7 common coffee machine problems, and how to fix them

Brew-tiful mornings no more? Perk up your coffee machine woes with these six fixes.

There’s nothing quite like waking up to the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, but sometimes our trusty coffee machines can have a mind of their own.

Whether you’re an espresso enthusiast or a latte lover, we’ve got you covered with the top six common coffee machine issues and their easy fixes. Each type of coffee machine will have slightly different problems, but these common issues affect most home coffee machines, from pod to espresso.

1. It won’t turn on

Treating the silent treatment

A coffee machine sitting on a kitchen counterCredit: Shutterstock / Pixel-Shot

It’s not the best way to start your day. You go to make that all-important first cup of coffee, but your coffee machine sits there, lifeless and unresponsive.

Before panicking, check to make sure it’s properly plugged in. If the power cord is plugged in correctly and the outlet is working, the fuse (in the coffee machine’s plug) may have blown, or the circuit breaker in your fuse box may have flipped. Check these and replace if necessary.

If everything seems to be in order, try resetting the machine by unplugging it for a few minutes and then plugging it back in. Sometimes, just like us humans, machines need a little shove to get going.

Finally, your machine might need a descale. If limescale is allowed to build up, it can cause damage, which eventually stops your machine from working. Not sure how to descale a coffee machine? It’s best to use a specific descaling product for the job at hand – ditch the vinegar as this can be too acidic for some appliances.

If none of this works, it’s time to call in the experts to see if your machine can be salvaged. A new power cord or even heating element might be required to get it going again.

If your machine is under warranty, it’s best to contact the manufacturer as they will repair the issue, or replace it with a working machine. 


2. It’s making strange noises

Gurgles and grinds

Coffee beans in the hopper of a coffee machineCredit: Shutterstock / vfhnb12

Does your coffee machine sound like it’s taken up beatboxing as a hobby? Odd noises during operation can be unsettling, but they often have straightforward solutions.

  • First, inspect the water reservoir to ensure it is not empty. An empty reservoir can cause the pump to overwork, resulting in unusual noises during operation. 
  • If your coffee machine has a grinder attachment, check for any stray coffee beans or debris that may be causing the disturbance. 
  • Excessive noise during brewing might be due to limescale build-up in the internal circuits. Cleaning the machine regularly can help reduce this issue. 
  • Clogging is another common culprit behind noisy coffee machines. Residues and mineral deposits can accumulate in the water or coffee grounds. Regular descaling will alleviate this problem. If you live in an area with hard water, using bottled water can also help. 
  • Inspect the machine for loose parts that could be causing rattling sounds. Ensure that all components are tightly fitted. 
  • The heating element could be faulty, leading to problems with water boiling. A malfunctioning heating element can contribute to increased noise levels. 
  • Consider the placement of your coffee machine. If it’s vibrating on the work surface, this can amplify the noise. Placing a silicone, rubber or cork mat underneath the machine can help reduce vibrations and minimise noise. It also makes a nice finishing touch to your coffee station.

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3. It’s leaking

The drippy dilemma

A coffee machine water reservoir being removedCredit: Shutterstock / Monika Wisniewska

Is your coffee machine turning your countertop into a miniature swimming pool? Leaks and drips are a frequent annoyance, often caused by loose or misaligned parts.

Leaks may also be caused by the build-up of limescale, so ensure you descale your coffee machine every one to two months to ensure it runs efficiently. Other things to check are:

  • The water reservoir: Make sure the water reservoir is properly inserted and that the lid is closed tightly. Inspect any seals as well. These can go over time and it may be that they need to be replaced. If the reservoir can be easily removed from the machine, fill it up with water and leave in the sink to see if it has any leaks.  
  • The water inlet valve: The water inlet valve (check you machine’s manual to locate this) may be dirty or clogged. Clean the valve or replace it if necessary. 
  • The drip tray: If this is clogged up, water may overflow onto your work surface.
  • Any blockages: This is why it’s important to regularly clean your coffee machine as blockages can cause issues with leaking.  

Filter coffee machines

If you have a drip or filter coffee machine, make sure you’re not using too much coffee. Too much doesn’t allow the water to come through, which could cause leaks elsewhere in your machine.

Also check that the pot isn’t cracked. It’s an obvious thing to overlook but an easy one to sort out as you can buy replacements easily enough. Just make sure you search for your particular brand and make, otherwise it might not fit.

Coffee pod machines

Sometimes you can get leaks from the actual capsules used in the machine. Often, this is because they’re not compatible with your machine and water flows through and around the capsule.

You can check your machine’s manual to see which pods are supported, and check the pod’s packaging to see if it’s compatible with your machine.

Also check that the capsule itself doesn’t have any errant holes that will allow water to flow through. 


What is the average lifespan of a coffee machine? 

It all depends on what type of coffee machine you buy, but most domestic coffee machines should last five to seven years. If you have a higher-quality machine, and regularly maintain it, it could last for up to 10 years.  

4. Coffee is brewing too slowly

The caffeine crawl

Coffee being poured into a cup from a machineCredit: Shutterstock / baranq

It’s morning, you’re running late, but your coffee machine is on tortoise time. Fear not, this can be fixed.

