How To Use A Keurig Coffee Maker: Setup, Brewing & Regular Maintenance

Keurig coffee makers are designed to be simple to use. There are 5 major processes:

  1. Initial setup & cleansing brew
  2. Brewing & daily use
  3. Auto-On & Auto-Brew modes (available on some models)
  4. Regular maintenance
  5. Draining the internal water tank

Most models share nearly identical processes, but there are some variations from model to model.

To look up the exact processes for any single model, check out my Complete Guide to Keurig Coffee Makers. In that post I went into painstaking detail about the functionality of every Keurig model I could track down and included a link to its specific user manual.

How To Use A Keurig: Initial Setup & Cleansing Brew

Before you use your Keurig for this first time, you’ll need to get it set up and flush water through its internal components.

1. Unbox your brewer and plug it in

Grab the box, remove the Keurig brewer from said box, remove the tape holding some of the components together and plug it in.

Make sure you save the user manual. There’s a lot of great info in there about how to use a Keurig brewer and how to maintain your specific model.

2. Lift the handle and discard the shipping disc if included

This step does not apply to brewers that don’t come with a shipping disc.

Some brewers come with a temporary disc in the pod attachment. If yours is one of these models, lift the handle and remove it.

Don’t just throw the shipping disc away, though! Maybe I’m a pack-rat, but I’d suggest keeping the disc with the original box and user manual. You never know when you may need to store the brewer away, whether it’s to move, give/sell it to someone else or return to the manufacturer.

3. Remove the water reservoir and clean it with soap and warm water

This step does not apply to brewers with an unremovable water reservoir, such as the K10, K15 and B31 Mini series brewers.

All we’re looking to do at this point is rinse the water reservoir down before its first use.

Remove the water reservoir and wash it with a soft cloth or sponge, soap and warm/hot water. Make sure you don’t use a scratchy Brill-o pad!

Don’t forget to wipe down the water entry point at the base of the water reservoir platform, making sure there’s nothing in there you don’t want in your coffee.

4. Prime the charcoal water filter

This step does not apply to brewers that don’t come with a charcoal water filter kit.

The charcoal water filters aren’t mean to be opened and immediately placed in the water filter holder. Instead, prime it by following these simple steps:

  • Rinse it under cool water for a minute, ensuring it soaks up all the water it’ll take
  • Soak it in a bowl of water for 5 minutes
  • Massage the water filter so that any loose charcoal particles fall away into the bowl of water and not into your coffee

Rinse, soak, massage.

(No, this isn’t a romantic night out with your special someone.)

5. Insert the charcoal water filter into the water filter handle and snap into the reservoir

This step does not apply to brewers that don’t come with a charcoal water filter kit.

The charcoal water filter holder has two parts as shown above:

  • Bottom pod holder
  • Top handle that snaps onto the bottom

Place the charcoal water filter onto the bottom part, place the handle over it and insert the assembled water filter into the water reservoir. Everything will snap together snugly.

6. Fill the water reservoir to the MAX FILL line

If you have a charcoal water filter, you can fill with your tap water. If you don’t have a filter, make sure to fill the water reservoir with spring or filtered water.

7. Press the power button and wait for preheating to complete

Depending on your model, this could take anywhere from 20 seconds to 3 minutes.

8. Grab a mug and place it on the drip tray

Some models have a censor that won’t brew unless there’s a mug on the drip tray. Even if there isn’t don’t make a mess!

9. Lift and lower the handle without inserting a Keurig coffee pod

I mean, you could use a coffee pod, but this is our cleansing brew so no sense in wasting coffee.

10. Select the maximum size brew setting and press brew

Note: Don’t select a size larger than the mug you’re using!

Your coffee-less coffee will finish brewing in 30 seconds to 3 minutes, depending on your model. Once it’s done consider the internal components sufficiently rinsed, and you’re ready to begin using your Keurig brewer on a daily basis.

How to Use a Keurig for Brewing & Daily Use

With the initial setup done, your Keurig coffee maker is ready for consistent use.

1. Choose your pod and grab a mug

Note: For K-Carafe pods you’ll need to use the Keurig carafe.

There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of different K-Cups you can use, but some may not be compatible with your Keurig model.

Keurig has two different brewing systems: Keurig 1.0 and Keurig 2.0.

  • Keurig 1.0: Brews K-Cup pods only; compatible with all K-Cup pods available
  • Keurig 2.0: Brews K-Cup, K-Mug, K-Vue and K-Carafe pods; compatible with Keurig-licensed pods only (they have “Keurig Brewed” on the pod lid

You can read our Complete Guide to Keurig Coffee Maker Reviews to see which brewing system every single Keurig model uses.

2. Lift the handle, insert the pod and lower the handle

Pretty self-explanatory!

Once the pod is inserted and the handle is lowered, the Keurig device pierces the top and bottom — this is the secret to Keurig’s brewing system.

Instead of using a Keurig coffee pod you may elect to use the Keurig My K-Cup reusable pod, which allows you to brew a single serving with your own coffee grounds — no K-Cup required.

To use the My K-Cup pod you’ll need to remove the standard pod assembly (the thing into which you place your typical K-Cup). It snaps in and out pretty easily.

Watch this grainy video to learn how to use the My K-Cup pod assembly.

3. Select the desired settings for your brew

Depending on the model this could include one or multiple settings:

  • Brew size
  • Brew temperature
  • Bold selector
  • Hot cocoa or other beverage selector

4. Press BREW and wait for your coffee to finish

The BREW button comes in many forms, depending on the model:

  • Physical button
  • Touch display button
  • No button, instead the brewer begins once the handle has been lowered

5. Enjoy!

Your coffee is ready.

For some Keurig machines, you’ll be ready to brew again in 30-60 seconds. For others it’ll take a few minutes to get up to the proper temperature.

Auto-On & Auto-Brew Modes

I wanted to single out Keurig’s Auto-On and Auto-Brew modes, as they’re a little different than the on-demand brewing process detailed above.

Auto-On is a common feature on many Keurig models that lets you set the brewer to automatically turn on. However, it will not automatically brew a cup of coffee. All it will do is pre-heat the brewer so you can wake up, walk over, pop in a pod and brew right away.

Auto-Brew comes on many Keurig carafe models, such as the K200 and up. This mode allows you to prep the brewer with water and a coffee pod for brewing at a later time. Unlike Auto-On, the brewer will actually brew a carafe of coffee at the specified time.

The step-by-step process below is for the Keurig Auto-Brew mode with carafe-sized beverages.

The process below varies from model to model, so check out my Complete Guide to Keurig Coffee Maker Reviews for the specific user manuals of each model.

1. Choose your K-carafe pod and insert your carafe

Choose a K-carafe pod, grab your carafe and proceed to step 2.

2. Lift the handle, insert the pod and lower the handle

Nothing new here.

3. Choose the brew size and select AUTO BREW setting

This particular setting could vary depending on the model you have. The image above shows a common screen, this one specifically from the Keurig K575.

  • Choose your brew size
  • Press AUTO BREW

Read our Keurig K575 review.

4. Select the brew time you want

Once you press AUTO BREW above, you’ll be taken to a screen with a digital clock and some arrows, similar to the image shown above.

  • Select the desired brew time
  • Press the button in the bottom-right corner to save the time

6. Wait

When the scheduled brew time arrives, the coffee maker will brew the coffee with the settings you chose.

You can’t use the coffee maker until the desired time unless you cancel the Auto-Brew.

7. OPTIONAL: To edit or cancel the brew

You may decide you no longer want to brew a carafe of coffee at 6:00am. Whatever shall you do?!

  • To Edit: Press the button on the control panel that says TOUCH HERE TO EDIT
  • To Cancel: Lift the handle

Keurig Regular Maintenance

Keurig coffee makers are finicky machines. Many users complain their brewer failed to last more than a year or two, but generally this is due to poor regular maintenance — you gotta clean these things, people!

To keep your brewer humming along for years, make sure you perform the following maintenance routine.

1. Clean the exterior, drip tray, water reservoir, pod assembly, entry needle, exit needle and carafe

Frequency: Every 1-2 weeks

Each Keurig user manual has instructions detailing the best way to clean the components of that particular model. That’s the first place you should go when researching regular maintenance.

However, the following rules generally apply:

  • Exterior: wipe down with a non-abrasive cloth or sponge
  • Drip tray: rinse in the sink; not dishwasher safe
  • Pod assembly: rinse in the sink; not dishwasher safe
  • Water reservoir and lid: rinse in the sink and wash with soap and a non-abrasive cloth or sponge
  • Entry and exit needle: rinse and wipe down with non-abrasive cloth or sponge; should they clog, use a paperclip to unclog (see image above)
  • Carafes: wipe down with a non-abrasive cloth or sponge; for the thermal carafe, never submerge it fully under water

Note: Some Keurig manuals say the pod assembly and other components are dishwasher safe, but I think it’s best to hand wash everything anyway.

For anything that comes in contact with coffee, such as the pod assembly, it’s best to wipe down occasionally with a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar. The vinegar cleans away any of the rancid oils resulting from exposure to oxygen and water and ensures the best tasting cup of coffee possible.

2. Change the charcoal water filter

Frequency: Every 2 months or 1,000 oz, whichever comes first

For context, 1,000 oz is 125-8 oz servings, or one cup per day for 4 months

To change the charcoal filter you’ll need to follow the steps described in step 4 of the Initial Setup & Cleansing Brew instructions above.

3. De-scale your machine

Frequency: Every 3-6 months or more frequently if you have hard water

Over time your coffee maker will experience calcium build-up from your water. Using filtered or spring water, or a compatible charcoal water filter, will slow this build-up, but it will still happen nonetheless.

Almost all Keurig models have some kind of de-scaling notification or indicator light to let you know when it’s time to perform the de-scaling process below.

Honestly, I’d de-scale more frequently than is suggested — at least every 2-3 months. It doesn’t take much time at all and it’ll keep everything working for longer.

These are the steps:

  1. Fill the water reservoir to the MAX FILL line with de-scaling solution or a mixture of half water, half white vinegar
  2. Run the brew cycle one time
  3. Let the brewer to sit for at least 30 minutes, allowing the internal components to be cleaned
  4. Run the brew cycle multiple times until the water reservoir is empty
  5. Fill the water reservoir with water
  6. Run the brew cycle multiple times until the water reservoir is empty (to rinse)

Drain the Internal Water Tank

If you don’t plan on using your Keurig for more than 1-2 weeks, you definitely should drain the water from the internal water tank.

Click here to learn How to Drain a Keurig Brewer

This prevents two serious problems:

  1. Mold growth
  2. Freezing (if stored somewhere cold, such as a garage)

If you have any other questions about how to use a Keurig coffee maker, let us know.


About The Coffee Maven
bryan de luca
Bryan De Luca

I'm Bryan but most people know me as The Coffee Maven. I grew up outside Boston, Massachusetts and received my Bachelor's degree in Biochemistry from Providence College. My first introduction to coffee was during my college days, when I used it as a source of caffeine to fuel late-night study sessions, but soon I became obsessed with the chemistry of coffee. How did changes to water temperature or contact time affect its taste? Why do beans from Africa taste fruity while beans from Indonesia taste spicy? I launched The Coffee Maven in February 2017 to explore these questions and help others brew their perfect cup. Welcome to my site, and thanks for reading!