The very first thing I do every morning is brew a pot of coffee, but when it comes to cleaning said coffee maker my habits are far from regimented. In all my years of caffeine consumption, learning how to clean a coffee pot has somehow eluded me. I am painfully guilty of the ol’ rinse-and-go method of maintenance — doing nothing more than pouring the cold coffee out of the carafe and quickly rinsing it and the basket filter in the sink. When a patina of brown begins forms on the glass, I attack the pot with some hot water and soap, and feel pretty good about myself. However, it doesn't take much research to show that I am not sufficiently eliminating the mold and bacteria that has likely grown in my coffee maker from years of continual use. Proper cleaning, while it may take more time, will produce far more delicious coffee, without that ever-present stale funk.
So just how dirty is your coffee maker right now? According to a 2011 study by NSF International your traditional carafe coffee maker reservoir (the chamber you fill with cool water to make drip coffee) could be a veritable hotbed of yeast, mold, and coliform bacteria. The study, which tested 22 volunteer households, found that some reservoirs had more bacteria growing in them than other frequently used items such as the bathroom door handle and light switch. Coffee brewed from roasted beans has been shown to have natural antibacterial properties (coffee is basically magic), but it's not quite enough to neutralize all germs. While our immune systems are well attuned to battling bacteria, when over exposed, we can become ill. So, it's best to give that coffee maker a good scrub now and then.
Here's what to do — and how often to do it:
Behold: My secret shame.
For the absolute best coffee results (and the least bacteria), experts recommend that caffeine addicts clean their coffee maker out each morning after each use. According to Carolyn Forte of the Good Housekeeping Institute, all removable components of the coffee maker such as the basket and pot should be washed with warm, soapy water. If the components are dishwasher-safe, you can run them through a cycle for a thorough cleansing.
To fight a coffee maker's naturally moist environment, Forte also recommends leaving the top of the coffee maker open, so that it has ample time to dry out (the more you know!). Any errant coffee grinds should be removed as soon as possible to prevent the growth of mold, and the warming plate under the pot should be wiped clean as well.
Once a month, it's advised that you give your beloved coffee pot a little extra TLC with a deep cleaning. Depending on the water where you live, your coffee pot may be taking a beating from minerals that can build up over time; however, a simple solution of white vinegar and water can help the machine run like new. Those living in hard water areas will want to decalcify their machine once a month, Forte explained to the Huffington Post, while every two to three months is sufficient for those with soft water. (To find out the level of water hardness in your area check out this graphic.)
To start the deep cleaning process, fill the coffee maker's water reservoir with equal parts water and white vinegar until it's at full capacity (you can use the cup markings for easy measurements). Place a clean paper filter in the basket (or if you have a mesh filter, make sure there are no residual grounds) and start the brew function on you coffee marker. Allow half of the solution to run through the machine and into the pot, and then flip off the switch. Allow the machine to sit for thirty minutes to an hour, and then resume the brew cycle until complete. Dump out the vinegar-water solution, and run two brew cycles using only fresh water and clean paper filters (depending on your machine, you may want to let it cool down between each cycle). To finish the deep cleaning, rinse the carafe and filter basket with warm, soapy water and allow to dry completely.
Now, go ahead and brew yourself a cup of the absolute cleanest coffee ever. You deserve it!