Confessions of a Starbucks Barista: How to clean your coffee maker

I used to work for Starbucks.  In fact, I worked there for about 5 and a half years…so basically a huge chunk of my life has gone to waking up way too early and caffeinating the masses.  Starbucks was a great job in high school and college and I really enjoyed working there at the time.  The funniest thing is that most of the skills I gleaned while working there that I still use today have almost nothing to do with making mochas (four pumps of mocha syrup for a grande) and caramel macchiatos (shots get poured over the milk and foam and the caramel sauce gets applied in a cross hatch pattern on top) and a lot more to do with cleaning!  I haven’t decided if this is going to be some kind of a series or not, but I decided to write this post about something that is simple and will most likely help almost all of my readers…cleaning your coffee maker.  (Psst!  There’s a quick, easy-to-read, breakdown at the end!)

I bet most of you are thinking, “I have to clean the coffee maker?”  Well, I guess you don’t have to, but it will make your coffee taste better and keep you coffee maker running longer, so I find that it’s worth it.  Also, when you see my pictures of what comes out of it, you may want to even more!  I use my coffee maker almost everyday, so I clean mine about once a month (about every 30 uses should be good).  It’s super simple and inexpensive to do also.  I’ll also show you how to get rid of those unsightly water spots.

All you need is my new favorite household do-it-all-cleaner (dun, da, da!) White Vinegar!  Start by emptying out the used coffee grounds from the filter.  I feel like this is self-explanatory, but ya never know. 😉  (Side note: did you know you can add used coffee grounds to the soil in your garden?  We used to bag up old coffee grounds when I worked at Star$ and give them to customers for this exact purpose!)

Next, fill the carafe halfway with white vinegar.

And then dilute with water by fillin’ ‘er up to the top.  Note:  if you think your coffee maker is uber dirty, you can use 12 straight cups of vinegar or a 3:1 mix of vinegar to water.  For maintenance, half and half should do the trick.

Now, pour the vinegar solution into the coffee maker (the same place you pour the water to make coffee).

Then run a full coffee cycle.  If you have a “brew strength” selector, choose the stronger option.  All this does is feed the water through a little slower, which allows the solution to sit and warm up longer in all the tubes and whatnot.  My mom’s fancy coffee maker that all of us kids bought her for Christmas this past year has a special “cleaning cycle” that actually pauses halfway through to let everything sit and marinate a while and then starts up again.  I’m sure you can do this the poor man’s way by simply turning off the maker and then starting it again a while later.  I always just let it run through.  It’s up to you. :)

When the brew cycle is done, you should be left with some nice and dirty vinegar water in your carafe…yum.  Complete with floating nastiness.

Turn the coffee maker off.

Then pour the same dirty vinegar solution back into the coffee maker to run it through again.  If you are feeling weird about this, you can mix a new vinegar water solution, but I like to get the best bang for my buck.

Now, the water should be even dirtier…yay!  Turn the machine off and dump out the nastiness in your sink.  Rinse the carafe out a few times and fill it with cool, clean tap water.

Pour the clean water into the maker and run it through another cycle.  After this batch, you’ll likely still have some sediment at the bottom like this.

But, it’s starting to look cleaner!  I turn off the machine, dump the water, and run a new cool, clean carafe through once more.  Then I turn off the machine and open it all up to let it air dry.  That’s another tip…be sure to empty your coffee grounds and leave the top open to let it dry out each day…moist, warm environment equals bad.  And, no, I don’t remember to do that everyday, but I should!  (And, no, I don’t usually make coffee on my island…this is just for blog purposes. :))

Be sure to give the burner a good scrub once it’s cooled down.  Now, it’s time to focus on the carafe.  This just needs some elbow grease and dish soap.  A dish sponge with the scrubby side works too to get all of the coffee stains off.  Also, use soap and water to clean the filter basket, too.  Even when the carafe is clean, there is probably going to be some water stains.  Enter: more vinegar.  If the water stains aren’t too bad, you should be able to give it a good spray down with vinegar (I keep a travel spray bottle from Target full of vinegar under my sink) and let it sit for a bit (yup…I can rhyme ;)).

If you have especially hard water like I do, you might need to give it a bath in vinegar.  (You can save that vinegar to clean other stuff with later, so it’s not a huge loss.)  You can’t tell from the photo, but there’s about 2 inches of vinegar in there.

Either way, give it good wipe/scrub with a soapy sponge after you’ve soaked it.

And viola!  A clean coffee maker that you can be excited about!  It’s the little things in life, right?

Here’s a close up of the carafe.

Sooooo much better than this, right?

All is right in the world again!

Here’s a quick breakdown so you don’t have to reread the whole post to do this on your own:

  • Brew one cycle with half white vinegar, half water solution (no coffee grounds, please!  And use the “strong” brew selection if you have it.)
  • Brew a second cycle with reused vinegar/water solution from first round
  • Empty gross nasty vinegar/water solution down the drain…stop and enjoy the sense of accomplishment you get from cleaning something dirty
  • Fill coffee maker with cool, clean water (all 12 cups) and brew a cycle
  • Empty that water from carafe and refill coffee maker with cool, clean water once more…run it through the cycle
  • Give the burner plate a good rub down and wash the carafe and filter basket with soapy water and some elbow grease
  • Use vinegar to get rid of water spots on carafe if necessary
  • All done!  Happy, clean coffee maker!

Now, at Starbucks, their coffee makers get cleaned every night, but since you aren’t quite making the same volume of coffee at your house as a Starbucks store is, this can be done about once a month.  Added bonus?  Your kitchen only smells like you’re dying Easter eggs once a month and not every day. 😉  Oh, and in case this wasn’t obvious, this is one of those things that is nice to clean when you are around the house on a Saturday…it takes a long time from start to finish, but a lot of it is just waiting for the brew cycles to finish, so you have plenty of time to fit in episodes of Modern Family that are on the DVR in between emptying and refilling the coffee maker. 😉

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
This entry was posted in Home & Garden, Tutorials and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Confessions of a Starbucks Barista: How to clean your coffee maker

  1. jessi says:

    thanks Cuz, I just had to do this, mine was beyond YUCK!!!

  2. jim says:

    Starbucks states in their own Barista descaling instructions to NEVER use vinegar! They say to use Starbucks descaler (not made any longer) or citric acid or pulp-free lemon juice. I have heard of people using vinegar in their machines and can never get rid of the vinegar taste!

    • karen says:

      Well, I actually don’t own a Starbucks coffee maker, so I haven’t read their manual, I just used to work there and that was what we recommended to people. But, those sound like other good options! I’ve been using the water and white vinegar mixture to clean my coffee makers for years and have never had an issue with taste. My whole house smells like vinegar for a couple hours and then my coffee maker is fresh, clean, and smell free. :)


  3. Ann Thompson says:

    Trying for the first time (and it really needs it) but you don’t mention the filter that slips
    in the hole opposite the water trough. Should this be removed while the cleaning is going
    on? Thanks

  4. Maggie says:

    Yep, I vote for the vinegar! We have been using vinegar all around our house, including cleaning the coffee maker for a couple of years now. We have family and friends over for coffee, and they are the type who WOULD comment on an aftertaste – no issues with taste!

    Great post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *