How to Clean a Coffee Maker: Do Rinse Pods Really Work?

On a mission to get the freshest cup of joe, we tested single-use cleaning pods to see how they worked.

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February 20, 2019

Do cleaning pods really help to make your coffee maker cleaner?

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

I have endlessly good things to say about the single-use coffee maker that I’ve brewed with for years, but without excellent maintenance, I wouldn’t have excellent coffee.

When you begin using a coffee maker like this, you learn a few things quickly: Choose mugs wisely (learn your settings so your coffee doesn’t accidentally turn into an infinity pool); become a fan of reusable pods (earth-friendly and economically savvy); and learn what you need to do to keep it clean. If you love coffee, you’d be wrong to mistreat your most important small appliance. If you want to see my ordinary cleaning process, I've outlined it here.

I find the machine to be higher maintenance than any former coffee pot in my life, and, as such, I’m looking for ways to cut down on the time it takes to clean. I decided to test the “cleaning pods” which, as the name suggests, must clean the machine well, right?

Well… that’s not entirely true.

What Are Cleaning Pods?

“Cleaning” pods contain cleaning agents which help to rinse flavors and residue from your single use coffee maker. The main ingredient, Maltodextrin, is used to absorb flavors left behind in the machine. When used in the pods, the ingredient allegedly helps to make sure the flavor of your coffee is pure, and not mixed with leftover flavors from other pods you may have used. Manufacturers stress the importance of a clean machine, but these cleaning pods just target the brewing and drip area. They do not clean other critical parts of your machine.

$6.99 (Set of 10), Amazon

How Often Are You Supposed to Use Cleaning Pods?

Manufacturers aren’t pushing this as a treatment between every cup of coffee you brew. Most suggest that you run a cleaning pod in your single-use coffee maker once a week to clean the pod compartment. So, if you need help cleaning this area of your machine, it won’t be a huge investment.

Do cleaning pods really help to make your coffee maker cleaner?

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

Do Cleaning Pods Tackle The Tough Stuff?

As a long time user, I find the reservoir to be the most difficult part of the machine to clean. But, cleaning pods don’t touch the reservoir; they only tackle build-up in the pod holder. I typically surface clean the pod compartment and wipe it by hand. Then, I run a cup of hot water through the machine to rinse it clear. I was hopeful that the pods would do more, for instance, create a nice foamy deep clean around the needlepoints that puncture the pods, which are hard to reach without fear of damaging.

Do cleaning pods really help to make your coffee maker cleaner?

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

What Did You Observe When You Tried The Cleaning Pods?

The instructions directed me to run a large brew with the cleaning pod in the machine.

I wasn’t surprised to see some foam emerging into the cup, but it only was a little bit, and it seemed to flush clear water for most of the brew.

Do cleaning pods really help to make your coffee maker cleaner?

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

The water in the cup was, not surprisingly, a little dirty, with some grounds settling and discolored water.

Do cleaning pods really help to make your coffee maker cleaner?

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

After running the cleaning pod, the manufacturer instructed to run plain hot water through the machine (my typical cleaning process). With that water rinse, I flushed a lot more debris. How much did the pre-wash with the cleaning pod help to loosen the residue? Not sure, but I would guess that it wasn’t worth the cost of 75-cents/pod.

Do cleaning pods really help to make your coffee maker cleaner?

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

Are You Suggesting That I Clean The Appliance By Hand?

Just as cleaning the water reservoir regularly is still critical to achieving a good, clean brew, it still seems essential to clean the area surrounding the pod by hand. I still found lots of residue from previous coffee pods – mostly dried on water, and extra grounds – that the rinse pod did not reach.

Do cleaning pods really help to make your coffee maker cleaner?

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

Clean weekly by hand, and you’ll save about $60/year, as opposed to using cleaning pods once a week.

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