Dirty Coffeemaker Sickness!

tomatozillaNovember 22, 2008

Warning: This Is NASTY! So I make a pot of coffee everyday in my countertop electric coffeemaker. Everyday I run the pot, top and filterbasket through the dishlaundry. I don't however run vinegar, Dip-it or Denturetabs through the machine monthly - maybe more like at solstice's and equinox's or something like that. I thought that would reduce machine performance, but not really understanding how the machine works I figured the water I was actually drinking was getting heated up to boiling so what do I have to worry about. Then I seemed to keep getting an indelicate lower intestinal condition every morning with my coffee. And it seemed to coincide with smelly milk, here and there, now and then. But finally in exasperation I said there's more to it than that, I'm gonna try cleaning the coffeemaker. I ran vinegar through twice and took great care to scrub inside surfaces even with Q-tips when nothing else would fit, because I felt slime in the water holder up top. I am posting this because the sickness seems to have stopped completely. I'm still skeptical of the cleanliness of the tube that runs the water back to the filter basket. I've tried googling coffeemaker sick and went through several pages of irrelevant hits. It's hard for me to believe with all the reading I've done and attempted to do again I could have located a legitimate source of food poisoning. Can anybody coroborate this?

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Sorry, can't corroborate it. But I'm getting a new coffee maker.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2008 at 8:17AM
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I can corroborate that it's just not so.Clean your coffee maker regularly, coffee will taste better! But those coffee oils don't harbor bacteria.
Your "indelicate condition" came from something you ate the day before.
Linda C

    Bookmark   November 23, 2008 at 1:15PM
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The way I see it is the only way your coffemaker can be making you ill is:
You fill it with a pitcher that has other uses also. A cross contamination.
You run more than clear water through it.
It sits where other "stuff" might float into the water reservoir.

Really all you need to do to clean the pot/maker is run straight vinegar thru it. Buy a gallon of vinegar. Measure the amount of water your coffee maker holds and equal that to the vinegar. Fill the maker with said vinegar. Let it sit as long as possible. "Brew" a pot. Discard the vinegar pot. [I use this in the laundry] Follow by several clear water pot cycles until you are sure the insides of the brewer are rinsed.[I also save this water for mopping floors]. I usually run five (5) cycles.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2008 at 2:07PM
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I can believe that the OP had some stomach upset from an unclean coffeemaker.

I used to work in an office with water dispensers that held inverted 3 or 5 gallon plastic bottles of purified water. No one ever cleaned the dispensers, and one day I removed the empty plastic bottle and looked into the unit. There was green slime inside.

The same thing could happen in a coffeemaker. A coffee pot only heats the water to about 200 degrees. That may not be enough to kill off bacteria.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2008 at 9:27AM
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About 3x's a week I run boiling water through a cycle & afterwards leave top & coffee basket open for the rest of the day.

Speaking of nasty you might like to use a small mirror & take a good look at fridge water/ice dispenser. UGH!!! I use Q-tips dipped in bleach to clean mine. Do it on days I do the coffeeemaker so it's not forgotten.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2008 at 8:04AM
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Coffee itself causes some people to have intestinal problems. I can't drink coffee at all, I immediately feel sick, it is just the coffee that doesn't agree with me. Many people are affected like this. Also, food poisoning won't present immediately, it has to be digested and get into your system which takes several hours if not a whole day.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2008 at 12:32AM
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"I'm still skeptical of the cleanliness of the tube that runs the water back to the filter basket."

That most likely is the source of the problem. Yeasts, fungi, bacteria, viruses can all harbor there. It doesn't get much air inside and never dries out, leaving a medium on which these things can grow. If you saw slime in the water reservoir think of what was growing in the tube. The tubes on beverage makers, soda guns, juice machines, ect., is one of the big things on the list, that the health inspectors check at restaurants.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2008 at 4:23PM
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What do you use to clean them? Run vinegar through them?

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 5:43PM
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I perk a pot of straight vinegar every once in awhile ( probably not as often as I should) There used to be a product called *Dip It* to clean coffee makers but I haven't seen that in a long time. Must have been discontinued. Anyway, the vinegar works good and then you can pour it down your drains with some baking soda as a drain cleaner.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 8:02PM
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I bought some dip it cleaner just the other day at my grocery store (Winn Dixie).

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 10:17PM
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So two weeks after cleaning there were no gut problems which is one of the reasons why I didn't believe it was just plain coffee intolerance. Then something similar happened. It's amazing just how many molds there are in our desert climate and I would be very surprised if molds or who knows what didn't get into the machine to work treachery. Just vinegared machine again but appreciate hearing other folks are running straight vinegar through their machines without having the thing melt down, I intend to try that next time. I had been using maybe three cups vinegar in 12 cup total dilution. And I did see slime dislodge on the water-level viewer (eww!) which I can't access to clean mechanically so that again says ominous things about the cleanliness of that inner tube.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2008 at 10:16AM
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I actually run the same pot of straight vinegar through several times. EAch time it seems to come out darker, leading me to believe it needs more than 1 trip through to work.

