'Good coffee starts with good beans' - that's what so many coffee companies are saying these days. But if you have a dirty coffee maker, then it doesn't matter how good your beans are, or how perfect your grind, or how great the seal or valve on your coffee can or bag. Coffee makers have a lot of things working against them and the taste of your coffee. Minerals in the water (even bottled water) build up on the inside of the maker and then are released into the coffee. Mold tries to sneak in by building up in the piping and the filter basket. All in all a coffee maker is easy to keep clean, but if it isn't, it can be gross.
There are products that will clean your coffee maker and if you choose to go this route, then make sure you follow the directions provided for safe use. These products are usually a form of acid that has been packaged for what is believed to be convenience. Household acids (such as lemon juice and vinegar) can be used in the same manner just as effectively for a fraction of the cost, making these products a waste of money.
Never use any type of soap to clean your coffee maker. Many soaps will suds when going through the cycle, causing a huge mess. Beyond that, soaps and detergents will leave a residue behind that can cause damage to your coffee maker and make your coffee taste horrible. As for using soap on your coffee pot (the glass portion that collects the coffee), this is an effective cleaning method as long as you rinse it well (washing the pot and the filter basket in hot soapy water is recommended).
Clean your coffee maker with safe, inexpensive products for great tasting coffee.
Remove the parts that can be removed and wash them in hot soapy water. For most coffee makers this will include the filter basket and the pot. Some will also have built-in filters which should also be washed. This should be done after each pot of coffee.
While it seems easy to do, leaving the old filter and grinds in the filter basket is a bad habit. It can grow mold in a short time and isn't something you want in your coffee.
Use a damp sponge to wipe down all surfaces. You will want to wipe down the top where dust often accumulates (which can and does get into your maker and then your coffee). Wipe down the back, the sides, the front, and the heating element (the coffee pot should be turned off and cool and preferably unplugged as well). If there is any burnt coffee on the heating element, take a little vinegar on your rag or sponge and gently scrub it clean (this often happens when you take coffee from the pot before it is done brewing even if you have a stopper).
Run an acid through the coffee pot. The best way to clean your coffee pot is to run acid through it. You have two great options. You can use vinegar or lemon juice. Fill your coffee pot with 1/2 vinegar or lemon juice and 1/2 cold water. Pour that into the water tank on your coffee maker. Make sure you put your filter basket back in (you don't have to use a filter, but without the basket the water will spray out all over). Place the pot underneath to catch the acid water mixture. If it has been a long time since you cleaned your coffee maker, you make more than one pot of coffee per day in that coffee maker, or you use hard water when making coffee, then run the acid water mix through a second time after it has cooled ten to fifteen minutes.
Your coffee pot should be cleaned about once a month for a one-pot-a-day-or-fewer type of person. Two or more pots per day? Clean it every other week for great tasting coffee.
Rinse. Thoroughly rinse the coffee maker. To do this, fill with cold water and brew it with the filter basket and pot in place. Repeat one to two additional times for a very clean coffee maker.
Cleaning your coffee pot is the first step to great tasting coffee and will never let you down. You don't need to spend a lot of time, energy, or money doing it. Here's to great tasting coffee!