How to Brew

How To Prime A Keurig & Keep Your Sanity

Just so you know, if you click on a product on and decide to buy it, we may earn a small commission.

Keurig makes an impressive range of home coffee making machines. Though I personally don’t believe in sacrificing the quality of my coffee for convenience, (I prefer French press or pour over) I won’t judge those of you who actually get your morning cup from a Keurig 🙂 

Although Keurig’s brand is generally considered to be reliable, there’s one bugbear that’s commonly experienced with their machines. And that’s the dreaded “Prime” error message, which usually appears when the machine’s water reservoir fails to dispense water correctly.

"The best coffee pod I've ever tasted"
Our rating:

Yes, we mean that. Finally, specialty coffee for your KCup machine, roasted fresh to your order by our friends at Atlas Coffee in Austin, TX! Get 50% OFF to try it with code ROASTYPODS

Click Here To Get The Deal

Unfortunately, the usual fallback method of kicking/slapping your Keurig rarely achieves success. Name-calling and speaking sternly to the machine won’t work either.

how to prime a keurig

Fear not, coffee lover. Here are some solutions to your problem that will banish that damn “Prime” message forever and restore order to your morning brew drinking routine.

The “Doh!” solution

You know how it is, you’ve just crawled to the kitchen to start your first brew, and before that initial caffeine hit to get you up and firing on all four, it’s easy to miss things …

Your “Prime” error could be caused because you’ve failed to properly attach the water reservoir to your machine. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of switching off, unplugging, and reattaching. Hey, presto! The error is gone, and you’re good to go …

If that doesn’t work, we apologize for casting aspersions. Now, try the following fixes instead, in this order:

Descaling and cleansing

Most problems that afflict your Keurig and summon forth the “Prime” message are caused by limescale or calcium accumulation. Luckily, this is an easy fix, and carrying out this procedure every three to six months should prevent the problem from occurring.

Here’s what to do:

Check the owner’s manual for instructions as to how to remove the reservoir.

  1. Switch off the machine and unplug it. Remove the water reservoir and drain it.
  2. Take a damp cloth and use clean water and mild dish soap to scrub the inside of the reservoir. This should get rid of any calcium build-up.
  3. Once the reservoir is clean, reattach it to the machine. Without using a K-cup, fill the reservoir and run the machine. This should wash out any residual calcium, and the “Prime” error message should disappear.
  4. If this doesn’t resolve the problem, repeat the process, but this time use a proprietary coffee machine descaling product. Allow the product to soak into the calcium deposits, and then run the machine through with plain water. You should be left with a sparkly clean reservoir.


Or not. In which case, proceed to the next step …

Clean the holder and needle

If cleaning and descaling the reservoir doesn’t clear the “Prime” error, you may need to clean the needle and holder.

Here’s how:

  1. Turn off the machine and unplug it.
  2. Raise the machine’s handle and, using one hand, gently push up the holder. With your free hand, pull the holder gently out of its housing.
  3. Carefully, remove the funnel from the holder. This may take a good, hard tug, and some harsh words for added effect.
  4. Look inside the holder to see if it contains any debris. Raid your odds-and-ends drawer for a metal paper clip, straighten it, and use it to tease out any rubbish.
  5. Flush the holder and the funnel by holding them under running tap water. Reattach the funnel and holder, and replace them in the housing.
  6. Next, locate the entrance needle (underneath the brewer’s head). Raise the handle to find the small, sharp needle entrance. Grab your trusty paperclip again, and remove any gunk that’s built-up in this area.
  7. Fill the water reservoir and run a cycle without using a K-cup.

You should now be able to create a steaming, delicious brew, without the interruption of the dreaded “Prime” message.

No? Well, try this next …

Clean the filter screen

  1. If you haven’t already done so, turn off the machine and unplug it.
  2. Take off the water reservoir and drain it.
  3. Use a damp cloth to clean the reservoir’s base (not the bottom), focusing on the area of the base that holds the water reservoir.
  4. You’ll see a small opening in the base of the reservoir. Make sure that this opening is completely cleared. Yep, it’s paperclip time again folks …
  5. Place the water reservoir under running water. That will cause any debris that’s caught in the mesh filter to be washed into the reservoir beneath.
  6. When you can see all that lovely gunk resting in your water reservoir, you need to drain it, fill it with clean water, and replace it on the machine.
  7. Now, run a few water-only brew cycles through the machine to rinse it out thoroughly.

Here’s another popular and quick fix on YouTube related to the water reservoir and the Prime error you can try:

If your machine still refuses to play, it could be time to admit defeat and call Keurig. Every machine they make comes complete with a 1-year or 2-year limited warranty, and their customer service guys are pretty helpful.

After all, no morning coffee certainly qualifies as an emergency.

Happy caffeinating. Finally.

Share the goods

Recommended Reads

Brew like a Barista
from home

The Home Barista Coffee Course 14-lesson video course about brewing consistently amazing coffee at home. Stream or download the entire course to learn how to make coffee as good as your local barista for a fraction of the cost.

Learn more