Coffee in 30 seconds? Yes, please. Sputtering air for 30 seconds? Not so much. There are two steps to troubleshooting and cleaning a Keurig that’s not working: regularly descaling your machine and dislodging errant grinds. Both of these processes are pretty easy and don’t take much work.
To dislodge the grinds you’ll be using one of the most sophisticated cleaning tools around: an unfolded paper clip. You’ll quite unscientifically poke the grinds out of the way, keeping your fingers away from the needles that puncture the top and bottom of the K-Cups before brewing. If your Keurig won’t brew, it’s likely there’s a bunch of grinds clogging it.
Descaling a Keurig is a little bit more complex, but it’s still simple. You’ll run an acid solution (either a descaling solution, a 50/50 mix of water and vinegar, or a homemade blend of citric acid and water) through your machine. This will break down the limescale that can build up when the water passes through the machine on its way to becoming coffee. So, if your Keurig won’t pump water or your Keurig is slow, it’s this step that’ll likely fix it.
Cleaning most of the other parts — the exterior, the water reservoir, and the drip tray — is as simple as a quick wipe with a damp rag. We’ll cover those parts too!
How to descale a Keurig
Over time the minerals in water can build up inside the machine, get in the way of the brew water coming to temperature, and cause clogs or otherwise impact the flavor of your coffee. Descaling removes these mineral deposits that have built up. There are minor differences in the process based on the Keurig machine you’ve got, but we’ll tackle those as we go.
You should do this about every 3 to 6 months depending on your K-Cup consumption: more coffee = descaling sooner. If you don’t descale on schedule it’s not the end of the world, but you might notice a change in the flavor of your brew. Let it go on even longer and the mineral deposits can interfere with water flow or deteriorate the rubber elements in your machine, leading to leaks.
A large coffee mug that’s not paper
Store-bought descaling solution like the one in Keurig’s Brew Care Kit
Or, white vinegar
Or, citric acid to make your own descaling solution — it’s cheaper than the pre-made stuff and won’t leave a lingering flavor the way vinegar does
Step 1: Buy or mix your descaling solution
Descaling solution is simply citric acid. You’ll see it on the label as citric acid anhydrous <35%, which means it’s diluted down to that specific percentage.
How to make your own descaling solution. All you need is the key ingredient, citric acid — the powder that’s on the outside of sour gummy candies. You can buy it on Amazon or find it in the baking aisle at the grocery store or in most spice stores.
Add 2 tablespoons to every 4 cups water. This solution is just acidic enough to break down the limescale in the machine, but not so acidic that it’ll risk damage to the rubber materials inside your Keurig. You’ll want to wash your hands afterwards — it’s not super great to leave even a mild acid in contact with your skin for very long. We ran the numbers on this and it’ll save you a lot of money. One bag of citric acid is about $8, which will last as long as 16 bottles of descaling solution.
You can also use a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water, but you may need to rinse you machine more than you’d need to with a citric acid solution to get rid of the lingering taste and smell.
Step 2: Prepare the machine
• Empty the water reservoir.
• If you have a water filter on your machine, set it aside.
• If your machine has “Auto Off” turn that off.
• Put a large mug under the the spout — this will collect all the descaling solution you’re about to send coursing through the machine. Don’t use a paper cup; the descaling solution will dissolve the cup’s seam!
• Turn your brewer off by pressing the power button.
Step 3: Add the descaling solution
If you’ve made your own, pour it into the reservoir, filling it completely. If you’re using a store-bought pre-made solution, follow the instructions on the bottle. Note that some require dilution.
Step 4: Run a brew cycle
Turn the brewer back on and run a brew cycle without a K-Cup by lifting then closing the handle — as though you were adding a K-Cup, but without actually adding one. Then press brew, using the largest size your machine can brew.
(If you have a K-Cup Mini or Mini Plus, you’ll have to leave the handle up for 5 seconds before you lower it and hit brew to trick your machine into brewing without a K-Cup in place.)
Step 5: Toss the liquid and repeat!
The descaling liquid might be foamy — this is just the reaction between the descaling solution and the limescale within your machine. Totally normal.