Here's an idea: do you fill the coffeepot reservoir the night before, to have it turn on with a timer? Sitting overnight might not be a good idea. That occurred to me, because I saw my water filter pitcher was scummy in the bottom one day, and I extrapolated to the coffeemaker. Since then I fill the reservoir in the morning and then run it immediately. Leave no water sitting around incubating stuff.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 6:11PM
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I've never been a fan of letting coffee or water sit overnight. It certainly doesn't produce better-tasting coffee, and I personally don't find making a fresh pot in the morning that time-consuming. I always let the pot and basket dry before putting them back on the coffeemaker and believe the coffeemaker itself (well, at least parts of it) gets a good drying simultaneously.

I do leave water and rolled or steel-cut oats overnight (or rice and water all day) in our high-tech rice machine. It has no tubes or hoses to harbor water, bacteria, mold, or other nasty stuff, and gives the mix a thorough boiling as part of its cooking process.

I'm glad to hear someone else runs the same straight vinegar through several times. I'm not sure about re-using it in the laundry, however, as it may have picked up some substances that could stain clothes, towels, or linens. Does everyone remove their coffee maker's water filter before vinegaring the machine? I forgot that once and think it had a negative impact on the filter.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 1:34PM
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I could not get refills for that filter so took it out shortly after we bought the coffeemaker. We filter the water separately anyway in a Pur or Brita pitcher. The filters are usually charcoal, I would think it would soak up the vinegar like a sponge.

After running the vinegar through several times I either pour in my sink to soak, or in the toilet.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 12:45AM
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I specifically started an account here to follow up on this post.
In October 2007, I started working for a small home-town Insurance agency. After a few months of working, I noticed that whenever the coffeemaker started brewing and the smell was wafting through the office, it would make me nauseous almost dizzy. When I got a cup of coffee I didn't want to drink it even though I wanted (and sometimes needed) a cup of coffee. At home I have no problems with my coffeemaker, enjoy inhaling the aroma, and never have any ill reaction to it. We also purchase the same coffee.
I stopped working almost a year after I started, have had time off for about a year and recently the office asked me to come in to cover for a few hours.
TODAY, my boss started a pot of coffee. SAME REACTION!
I notice the coffee pot is ancient and has probobly NEVER been cleaned thoroughly, I ran some water through it a few times and cleaned what I could before.
Maybe we are on to something here! Maybe hundreds of thousands of people are slowly poisoning themselves with their old coffeemakers!
I am going to mention this to my boss and suggest to him a new coffee pot! Maybe that is why he has MANY health problems!
Thanks for the post!

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 5:21PM
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OT - I'm sure. When I got my first USAF assignment after basic the Sargent told me to come in early and have coffee made when everyone else arrived. I came in early, cleaned the coffeepot, made coffee and got a thorough chewing-out. I was told it was common knowledge that coffee pots were never to be cleaned, only rinsed. This would have been about a 60 cup aluminum coffeepot. I seem to recall that my grandmother had a small aluminum coffeepot which she never cleaned, only rinsed.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 11:48AM
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Tomatozilla -
There are a few bacteria and molds that could get a foothold in some of the tubing and build up a colony. However, they are not the ones that cause classic food poisoning or food-borne infections.

The amount of those microorganisms it would take to give you an immediate "indelicate condition" is so big you would be seeing chunks in your coffee.

My guess - you had something else.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 12:24PM
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I too have been experiencing early morning 'intestinal issues' for a long time. Last week, I was on vacation and never once had a problem, even though I was drinking the same amount of coffee as soon as I got up every morning. The first morning after coming home, my problems returned.

I use a single-cup Senseo coffee maker (and LOVE it). I was already wondering if there is something different about my coffee that could be the cause of my problem. I am running pure vinegar through it as I write this. This coffee maker has a water container that holds enough water for me to make a large mug of coffee for 3 days before it needs to be refilled. I guess I will start dumping it after each day's brewing session and filling it with fresh water each morning. It will be interesting to see if my problem goes away.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 9:59AM
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"This would have been about a 60 cup aluminum coffeepot."

