Can You Put Milk in a Coffee Maker?

You might be tempted to put milk in your coffee maker instead of water. Wouldn’t you be saving time and water after all?

We know it can be tempting when you need that morning cup of coffee ASAP. But the short answer to “can you put milk in a coffee maker?”… is NO!

One Exception Though

Before we go further, if your coffee maker comes with a milk frother, steam wand, or dispenser: then obviously you can steam milk in that coffee maker.

Just don’t put replace water with milk. Here’s why:

Top Reasons You Shouldn’t Put Milk in a Coffee Maker

Milk Residue Causes Bacteria

Residual milk gets stuck in your coffee maker after you’re done brewing coffee. And worse, the coffee maker will heat milk which makes bacteria grow faster!

Cold milk already goes bad quickly. With boiled milk: you have no chance to brew coffee safely in the future. It’s just a breeding ground for bacteria.

You risk health problems like food poisoning and stomach pain by making coffee with milk. Even if your water reservoir is cleaned properly via a deep cleaning cycle (see our guide) every day – you might not get rid of all the germs and milk residue left. Because the milk fats and proteins are very sticky.

coffee machine crevices with milk are very hard to clean

Not to mention you’ll waste lots of time deep cleaning your coffee maker daily. When you wouldn’t need to with only water.

Milk Can Damage Your Coffee Machine

Top coffee brands like Miele and Mr. Coffee actually say in their instruction manuals NOT to brew milk in their coffee machines. Some even say it will void their warranty. But why?

To put it simply: adding milk ruins many coffee machines. How does milk ruin coffee makers and espresso machines though?

Milk Clogs Pumps and Filters

Milk is thicker than water, especially when you heat it. This means milk residue can stick together in your coffee maker’s pump and filter.

milk residue can clog your coffee machine

You’ll get a slower brewing time and eventually your coffee machine might stop working.

Milk Can Overheat Coffee Makers

The milk close to the coffee maker’s heating element will reach a very high temperature. High enough for burnt milk. And when milk burns, it will stick to the heating element.

You’ll risk not just a burnt taste – but also a possible fire hazard!!

Milk Will Ruin Your Brewed Coffee

On that note, here is a quick science lesson:

Coffee needs to reach around 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit (or 90-95 degrees Celcius). But guess what?

Milk has a very similar boiling point to water. Some milk will reach high temperatures remove its sweetness and cause a bitter taste instead. You’ll likely smell a burnt aroma too from the coffee pot.

though the coffee pot looks fine, you’ll have more milk and bad flavor + aroma

Avoid drinking bad coffee taste with a bitter flavor, by brewing with water instead of milk!

Also think about how diluted your coffee will be when you replace water with milk in a coffee maker. For most coffee drinkers: your coffee will have way more milk than usual.

How to Add Milk to Coffee

Heat Separately and Pour Over

If saving time is your goal: just microwave your milk and then pour it over your cup of coffee. Then all the milk stays at a warm temperature and maintains its sweet taste. You’ll still have a hot cup of coffee with milk.

Buy a Coffee Maker That Brews Coffee With Milk Separate

Find a coffee maker with a built in milk frother. Ideally you’d find one with a milk pitcher and steam wand to produce steamed milk whenever you want.

This makes it easy to put milk in your coffee. And the wand + pitcher are easy to remove and clean. Without needing to deep clean the entire coffee maker.

steam milk separately on the left, and it’s easy to remove and clean

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What if I use skim milk instead of whole milk?

Skim milk and whole milk have a very similar boiling point. This means it doesn’t matter which you pick. You still risk damaging your coffee maker + making your coffee taste bad.

What if I use soy, oat, or almond milk instead of dairy milk?

Unfortunately this doesn’t change our advice. Soy, oat, and almond milk boil at around the same temperature as dairy milk.

We suggest you avoid putting any plant based milk in a coffee maker. Stick with only coffee grounds and water.

What if I really want to add milk instead of water to my coffee maker anyway?

At least we tried our best to stop you! We have 2 tips then:
1. Clean (ideally deep clean) your coffee maker every day.
2. Buy an espresso machine that supports a brewing process with milk.

You can also try putting milk in your French press. Follow our guide to making the best French press coffee but with these changes:
• Add less hot water to save room for milk
• Add milk right before the end, where you press the plunger down
• Then you’ll have a cup of coffee with milk!

Recap

Unless there are parts and instructions specially made for milk: don’t put milk in a coffee maker. Put only water into the water reservoir. Otherwise you’re taking a health risk. Not to mention your brewed coffee will taste gross.

Think about getting a coffee maker or espresso machine with a milk frother and pitcher instead. Then you can get hot coffee and steamed milk from the same source. Or you can just microwave milk and pour to make your coffee creamier without much work at all.

Your coffee maker will thank you too. It’s designed to heat water and not milk after all.

Bryan Han

By day, Bryan is a software engineer with experience at startups and top software companies. By night, he runs and writes for My Kitchen Sensei. Bryan is especially proud of his cheap excursions to cheap Michelin rated restaurants throughout Asia and in Hong Kong during his exchange there. His favorites include nitro-cold brew coffee and steak.

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