Repeat the process until the machine’s screen says “More water please.”
(For K-Cup Mini and Mini Plus, you’ll refill the reservoir and lift the K-Cup handle. The brew button will turn Red — when it’s red, unplug your machine.)
If your brewer doesn’t spit out much liquid and instead starts spewing air, turn off and unplug your machine, dump the rest of the descaling liquid, and fill the reservoir with water before continuing with the next steps. That air spewing sound is just the dislodged minerals clogging the system — the water flush at the end of this process will clear it out.
Step 6: Let stand for 30 minutes
Skip this step if you have a Rivo system.
Step 7: Rinse your reservoir and flush the system
Dump anything that’s left in the reservoir and rinse it out in the sink. Then fill it with regular water and repeat the process: Mug under the spout. Brew and toss big cups 12 times (an odd number, we know, but it’s what’ll make sure there’s nothing remaining in the lines or the internal systems). To do a full 12 cups you’ll probably have to refill the reservoir at least once. (For K-Cup Mini and Mini Plus, 3 full rinse cycles is enough.)
How to unclog a Keurig
Keurig not brewing? There may be coffee grinds lodged in your machine.
Clean metal paperclip
Large coffee mug
Step 1: Turn off and unplug your brewer
Take care! There are two needles in a Keurig machine — one under the lid that punctures the top of the K-Cup (the entrance needle) and another in the funnel that punctures the bottom of the K-Cup (the exit needle). You’ll get close to both of these needles during this process, so work in a well lit space and watch your fingers!
Step 2: Take the K-Cup holder out
Lift the lid, like you would to make a cup of coffee, and pop out the plastic canister that holds the K-Cups. It should pop out easily with a gentle push from the underside.
Step 3: Pop the bottom part of the K-Cup holder off
The K-Cup holder is really two parts, and you want the bottom piece, or the funnel separated from the top. This piece should come out pretty easily, but might take a little tug the first time.
Step 4: Clean the exit needle
On the underside of the portion pack (not the funnel) there’s a small hole. Unfold your paper clip and poke the unfolded side into the hole. Then twist it around to loosen up anything in there.
Step 5: Rinse
Rinse both pieces of the pod holder under warm running water.
Alternate method: Both of these pieces are top-rack dishwasher safe!
Step 6: Clean the entrance needle
Lift the lid (like you’re brewing a K-Cup) and you’ll quickly see the needle that punches through the top of the pod. That needle has two side holes — use you handy dandy paper clip again here! Stick the paperclip in and jiggle it around a bit.
Step 7: Put your Keurig back together
Pop the two pieces of the pod holder back together and return them to their resting spot. There are side slots on the funnel and the pod holder that align and slip together. There are also tabs on the machine for the pod holder to slip into.
Step 8: Brew two cycles of water
You don’t need a K-Cup in the maker, just pop a mug under the spout and brew two large cups of water to clean out any stray particles. Toss this water in the sink and you’re ready to make real coffee again!
How to clean a Keurig (a weekly maintenance cleaning)
Damp, soapy, non-abrasive cloth
Dry dish towel
Step 1: Empty the drip tray
Slide it out, keeping it level (there’s dank old coffee water in there!) and dump the liquid into the sink. Use your damp cloth to wipe the tray and tray plate off, then give them a rinse. Note: these parts are not dishwasher safe.
Step 2: Clean the water reservoir
Remove the water filter (if you have one), then wipe the reservoir by hand and rinse it out, just like cleaning any other dish. Let it air dry — a cloth might leave behind lint, and there’s nothing good about lint in your coffee. Then, run an empty brew cycle. Do this once a week to keep things fresh.
Give the outside a wipe!
Simple as that! Don’t immerse the machine in water or anything else!
Step 1: Buy or make your own descaling solution (2T citric acid to every 4 cups water).
Step 2: Turn your machine off, empty the reservoir and put a mug under the spout.
Step 3: Add the solution and brew empty-pod cycles until the screen says “More water please.”
Step 4: Let stand for 30 minutes.
Step 5: Fill the reservoir with water and run 12 empty brew cycles to flush the system.