Aluminum is very reactive. What did you use to clean it with?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 12:46AM
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I'm cleaning my coffe maker w/straight vinegar as I write this! I use white vinegar w/bking soda all the time to clean my drains so today I will put vinegar thru several times. Thank you all for the re-use vinegar tip.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 2:40PM
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As an update, I posted last Wednesday that I was cleaning out my Senseo coffee maker with vinegar to see if I could eliminate my early morning intestinal issues. Since cleaning my unit, I have been dumping the water out of the tank after every mug of coffee I make - AND I've been using filtered water from my refrigerator instead of tap water. I haven't had any 'issues' since.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 10:51AM
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My dad has had the same coffee pot since I was in high school, and has never once ran vinegar through it, let alone cleaned it in any way. He, like many of us, was under the impression that the coffee would be hot enough to kill any germs etc. Over the past few weeks he has noticed that every time he drinks coffee at home, his stomach gets upset (not drastically, but noticeably). When he drinks it at work each day, he's perfectly fine. It is true that dispensers in restaurants are thoroughly checked by inspectors for good reason; perhaps we should all think twice about the tubes and water reservoir; of COURSE these are moist, warm areas perfect for ickies to live in. I am going to run the vinegar through immediately, and I just wanted to thank those who gave advice instead of rudely dismissing the issue.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 11:10PM
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Thanks to all for these posts. I realize this is happening to me at work and plan on cleaning our maker and its carafe soon. I have experienced classic food poisoning in the past, which is bacterial. But algeas, and it seems people are saying that they are growing algeas in their makers, can secrete toxins right into the environment. A reaction to a poison would not require time to develop, particularly if you're sensitive from repeated exposure. I would suggest regarding an old fashioned aluminum pot that having rinsed it, scrubbing it hard with a tablespoon or so of salt, then rinsing again, will get rid of any sliminess without leaving any residual flavors. Works good on a dog's water bowl too.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2011 at 12:09PM
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OK......>Running straight vinegar through mine as I write this too! I've always turned my coffee maker upside down to drain any water that might be in it onto the counter, then rinse the pot and the basket and I leave the lid cracked so it can dry out between uses. But how in the world are you supposed to get to the inside of those tubes? I've ALWAYS wondered what is growing inside of those tubes but could never get to them.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 3:41AM
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I just drank 2 cups of coffee from my local diner. And I'm home now staring at my Mr. Coffee coffee maker. I can find Dip-It locally and use it maybe once a year. I seem pretty unaffected by my consumption of coffee. My immune system seems to have adjusted to fight off anything in coffee makers. My Grandma told me you have to eat a peck of dirt before you die.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2011 at 8:18AM
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Lately I've been wondering why white coffe makers are becoming scarce.
Now I know....Inside my water reservoir and in the corners has lots of crud, I have been cleaning it our every so often, however dirt keeps coming back.
It's my opinion the black coffee makers hide the junk that's laying in the areas hard to clean.
I am looking for a SS electric pot that's reputable .
So far I haven't found any, these electric coffee pots can be cleaned and no hidden areas exist.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 8:48PM
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I know this thread is a bit dated so I hope people will still receive my post, but YES Tomatozilla - I have just figured out I've been experiencing the same issue with my automatic coffeemaker! I had not used it for a year until today, and last I used it and packed it away a year ago (and I was getting extremely nauseous and stomach upset, hot/cold symptoms every time I drank the coffee,) I noted how dirty it was and cleaned it just with hot water and dishsoap. Well apparently thats not going to do it, because I just brewed a pot this morning, and now, I have been sick all afternoon with nausea and stomach cramps. So I decided to do a search and here I came across this thread. Thank goodness I am validated on this and now I know what to try. I am thinking not only will I clean all components by hand in hot water with straight vinegar, but might also run straight vinegar through 3x, and with baking soda the third time, and straight water a final time to rinse out the baking soda. My rationale is the first three rounds should loosen the crud and kill most bacteria, the fourth with baking soda would fizz and get into every crack and cranny possible, and finally the water to rinse it all out. Not sure if the baking soda will be good for the machine, but if not I am not too concerned, as the machine is not expensive... Please update me on your experiences, whether the vinegar/etc has continued to work for you, and thanks to everyone who posted valuable information on this.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 7:19PM
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Also, I wonder if a french press or something like that might be more healthy and hygienic. I am going to have to remember to ask my physician next time I see her, she is good with suggestions and will let you know what I come up with.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 7:21PM
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I soak my teapots in water with a little Clorox bleach. I wonder if you should soak the tubing in chlorine bleach water too.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 1:38PM
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I don't think any of you have ever seen the inside of a water line that runs to your sinks. We had rental and I watched my husband work on the faucets and lines to the sink. Yuck, they are full of that slime buildup. He lived there for awhile and was never sick and I am sure it is in our new home's plumbing by now.

Regarding a coffee pot, I doubt there is anything harmful in the pot unless it is something that you are allergic to. The coffee gets hot enough to kill anything harmful if it was there.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 2:09PM
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I run straight white vinegar through several times too. Then run straight water through a few times. It still tastes a little like vinegar for a couple of pots but not bad. It makes a world of difference in the taste of the coffee. It's just a lot better tasting after that faint vinegar taste is gone, maybe it is just my imagination. Then I pour the vinegar down my garbage disposal along with all the pots of water brewed because sometimes that thing gets a smell too. I don't use it very often and I think that is not good for it. So I get two cleaning jobs out at once with the same vinegar. I have a skinny brush that you can clean the water viewer with but never thought of cleaning the other tube. Will have to try that.

