Cleaning the Coffee Pot – Not a Metaphor

Its happened to all of us. A coffee pot we are supposed to drink from, be it a friend’s, a relative’s, a client’s, or, heaven forbid, our own, is absolutely disgusting. You find little black floaters in your drink, the inside of the pot is scummy, and there may be mold growing in the water reservoir. I’ve seen it all – the mold in the water reservoir is the toughest to clean out because my whole hand doesn’t fit. Well, you don’t have to throw it out. It’s easy to clean, and all you have to invest in is a big jug of white vinegar and maybe a clean washcloth.

Why You Should Clean your Coffee Pot:

There are several reasons to clean your coffee pot regularly – at least once a month. When I worked as a barista, we had to clean our giant coffee canisters every day with a super-strong non-toxic cleaner just to get rid of the old coffee residue in the brew pot and the canister itself. You know when you go to a place and the coffee is just bad? It tastes burned in the canister and just kind of yuck? They are probably brewing it right, but they aren’t cleaning the pots. The chemicals that make coffee taste good when its fresh break down after two hours and make the coffee taste bitter. That is what is left in the residue, and when it builds up it affects the taste of the fresh coffee poured into the container.

Also, where there is damp, mold will grow. Mold grows most easily on the plastic that makes up most coffee makers, but it will also grow on glass and metal if given enough time. That’s why you get those little floaters in your coffee or hot water after a while – you either have mold growing in the water reservoir or it is coffee liquid that had dried beneath the filter and is now flaking off. Regardless, you don’t want to drink it.

Materials:

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You will want white vinegar – not white wine vinegar or balsamic, but white. White vinegar has the mildest flavor and has the least amount of sugar in it of the vinegars. Most vinegar will probably work as well, but the white stuff won’t discolor anything and has a good amount of acidity for cleaning. Don’t worry, you won’t be using just vinegar, because it needs to be diluted with a lot of water and rinsed with water afterward. Also, if you’re anything like me, you will be getting water and vinegar all over the place, so a wash cloth or rag would come in handy.

Cleaning the Coffee Pots:

So, there are several different styles of coffee pot, but I’ve narrowed them down to three types – Mr. Coffees, Espresso Machines, and Keurigs. I don’t mean to favor a brand, but all other coffee machines are of a similar style to these brands and can be cleaned in the same way.

Mr. Coffee:

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Cleaning a Mr. Coffee is simple – for every five cups of water you pour into the reservoir you pour about  3/4 cup of vinegar. Use more if it is really dirty, and less if this is more of a spot-cleaning. Fill the reservoir to the max with vinegar/water mixture. Then run the brewer without coffee or a filter. Then you want to fill the reservoir again with tap water alone and brew again to rinse. Do this twice to make sure you get all the floaters and the vinegar. Leave open to dry completely.

Espresso Machine:

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All espresso machines are different with varying levels of automation. The above picture is my espresso machine, which is not automatic at all. If your espresso machine has an internal tank in addition to a refillable reservoir, refer to the Keurig section. If yours is simpler, like mine, then cleaning it is very much like cleaning a Mr. Coffee. Simply fill your reservoir 25% or so with vinegar and the rest with water. Brew without espresso in the pod, and rinse twice by brewing water alone. Again, leave open to dry completely.

Keurigs:

Oh, Keurig, how I love and hate you at the same time! Your convenience is wonderful, while cleaning you is a pain in the ass. You see, most types of Keurig machines have an internal tank that never empties, so cleaning them becomes problematic. Keurig does have a cleaning agent that you can buy through them, but the internal tank is a sanitation problem through-and-through because the tank never empties, and the water in it never boils so it never gets hot enough to decontaminate itself. So, mold tends to grow in there and come out in your coffee as little black floaters. So, using their cleaning agent is a must.

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Or, you can get the kind of machine I have – you only put in the cup of water that you need, and if you follow the instructions for the espresso machine, you can keep it clean. The K-15 is a simple machine with one reservoir that I fill every time I want a cup with only the amount of water I need. By leaving it open all the time, it dries out a little more, and by washing with vinegar (25% solution) and then rinsing twice I can clean out any buildup.

Leaving the Machine Open To Dry:

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Very important: let your machine dry out. This prevents mold and bacteria from growing inside it because you aren’t giving it a nicely moist, warm environment to grow in. Also, be sure to clean anything that can come off the machine, like trays or inserts, so that nothing can grow there, either.

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So, my friend, I hoped this helped. A big part of living a low-cost life is to not get sick, so please make sure you aren’t ingesting anything gross. I raise my cup to you and shout, “Viva la Cafe!”

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