Don’t panic, unplug the coffee maker and keep an eye on it for a couple of minutes as they have been known to catch on fire. Instead of thinking about why your coffee maker is smoking it may be better to just bring it outside to your backyard or balcony while you review the possible causes.
The most common reason for coffee makers emitting smoke is empty water tanks, being left on for a long period of time, or factory caused mechanical issues. Brand new coffee makers have been known to start smoking if not thoroughly cleaned before being used for the first time.
Oil or factory residue has been known to build up inside the coffee machine. It’s best to clean any new coffee maker with soap and water before brewing your first cup. All these causes have been reported as reasons why coffee brewers have caught on fire.
Is Your Coffee Maker Smoking or Steaming?
Make sure the appliance is emitting smoke and not steam. You should be able to distinguish between the two immediately. The smoke has a burning odor, whereas steam will smell like water. If your coffee maker is dirty it will smell muddy and sour.
Be careful with how you approach a smoking coffee maker, many have caught on fire before. I’ll go into more detail as to why coffee makers smoke and what you can do about it. Also, I hope to show you a few alternatives to avoid this situation altogether.
Reasons Why Coffee Makers Smoke
Once again, if your coffee maker is emitting steam, that is perfectly fine. Hot water is being pumped through the appliance which results in steam rising from the machine. Some of the most common reason why coffee makers smoke is:
- Empty water tanks
- Faulty electrical components
- Dirt on the heating plate
- Dirt and gunk within the coffee maker
- Over usage
Each one can cause your coffee maker to smoke or smell like it’s burning. Luckily, the issues can be fixed or taken care of in a matter of minutes.
Empty Water Tank
If you see smoke coming from your coffee maker while it sounds like it’s coughing, it’s most likely out of water. I suggest that’s the first thing you check after you unplug a smoking coffee maker.
Faulty Electrical Components
The first thing you’ll notice is darker smoke, sometimes black. This could be the first sign of your coffee maker catching on fire. Make sure you unplug the appliance immediately. The smoke will smell of burning plastic and metal. You should be able to identify the scent right away because since it smells nothing like coffee.
To see if it’s really an electrical issue you can unscrew the appliance and check for charred wires, broken connection, or simply a melted element. Avoid taking a coffee maker apart if it’s under warranty because you may forfeit your claim for a replacement.
Electrical issues require fixing and replacing so have the entire coffee machine replaced if possible. If that’s not an option, you’ll need to hire a person to repair it.
Dirt on The Heating Plate
Sometimes coffee or other residue sneak onto the bottom of the coffee carafe. Usually from a kitchen countertop. Check the bottom of the coffee pot to see if the smoke is coming from the heating plate. Coffee grounds, plastic, spices, and tons of dirt can sneak their way onto the bottom of your coffee pot. Usually, the smell would be like burning plastic, but the smoke would be grayish, not black.
Dirt and Gunk Within the Coffee Maker
Coffee makers are known to smoke from dirt, oils, or even coffee grounds. You need to clean out the machine with soap and water on a regular basis. Over time, coffee and grease get into the corners and cracks of your appliance. As the machine heats up again, and again it cooks and burns the gunk in these hard to see areas. Clean it regularly to avoid the nasty smell and potential smoke.
This one should be easy to understand, coffee makers are made of glass, steel, and often plastic. They can withstand quite a lot, and with proper maintenance last decades but when misused they will overheat.
Do Coffee Makers Catch on Fire?
Yes, coffee makers have been reported to catch on fire for more than one reason. I awoke one morning to my coffee maker bursting out clouds of smoke because I left it on overnight. The stench was horrible, and it didn’t go away for a month. Did it catch on fire, no! Although I’m sure if I left it on for another couple of hours or so it would have exploded.
I did my homework on the topic and I read a significant amount of one-star customer reviews on coffee makers complaining they caught fire for similar reasons.
Although coffee maker fires do happen from over usage, the most common reason for the issue is a production error. If there are faulty electrical components in a coffee maker there is a chance it can catch on fire.
Obviously, older coffee makers are more likely to catch on fire because their parts get worn down, become loose, and get covered in dirt and dust. You shouldn’t worry about the appliance catching on fire but to avoid the issue consider getting a new coffee maker with an automatic switch-off built-in.
How to Avoid the Issue Altogether?
Get a coffee maker with a power-saving switch-off option. It gave me peace of mind, knowing I won’t have the same overnight accident happen again. It’s great for people who are forgetful and those who travel often. Almost every new coffee machine comes with that option installed.
Buying a coffee machine with a thermal carafe would be a great solution to the problem. This way you avoid the hot plate as the coffee would just sit in a thermos.
Why Does My Coffee Maker Smell Like Burning Plastic?
Has your coffee maker been on for hours, or even days, at a time? Remember extreme heat can make the plastic melt. Another reason why you could be smelling the scent of burning plastic is coffee residue around or in the water tank. What you’re smelling is actually burnt coffee, not plastic.
Make sure to wash the coffee maker and water tank with soap and water on a regular basis. Just rinsing the appliance is not enough.
Coffee residue, from the actual coffee-making process or even from adding a scoop of coffee to your machine gets trapped in hard-to-clean places. As the coffee maker heats up again and again the coffee grounds will burn and cause an unpleasant odor.
Why Does My Coffee Maker Make So Much Noise?
A major reason for coffee makers suddenly making a lot of noise is coffee residue trapped in valves. What you want to do is use a fork, toothpick, or a pointy utensil to clean out the area around where the coffee comes out.
Some coffee machines will start being louder as they get older. The machinery in the appliance ages and starts to seem more exhausted.
Should I Unplug My Coffee Maker When Not Using?
There’s no evidence that says you should be unplugging your coffee maker after every use just to avoid making it smoke. Unless you’re a forgetful person who tends to leave things on for long periods of time.
It’s a good idea to unplug your coffee maker when you go on vacation. This way you are making sure the appliance is off and saving yourself a headache.
I’ve always seen coffee as a way of bringing people together. Everywhere I go people seem to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee and that’s what drives my passion. There’s always a new brew to master, and there’s always a new face to enjoy it with. Hitch a ride with me on a coffee-fueled adventure to find a perfect cup.