How To Prime A Keurig Coffee Maker (When Prime Won’t Go Away)

By Shabbir
Last update:

If your Keurig machine says “Prime” and doesn’t brew, it can be very frustrating. You need a cup of coffee, but your Keurig just won’t cooperate!

When it throws you the “Prime” message, you don’t need to pull your hair out. There are three simple fixes you can implement to resolve the problem of how to prime a Keurig coffee maker.

Why does my Keurig say Prime and what does it mean?

The Prime error usually signals one of three things:

  • Your water reservoir is not aligned correctly, so water can’t run through it properly
  • Your water reservoir is dirty
  • The entry and exit needles are clogged

Luckily, all of these issues very easy to fix by thoroughly cleaning your brewer and checking with a brew cycle using just water. Below are detailed instructions on what to clean and how to clean it.

how to prime a keurig coffee maker when prime won't go away

The Fix: How do I prime my Keurig?

Here are the three steps to prime your Keurig coffee maker. When the prime error shows up on your Keurig screen, it’s best to do all three anyway, as it’s good regular maintenance. However, if you had just done some of these steps, you can probably try skipping those and seeing if it works.

1. Clean the water reservoir

A dirty water reservoir is one of the causes of a “prime” error with Keurig. The first thing to do then is to clean your water reservoir.

Step 1: Remove the water reservoir

Pull the lid of the water reservoir, and get the water reservoir out of your brewer. You may be tempted to refit the reservoir as is since one cause of the Prime error is misalignment, but while you’re at it, you may as well clean the reservoir.

Step 2: Clean the reservoir

Using soft dish soap and non-abrasive cloth, clean the reservoir. Remember to reach the outlets both on the inside and outside.

Rinse well and set it to dry. Remember to rinse thoroughly and get any soap residue out. This process may have to be done several times to eliminate all residue.

Step 3: Reattach the reservoir

Once the reservoir has dried, re-install it in the machine. Note that if there is a water filter attached, put it in the reservoir before installing.

Check to ensure that the part is correctly placed and free from air bubbles.

Step 4: Run a brewing cycle with just water

Add water into the reservoir, reaching the “Max” line. Do not let the reservoir overfill. Turn on the brewer and place an empty cup on the tray to catch the water.

Do not add any K-cup during this procedure. Pull out and lower the handle, but with the portion pack holder empty

Power the machine on and start a brewing cycle.

Repeat the process a couple of times to flush the brewer.

Related: More Keurig troubleshooting

2. Clean the needles

If after cleaning the water reservoir your Keurig keeps saying Prime, it’s time to clean the needles. There are two needles in your Keurig: an entry needle that delivers hot water to the K-Cup, and an exit needle that lets the coffee flow into your cup below.

Step 1: Turn the power off

Turn off the machine and unplug it from the outlet

Step 2: Take out the portion pack holder

Lift up the handle and tightly grasp the top of the holder. Use your finger to push up from the bottom of the K-Cup holder to loosen it from the brewer.

Step 3: Take apart the holder

The holder itself comes apart, too. Grasp the bottom with one hand and the top with the other and pull/twist off. This will expose a little tube that is the exit needle’s hole.

Step 4: Clean the exit needle’s hole

Use a straightened paper clip and insert it into the bottom of the hole. A gentle turning motion will loosen any residue. You may have to wipe the paper clip and repeat this motion a couple of times.

It’s worth noting that you won’t be able to push the paper clip up and out the other side of the needle.

Step 5: Clean the funnel and the holder

Wash the funnel and holder with warm running water. Let some water flow through the needle and exit hole. This will further remove any residue.

Leave the holder and the funnel on the side and let it air dry. You can wipe it with a paper towel to speed up the drying process.

Step 6: Clean the entry needle

Pull up the handle and locate the entry needle under the brew head. There are two holes, and you’ll need to clean both.

Use a paper clip and clean the needles as you did with the funnel. Be careful of your fingers and hands: the needle is very sharp!

Step 7: Re-assemble the portion holder

Reassemble both the funnel and holder, and reinstall it in the Keurig. When you align the holder with the lines on the opening, it should snap into place.

Step 8: Run a brewing cycle with just water

Add water into the reservoir, reaching the “max” line and place a cup on the tray.

Press “brew” button to run a cycle with just water to remove any remaining debris.

3. Clean the filter Screen

The “Prime” message can be also dealt with by cleaning the filter screen with the steps below.

Step 1: Turn your machine off

Turn off the machine and remove the plug from the power outlet before cleaning the filter screens.

Step 2: Remove the reservoir

Remove the water reservoir from the machine and empty all water from it.

Step 3: Clean the base port

On the base holding the reservoir, you will find a small opening, which is called the base port. Clean it using a damp cloth.

Step 4: Clean the filter

The water reservoir often includes a mesh screen filter and a port which need to be cleaned first. Get your sink ready and let streaming water run through the filter to remove debris.

Fill up the reservoir with water, replace the lid, hold the lid on tightly and give it a few good shakes to thoroughly rinse it out.

Turn over the reservoir and run water through the base port. If there is debris inside, remove it with your finger.

The spring in the port also needs to be cleaned, so as the water is running over the port, compress the spring several times with your finger to loosen any existing build-up.

Step 5: Re-install the reservoir

Reinstall the reservoir to its position on the base. If the machine has a water filter attachment, remember to put in in the reservoir before replacing the reservoir.

Pour water into the reservoir and put a cup on the tray. Start running a water-only brewing cycle to finish the process. For best results, run a few brewing cycles with just water.–9kE


These three things are the go-to solutions for getting rid of the “Prime” error from your Keurig coffee maker. They don’t take much time to complete, and you also end up with a clean machine.

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About Shabbir

Shab is the Chief Caffeine Officer at Coffee Brewster. When he's not weighing out coffee beans for his next brew, you can find him writing about his passion: coffee.