Picture of the Farberware Automatic Electric Percalator, Model FCP280.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Coffee Maker

We’ve brewed several tens of pots of coffee in our Farberware Electric Coffee Maker. So after a short time, we noticed hard water and coffee stains inside. Thus, we learned how to clean this stainless steel coffee maker. This post details the tips and advice we gathered in doing that.

We’ve found that without regular cleaning, the coffee maker can stain brown.  Then, if you let it go, the stains get worse and harder to clean off as well.

Now we wanted to preserve that silver, new look as long as we could.  So we looked for ways to keep our stainless steel coffee maker gleaming brightly.  The advice we got, and give below, we find works well.  How to clean a stainless steel coffee maker?  Read on for the answer.

Keep Coffee Maker Clean to Begin With

With few cleanings, stainless steel electric coffee makers, because they’re stainless steel, are easy to keep stain free.  Your first defense against built up coffee stains, is to keep them from forming in the first place. To do that, wash out your coffee maker and all its parts right after every use.  Don’t allow the coffee to dry inside.

Regular dish soap (for the sink, not the dishwasher) works well.  But if your coffee maker still smells of coffee after cleaning, than you did not wash it well enough.  So, do it again.  Deep cleaning may take a few tries, or a stronger soap as well.  Repeat the washing until the coffee maker smells clean.

Picture of the Farberware FCP280 Electric Percolator, disassembled, showing all Its parts.
Farberware FCP280 Electric Percolator and All Its Parts

Follow Coffee Maker Users Guide for How Best to Clean a Stainless Steel Coffee Maker

Most stainless steel coffee makers come with an owners guide, with detailed cleaning instructions.  Be sure to follow them first. Don’t try anything else yet. Put off for now, any other ‘home remedies’.  Why?  Because the manufacturer probably knows best how to safely clean their products. Many coffee maker makers suggest nothing stronger than a few drops of mild dish soap.  Don’t worry about an aftertaste in the coffee.  That does not happen if you rinse out the coffee maker and its parts fully.

Empty Coffee Maker of Old Coffee Immediately

Also, keep your coffee maker clean by discarding unwanted, unused coffee right away.  Best not to let hot coffee stand for long. Why not? This can “bake” that pesky java color into the metal.  Often, people allow the coffee to “mellow” in the hot coffee maker for days on end.  Bad idea, as this can “cement” the coffee into the steel, and make getting it out a lot harder.

For Hard Water Stains Dissolve with White Vinegar

For those brown patches that dish soap will not take away, deep clean the coffee maker as follows. Run a pot of half water and half white vinegar through the perk cycle.  If your water is hard, use distilled water to aid removal of the hard water stains.  Cycling the coffee maker through, with all parts attached, cleans it all, and works well as a final rinse.

Running the water-vinegar solution through the cycle may not clean all pieces all the way. For that case, remove the well tube, basket, and water spreader. Then soak these in a bucket of hot vinegar water (half and half).  Let them soak in this for four or five hours. Checking the progress now and then.  But do not submerse the coffee maker itself.

Avoid Scouring and Scratching your Coffee Maker

A stainless steel finish resists staining as long as you do not scratch or mar its smooth surface.  So to avoid dulling the surfaces in the coffee pot, basket, spreader, and well stem,  and to avoid creating lots of binding points on it for stains, avoid scouring with any abrasive cleansers, pot scrubbers, steel wool pads, and bathtub cleaning agents.  By all means, avoid any sort of scrubbing device made of metal, such as wire brushes or burnishing tools.  Even plastic or Nylon scrubbers should be used sparingly on stainless steel parts.  Save these for the really tough stains, and rely primarily on your dishcloth for routine cleanup.  Keep sharp metal objects away from your coffee maker.

Try Soaking Coffee Maker with Hot Soapy Water and Baking Soda

White vinegar may not completely descale your coffee brewer, depending on the amount of and type of the mineral content in your water.  If so, then a couple tablespoons of baking soda added to a coffee pot full of hot soapy water (dish soap) may do the trick.

Do not perk with soapy water.  This will quickly create a sudsy mess and may create additional deposits in the heater well that could “bake on.”

Many report that automatic dishwasher soap (E.g. Cascade) added to a full pot of boiling water, and then allowed to mellow in the percolator, until the water cools, really lifts those deep brown stains effectively.  Automatic dishwasher soap is designed to be non abrasive and gentle on glassware and china.  So it is safe to use inside your stainless steel pot, although we suggest using liquid detergents and not the powders.

Coffee Makers Need Not Look Brand New Clean Forever!

When you clean a stainless steel coffee maker, keep in mind that some brown staining on the inside does not affect the flavor of the coffee.  So you need not get too anal about keeping a spotless maker.  As long as you prevent buildup of the loose residues and oils after each use, your fresh perked java will taste just fine. Besides, a brown cast inside the coffee maker means (to some) a well-seasoned machine. It looks ”mature” and that means that it likely brews better tasting coffee than those brand new, brown-less coffee makers.

General Considerations and Warnings for How to Clean Stainless Steel Coffee Maker

Disconnect the power before cleaning.  Water and electricity do not mix.  Otherwise, you could receive a fatal electric shock.

Note that procedures that work well for an aluminum coffee pot may be inappropriate for a stainless steel electric coffee maker.  So, be sure to apply the right techniques to your particular percolator.

When cleaning the well tube (pump tube), be sure to remove those pesky little coffee granules, that often imbed themselves behind the washer at the bottom of the tube.  Use a small pointed knife, needle, pin, or toothpick to dislodge them.  Too much buildup here can degrade the seal that the pump tube forms with the well in the bottom of the coffee pot, and decrease perking efficiency.  This produces either weak or foul tasting coffee.   Do the same to the holes in the fluid spreader piece (top of the basket).

No harsh chemicals, please.  Not only can they damage any plastic components (handles, knobs, Etc.), but can also dull the stainless steel finish.

When small amounts of vinegar do not clean, many folks perk a full-strength load in their coffee makers.  This often works better than the half-and-half solution with water.  While this probably will not harm the percolator, it smells very strong!  If you must percolate undiluted vinegar, set up your coffee maker outside, and let it perk where the winds will carry away that pungent odor.

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  5. How to Clean an Electric Kettle Safely

References for How to Clean Stainless Steel Coffee Maker

  1. Coffee Maker Percolators   on Wikipedia
  2. Stainless Steel   on Wikipedia

Revision History

  • 2019-05-13: Added key word targeting for ‘Clean Stainless Steel Coffee Maker’, deleted ad code, and added tags.
  • 2017-01-16: Originally published.