Bringing It Back To New: Cleaning A Coffee Pot & Machine

If your favorite, daily powered-on kitchen gadget is looking a little grungy lately, here’s an easy way to make it look brand spanking new (and that’s not an exaggeration).

If you have your doubts because the carafe is really coated, brown and dirty…and I’ve seen some doozies in my time…no worries, these steps will get the job done!

You just need one powerful ingredient to make this happen and it’s likely you have it in your pantry right now.

How To Clean A Coffee Pot

  • Fill the reservoir with 6 cups of vinegar, then top up with water.
  • Turn on the appliance as you normally would when making coffee (minus the grounds). The equipment will heat the liquid as it normally does. This is for a 12 cup machine, if yours is a different size, the ratio is a 50/50 mix.
  • Once it has finished running, pour the hot mix back into the tank and repeat the process. (See note below if mineral buildup is bad).
  • Dump the brew then scrub the pot inside and out with hot soapy water and a nylon scrubbie or brush. There should be no signs of brown film at this point (see tips below if the glass is still stained).
  • Next add plain water in the tank and turn on the machine. This will run through the appliance and rinse out any remaining residue. I do this step twice with fresh water for the second rinse cycle.

That’s it! Your equipment should be shiny as new with all that dingy grunge washed away.


  • Use just regular white household vinegar. This helps lift the residue inside the glass, but also flushes out any buildup in the tubes.
  • Use this routine regularly and you’ll prolong the life of the appliance as well as keep it sparkling. If you’ve never cleaned the machine before and you’ve had it for quite awhile, I would let the heated solution sit in the tank for about 30 minutes before starting the equipment up again for the second run through. This will give the acid a chance to work on the hard film deposits or mineral buildup inside the reservoir and the tubes.
  • If the carafe is especially coated in grime or liquid has accidentally been burned in it, fill it as directed and leave overnight. In the morning dump the batch in a pail and wash the vessel in soapy water. If there are still some stubborn brown stains, fill again with the pail batch and soak overnight once more. Repeat the process until things are sparkling again.
  • An alternative for removing grime from especially stained glass is to use baking soda. After doing the soak from the steps listed above in the first section, wet a piece of folded paper towel (making a pad for scrubbing), sprinkle generously with baking soda then rub this gently into residue. Bicarb shouldn’t scratch at all so you can use some pressure, just don’t overdo it. Once film has lifted, rinse and wash the vessel thoroughly.
  • If you have a thermos or carafe that you are trying to spiff up, pour inside 50/50 hot water and vinegar and allow to soak overnight. This helps remove the grime as well.

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    • Rob

    I use a small amount of Washing Soda to clean my coffee equipment.

    Commercial coffee pot cleaner, such as Urnex, is Sodium Carbonate with a little blue dye added. Arm & Hammer Washing Soda is exactly the same thing, without the dye, and is very inexpensive. Put a couple of tablespoons in your coffee pot and fill it. Let it sit for an hour or two and then the brown residue will just wipe off. Sodium carbonate is strongly alkaline, and will irritate your skin, so take appropriate precautions.

    Note that I am *not* talking about Sodium Bicarbonate, which is baking soda.

    I’m also not talking about removing mineral buildup. You need something acidic, like vinegar or citric acid for that.

    • Lisa

    Another waitress tip: left the pot on, and now you’ve got that burnt on layer of coffee that is so hard to get off? Let the pot cool down a bit, then put a few pennies in, and enough vinegar to cover the burnt stuff. Go about whatever you are doing, but whenever you pass that coffee pot, pick it up and swirl the pennies and vinegar around a bit. The pennies rub the burnt coffee and the vinegar eats at it. You can dump it and repeat if necessary, but once all the burnt coffee is removed, just wash the pot as you normally do, and use. No scrubbing needed!

    • kristy

    when I worked in a restaurant we used ice and lemons to clean burnt coffee pots. worked great.

    • Lynn Bishop

    I just use baking soda on a damp paper towel just for the pot, just rub about 1 teaspoon around inside and out, it leaves the glass sparkling clean, without scratching the glass. Baking soda and vinegar is an awesome cleaner for just about everything, as I’m sure it says here on another page.

    • donna

    i use denture tabs to clean my coffee pot,i fill the pot with hot water, put one tab in. i also so clean thermus bottle this way to. let set about 30 mins. rinse. so clean

    • Moira Bruce

    As a waitress, I learned to clean coffee carafes by putting a layer of ice cubes (crushed or whatever is available) and a generous dose of salt. Swirl until cleaned, empty, and rinse well. Might be OK for a ‘make-do’ cleaning, but the above method is much better for a thorough cleaning.

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