Accidentally Ran Coffee Maker Without Water – What Happens? Do I Need To Do Anything Now?

Making a cup of coffee is as easy as putting water into a coffee maker and letting it do its work. However, what happens if you forget the water? It's easy to make this mistake right after waking up or if you are in a rush. If this is your concern, we have some answers!

It largely depends on the brand of coffee maker you own. Some models have sensors that detect the lack of water. So, they won't activate the heating element until you add it. Simple coffee maker models will turn on the heating element even without water. In this case, it can damage components within the machine.

There is a variety of coffee makers. Some include safety features that can save you the hassle of buying a new one. In any case, it helps to know which kind you own. This way, you can plan the next steps to take. If you'd like to learn more on this topic, keep reading.

young woman making coffee with coffee machine during office break time, Accidentally Ran Coffee Maker Without Water - What Happens? Do I Need To Do Anything Now?

What Happens If You Run A Coffee Maker Without Water?

You will encounter one of two scenarios if you accidentally run a coffee maker without water. It depends on the model you own. If you own an expensive coffee maker, nothing will happen. 

inger pressing a coffee machine button with a cup icon

Safety Features

Expensive coffee makers likely have safety features that keep an eye on the water reservoir. If the container is empty, it won't start the process. Other coffee makers, like percolators, will have thermostats that shut it off if it gets too hot. 

In this situation, you don't have to do anything. Fill the water reservoir, and try to start the coffee maker again. It should work as it usually should. However, you won't be as lucky if you're using a simpler model. 

Burning Out Components

Some people don't like spending a lot on a coffee maker. So, they go for anything that can make a pot of coffee. These types will usually only have basic functions. 

You pour in some water, start the machine, and the heating element starts the process. The simple coffee makers won't have a sensor on their water reservoirs. Once you start it without water, it turns on the heating element. 

It should heat the water in the reservoir. But, since it's empty, it will only heat the components inside. Depending on how long it took you to notice, it may have fried some of them. 

To Fix Or Replace?

What usually follows is a burning plastic/electrical smell. Of course, you can attempt to use it again. However, that odor usually indicates it won't function as well as before. 

Our best guess is the heating element may have blown out. At this point, there's no other option other than throwing the machine out. You can't fix the heating element.

Though, you can try to look for a replacement. However, searching for a heating element that works for your coffee maker may take too much time. It's up to you to determine if it's worth the time and investment. 

Stopping The Machine In Time

Some situations don't turn out as tragic. Maybe you've noticed the mistake right away. So, you went ahead and shut off the machine as soon as you could. 

In this case, you don't have to do anything. The heating element probably ran for a few seconds before you shut it off. It's not enough time for it to burn itself out. 

Consult your manual on how to reset it. Then, it should continue working as standard. The user's manual is another area you can find answers. 

Some will include warnings on what happens if you forget to pour water into the reservoir. In most cases, nothing should happen if you stop it in time. Of course, you want to avoid making the same mistake.

It may survive a run without water a few times. But, it's not good for the internals. Once you blow out the heating element, you'll have to look for a new coffee maker.

What Causes A Coffee Maker To Stop Working?

A repairman fixes a broken coffee maker, repair of household appliances

Sometimes there are other problems you need to address. Let's say the coffee maker survives the run without water. You make sure to fill the reservoir. However, the coffee maker refuses to work. 

What could be causing the problem? If there's no burning smell, it's an issue with mineral buildup. The water carries minerals that a coffee maker typically doesn't filter out completely. 

Once the water boils in the coffee maker, it leaves small deposits of minerals. Over time, it becomes a problem. The mineral deposits will form a layer of insulation between the water and the heating element. 

You don't want this for two reasons. First, it prevents the water from reaching the desired temperature. Secondly, it isolates the heat from the heating element. In the worst case, it may cause it to burn out. 

Fixing the issue is as easy as descaling the machine. Some coffee makers offer a descaling solution you can use. Otherwise, you can use white vinegar in its place. 

Water Flow And Steam

The tubing of the coffee maker could also be the culprit to some of the issues you're facing. As the machine is brewing, you may notice excessive amounts of steam. It might seem like a heating element problem. However, that's not the case.

It's an issue with the tubing within the coffee machine. You can fix the problem by disassembling the coffee maker and inspecting the connections. Correct any faulty tubing connections. Additionally, make sure nothing is loose. 

Water Not Staying Warm

In some cases, the coffee maker will fail to keep water hot after brewing. This indicates an issue with the heating element. You'll need to test it for continuity with an electrical tester. 

Click here to see this continuity tester on Amazon.

Otherwise, check the settings of the machine. It could be shutting off automatically after brewing.

Do Coffee Makers Shut Off Automatically?

Black plastic buttons with turn on making coffee with a white cup icon of panel

As mentioned, some coffee makers have additional features. They can include reservoir sensors, thermostats for automatic shutoff, and an activity monitor. 

You can find these functions in more expensive and modern coffee makers. Some coffee makers will shut off automatically. However, the way to activate this feature differs from model to model. 

Sensors in the water reservoir will automatically stop a coffee maker from proceeding further with a brew. On the other hand, thermostats will shut off the coffee maker if it gets too hot inside. Activity monitors are simple. 

Leaving the machine on for more than two hours without activity will prompt it to shut off automatically. However, it may be sooner or later; manufacturers don't follow a standard for this feature.

You can find out if your coffee machine has these features in the user's manual.

Why Does My Coffee Maker Smell Like Burning Plastic?

Woman's hands serve coffee prepared in a coffee maker to start the day

There's a chance of encountering a coffee maker that produces a burning plastic odor. It typically happens with newly bought machines. 

If your coffee maker is working fine, it's an issue with breaking the machine in. Manufacturers like Keurig recommend running a few cycles with water only. This way, you can flush out any plastic odors and flavors. 

Start by filling the reservoir with water. Add two tablespoons of vinegar too. Then, let the coffee maker brew. 

Dump out the hot water and run two more reservoirs through the machine. You should be able to enjoy a cup of coffee without the smell of burning plastic afterward. 

Why Does My Keurig Turn Off by Itself?

A Keurig is one of the more popular coffee machines. It's as simple as filling a reservoir and inserting a K-cup with your preferred flavors. However, it can be tricky to work with if it's your first time using one. 

Keurigs shut themselves off under a few conditions. Maybe the magnet became misaligned. You can fix this by reinserting the water reservoir. 

If it still doesn't work, try aligning the magnet on the reservoir and machine. These magnets need to be in contact. Otherwise, the Keurig won't sense the water available. 

Additionally, Keurigs will only work if there's enough water in the reservoir. Add more water to start the reservoir if you see a blinking blue light.

In Closing

young woman making coffee with coffee machine during office break time

Mistakes can happen at any point. If you catch your mistake in time, there's nothing to worry about. Most coffee machines will stop the brewing process if it detects no water. However, some don't have this feature. So, you might have to purchase a new one. 

Before you go, do you have other kitchen concerns? Did you leave the garbage disposal on for too long? If you'd like to learn what happens, check out:

What Happens If You Leave A Garbage Disposal On?

Did glass accidentally make its way into the garbage disposal? For more information on this topic, check out:

What Happens If Glass Gets In The Garbage Disposal?

One comment

  1. I have a Hamilton beach flex brew. It shuts off in2 hours. If I shut it off before it automatically does and then turn it back on so the coffee stays hot longer, will this damage the heating element that brews the coffee since there is no water in the reservoir?

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