By now, you’ve probably realised that limescale build-up can cause a whole host of problems with your coffee machine, so if you’ve never descaled your machine, this can be making it go slow. Not only can it clog up pipes, but it can also affect the heating element, slowing the whole thing down.

If you have a spout on your coffee machine, check that this isn’t clogged. Over time, blockages can happen in this spot thanks to a build-up of coffee oils and residue. A simple clean with a damp cloth should help.

If you have a coffee machine, such as a filter or espresso that requires you to add your own ground coffee, make sure you’ve not added too much. Adding too much coffee means it takes a long time for the water to saturate the coffee and exit the machine.

The perfect coffee-to-water ratio for different brewing methods

A ratio of 1:17 is a good starting point for most coffees, especially filter or drip coffee. This means that for every 18 grams of water, you will use 1 gram of coffee. If you want a stronger cup, you can use a ratio of 1:15, or if you want a lighter cup, you can use 1:18.

A ratio of 1:16 to 1:12 is good for French press coffee. This means that for every 16 to 12 grams of water, you will use 1 gram of coffee. The exact ratio will depend on your personal preference.

Espresso is a very concentrated coffee, so a ratio of 1:2 is optimal. This means that for every 2 grams of water, you will use 1 gram of coffee.

5. Coffee isn’t hot

Not-so-hot coffee woes

Cup of coffee in a pink mug on a wooden tableCredit: Shutterstock / Elena Gordeichik

Is your morning cuppa lukewarm and disappointing? The culprit here could be a faulty thermostat. However, before you rush out to get a new machine, try descaling it first to remove any mineral build-up. Limescale reduces the efficiency of the machine by blocking the pipes and causing damage to the heating element.

If that doesn’t do the trick, it’s time to consult your machine’s manual or seek professional help.

Sometimes using cold cups can also really affect the temperature of your coffee, so heat up your mug before you use it by filling with boiled water.

6. Coffee tastes different

A bitter caffeine hit

If your coffee tastes bad or has a strange flavour, there could be a few potential causes.

First, check the freshness of your coffee beans. They start to lose their flavour after about a week. If you are using old coffee beans, the coffee will taste bitter. 

Keep your beans fresh

To keep your coffee beans fresh, store them in an opaque airtight container at room temperature (20-25°C or 68-77°F). This will help to reduce the amount of air, light, moisture and heat that can reach the beans, which can all degrade their flavour.

If your coffee tastes weak, you’ll need to use more coffee grounds. If you are using pre-ground coffee, use a slightly more generous amount. If you are grinding your own coffee beans, grind them a bit finer. If your coffee tastes bitter, you’ll probably need a coarser grind. Using the wrong grind size can lead to over-extraction or under-extraction, which can affect the flavour.

Another possibility is that your coffee machine needs to be cleaned. Over time, coffee oils and residue can build up in the coffee maker, which can affect the taste of the coffee. Clean the coffee maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Finally, consider the water you are using. If your tap water has a strong taste or odour, it can affect the flavour of your coffee. Using filtered or bottled water may help improve the taste.

7. The milk won’t froth

The froth fiasco

Barista is using high pressure steam operated milk frother to prepare a coffee milk.Credit: Shutterstock / Ancapital

Who doesn’t love a creamy cloud of milk atop their latte or cappuccino? But if your frothing game is weak, it’s time to level up!

Start by using fresh, cold milk and ensure your steam wand is clean and unobstructed. Position the wand just beneath the surface and create a whirlpool effect for a frothy masterpiece.

Some milk alternatives are harder to froth than cow’s milk due to them containing less fat and proteins. While soy works well, oat or almond milk can be bit trickier to get that perfect froth. One way is to add some vegan gellan gum, which serves as a thickening agent for non-dairy liquids.

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If you have an automated frother, such as the type that comes with many coffee pod machines, it might be that the internal whisk isn’t attached or has stopped working.

The latter could be because it’s dirty and just needs a good clean. If it’s beyond repair, you can buy replacement whisks – just make sure they’re the right fit for your particular machine.

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Jayne Cherrington-Cook

Written by Jayne Cherrington-Cook she/her


Jayne is the Senior Editor for Home Tech. She cut her online journalism teeth 23 years ago in an era when a dialling tone and slow page load were standard. During this time, she’s written about a variety of subjects and is just at home road-testing TVs as she is interviewing TV stars.

A diverse career has seen Jayne launch websites for popular magazines, collaborate with top brands, write regularly for major publications including Yahoo! and The Daily Telegraph, create a podcast, and also write a tech column for Women’s Own.

Her passion for technology began at age 11 when she received a BBC Micro computer one Christmas and became obsessed with beating Chuckie Egg (if you know, you know) and writing simple computer programmes. As her family’s IT department, when she isn’t writing or geeking out about some new tech, she can be found on the floor of her son’s bedroom putting together his latest gaming set-up or helping her dad understand how cloud computing works. Jayne is determined to make technology accessible for everyone because she believes technology should enhance life, not hinder it.

Jayne lives in Kent with a shepsky, her husband and her son, who is attempting to teach her the ways of TikTok, Aston Villa and anime. A keen neurodivergent ally after her son was diagnosed as autistic five years ago, when Jayne does have some rare downtime she enjoys yoga, reading, going to musicals and attempting to emulate Beyonce (poorly) in street dance classes.

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