I know this is crazy to think about but I bought a used coffee maker from e-bay because Krups no longer makes a certain model and it's the best coffee maker ever...!!! so I thought what the heck I'll try it. I cleaned it like there was no tomorrow. It seems fine. It was clean when it got here but I still monster cleaned it. There is still one left on e-bay I'm tempted to get it too but maybe I wouldn't be so lucky next time!

I sometimes get a case of stomach woes from the coffee and have to dash to the ladies room. I often wondered if it is something to do with the pot. Or maybe that it is a hot drink. Couldn't believe OP posted this as I have wondered the same thing!

    Bookmark   June 15, 2012 at 7:53PM
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We are HUGE percolator fans. I have a Presto right now that I love. Here is why:

1) Coffee is always *really* hot.
2) All stainless interior.
3) We use four smallish scoops of coffee for 12 cups. Big savings.
4) Run Dipit through every couple of months and it's clean.
5) Taste. Best tasting coffee anywhere.

You can buy them on Amazon and they use the 3.5" disc filters. Farberware also makes them and we used to have one. Downside is after three or four years of daily use the heating elements in the Farberwares seemed to fade. I'm hearing better things about the Presto's lifespan but have only had it a short time so far.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 7:02AM
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Here's the thing, I only get the tummy upset in the mornings and not all the time. If I make a pot later in the day it doesn't upset my stomach at all ever. Weird...

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 9:07AM
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Various descriptions above read like Irritable bowel syndrome to me.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 1:46PM
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I was recently diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and when I first started having symptoms was only when I drank coffee. The 2 may not go together at all, but I've always wondered if a dirty coffee pot could make me sick. Basically ulcerative colitis is inflammation of large intestines. There are studies that suggest that the inflammation is caused by some unknown pathogen. Who knows if I was ingesting bacteria over and over again.there were other factors like stress that triggered mine, so I'm not saying it was a coffee pot. It just causes me to be cautious. A great alternative is to buy a French press ( not expensive) and have French press coffee. It has no tubes at all and no hard to reach compartments. It's also the tastiest way to have coffee

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 2:10PM
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I think I read this original posting & have been cleaning my coffee maker w/white vinegar ever since. Actually I leave the vinegar in the machine for about an hour before turning on so it has a chance to do what it does. I too then pour down drain & add baking soda. I love the idea of using the vinegar more than once. Good suggestion!

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 7:23PM
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Darlene Castle

I too signed up to leave a post as I was researching the cleanliness of Mr. Coffee and similar coffee makers. My conclusion: they’re breeding grounds for bacteria. If you look in the bottom of the coffee maker you may see red or pink around the hole or in the tiny spaces you can reach to clean by hand. This is a bacteria known as Serratia marcescens. I took my Mr. Coffee apart and poked white pipe cleaners of various widths into the holes in the reservoir and through the plastic tube-- all came out bright red. And of course you can’t even get into the lower reservoir. Who knows what that looks like! I’m going for a percolator. Yes they still make them but could only purchase them online.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2015 at 12:05PM
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I use instant coffee, it's easier on your stomach if you have indigestion problems.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2015 at 8:00AM
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Actually bacteria do not like coffee grounds(they are mildly acidic), they do like warm and moist conditions though. You should wash your carafe and filter housing after using, once a month clean with white vinegar. As with your washing machines(clothes and dish), you should let your coffeemaker air out after using to keep mold and bacteria from growing.

If you are wondering what to do with your used coffee grounds, you could throw it in your compost pile. Worms love used coffee grounds.

Icky Stuff Lurking in Your Coffemaker

Composting Used Coffee Grounds

    Bookmark   March 20, 2015 at 9:26AM
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Darlene Castle

You're absolutely right: bacteria loves warm, moist conditions. The bacteria I'm witnessing isn't growing where coffee grounds or coffee is. It's growing in places not easily reached by either hand washing or running vinegar through. Look at your coffee maker, take it apart to get to the plastic tube and you will understand. Also the lower "tank" can never be cleaned or aired out. Water still dribbles comes out after days of airing and turning the maker upside down multiple times. My maker was regularly cleaned with vinegar. I even used hydrogen peroxide. But you can't clean what you can't get to.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2015 at 10:07AM
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Wow. This all makes me very glad I only make coffee by the pour over method with a Melitta filter holder. Both filter holder and kettle can go into the dishwasher for sanitizing when I've made my cup. Very convenient too if you only make 1 cup a day like I do.

    Bookmark   on Sunday at 12:17AM
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