One of the most important steps to keep your coffee machine performing optimally (and your brews flavorful) is to clean it regularly. The best coffee maker cleaners will depend on what type of equipment you have but ultimately it's a descaling solution that will most effectively remove any mineral buildup from the internal parts.
Cleaning A Coffee Maker With Vinegar
Using a simple DIY white vinegar mixture is an inexpensive and proven way to clean a coffee maker, but its biggest drawback is it can leave behind a bad taste in your java if not efficiently flushed out afterward. While a store-bought option will still require you to run a few cycles (of the solution, with fresh water, or both) before the process is complete, they are still simple to use and virtually odorless, making them worth their cost.
How Does A Descaler Work?
While a "cleaner" will remove any coffee residue in your machine, a "descaler" targets calcium and lime buildup caused by minerals in the water, and while you may have seen the phrases used interchangeably, one is not a substitute for the other. Every kind of maker (from drip machines to single-serve styles) can and should be cleaned and descaled. Some even have a handy reminder function that lets you know when they are ready for their next round of maintenance, but otherwise, you can plan to do so every three months or so or as soon as you start to notice any chalky residue or unpleasant taste.
Now that you know what type of cleaner to look for, here are the best coffee maker cleaners you can buy.
1. The Overall Best Descaler
Compatible with all types of coffee and espresso machines, this Impresa descaling solution has a whopping 9,800 five-star Amazon reviews to its name. It works to remove mineral deposits built up throughout the coffee maker without leaving behind any scent that could unintentionally flavor your coffee.
Each application requires one 4-ounce pour of the solution into your water tank, regardless of your coffee maker's type or size, so you'll get four uses out of this two-bottle set. The rest of the process is straightforward: fill up the rest of your tank with water, run a full pot, empty your carafe, let the machine sit idle (with the power on) for 30 minutes, and run two more full reservoirs of fresh water. It works so well that many fans reported they noticed a difference in the taste of their coffee immediately afterward.
Helpful review: "This stuff worked as advertised. My coffee maker was long overdue for a bit of TLC and cleaning. This stuff worked quite well. My coffee maker works much more efficiently and the coffee tastes much better now."
2. The Overall Best Cleaner
While a descaling solution targets mineral buildup, if your goal is to rid your coffee maker of any gunk and oil residue left behind by coffee grounds, this Urnex cleaning powder is what you'll want to reach for. Made from odorless ingredients, it's safe to use with any style of coffee maker or espresso machine. Much like the pick above, the instructions are simple: Dissolve a powder packet into warm water and run a full pot, dump the remnants, then run two final water-only cycles. Several Amazon reviewers boasted that this powder also made both stainless steel and glass carafes sparkling clean, too, with no extra effort required. Tip: per the brand, if your plan to both descale and clean on the same day, you'll want to descale first then run a cleaner through. However, in terms of upkeep, they suggest using a cleaner once a month for best results, and with your purchase, you'll get a three months supply.
Helpful review: "As a result of this product, my coffee tastes so delicious and pure. I note a marked difference between how it tastes now and how it tasted before I discovered this product. Most people, I think, probably never clean their machine as thoroughly as this does, and that's one of the reasons they end up with a bitter brew. I buy high quality beans, so I want to taste them the way they are intended to be tasted, and keeping my machine clean helps with that."
3. The Best Cleaner For K-Cup Machines
With positive ratings from 13,400+ K-Cup machine owners, it's clear that these Quick & Clean cleaning pods live up to their name in how literally quick they are— and how well they actually remove oil residue and lingering dirty grinds from the brew chamber and needle. Instead of pouring a cleaning powder or liquid into your reservoir, just pop one of the six odorless cups into the pod-holder, brew the pod as you would a typical large cup of coffee, and follow that with a water-only cycle. Note that this won't descale any of the internal parts (like the reservoir)— so you'll still need to do that separately— and some Amazon reviewers pointed out that extra-dirty or clogged machines may require a few extra rinses.
Helpful review: "I started to notice my machine was filling my cup of coffee in an inconsistent manner after years of use. After trying some other products with mixed results, I found these pods...and I'm glad I did! After a single use of the cleaning cups, the spout was cleaned (as evidenced by the grinds and discolored water in the rinse cup) and I immediately noticed the machine was again filling my cups consistently! I also noticed the taste improved (something I didn't expect but was pleasantly surprised)."
4. The Best Cleaner For Nespresso Original Machines
For owners of Nespresso Original machines, these Gourmesso cleaning pods are a fast and easy solution for you. You'll use it exactly as you would for the K-Cup option above, simply place one of the 10 capsules into the holder, and run a large-cup brewing cycle, remove the pod, and run two more water-only cycles. Thanks to a significant reduction of oil residue and gunk in the brew chamber, spout, and needle, your appliance will be cleaner and your espresso fresher-tasting. Keep in mind that these pods do not clean other areas of the machine, including milk-frothers or water reservoirs. It's also worth noting these are not compatible with the Nespresso Vertuo models.
Helpful review: "I have tried many other options previously including company service for my Nespresso Black. This is by far the easiest product to use with clear instructions. It cleans the machine effectively and does not leave any residue if you follow the instructions."