Name the grossest, most germ-infested items in your kitchen. You’re definitely picturing that damp sponge next to the kitchen sink, and probably the vaguely sticky refrigerator door handle. But you likely didn’t think of the coffee maker. Like a best friend turned foe, your trusty coffee maker can stab you in the back without regular cleaning. Unwashed, a daily-use drip coffee maker could potentially develop a host of molds, yeasts, even—gulp—coliform bacteria. I won’t go too deeply into the scary part, but suffice it to say that these germs have the power to cause some pretty gnarly tummy troubles if left unchecked.
In the middle of your morning cuppa as you read this? You’re probably fine, but let’s be real: It’s high time to deep-clean your coffee maker, and continue to do so regularly. I know—another item to add to your to-do list, but if you care enough to spring for that $18 pound of single origin beans, you’ve got to fully commit to coffee maker maintenance. Here’s how it’s done.
Say it with me now: Avoid moisture. Every day, post caffeination, you should clean all the removable parts of your coffee maker (pot, mesh filter, filter basket, and such) with warm, soapy water. If you’re one of those lucky folks with a dishwasher, just toss them in. Got cloudy brownish buildup on the glass carafe that no amount of elbow grease can seem to lift? No sweat. Add a handful of rice to the soapy water-filled pot. It’ll act as an abrasive, and with the help of a sponge will lift any caked-on gunk.
Meanwhile, leave the coffee maker’s lid ajar so the water chamber dries. Wipe the outside of the coffee maker with a damp cloth, and scrub out any burnt-on spills from the warming plate. Welcome to your new routine.
After longer stretches, coffee makers need to be decalcified. No need to order a hazmat suit; this is just a fancy term for cleansing mineral buildup that blooms on surfaces that are often in contact with water. It’s a hassle, but it’s just one of those things you have to do sometimes, like taxes or waiting in line. The good news is that white vinegar is the decalcifier of choice, and you probably already have a jug of it somewhere in your kitchen.
Dump equal parts vinegar and water into the coffee maker’s water chamber until full and line the basket with a clean filter. (If your coffee maker has a reusable filter, also known as a “gold cone” or “gold mesh” filter, skip the paper and continue.) Brew half a pot, then turn off the machine. Let the liquid sit for thirty minutes or up to an hour, then finish the brewing cycle. Toss the vinegar-water, then brew plain water through the coffee maker to kill the briny odor. Repeat.
Now brew a fresh pot. Doesn’t that taste better?