before using third-party descalers. If you need to use a commercial third-party limescale remover – follow their instructions carefully.
The ingredient concentrations in these commercial limescale removers tend to be higher than many of the alternatives mentioned above.
Cleaning your coffee maker only takes a short time out of your day. If you use home cleaners that require time to complete their respective cleaning action, you are free to do other things while you wait.
If you are lucky enough to have a dishwasher, then you have no excuse to not keep your coffee maker parts clean.
Remember, keeping your coffee maker clean increases the longevity of your appliance. It also helps ensure that every cup of coffee it produces is as delicious as it should be.
Most importantly, a clean coffee pot means that those cups of coffee that you enjoy so much do not end up compromising you and your family’s health.
Ideally, you should at least rinse your coffee maker out after every use. Do this by removing the used grounds, cleaning the brewing basket as well as the lid. The descaling of the machine should be done every 3 months. After this period of time, there will be a build-up of mineral deposits that will affect the efficiency of the machine.
With regular use, a mineral scale build-up from the water will affect the way your machine operates. The water flow will not be as efficient and could stop your machine working if allowed to go unchecked. You will also notice your coffee will not be hot enough anymore.
The method of brewing coffee in a coffee maker, even a percolator, does not allow the water to get hot enough to kill most germs or bacteria. A regular rinse with a vinegar or substitute cleanser will disinfect the machine.
Sadly, the answer is "yes" it is possible to get sick from a dirty coffee maker. With regular use bacteria, mold and yeast can build up to a point where it can affect your health. Hot water is not enough to totally disinfect your machine so you would need to use an agent regularly to decontaminate the coffee maker.
Coffee is a natural product and as such there are naturally occurring molds and mycotoxins that can be found in some coffee beans. These can still be present after roasting and brewing in some cases.