Keurigs have become such an essential part of our everyday lives. Owning one allows us to shave those extra minutes while getting ready for work. It’s essentially a robot making us a cup of coffee every morning.
There’s no need to add water. Simply, put in the K-cup, place a cup underneath, and press start.
But is that delicious hot jolt of energy really just be pure coffee? Do Keurigs get bacteria and moldy and can it end up in your coffee?
The answer is yes. Keurigs (as well as most other coffee makers) can contain bacteria and become moldy. This can end up in the coffee, making people very sick. Like most coffee makers, Keurigs need to be properly cleaned on a regular basis (usually every 2-4 months). However, it can be difficult due to the many compartments in a brewer, but it’s necessary in order to prevent such happenings from occurring.
What causes bacteria and mold to grow in a coffee maker?
The most common source of brewer mold is the combination of water and leftover coffee. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mold grows where there is moisture.
It can travel into your home through open doors, windows, vents, and your cooling and heating system. Mold can even be brought in physically through our clothes, shoes, and even our pets.
There’s just no possible way to prevent mold from entering our coffee maker because during its initial stage, it’s just not visible to the eyes.
We are only made aware of its presence after it has taken its place and grown into a sizable amount.
Unfortunately for us, a Keurig machine is often forgotten because of the perception that it’s somewhat fully automated. As a result and misconception, it doesn’t need much maintenance.
What would happen if you drank moldy coffee?
The real question is, should you be worried if you ate or drank moldy food? According to Healthline, probably not. Mold might produce harmful mycotoxins that can end up in your coffee. Exposure to small amounts likely won’t cause any harm to people who are healthy and have a strong immune system.
Mycotoxins are known to cause a lot of adverse effects to humans when they are inhaled or consumed. In fact, a mycotoxin called Aflatoxin B1 that can be found in old and rotting coffee beans is strongly linked to the risk of liver cancer.
However, speculation says that you most likely won’t continually eat that moldy food or drink after its molding growth process is too far advanced. In other words, your coffee will probably end up tasting way too bad and you should naturally have stopped drinking at some point before it ever becomes a real issue.
However, it is important to avoid ingesting it when you can. With Mycotoxins, depending on the amount you ingest and how long you’ve been exposed to it, it can do a great deal of damage to your health.
As stated by the Functional Medical Institute, some of the signs and symptoms of being overly exposed to mold would be:
- Brain fog
- Memory problems
- Trouble focusing
- Fatigue and weakness
- Muscle cramps
- Joint pain
- Nerve pain
- Numbness and tingling
- Red and light-sensitive eyes
- Asthma, cough, and shortness of breath
- Tremors and vertigo
- Change in appetite, diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal pain
- Metallic taste
- Chills and night sweat
- Increased thirst and urination
How often should you clean your Keurig?
The company that creates Keurig recommends a few key occasions of when to clean your Keurig machine.
- Clean the outside exterior of your Keurig regularly.
- Cleaning the water reservoir and lid should be done once a week.
- You will also need to de-scale your machine every 3 to 6 months.
- Replace the water filter cartridge every 2 months.
Through experience and reviews, I’ve found that there are several other occasions when you can tell your brewer needs cleaning. Experiencing any of these issues is a sign that you haven’t properly cleaned your brewer on time. And that you should take a more active approach in reminding yourself to clean it.
- If you start to see mold or smell a foul odor inside the compartments of your machine
- If the Keurig is exhibiting slower than usual drip
- If you see calcium or mineral build-up inside the machine
- If your coffee begins to taste different from before (particularly more bitterness than usual)
- If you begin experiencing signs and symptoms explained above
- When you taste a slimy muckiness texture in your coffee
- If there are black specks coming out into the coffee
How to properly clean a Keurig machine
- Start by emptying the water from the reservoir.
- Wash all removable parts of the coffee maker in a sink with dish liquid and water.
- Get an old toothbrush dipped in vinegar and use it to clean all the hard-to-reach areas inside the machine.
- Take out the reusable filters and make sure to rinse and wash those down until they are visibly clean.
- If you have a reusable pod, go ahead and wash that as well.
- Reassemble your machine with the exception of the filter.
- Mix 3 cups of vinegar and 3 cups of water into the reservoir and run it through the brewer until the reservoir is empty. You’ll end up with very dirty vinegar water.
- Repeat step 7, but this time with water several times to drive out any remaining vinegar.
Tips to prevent your Keurig machine from getting dirty and building up mold
- Regularly clean the brewer and its components – I can’t stress how important it is to keep a schedule on cleaning the Keurig. I’ve used my Google Calendar and have set these events to regularly remind myself of the times. Just create one for reservoir cleaning and set it to remind you weekly. Create another one to change the filter every 2 months. Finally, create one to de-scale every 3 to 6 months.
- De-scale your Keurig every 3 to 6 months – Scale is a mineral deposit build-up that can prevent the machine from brewing and filtering properly. The mineral build-up is non-toxic but it will prevent the proper functioning and flow of water through the channels. This can be solved by running a de-scaling solution which you can find here on Amazon or vinegar through the reservoir and machine.
- Vinegar helps prevent mold – Surprisingly enough, vinegar is a wonderfully natural cleaning agent. I have an article about using vinegar as a natural, safe, and non-invasive cleaner to clean tabletops here.
- Change the filter regularly – Changing out the filters is important because filters trap particles and even organic substances and after some time. Clogs and residue build-up can occur, resulting in leaks and mold growth.
- Don’t leave the same water in for too long – I’ve stated before in the article that mold is greatly attracted by water. If you left the same water in the reservoir for a long period of time, it will give mold enough time to settle and grow. Changing water out with a new batch of water will reset this timetable and prevent mold from growing.
- Properly store coffee and materials in a clean and dry area – If you generally use a traditional coffee maker or reusable K-cup. Coffee grounds and filters should be properly sealed and if possible sealed airtight which you can find on Amazon here. Leaving any of these ingredients of the coffee machine out may lead to mold and bacteria having access to it. Mold and bacteria can practically grow on anything so it’s a good idea to block off all access points.
- Maintain the machine in a clean and dry environment – Keeping the machine itself in a cool and dry area is important as well. While it isn’t rational to seal it away from the environment, it is important that you don’t leave it in an area where the air is humid and warm. In fact, any area that is humid risks the chances of mold and bacterial.
To sum it all up
Without the proper maintenance, your daily coffee maker can grow mold and bacteria. While oftentimes harmless, it can cause serious health issues if you were exposed to these substances for a long period of time.
The key to keeping your machine from building up mold and bacteria is to schedule regular cleanings of all the parts. Use a toothbrush to scrub the inside crevices, as well as run vinegar and water through the brewer for a few cycles.
Doing so can provide you with a healthy and great-tasting cup of coffee every day for as long as you have your Keurig.
Interesting further reading: