How to clean a Keurig: Say no to bacteria in your brew

Have you ever had a bitter or metallic tasting cup of Keurig coffee? If you don’t take care of your beloved Keurig coffee maker, you’re exposing your machine to nasty bacteria that will seep into your morning brew, leaving you with that horrible aftertaste. Don’t worry though. After reading this guide, you’ll be able to clean your Keurig from top to bottom, so your next cup of coffee is the freshest and best tasting ever.

Image used with permission of the copyright holder

Step 1: Wash and wipe the tank and other removable parts

Start by unplugging the Keurig; you don’t want to damage the electronics or risk an electric shock. Next, remove all detachable components, including the water tank, cup holder/drip tray, and K-cup holder inside the coffee maker. Take them all the way to the kitchen sink and wash them thoroughly with soapy water, just like you would regular dishes. Set them aside to dry while you work on the other components.

This is also a great time to grab a washcloth or sanitizing wipes and give the entire Keurig a good wipe down. A coffee machine, especially in a busy environment like an office, can collect a lot of dust over time. You don’t want any of that debris mixing with your fresh water or coffee when you’re done here, so it’s a good idea to give the surface a good wipe down.

Step 2: Clean all the cracks

Keurig parts

Grab a small scrub brush (a toothbrush works well here) and a pin or paper clip. It’s time to thoroughly clean the remaining components of your Keurig. Although this may seem like an unnecessary step, it is very important to ensure the purity of your water and the quality of the coffee you get from your machine. Over time, sand and dirt can build up in the crevices of your Keurig, causing clogs and affecting the taste. Get rid of this detritus to improve durability and performance. Start by cleaning the entire housing of the K-cup holder.

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Different Keurig models have slightly different insertion methods, but the basics are the same. Use the brush to clean around the pod holder and deep corners in this part of the Keurig. Gravel and lost coffee grounds accumulate here. A flashlight or good overhead lighting is helpful. A nearby bowl of water or a wet cloth can help, but try to avoid using soapy water at this stage – that soap can be hard to get out, and you don’t want it to stain your next drink.

Once you’re done with the above steps, take out your pin/paperclip and inspect those serrated components that poke into the K-cups. In each “tooth” there should be a small hole through which hot water/coffee passes. Push the pin through that hole and spin it to loosen any accumulated debris and blockages. If your Keurig is running slowly, it could be because one of these holes is clogged. Dedicated Keurig needle cleaning tools are also available.

Step 3: Pour vinegar over

Cleaning the KeurigImage used with permission of the copyright holder

Many Keurig components are inside the coffee maker, out of your reach. Fortunately, there’s an easier way to clean the interior than disassembling the entire machine: ordinary kitchen vinegar is acidic enough to remove limescale, but is harmless to the rest of the Keurig.

Take a water tank and fill it with a solution of half white vinegar and half fresh water. Lock it back into the Keurig base, put all the other components back in place, and have a cup handy. It’s time to make some hot vinegar.

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Start the Keurig on normal settings and continue to fill the cups with the vinegar mixture until it is completely gone. This will smell a bit (you may want to open a window for ventilation), but like we said, it’s not harmful to your Keurig and will help remove that limescale. It is possible that it will become clogged during this descaling process. If it does, open the top and use the pin again to poke the holes and see if you can remove the trapped particles.

For a complete clean, it’s a good idea to run two full containers of half vinegar, half water. If your Keurig is still in good shape or you don’t have a lot of time, one full tank can work just fine.

Note: Keurig sells its own descaling solution, if you really want a name brand product to work with it. However, white vinegar is cheaper and easier to find. Also, the Keurig solution uses citric acid as its active ingredient, and there are some complaints that the smell and taste are not welcome. There are a number of other Keurig cleaning products on the market, such as “cleaning cups” and “rinsing pods.” We don’t recommend either because vinegar can do the job much cheaper.

Step 4: Rinse off the vinegar with water

keurig_mini_featImage used with permission of the copyright holder

You don’t want that vinegar left in the Keurig, so refill the tank with fresh water and run through the full tank again to rinse everything out. Make sure it passes the smell test when it’s done. No smell, no problem. Once this is done, your Keurig’s performance should improve and scale problems should literally disappear.

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If you use your Keurig regularly, you’ll definitely want to jump on this cleaning bandwagon and start cleaning your device often. Keurig suggests that users descale your machine every three to six months or more. This largely depends on your water source – hard water contains more minerals than soft water and is more likely to cause problems. If you regularly experience limescale problems, we recommend ditching your tap water and switching to filtered or bottled H2O.

Additional tip: Replace the filter cartridge

Several Keurig models have conveniently built-in water filters inside the water tank. If you find you have one of these, you will still need to change the filter cartridge after 60 tanks of water. You’re lucky if you have one of these handy filters in your Keurig, because they prevent clogging and can significantly improve the taste of your drinks.

If you are not one of the lucky ones who has a filter, you can start using bottled or filtered water instead of regular tap water. You will quickly notice that the scale problems will disappear. However, we understand that this can be an inconvenience because you are either spending a lot of money or throwing away plastic for nothing.

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