Coffee mug with yellow tulip flowers and notes good morning

Dealing with anything complicated before your first cup of coffee can be a challenge, which is why the one-button convenience of Keurig coffee makers is such a strong selling point. It's also why any malfunction in the normally reliable brewers is so frustrating. One common cause of frustration is the Keurig Prime error message, which crops up in most of the company's brewers eventually. It's a relatively easy fix, taking just a few minutes to bring your brewer back to life.

What the Keurig Prime Error Means

When your Keurig says Prime, all that means is that it isn't getting the water it needs from its reservoir. This can be caused by sediment in your tap water; lint left from wiping out the reservoir with a cloth; or -- if you use filtered water, as the company suggests -- granules of charcoal from your filter. If you own a Platinum or Special Edition brewer, its display screen will read Prime, and it will refuse to brew. On models without a display screen, the Add Water, Heating, and Small Cup Size indicators will flash.

Cleaning the Reservoir

Okay, your Keurig is calling for help and you've got to rescue it. Here's how to fix the problem. First, press the power button to turn off your brewer, and unplug it from the wall. Then, remove the reservoir. Carry it carefully to the nearest sink -- it's best to have the brewer near the sink as you work -- and empty it. If your brewer has Keurig's optional in-reservoir water filter, remove it and set it aside. Carefully wash the reservoir inside and out with warm, soapy water and a lint-free cloth. Rinse the reservoir thoroughly.

Clearing the Reservoir Filter Screen

Next, clear the filter screen with a blast of water from your tap. Partially fill the reservoir with water and cover the hole on its back with the palm of your hand, and shake it vigorously for a few seconds to wash away any loosened soil. Dump out the water. Now, turn the reservoir upside down and direct your tap at the screen again, from the other side. There's a spring inside, and you'll need to work it a few times with your finger. The water will probably spray you a little, so stand as far back from the sink as your arms will permit. Let the reservoir drip dry for a few minutes, rather than wiping it out with a cloth or paper towel. That can leave lint in the reservoir, which might potentially clog the brewer again.

Reassemble and Test Your Brewer

While the reservoir dries, locate the water-intake port in the base of your brewer where the reservoir mounts. Wring your cloth well, fold it to a point, and use that to clean any soil or particles from the intake port. Replace the filter -- if you have one -- in your reservoir. Put the reservoir back onto the brewer, and refill it with fresh, clean water. Turn the brewer's power back on, and wait for it to indicate that it's ready to brew. Lift the handle to the K-cup compartment, and then close it again without inserting a K-cup. Put a mug under the brewer and press the brew button for the largest cup size. Run two more water-only brew cycles after this, and your Keurig will be ready to make coffee once again.

If you follow these steps periodically to clean the machine, there's a high likelihood you may never see the Prime indicator. This is a good thing, because it means you can attend to the machine at a time that works for you, not while you're struggling to wake up. This simple cleaning will almost always put your Keurig back in working order, but occasionally you may need to clean the brewer's needles and K-cup holder. You can watch videos of the priming process and reservoir cleaning process on the company's YouTube channel.