11 Ways To Clean A Coffee Machine Without Using Vinegar

dirty coffee maker

Vinegar is often recommended for cleaning a coffee machine. After trying numerous methods to clean my coffee machine, I have found that vinegar is not the best solution.  There are other ways to clean a coffee machine, that don’t leave your coffee machine smelling and tasting like vinegar.

11 ways to clean a coffee machine without vinegar include the following natural and commercial cleaning items: salt and ice, lemon juice, baking soda, cream of tartar, rice, Alka Seltzer, denture cleaning tablets, hydrogen peroxide, vodka, borax, and CLR.

You may have heard that vinegar is the best product to use to clean your coffee maker.  Although vinegar is a great disinfecting product, it is acidic, has a strong taste and odor, and is difficult to completely rinse out of your coffee maker. This can cause your coffee to have an acidic vinegar taste long after you’ve cleaned your coffee maker.

1.  Salt and Ice

The salt and ice method is a popular way restaurants clean their coffee machines. This is an easy and natural way to clean your coffee carafe regularly. It quickly removes burned-on coffee residue. Crushed ice works best. If you don’t have crushed ice, you can break up normal ice cubes by placing ice cubes in a bag and crushing them with a mallet, or you can toss the ice cubes in a blender and pulse.

Add about 2 cups of crushed ice and 2 tsp of salt to your carafe and shake it up. The combination of salt and ice creates a reaction that removes buildup from your carafe.  Swirl the ice and salt mixture around in your coffee pot until the coffee stains disappear. This is one of the best methods for keeping your carafe clean. Once you are satisfied with the results, rinse it a few times before use.

2.  Lemon juice

Lemon juice is great for cleaning both a coffee machine’s brewing compartment and the carafe.  Because it has acidic properties, it will naturally break up deposits inside of your coffee maker. Unlike vinegar, it has a pleasant smell and rinses out easily.  

To thoroughly clean your coffee machine, fill up your carafe with a mixture of room temperature water and 1-2 tbsp of lemon juice. Let it soak in the reservoir for about 15 minutes. Then turn the coffee machine on and allow the water to run all the way through.  Let the water and lemon mixture sit for another 15 minutes to break up the calcium and mineral deposits in the carafe.

Once this is completed and your coffee maker looks clear and clean, run a pot of water through your machine twice to completely rinse out the lemon mixture from your machine. If you are not satisfied with how clean it is, you can repeat the process, but do not reuse the lemon water.

3. Baking soda

Baking soda is often used to clean and remove odors. It’s great for regular cleaning of your coffee machine. You can use baking soda to clean your coffee machine in several ways. You can use a baking soda paste to remove tough, hard-to-remove build-up from your carafe or the warming plate of your coffee machine.  It can also be used as a detergent to wash the carafe, filter, and other parts of your machine.  Additionally, you can run a mixture of baking soda and water through the machine to clean the reservoir and inside of your coffee machine.  

To use baking soda, as a detergent or paste, take apart any removable parts from your coffee machines, such as the filter or filter basket. Make a baking soda paste by pouring dry baking soda inside of your carafe, and add just enough water to form a paste. Use the paste to thoroughly scrub and remove any burned-on stains and deposits. Alternatively, you can mix a few tbsp of baking soda with warm water in your sink to wash the carafe and removable parts of your coffee machine. 

To completely clean your coffee machine.  Fill your carafe with about ¼ cup of baking soda mixed with warm water.  Swirl the carafe around to make sure the baking soda is completely dissolved. Then pour the baking soda mixture into the reservoir and turn your coffee maker on.  Let the mixture soak in the carafe for about 15-20 minutes. Then run two cycles of water through your coffee maker to rinse any baking soda residue from your machine.

4. Cream of Tartar

Want to get your coffee carafe sparkly clean?  Try using a mixture of water and cream of tartar. Cream of tartar works in a similar way as baking soda. It is slightly acidic and can be used to dissolve limescale and other mineral deposits from your coffee machine. Simply fill up your coffee pot with 2-3 tbsp of cream of tartar mixed with warm water. Let the cream of tartar dissolve. Pour the mixture into your coffee maker’s reservoir and turn your coffee maker on.  Once the mixture has run through the machine, run warm water through your coffee maker a couple of times to completely rinse the machine.  You can also make a cream of tartar paste by mixing dry cream of tartar with a little bit of water to clean tough stains from the carafe or warming plate.

5. Rice

Even if you rinse your carafe out after each use, it can get stains and mineral deposits that make your pot look dingy.  To remove these stains, there’s an easy trick. Use rice with a little soapy water. The rice works like a natural abrasive and will remove stains and residue from your carafe. 

