Several years ago, the National Sanitation Foundation conducted a study to challenge perceptions of cleanliness. The research found that kitchens — not bathrooms — are the most germ-ridden areas. One of the chief realms of germs and junk? Your coffee maker.
But having a coffee maker of germs isn’t just a matter of hygiene. According to Erika Vonie, coffee Q-Grader and NYC Coffee Masters champion, it translates to better tasting brew. “You want each coffee to have a chance to shine every time you brew it, so having a clean starting point every day is a great way to do that,” she says. Here are three areas on your coffee maker that need the most love.
The carafe of a coffee maker harbors stains and any mineral content left by the coffee you make. According to Vonie, Urnex is the gold standard of coffee cleaning supplies. The brand’s $4 bottle of carafe cleaner wipes out any lingering matter from the carafe with a few squirts and some hot water.
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The filter basket is the thing that holds the coffee while the machine runs water through it. And seeing as this is the area that will see the most frequent water traffic (apart from the tubing inside the machine), it’s basically covered in foreign materials (coffee oils, microscopic grinds, limescale and, if you’re not careful, mold).
It is the only part of a coffee maker you should be diligent about cleaning after every use — even if it’s just a hand wash under the sink. Vonnie says coffee brewers are flushed and cleaned after every batch in the café world. Plus, the filter basket often catches small pools of brewed coffee — pools that, according to Vonie, can be harmful to more than your taste buds. “Aside from mold and scale that can build in your coffee maker, coffee is also corrosive and acidic and could potentially damage your machine the longer it lingers on your equipment,” she says.
Beyond germs, coffee makers develop limescale (the mineral residue from the water used in brewing) far more quickly than other appliances, and build-up can cause both performance and taste issues. The solution: a descaling tablets ($6 for four) that do all the work for you. “I’ve used [Urnex’s] food-safe cleaners in every shop I’ve ever worked in,” Vonie says. “They don’t leave a residue or impart flavor when used correctly and leave your equipment factory-clean when all is said and done.”
If you’re strapped for cash or just naturally thrifty, you can make do without. “Honestly a one-to-one white vinegar to water solution also does the trick,” Vonie adds. “Just make sure you rinse very thoroughly to remove all traces of vinegar from your coffee maker and the carafe you brew into.”