How To Clean A Coffee Maker Without Vinegar

White vinegar is pretty much the go-to substance when it comes to cleaning coffee makers. It’s efficient, cheap, non-toxic, and very likely to already be in the household pantry. 

There can be times when there is no vinegar available, or you’d rather not use vinegar. Here’s my first suggestion: use vinegar!

Okay, I get it, the smell can be bad, or you have other reasons for avoiding vinegar. This guide on how to clean a coffee maker without vinegar should be the answer to your questions. 

About Cleaning And Descaling The Coffee Maker

As the coffee maker goes through daily use, it will start accumulating mineral deposits through the water. To some extent, this depends on how often you use the coffee machine. Eventually, every machine will have to deal with this problem.

Mineral deposits can cause the coffee machine to clog up, leading to improper functioning. Even if the coffee maker continues to function, the taste of coffee will steadily deteriorate. Ever had the displeasure of dealing with weird, sour-ish coffee? Mineral deposits are the culprit.

There are other pressing concerns as well. A coffee machine and its water reservoir can become home to bacteria, yeast, and mold. Once mineral deposits start growing, they offer additional protection and growth to these organisms.

Even if the machine has a removable water reservoir, many of the deposits will not be reachable by hand. They could be inside the machine’s water movement areas/pipes. Proper descaling is the best option.

The aim of any descaler is to remove the mineral deposits and kill the bacteria, mold, and yeast that could be present in the coffee maker.

As mentioned white vinegar is one of the best ways to do this. In case your only problem is the availability of white vinegar, you can clean the coffee maker with apple cider vinegar

There are also other descalers available on the market. In fact, many coffee maker companies recommend specific descaler products over vinegar. Moving forward, I’ll discuss these and other available options.

Some of the options include using corrosive and toxic products for cleaning. I don’t recommend using them. These can cause serious problems with the tiniest of mistakes.

Don’t Skip Cleaning Other Parts And Accessories Of The Coffee Maker

Don’t forget to clean the exteriors of the coffee maker and related accessories! The methods here focus on descaling. While you’re at it, take the opportunity to clean the carafe, filter basket, and where applicable, the water reservoir.

Check the instruction booklet to see if these components are dishwasher safe. If that’s true, let them sit on the top shelf of the dishwasher for cleaning.

If you’re unsure or would like to manually wash them, it can be done fairly easily. The steps are simple and fairly straightforward:

  • Create a mix with dish soap and water
  • Soak the products in this mixture
  • Use a sponge to clean them
  • The carafe and water reservoir may need a bottle brush for proper cleaning
  • Rinse thoroughly with water

Note, the part about the water reservoir applies only for coffee machines with removable water reservoirs. A coffee machine should never be immersed in water.

Here are some ways you can clean your coffee maker without using vinegar.

Cleaning The Coffee Maker With Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is the best alternative to white vinegar. Many people even consider it superior to using vinegar. Its acidic content is similar to vinegar and it is non-toxic, pleasant smelling, and easily available.

The biggest difference here is cost and time investment. Preparing lemon juice manually will likely need dozens of lemons and a whole lot of manual effort. Buying lemon juice is an easier option. White vinegar is considerably cheaper as compared to lemon juice.

Another option is using citric acid. It is the active ingredient in lemon juice and is immensely cheaper than buying juice or squeezing lemons. If you choose this route, make sure you have more uses for citric acid than cleaning the coffee maker. Otherwise, there’s a good chance you’ll have a bag full of citric acid, having used only 2-3 tablespoons.

Here’s how you can clean your drip coffee maker with lemon juice.

Step 1: Empty The Coffee Maker

Check and ensure that your coffee maker is empty. There should be no water in the reservoir and no coffee powder of paper filter in the reservoir. It’s good to keep the carafe empty too because that’s where we’ll drain the cleaner from the coffee maker.

Step 2: Mix Lemon Juice And Water

You should have enough lemon juice to fill half the water reservoir. Fill the other half with water. Now switch on the coffee machine and let it brew. Do not draw any water from the coffee machine during this process.

Step 3: Patience

Once the coffee maker has heated the cleaning mixture and is ready to pour it, switch off the coffee maker. Let it stay undisturbed for about 30 minutes. This will give time to the heated cleaning mix to sufficiently remove and dissolve mineral deposits.

Step 4: Run A Full Brew Cycle

After you’ve waited, switch on the coffee machine again. Within a few minutes, it will be ready to pour the cleaning solution. Place the carafe and let the machine complete its brew cycle. Discard the contents of the carafe.

Step 5: Run Fresh Water Cycles

As the next step, pour clean water into the coffee machine water reservoir. Let it run a full brew cycle. Once it is done, discard the contents of the carafe and run another cycle with fresh water.

This is intended to remove any lingering lemon juice and its smell from the coffee maker. In most cases, two cycles should suffice.

If You’re Using Citric Acid

Note: Lower the volume. That espresso maker is LOUD.

In case you choose citric acid as a powder, the ratio changes dramatically. The conventional ratio is one tablespoon of citric acid per gallon of water. So if you’re using a small coffee maker, stick to lemon juice. 

For larger coffee makers, adjust the amount of citric acid used to stay in line with ratio. It doesn’t have to be exact, but being close helps.

You can buy citric acid on Amazon here.

Use Coffee Maker Descaler Products

There are plenty of coffee maker descalers available on the market. Many manufacturers recommend that you use their descaling products over white vinegar. For most coffee makers, however, you can choose from the wide variety of available options. 

Descalers are available in liquid, powder, and tablet form. So take your pick for what you choose. The amount of water to use with the descaler depends on the product you pick. So make it a point to look over the provided instructions carefully. 

