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How to Clean a Coffee Pot for a Tastier Cup of Joe

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We've all been there: You open the lid to your coffee maker in the morning and, gross, there's mold. Instead of an efficient and caffeinated start to the day, you're forced to scrub the machine and pot.

There is, in fact, a better way. You should be cleaning your Mr. Coffee or coffeemaker of choice regularly. Your beans deserve as much. When you fail to do so, residue can build up and adversely affect the aromatics and flavor of your coffee. And this is the case for all kinds of joe, whether it's a simple bag of pre-ground Dunkin' coffee or the most expensive coffee in the world (although you're hopefully treating the really good stuff to a Chemex or French Press).

Difficulty

Easy

Because coffee makers work with piping hot water, they tend to stay relatively clean. But that doesn't mean you're in the clear, as the coffee pot can become stained and other parts of the maker itself can become contaminated. After all, any environment that involves liquid can go sour and spoil.

drinking coffee before bed.
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How to Clean Your Coffee Maker

For basic cleaning, simply establish a routine if cleaning it like you would a dirty dish after every use. For most coffee drinkers, this equates to a daily cleaning with dish soap and a little scrubbing. Use a fragrance-free soap so it does not change the nature of your coffee and remember to clean beyond just the pot, like the lid, filter compartment, and water chamber.

Every month or so, it's important to do a deeper clean. This one involves a cleaning agent with a bit more muscle, such as vinegar. You can use a flavored vinegar like apple, but again, you're working with coffee here so keeping things as neutral as possible is often best in order to maintain the integrity of your morning cup.

For the best deep clean, take advantage of the fact that the coffee maker naturally circulates liquid already. Fill the maker with a mixture of water and vinegar (2:1) and pour it into the water trap. Press brew and let the vinegar work its magic. It will attack calcium deposits wherever it goes, leaving a squeaky clean chamber and coffee pot. Allow the "brewed" mix of water and vinegar to set in the pot for 30 minutes to really clean out the base of the pot. Empty out the liquid then brew a pair of plain water batches (no coffee yet) to properly rinse the machine. After this, you're back in business.

It's work checking to see if your maker is dishwasher safe as well. Several brands now have makers that can break down and fit easily into your dishwasher at home. Also, some makers have a built-in clean function; however, they often don't work as thoroughly as you might like.

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A Few More Tips

  1. There are some easy things you can do when it comes to healthy coffee maker upkeep. After your batch is brewed, empty the spent grounds. It's all too easy to leave them in there and if you end up going without coffee for a while or skipping town, they can invite mold and other bad stuff to grow in your maker.
  2. Keep your coffee beans in a clean environment as well. Sure, it's just storage, but we are dealing with things you're going to ingest. And, with coffee, there's a sensitivity issue as the beans can take on unwanted odors or flavors, or even lose some of their character if left, say, in too much direct sunlight.
  3. If you wish to do the deep clean with something besides vinegar (or baking soda), try an even ratio of water to lemon juice. Citric acid does wonders when it comes to sanitizing and can be preferable to some when going for a more natural approach.
Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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