How Coffee Makers Work

Drip Coffee Maker Problems: What Can Go Wrong with Your Coffee Maker?

­You're groggy. The sky still looks the same as when you started snoozing the night before and you stumble into the kitchen gung-ho to flip that magic switch. But what's this? You turned it on and nothing happened. No cheerful gurgling, no promising rumbling. No coffee!

Here are some of the most common problems that can cause your drip coffee maker to stop working:­

  • The power cord or on/off switch can go bad. In either of these cases, it's best to get a pro to replace it or buy a new coffee maker -- replacing it improperly can lead to a fire.
  • The one-way valve can get clogged open or closed. You can usually fish out the debris that causes this problem with a toothpick.
  • The tubes can get clogged with calcium. This is especially true of the aluminum heating tube. The normal way to solve this problem is to run vinegar through the machine once, and then run two batches of water through to clean out the vinegar.

There are two problems that are nearly impossible to fix: failure of one of the heat-sensitive switches and failure of the heating coil. Because it's very challenging to get replacement parts, you'll probably have to buy a new coffee maker if one of these problems disables your machine.

­Assuming no calamity has struck your coffee maker, what are some of the advanced features it might offer? Well for starters, many have a programmable timer, meaning you can get everything ready the night before and when your alarm clock starts beeping, the coffee pot starts gurgling. By the time you roll out of bed and trudge to the kitchen, your coffee is ready and waiting. In some machines, a built-in grinder means that cup of coffee will also be nice and fresh, ground just before brewing began. Another interesting feature available is the ability to pause in the middle of a brewing cycle. This way, if you're the first one out of bed making coffee for an entire household, you can grab your first cup before the entire pot is prepared.

Many digital drip coffee makers also allow you to adjust the strength of the brew -- if want a stronger cup of coffee the brewing time slows to accommodate. Some also have self-cleaning cycles and filtration systems. Freshness counters can let you know how long a pot of coffee has been sitting out and automatic shut-off features can ease fears that you forgot to turn the cof­fee maker off when you left for work.

Now, when you make coffee tomorrow morning, you can do so with a new appreciation for exactly what's happening inside. For more information on coffee makers, coffee and related topics, check out the links below.


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More Great Links


  • "All About Coffee." National Coffee Association of U.S.A., Inc. (10/31/2008)
  • "Automatic Drip Coffee Makers Reviews and Prices." Consumer Guide. (10/31/2008)
  • Beller, Deborah. "How Coffee Works." (10/31/2008
  • Coffee Research Institute Web site. (10/31/2008)
  • "Coffee." Encyclopedia Britannica. (10/31/2008)
  • "Coffee." National Geographic. (10/31/2008)
  • "How does a stovetop coffee maker work?" (10/31/2008)
  • "What is a coffee maker?" (10/31/2008)
  • International Coffee Organization Web site. (10/31/2008)
  • "Roasting/Making Coffee." International Coffee Organization. (10/31/2008)
  • "What is a French press?" (10/31/2008)