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Citric Acid to Clean a Coffee Maker

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Updated June 27, 2022

If you’re a regular coffee drinker, you should learn how to use citric acid to clean a coffee maker. You most likely wash your coffee pot regularly with soap and water, but simply using water leaves residue inside even the best coffee makers. In many cases, the residue left behind contains calcium, magnesium, and limestone, especially if you have hard water. Professionals refer to this process as descaling, but it helps with mold and bacteria as well. To reduce build-up in your coffee machine, you should clean a coffee maker with apple cider vinegar or citric acid.


  • Citric acid provides a natural, easy-to-use option for descaling your coffee maker, containing no additional chemicals.
  • You will need citric acid, found at the grocery store, water from your tap or another source, and a large container to mix the two with a spoon.
  • If you have a chalky white residue in your coffee machine or carafe, you may need to descale your machine.

Descaling Your Coffee Maker with Citric Acid

The process for descaling a coffee maker requires a substance that can cut through the various minerals found in water, including vinegar, citric acid, or a commercial descaler. The process for each of these options remains the same, so it comes down to your preference and what is easier to find.

If you have a coffee machine with an indicator light, it will tell you when you need to descale your machine. If you don’t have an indicator light, watch for a chalky white residue, which shows the build-up. If you’re wondering, can you use bleach to clean your coffee maker? You can, but maybe you shouldn’t.

Insider Tip

You can find citric acid at the grocery store to use for descaling your coffee machine.

Steps for Descaling a Coffee Maker

  • Tools Needed
    • 1-2 tablespoons of powdered citric acid, depending on the hardness of your water
    • 1 quart of tap water or filtered water
    • 1 pitcher or another large container
    • 1 Spoon to mix the water and citric acid
  1. Empty and rinse the coffee pot. The carafe collects the liquid after it passes through the coffee grounds during brewing, combining hot water and coffee grounds to create your cup of coffee. Because of this factor, the build-up happens inside the carafe.
  2. Throw out any remaining coffee grounds if you haven’t already. However, do not put them down the sink, as it can cause problems with your plumbing.
  3. Fill the water reservoir with your citric acid mixed with water. Adding the citric acid and water together allows the citric acid to dilute itself in the water. Make sure to combine the two in a pitcher or other container where you can stir it easily to make smooth, liquid solutions each time.
  4. Start a half brew cycle. If you do not have this mode on your products, you can run a regular brew cycle and stop it halfway through. Make sure to let it sit for a decent amount of time. The recommendations depend on how frequently you complete this process, but you will need about an hour if you haven’t descaled your maker in a while.
  5. Run another half brew cycle or the other half of your full brew cycle. After the break, both the buildup in your water tank and your coffee pot should be broken up. Then, with the remainder of the brew cycle, pour out the mixture in the sink and rinse the carafe.
  6. Refill the reservoir with clean water before running another full brew cycle. You may want to repeat this step a couple of times to eliminate any citric acid remaining. If you use vinegar, you may need more cycles because of its potency.


You should try to avoid the irritating bleach when cleaning your coffee maker, but you may use vinegar or citric acid instead.


Should you use vinegar to clean coffee makers?

You may choose plain or white vinegar to descale your coffee products, but ensure your mixture contains roughly one-half vinegar and one-half water. When doing so, follow the method described above since citric acid and vinegar can be swapped for each other.

Is it important to clean the outside of my coffee maker?

Yes. As with any surface in the kitchen, your coffee maker’s exterior should be cleaned occasionally. You should wipe it down every three to six months, with frequent coffee drinkers cleaning it more often.

How often do I really need to clean my coffee maker?

You should clean your coffee maker every three to six months, but this frequency depends on your coffee consumption from the machine and the water in your area. For example, if you have hard water full of minerals, you could need to clean your coffee machine every month.

STAT: The biggest misconception identified through the study was that the bathroom is the dirtiest place in the house when in fact the kitchen had the most germs. (source)

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