How to Use a Coffee Machine – STEP BY STEP

Please note that some links may be affiliate links from which we may earn a commission. This is at no extra cost to you and keeps The Coffee Suite running. Thank you.

Luckily most basic coffee machines operate in a similar way to each other so you should have no problem in learning how to use a coffee machine to make a satisfying cup of coffee.  

Coffee machine instructions

Cleaning your coffee machine before it's first use

If you have bought a brand new coffee machine, it is recommended that you run the coffee machine for 2 – 3 cycles WITHOUT COFFEE. 

If however your coffee machine is preloved, ie. owned by someone else previously, then follow the instructions here to clean your ‘new’ coffee maker.  This will ensure that there are no bacteria, mould or mineral deposits in the machine that can either adversely affect your health or the taste of your freshly brewed cup of coffee for that matter!

The majority of coffee machines will have the components pictured below.  A water reservoir, a removable filter basket (reusable) and a filter basket holder.  If your coffee machine has a fine mesh filter basket then you will not need to use paper filters, however it may improve the taste of your coffee if you decide to use them.  Keep reading to find out the pros and cons of using the filter basket versus paper filters.

So, after cleaning your machine you are now ready to learn how to use a coffee machine to make a tasty brew.  

Step 1:

After ensuring that the filter basket is correctly fitted in the coffee machine, pour water into the water reservoir.  Take note of the minimum and maximum levels and do not fill higher or lower than indicated. 


Using purified or distilled water will give your coffee a much better flavour than using plain tap water.

Tap water is chemically treated and this will unfortunately come through in the taste.  

Have you considered using a Brita water filter?  You’ll be so glad you did!

Step 2:

Carefully fill the filter basket with your favourite medium grind coffee.  Do not use instant coffee as this is previously brewed coffee that has simply been dehydrated.  It will result in a gritty texture and will taste nowhere near as good as when using ground coffee.

The more recently coffee beans have been ground, the richer and more flavorsome your coffee will taste.  It may cost a little extra but will be totally worth it.   

Step 3:

Close the lid and ensure that the carafe is placed centrally on the base plate.  

Step 4:

You can now turn the coffee maker on.  There may or may not be an indicator light that illuminates to tell you it is on.  Either way, you will tell in a minute or two whether it has turned on or not by the noise of it starting to boil the water.   

When the coffee machine is finished, it should automatically turn to ‘keep warm’* mode.  This will keep the coffee at the optimal temperature.  If you do not want it to keep warm then you can simply turn the coffee machine off.  

If you like your coffee ready for you when you wake up in the morning, why not turn your standard non-smart coffee machine into a smart coffee maker

 *Note that manufacturers usually recommend not keeping the coffee machine on keep warm mode for more than a few hours, ideally no more than two hours.  

How to clean a 'preloved' coffee machine

If your coffee maker is not new then I would suggest running the coffee machine through with a mix of vinegar and water first. 

Vinegar/Water Ratio

1/3 White Vinegar

2/3 Cups Water

This will vary depending on what make of coffee maker you have, but a standard 5 cup coffee machine carafe can hold approximately 25 fl ounces of water.  Or for those of you using the metric system, 740 ml.   This would mean that you would use 8.33 ounces (246ml)  of vinegar and 16.66 ounces (492ml) of water.  

After running the coffee machine with the above ratio of vinegar to water, this should be followed by 1 – 2 cycles of PLAIN WATER.  This will ensure that you get no vinegar traces in your next cup of coffee.

If you love your coffee, try these articles:

Coffee paper filter versus coffee filter basket

I thought it may be worth mentioning the pros and cons of both coffee filter baskets and paper filters.  It may be a bit hit and miss until you find one that you are happy with and that fits your coffee maker correctly but ultimately it comes down to personal preference.

Coffee filter basket

Coffee paper filter

How to use a filter coffee machine - FAQs

What is the ratio of coffee to water?

According to The National Coffee Association USA, the coffee-to-water ratio for a cup of coffee is said to be between 1 to 2 tablespoons of coffee for every 6 fl oz (177ml) of water.  In the case of a standard 5 cup coffee making machine, which holds about 25 fl ounces of water, this would be approximately 6 to 12 tablespoons of coffee.

This is generally using a mild ground coffee and will be dependant on an individuals preference.  We all have different tastes and what might be perfect to one person, may be the opposite to another.  

Can I turn my coffee maker into a smart coffee maker?

If your coffee machine has a mechanical on/off switch, such as the one pictured below, then all you require is a smart plug in order to activate it by voice.  Smart plugs such as the ones below, can be operated via Alexa, TP Link or Google Assistant.  

It is not necessary however to have any of these devices as the manufacturer provides it’s own app which allows you to adjust the settings as you wish from your mobile phone.  

Make sure your coffee maker has a mechanical switch in order to use a smart plug

how to use filter coffee machine

You can program your smart plug to turn on at a specific time, even when you’re away from home via the app.  After a long day out, what could possibly be better than a freshly brewed cup of coffee as soon as you get in?!  Just remember that you’ll need to set up the coffee maker before you leave.  

Can I use paper filters instead of the metal and plastic filter basket?

Yes you certainly can!  Filter papers are better at filtering out small bits of ground coffee as well as coffee oils, which can leave your coffee murky and, well, with a light film of oil.   Some say that their coffee can take on a metallic taste when using the filter basket.  

You may have to try a few filters to try and find one that fits your particular coffee machine.  A poor fitting filter, or one that is too thick, can cause the filter to overflow with coffee granules and make a real mess.

Can I put instant coffee in a coffee machine?

No, it is not recommended to use instant coffee in your filter coffee machine.  Instant coffee has already gone through the brewing process and then dehydrated.  You will end up with a much weaker coffee with a loss in flavor.  

The best type of coffee to use in a filter coffee machine is a medium ground coffee which has been ground as recently as possible.  

Tips on how to make filter coffee taste better

Try the following tips if you’re not finding your cup of Joe tasting as good as you expected when using your coffee machine.  

  • Use unbleached paper filters in place of the reusable filter basket.  The coffee will be filtered more efficiently and end up less cloudy than if a filter basket is used.
  • Use filtered water, not tap water.  Chlorine and other minerals are present in tap water and this can negatively affect the quality of your coffee.
  • Use a high quality coffee.  As with everything, quality costs extra but consider it money well spent.  There’s nothing worse than a weak, stale tasting coffee, unless that’s what you like of course. 
  • Do not keep coffee in it’s original packaging.  Coffee should be kept in a dark, air tight container and in a cool area to keep it fresher for longer.
  • Use a thermos or travel mug to keep your coffee fresh.  Leaving it on the warmer for an extended amount of time can end up burning the coffee.
  • Try using freshly boiled water when filling up the water reservoir if you have an older, cheaper coffee machine.  A lot of newer/more expensive coffee makers boil water at much higher temperatures resulting in a better tasting brew.   
  • If you’re finding dry coffee grounds in the filter after the coffee machine has finished brewing coffee, then give the grounds a stir during the brewing stage.  

So there you have it!

Hopefully this article helped you learn how to make coffee with a coffee maker, amongst other things!  I’d really recommend getting a smart plug in order to have a freshly brewed carafe of coffee when you want one.