Some strong descaler products should be kept away from stone surfaces like marble and granite. If your kitchen countertops are made from those stones, pick a milder descaler, add a protective covering, or move to a different surface.

For this guide, I’m using the Urnex Coffee Maker and Espresso Machine Cleaner Cleancaf Powder

Step 1: Empty The Machine

Check if the machine is empty. The carafe, filter, water reservoir should all be empty. 

Step 2: Mix Descaler And Water

Add one packet of the descaler for every 32oz (one liter) of lukewarm water. It is useful to complete this mix in the carafe for your coffee machine. You can adjust the amount of descaler used depending on the water reservoir volume of the machine. 

Step 3: Let It Brew

Once the descaler has dissolved, pour the mix into the water reservoir of your coffee machine. Switch on the machine and let it proceed as usual. Remember, there should be no coffee in the filter.

Soon, the cleaning solution will run through the machine and be poured into the carafe. Let the machine empty the reservoir and discard the liquid into the sink.

Step 4: Fresh Water Cycle

Fill the water reservoir with fresh water and let it run another brew cycle. You should run at least two cycles with fresh water before you start making coffee.

Cleaning Coffee Maker With Baking Soda

Baking soda is a common household cleaning and deodorizing agent. It is non-toxic and useful overall. Most cleaning solutions for coffee makers are acidic. Baking soda breaks the norm slightly and is an alkali. 

You probably already have baking soda at home. In case you don’t, you can buy it on Amazon

Note that baking soda is not the best cleaner for your coffee maker. Baking soda fizzes in hot water. Gas released inside the coffee maker can be a problem and damage the coffee maker if it doesn’t find an easy outlet. Additionally, it doesn’t dissolve completely in water and may leave behind small particles and deposits of its own.

You can use it in a pinch but don’t rely on it as a regular coffee cleaner. It’s not the best descaler out there, and there are several better options available.

Step 1: Remove The Coffee Filter

Remove the coffee filter and keep it aside. Also, check to see that the water reservoir is empty. Use a clean cloth to wipe the filter area so that there are no coffee grounds lurking around. 

Step 2: Create The Cleaning Mix

Put one cup of water in the carafe. To this, add a quarter cup of baking soda. Mix water and baking soda until it dissolves completely in water. Add this cleaning solution to the water reservoir.

Step 3: Run A Brew Cycle

Switch on the coffee maker and let it run a complete brew cycle. The baking soda solution should land back into the carafe. Empty the carafe into the sink.

Step 4: Run Fresh Water Cycles

Fill the reservoir with water and let the coffee maker brew without adding coffee. One or two cycles should suffice.

Denture Tablet Coffee Machine Cleaner

For whatever reason, I feel weird and almost guilty to use denture tablets as a coffee machine cleaner. Maybe it’s just me, but this feels like some strange oddball method.

Ramblings aside, these tablets are fairly good coffee machine cleaners. They’re apt at killing bacteria, mold, and yeast. They’re non-toxic, easily available, and useful cleaners. I guess grandma won’t mind if you decide to borrow a few tablets for coffee maker cleaning. You can buy denture tablets on Amazon.

This is not the best cleaning method available and should be applied only when absolutely necessary.

Step 1: Mix Tablets In water

Ensure that the coffee machine is empty. There should be no water in the reservoir, coffee in the filter, and the carafe should be clean and empty.

Take enough water to fill up the coffee maker’s water reservoir and drop 2-3 tablets into it. Wait until the tablets dissolve. You can move and mix the water to make the tablets dissolve faster.

Step 2: Run A Full Brew Cycle

Pour the cleaning mix into the machine’s water reservoir. Switch on the machine and let it run a full brew cycle. Remember to place the carafe right so it can collect the dirty liquid as it flows out of the coffee machine. Once the water reservoir is empty, discard this solution.

Step 3: Run Fresh Water Cycles

Well, you know the drill. Fill the reservoir with fresh water and run a complete brew cycle. Continue until the reservoir is empty. Then fill it again and run another cycle. Once you’ve run two cycles, the coffee maker is clean and ready to brew coffee again.

Alcohol As The Coffee Maker Cleaner

Assorted vodka bottles

We’ve finally come to using alcohol as a coffee maker cleaner. It’s a fairly useful cleaning method. It’s also a terrible waste of alcohol. There are several other ways of cleaning your coffee maker, don’t waste alcohol! This method is wasteful and expensive.

If you decide to use alcohol anyway, the best option is vodka. It is colorless and won’t leave strong odors in the coffee machine. It will kill most of the bacteria and mold, but the descaling qualities of alcohol are dubious at best.

Step 1: Pour Water And Vodka Into The Reservoir

Make sure the water reservoir, carafe, and filter are empty. Now pour vodka into the water reservoir until it’s filled to about 25%. Add water to the mix and fill the reservoir.

Step 2: Run A Half Brew Cycle

Switch on the coffee maker and wait until it is ready to brew. At this point, rather than collecting the liquid into the carafe, switch off the coffee maker. Let it stay undisturbed for half- to one hour.

Step 3: Run A Full Brew Cycle

After the time is up, switch on the coffee maker again. This time, let it run a full brew cycle. Collect the liquid into the carafe. Once the cycle is complete, empty the carafe.

Step 4: Run Fresh Water Cycles

Refill the empty reservoir with fresh water and run a brew cycle. You may have to run a couple of brew cycles to remove all traces of alcohol taste and odor from the coffee machine.

Cleaning Your Coffee Maker With Vinegar Alternatives

There are plenty of useful alternatives available to white vinegar for cleaning your coffee machine. Several methods are listed here, but the best choices for how to clean a coffee maker without vinegar are lemon juice and descaling products. It’s okay to use other methods. However, use them only if necessary and not as your regular cleaning exercise.