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How to Clean Your Coffee Maker for a Better Brew

November 1st, 2010

coffee-maker-clean.jpgIn Italy during World War II, soldiers cleaned their coffee pots and cups with lemon rinds. Even during wartime conditions and without water, they knew that the most important element in brewing good coffee was clean equipment. While today we have plenty of water and a battery of sophisticated cleaning supplies at hand, the sentiment remains the same: if battlefield soldiers can do it, so can you. No matter how busy you think you are, taking the time to clean your coffee maker isn’t just a luxury. It’s essential.

Why Worry About a Clean Coffee Maker?

Experts all agree that the first step in making a perfect cup of coffee is to start with clean equipment. If you’ve ever worked in an office that made pot after pot of bitter caffeinated swill, you know just how bad coffee can be. That horrible taste in the office coffee maker is the result of oil deposits left behind from the coffee beans of hundreds of past brewings. You didn’t know coffee contained oil? It does, and if that left-behind residue isn’t removed, it will leave your coffee tasting like an actual oil slick.

Mineral deposits also build up over time, and while you won’t always taste the result in the maker itself (that pesky oil covers up the taste), you’ll taste it from the deposits left in your actual coffee carafe. The glass pot itself tends to be rinsed out from time to time, so oils are less of a problem, but the mineral deposits from your tap water will still adhere to it even with rinsing. A good, regular cleaning is essential to stripping out the minerals — and their resulting yucky taste — from your pot.

How to Clean Your Coffee Maker

The best way to clean the coffee maker is the tried-and-true vinegar method, and it doesn’t take a genius to master it. All you need is a little inexpensive white vinegar. Fill your reservoir about 1/4 of the way with vinegar. That’s right: pour it directly into the holder. Fill the reservoir the rest of the way to the top with clean, cold filtered water. Using filtered water ensures that you’re not just adding more mineral deposits into the mix. If your maker hasn’t been cleaned in a very long time, let this cocktail sit for about fifteen minutes to help clean the reservoir interior.

Next, line the filter basket with a fresh filter and switch it on. Once the maker has completed the cycle, switch the maker off and let the vinegar and water sit in the carafe for about ten minutes while the unit cools down. If you feel like your coffee maker needs an extra cleaning (if it’s been a year or more), repeat the vinegar process. You might also want to give the filter basket a run through the dishwasher.

After your vinegar cycle has completed (however many you feel are necessary), remove the filter and replace with another fresh one, fill the reservoir with filtered water only, and run one more cycle through your maker to ensure that the vinegar taste has rinsed out. You may worry that you will have a vinegar taste, but if you use a 25% solution, one rinse will do the trick. It’s certainly light years cleaner than the oil-and-mineral concoction you were drinking before.

How to Clean Your Coffee Carafe

The glass pot your coffee drips into needs special care too. That casual splash you give it every morning is not enough to remove the mineral build up caused by water sitting in it for hours a day. Don’t forget that your coffee is 98% water. To remove that mineral debris, first rinse the pot well with very hot water. Make a paste of baking soda and water on a non-abrasive sponge and give it a good scrubbing all over. Afterward, rinse the pot again with hot water.

Be careful to never use abrasive sponges or scouring pads on your carafe. A scouring pad or sponge with an abrasive surface can undo all the hard work you’ve just done. Whenever a harsh cleansing pad is used on your glass coffee pot, tiny scratches can mar the surface. Once your container is scratched, even if the marring seems imperceptible, those scratches trap the unwanted oil and mineral deposits like magnets. Metal coffee containers are even more susceptible than glass. Treat your pot with the utmost care when cleaning it, or pay the price with a bitter brew.

How Often Should You Clean Your Coffee Maker?

Everyone disagrees on the frequency of cleaning, and that may be because everyone drinks a different amount of coffee. The frequency with which you clean the coffee maker should be gauged by how often you brew coffee in it. For most households who brew a pot each morning, once a month should be plenty. If multiple pots are brewed daily (like with your office coffee maker), once a week may be in order. Clean your coffee carafe as often as possible, giving it a thorough rinse and scrubbing daily, if you can. If in doubt, you can never clean your coffee maker too often. Err on the side of clean.

Sometimes our lives may seem like a battlefield, with work and household stress gnawing away at us. Take a clue from those World War II soldiers. Clean your coffee maker well, and you can take the break you deserve and need with a clean-tasting, perfectly brewed cup of coffee.

This article was supplied by Elizabeth Kelly from Constant Content.

One Response to “How to Clean Your Coffee Maker for a Better Brew”

  1. comment number 1 by: Ireland5

    Good advice! How frequently you clean the coffee pot also depends on the quality of your city’s water - hard or soft…Where I live, we have a fairly high mineral content in the water. We need to clean it often - my problem is remembering at some time during the day when I DON’T want a cup of coffee…In addition to using vinegar in your coffee pot, I’d also suggest using it to clean your dishwasher.

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