Keurig coffee makers are the most convenient way to get a fresh cup on demand, and it's important to keep them clean and functional so that they're always ready. Cleaning your Keurig may seem complicated because of all the different parts, but it's quite easy to make sure you're getting the best tasting cup of coffee you can.
How to Clean a Keurig
The first step is to know when it's time to clean the Keurig. You'll be able to tell either by the performance of the machine or the taste of the coffee. An overused Keurig might deliver coffee that has somewhat of a plastic taste to it or tastes overly burnt and bitter. This is usually caused by normal buildup. A good bitter coffee fix is to clean out the coffee maker.
Clogs also happen frequently, mostly due to buildup of natural minerals in your water or loose coffee grounds. If your machine is having trouble brewing, or if your coffee is starting to taste unusual, it's time for a cleanout.
Plastic Taste In Your Coffee
Have you ever wondered why your coffee tastes like plastic? A Keurig plastic taste comes from hot water coming into contact with the plastic parts of the coffeemaker. The contact can leech out trace amounts of "off-gas" from the coffeemaker's production line, which gives the water that distinctive taste.
With a Keurig, most of the internal parts are plastic, and there's also the plastic K-cup to consider. Even with older machines, buildup of minerals in the water can also change the taste of the coffee, and may add to that plastic taste or smell.
Cleaning Keurigs Inside and Out
The best way to remove plastic taste from a Keurig is to make sure all the individual parts are cleaned on a regular schedule, and to clean out the internal workings with a descaling when necessary. If plastic taste persists after that, investigate a metal reusable K-cup that can be filled with ground coffee to eliminate one point of contact with plastic. Sometimes, it just comes down to individual taste buds.
The outside of your Keurig should be washed down weekly to avoid dust, which can clog internal parts or interfere with the electrical workings. This can be done with a wet cloth or a wet paper towel.
Water Reservoir Cleaning
The water reservoir and its lid should be cleaned weekly. You'll want to remove both parts, then wash them carefully with soap and water. They should air dry, because a towel could leave lint that would then plug the system or possibly come out in the next cup of coffee.
The filter at the bottom of the water reservoir can be cleaned with a sink sprayer hose. Don't put the water reservoir or the lid in the dishwasher. These need to be cleaned by hand.
K-Cup Holder Cleaning
Technically, the K-cup holder can go in the dishwasher, but only on the top rack in a low-temperature cycle. It may be better to clean this piece by hand using soap and water. The K-cup holder can be easily removed from the machine by hand; it should pop out of place with gentle pulling. Be careful if hand-washing, as the K-Cup holder contains a needle. This should be done weekly or bi-weekly.
K-Cup Exit Needle Cleaning
The needle in the bottom of the K-cup holder can get plugged with coffee grounds. While cleaning out the K-cup holder, you can clean out any buildup in the exit needle using a paper clip. Be sure to rinse water through the needle afterwards to make sure everything is out. Do this on the same schedule as the K-cup holder.
K-Cup Entrance Needle Cleaning
The entrance needle is attached to the lever above the K-cup holder. You can clean out any plugs or buildup in this needle with a paper clip, as well. Be careful when cleaning, because the needles are sharp. This clean-out can happen on the same schedule as the K-Cup holder.
Drip Tray Cleaning
The drip tray can be cleaned at any time. Remove the pieces and hand wash them in the sink with soap and water. It's best to clean the drip tray weekly to avoid any buildup of bacteria or mold in the tray. If there's any solid residue like loose coffee grounds, be sure to clean them out, either with soap and water or using a white vinegar solution.
Descaling the Keurig
The system should also be washed out as a whole. Descaling the Keurig, and focusing on removing mineral buildup in the internal parts, should be done every three to six months. Some models have a descaling indicator that will come on when it's time to clean out the machine.
Descaling involves running a solution through the system, with no K-cup in the machine, to wash out the internal parts that can't be reached by hand. There are a few approaches to this internal wash that can be tried.
Hot Water Rinse
This involves running the Keurig with no K-cup, and can be effective at removing some mineral buildup. Fill the water reservoir, then run the Keurig repeatedly until the reservoir is empty. Check the water coming out of the Keurig to see whether it is picking up any coffee grounds that may have been stuck in the system. Be sure to run the Keurig until the water runs clear afterwards.
Using a Vinegar Rinse
The most effective way to descale the Keurig is to use vinegar; white vinegar is a disinfectant, deodorizer and acidic enough to dissolve most buildup inside the machine. Empty the water reservoir and fill it with 48 oz of white vinegar. Run the vinegar through the Keurig until the reservoir is empty. You can pour the used vinegar down the sink as the coffee machine cycles.
Once the reservoir is empty, leave the Keurig on (by shutting off the "Auto Off" feature, if your model has it) for at least four hours. Then, you can remove the water reservoir, give it a good rinse and fill it with fresh water. Run the water through the Keurig a few times, without a K-cup, until the water exiting the machine no longer smells like vinegar.
Keurig Descaling Solutions
There are a number of descaling products on the market, including one made specifically by Keurig. If a vinegar descaling rinse doesn't seem to be working, a descaling solution can be purchased. In this case, follow the instructions given by the manufacturer of the solution for its use.
Set a Cleaning Schedule
It's best practice to clean the pieces of your Keurig on a schedule, much like the other appliances in your kitchen. Casual investigations have shown that Keurigs not on a cleaning cycle can end up growing bacteria that will eventually make its way into your coffee. Keurigs are used at a high frequency — often multiple times in a single day — and every single use will dirty the machine just a little bit more.
Keep your Keurig clean, because it's important to be able to get that hot, fresh cup of coffee on demand right when you need it.
Danielle Smyth is a writer and content marketer from upstate New York. She holds a Master of Science in Publishing from Pace University. She owns her own content marketing agency, Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing (www.wordsmythcontent.com), and she enjoys writing home and DIY articles and blogs for clients in a variety of related industries. She also runs her own lifestyle blog, Sweet Frivolity (www.sweetfrivolity.com).