How To Clean And Descale A Coffee Maker

You count on your coffee maker to brew delicious coffee for you and your guests. But over time, natural minerals in water can build up in your appliance, affecting taste, brewing time and the overall performance of your machine. That’s why it’s important to clean your coffee maker on a regular basis. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much – all you’ll need is some coffee maker cleaning tablets or white vinegar, some water and a few minutes of your time.

Woman pouring coffee into a mug with drip coffee maker in background Woman pouring coffee into a mug with drip coffee maker in background

Cleaning vs. Descaling a Coffee Maker: What’s the Difference?

To help get the best possible brew, it’s important to clean your coffee maker daily as well as descale it periodically.

Daily cleaning helps you keep up with coffee splashes, oils and other residues that are easily removed with a quick rinse or soapy water.

Descaling removes limescale build up in your coffee machine from calcium, magnesium and other minerals that come from your water. The descaling process can include cleaning with vinegar or specialized descaling tablets.

How To Clean a Drip Coffee Maker

Cleaning your coffee maker is vital for great tasting coffee. Read on to learn how to clean your coffee maker correctly.


  • Mild soap

  • Warm water


  • Soft cloth

  • Dishwasher (optional)

Hand cleaning drip coffee maker shower head with a cloth

Step 1: Wipe Down Coffee Machine Exterior

Use a damp cloth to wipe the exterior of your drip coffee maker clean. Wipe the showerhead daily as well to remove coffee splashes and residue. Do not submerge your drip coffee machine in water.

Drip coffee maker parts being cleaned in soapy water

Step 2: Hand-Wash in Warm, Soapy Water

Check your owner’s manual to see which coffee machine parts should be hand-washed. This usually includes most of the removable parts including the coffee pot, lid, filter basket, reusable filter and sometimes the water reservoir. If you can’t wash these items right away, give them a quick rinse in warm water and allow to dry.

Dishwasher-safe coffee maker parts going into a dishwasher

Step 3: Clean in Your Dishwasher

Some parts may be top-rack dishwasher-safe. You can save a little time and manual labor by simply placing them in the top rack of your dishwasher for a more thorough cleaning about once a week.

Drip coffee maker with lid open

Step 4: Leave Compartments Open To Dry

Leave the reservoir lid and filter basket open to help the machine dry out between uses. This can help prevent the growth of bacteria by reducing the amount of moisture trapped inside.


A commercial descaling agent or vinegar can be used to descale a coffee maker– if you’re using the former, follow the directions on the package for the recommended amounts of descaling agent and water to use. If you don’t have access to a descaling agent, you can clean your coffee maker by filling the carafe with a solution consisting of half vinegar and half water.

NOTE: To descale a coffee maker without vinegar, KitchenAid® recommends affresh®coffee maker cleaning tablets1, which are available online and in retail stores. If you have a coffee maker with a grid that makes it difficult to put the entire affresh® tablet into the water reservoir, you can crush the tablet into smaller pieces in a plastic sandwich bag, then pour the powder into the water reservoir.

1 Affresh® and the recommending brand products are all owned and distributed by Whirlpool Corporation


  • Mild soap

  • Warm water


  • Soft cloth

Woman starting cleaning cycle on coffee machine

Step 1: Run a Brewing Cycle

Run the coffee maker through a complete brewing cycle using the recommended amounts of descaling solution and water. If your coffee maker features a pre-programmed cleaning cycle, follow the instructions in your user’s manual to complete it. 

Cleaning cycle indicator on coffee machine

Step 2: Turn Off Indicator Light

If your coffee maker features a Cleaning Needed Indicator light that is still on after the brewing cycle is complete, repeat Step 1 until the Indicator no longer illuminates after brewing.

Woman pouring water into coffee machine to rinse after descaling

Step 3: Rinse Coffee Maker

Rinse the coffee maker by running it through two brewing cycles using a full carafe of fresh, cool water each time.

Woman pouring water out of coffee carafe

Step 4: Wash the Brew Basket

Wash the brew basket and carafe in hot, soapy water and rinse with hot water.

Woman replacing water filter in coffee maker

Step 5: Reinstall the Water Filter

Reinstall or replace the water filter. Keep the lid open to allow the filter to dry.

Both the KitchenAid® 12 Cup Drip Coffee Maker with Spiral Showerhead and the step-up model with a programmable warming plate feature a cleaning indicator light and cleaning cycle to take the guesswork out of descaling your coffee maker.

How Do You Descale a Coffee Maker With Vinegar?

Descaling a coffee maker with vinegar is a simple way to keep your machine performing at its best. With filters and grounds removed, fill the reservoir to max using half water, half white distilled vinegar. Run a brew or cleaning cycle, empty the carafe and run 2-3 more brew cycles with fresh, cool water. Wash carafe and brew basket with hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly. 

Vinegar is slightly acidic which helps it break down mineral build-up in your coffee maker. This is a great at-home solution when you don’t have access to a specialized coffee machine descaling agent.

how often should you descale a coffee machine?

The frequency of descaling your coffee maker depends on the hardness of the water in your region and how often you use it. In general, you should descale your coffee maker about once a month if you brew coffee daily. Here are a few signs you can look out for to help determine when it’s time to descale your coffee maker:

  1. Cleaning indicator light comes on (only applies to select models).

  2. Excessive brew times.

  3. Gurgling or other unusual noises during the brew cycle.

  4. White residue on visible parts of the coffee maker.
  5. Coffee flavor tastes off.

The coffee maker should be descaled as soon as possible after the cleaning indicator light illuminates.

Woman replacing water tank in coffee machine Woman replacing water tank in coffee machine

Can You Prevent Mineral Build-Up in a Coffee Maker?

Filtered water can help reduce the concentration of dissolved minerals in your coffee maker. KitchenAid brand recommends everydrop® Refrigerator Water Filters2 featuring Triple Filtration Technology that removes contaminants. Rinsing and washing removable parts daily can also help reduce build-up.

TIP: It is not recommended to use distilled water in some machines, including KitchenAid® coffee makers. Because of its chemical composition, distilled water attracts metal ions from the internal components of your coffee maker machine, which may lead to a slow breakdown of the metal parts of your coffee maker.

Get more tips on water for coffee and other ingredients when you read our guide on how to make the best cup of coffee at home. Plus, learn how to descale your espresso machine to keep your drinks as fresh as possible.

2 everydrop® products and the recommended brand's products are owned and distributed by Whirlpool Corporation.


If you’re ready to purchase a new KitchenAid® coffee maker, you can choose from several options designed to give you the perfect cup every morning.

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