I’m a huge fan of coffee and have been drinking it my days in college when I worked a graveyard shift. At the time I’d call it sludge because I took it black off a burner that was way to hot – it was burnt pretty much all the time.
These days my tastes have changed and I need fresh coffee brewed to perfection. To achieve that you have to keep your equipment clean.
How I Make Great Tasting Coffee Every Time
I currently brew most frequently from a Moka Pot which is actually the easiest kind of coffee accessory to keep clean (so long as you use it frequently). In addition to the moka pot I also brew french press coffee quite a bit and I also use my traditional drip coffee machine which also serves as a hot water dispenser for tea and other misc uses.
Espresso in its truest form is not something I brew very often but I have recently gotten my hands on a Cuisinart pod coffee maker that was handed down to me from my dad. It’s a pretty slick looking machine that uses the Keurig K-cups. Although it’s an older model it’s hardly been used and still performs just like new.
As you would expect brewing coffee in all of these devices is different but they all need to be kept clean. Coffee oils buildup and go bad and water leaves behind calcification from hard water that can lower the performance of your machine. In drip coffee makers it can slow the brewing process down, decrease the brewing temperature, and leave behind foul tastes that are hard to notice building as the months turn into years.
I’ve been systematically going through all my coffee equipment learning about how they work and how to keep them clean and performing at their best and I figured starting a blog on the topic would be the best way to keep the information handy, accurate, and easy to reference.
I figure I’ll probably buildup a base of articles on my own coffee makers for my own point of reference and then branch out to more broad topics if I feel like I want to know the information or reference it later on.
Thanks for stopping by and make sure to check out the blog for all the posts on this site.
As you no doubt know distilled white vinegar is an excellent product that can be used very effectively at cleaning just about everything in your house. Vinegar is often used as a primary cleaning product for coffee makers as it’s so cheap and effective but did you know you can also use apple cider vinegar to clean a coffee maker. Although the vinegar has a stronger small and flavor it’s acidic content is almost identical to that of white vinegar.
How to Clean Your Coffee Maker with Apple Cider Vinegar
During a cleaning and descaling you need a diluted mix of vinegar (typically 5% acidic) and water. Usually the mix is about 1 parts vinegar to 2 parts water. Apple Cider vinegar being just as acidic as white vinegar is perfect for cleaning your coffee maker exactly as you would otherwise the main difference is that the taste of apple cider vinegar will linger a bit longer in your machine.
Usually you will get a nice potent smell of vinegar in your home after running plain vinegar through the coffee maker but only one or two plain water rinse cycles will eliminate the taste of vinegar from the coffee pot. With apple cider vinegar however you may have to rinse it out a few more times to fully get rid of the vinegar taste.
I also think it’s worth pointing out the cost difference. Yes, you may be out of white vinegar but apple cider vinegar does cost more to buy in the same volume. Unless you can’t wait for some reason I always think it’s best to just wait until you can get to the store to buy regular vinegar. It’s just more cost effective. After all; if you don’t care much about how much you’re spending then you’d be using the best coffee maker descaler you can every month. Not that they are bad but they do cost some money.
In fact descalers are actually pretty good options to use on occasion. Even if you descale with vinegar every month or so you can usually benefit from using a true descaling product a couple times a year but then again that’s up to you.
If you’re like me you know that lots of people use vinegar to descale a coffee maker but understand that coffee maker descaling products are usually a bit better.
Unlike the natural acidic nature of vinegar or lemon juice a descaler works is formulated specifically to break down buildup in your coffee maker systems and components. Instead of relying on a small amount of acid to keep things clean descalers actually clean what is already dirty – this is an important distinction.
The Best Descaler for Your Coffee Maker
What I do advocate however is a limited use of descalers. If you run vinegar through your machine from time to time it will keep things in good shape but every six months or so a descaler (a good descaler) will actually clean out grime and deposits that a basic vinegar rinse leaves behind. In short a good descaler is a good way to keep a coffee maker working well for a long time but you don’t need to use these products ore than every 3-6 months or so.
I also tend to think that although vinegar is simple and readily available… and cheap a proper descaler is only barely more expensive. Especially if you’ve spent hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on your coffee equipment a very inexpensive pack of descalers are just a drop in the bucket and only serve to preserve your initial investment in equipment. It’s the least you can do after all.
There are a few very highly rated coffee pot descalers for sale today. You can usually find them in basic home good stores in and around your town and certainly on Amazon but of them all I think the Cleancaf Cleaner and Descaler is about as good as it gets. It’s super cheap, has some of the highest reviews of all related products, but it’s non-toxic, has no odor, and no taste, meaning you don’t have to worry about removing the vinegar taste and smell from your coffee pot and kitchen every time you clean the machine.
It’s also a great product because the Cleancaf descaler works equally well in everything from high end espresso machines to low end coffee pots. It’s about as simple as it gets and you can actually see the sludge removed. Just about the only thing I wouldn’t use it on would probably be a stovetop moka pot.
If you have a superautomatic espresso maker then make sure to check out Basin Espresso for more tips on using your espresso maker and especially keeping it clean between descaling sessions as this makes descaling even less necessary.
Before you check out or choose to go with vinegar right off the bat I recommend checking out the product page on Amazon and reading many of the reviews. You can see those reviews on the product page for the Clean Caf here.
We’ve all read somewhere that you don’t need to (and shouldn’t) clean your moka pot but come on – after you’ve used it for a week or two having only rinsed the thing out the temptation is there to give it a good scrubbing under the sink with soap and water.
You shouldn’t though.
How to Clean a Moka Pot
I know the temptation is high but the only time you really should give it a scrubbing is when you’ve let it sit dirty for far too long and the oils are starting to obviously go bad. They can smell, catch dust, in some cases even grow mold. This rancid stuff is what you want to clean away.
If however you do use your moka pot on a consistent basis and you do rinse it out after each use (I tend to rinse mine out immediately under cold running water so I can take it apart right after pouring my cup.) then you shouldn’t have to worry about these oils going bad. The constant use will keep them from turning and the oils will keep your moka tasting it’s best.
This advice of course is all geared towards aluminum stovetop espresso makers. Aluminum stovetop moka pots are the most common units available and they can leave a metallic taste in your coffee if you keep them scrubbed clean.
If you have a stainless steel espresso pot then sure, go ahead and scrub it to your hearts content. You could send it through it in the dishwasher if you wanted but even then I would say it’s best to just give it a light hand washing every now and then.
Remember stovetop pots are the method many Italians have been making espresso from the home for a hundred years. Their method is very good. They don’t have to worry about moving parts, descaling, having working electricity, or getting the pressure wand just right. Don’t reinvent the wheel here and don’t overthink it. Your moka pot will be just fine if you only rinse it and your coffee will taste better because of it.