If you use this method, be sure not to put dish soap directly in the coffee carafe. Instead, make a solution with 1 to 2 drops of dish soap with a sink full of hot water.  Soapy water is fine to use for cleaning your carafe, but you don’t want to use dish soap or dishwater inside of your coffee machine. It is very difficult to completely rinse out of a coffee machine. Even if you use natural dish soap, it can leave your coffee tasting like soap.  This method, however, works really well for removing tough stains. Just make sure you rinse the carafe several times before you use it.

6.  Alka Seltzer tablets

Alka Seltzer might seem like a really strange way to clean your coffee machine, but it works. It’s not only safe to use, but the fizzing action that helps settle your stomach also helps break up calcium and limescale deposits from your coffee machine. Alka Seltzer is a combination of sodium bicarbonate and citric acid. It contains both an acid and a base. When it mixes with water, the two compounds react causing it to fizz. This fizzing is what helps break up deposits inside your coffee machine. 

To use Alka Selzer to clean your coffee machine, fill the tank of your coffee maker with water, and drop in 2 or 3 tablets. Allow the tablets to fizz for about 15 minutes, and then turn on your machine. Once the Alka Selzer mixture brews through the machine. Let it sit for a few minutes. Then scrub out your carafe. After your carafe is clean, run warm water through your machine a couple of times to rinse out any remaining Alka Selzer from the machine.

7. Denture Cleaning Tablets

Denture tablets contain sodium bicarbonate, citric acid, and enzymes  They work in a similar manner as Alka Seltzer to clean and disinfect. They are not just great for cleaning dentures, they can be used to disinfect and clean your coffee maker. All you need to do is fill up the reservoir of your machine, drop a couple of denture tablets into the tank, and let the tablets completely dissolve. Then turn the coffee maker on and let the water run through the machine and carafe. The denture tablets will fizz away bacteria and mineral deposits as they run through the machine. Once the coffee maker has completed brewing. Dump the mixture out, and run two more pots of warm water through the machine to remove any denture products from the machine.

8. Hydrogen Peroxide

You might be skeptical about using hydrogen peroxide to clean your coffee machine. Isn’t hydrogen peroxide toxic? While hydrogen peroxide can be dangerous if it’s swallowed directly, when diluted it’s a safe disinfectant. In fact, the CDC recommends using hydrogen peroxide to disinfect your toothbrushes. Unlike other chemical products, hydrogen peroxide is safe to use for cleaning the inside and outside of your coffee machine.
To clean your coffee maker, fill up your coffee carafe with one part hydrogen peroxide to 2-3 parts water.  Pour the hydrogen peroxide and water mixture into your coffee machine’s reservoir. Turn the coffee maker on and let the hydrogen peroxide mixture run through.  Once the mixture has run through the machine, rinse the machine out thoroughly by running the machine 2 to 3 additional times with just plain water.

9. Vodka

You probably didn’t know vodka could be used as a cleaning agent. Aside from its intoxicating properties, it is also a powerful disinfectant and cleaner. It can actually be used to remove soap scum from your bathroom and can make your mirrors shine. This is why it’s such an amazing cleaning product for your coffee maker.  Just add about ¼ cup of vodka into your coffee machine’s tank, and fill the rest with water. Then run your coffee maker. Let the vodka and water soak in your carafe for 15-20 minutes. Then scrub the carafe. Once the carafe is clean, run the coffee maker with warm water twice to completely remove the vodka from the machine.

10. Borax

Borax is a multi-purpose cleaning product. It can be used for everything from cleaning laundry to your fridge, tub, and even your coffee maker. Keep in mind, Borax is a cleaning product. It’s not a natural cleaner like lemon or baking soda. But, it works well for descaling and disinfecting your coffee machine.  To use, mix 2-3 tbsp of borax with one carafe full of warm water. Pour the mixture into your coffee machine’s reservoir and run a brew cycle. You will want to run your coffee machine 2 to 3 additional times with warm water to rinse out any remaining cleaning product from your machine.  

11. CLR

CLR is a commercial cleaning product that is used to remove lime, rust, and calcium deposits. If you have a coffee machine that hasn’t been properly cleaned in a long time, you may want to try CLR to remove tough stains and mineral deposits.  CLR is not recommended for every type of coffee machine. If you have a coffee maker that permanently holds water, you should not use CLR to clean it. It is also not recommended for Gevalia, Keurig, Cuisinart coffee makers, or espresso machines.

To clean your coffee machine with CLR, mix 1 cup of CLR with 8 cups of water. Pour the diluted CLR mixture into your coffee machine’s reservoir and run the brew cycle. This should leave your coffee machine disinfected and free of buildup. Make sure to rinse the coffee machine by running several brew cycles of plain warm water to remove any CLR chemicals from your machine.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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