So you've been making coffee at home for years, months, or weeks, and you've noticed that your brewing equipment could be, shall we say...a little less grimy than you'd care to admit. Proper cleaning and maintenance of your home brewing equipment is essential to both the longevity of the brewers and the continued great flavor of each cup you make at home. But as with many things coffee, there's a right way to do things—and a not-so-right way.
Here's a quick breakdown on how to get the most out of your cleaning routine.
All the wonderful flavors within the coffee you love are bound together in oils—which leave lingering residue on any brewer that makes regular contact with coffee. Regular dish soaps can make a dent in the job, but can often impart their own flavors into the coffee. Take great care when using household (even natural and fragrance-free) cleaners, as they'll often require multiple rinses to get their own taste off of the coffee brewer. The same applies for the few products that are dishwasher-safe, like a Chemex or glass coffee carafe, that you may be washing with regular dish detergent.
One of the most commonly asked questions is how best to clean a French press. Though it's recommended to dismantle the screen assembly for cleaning entirely after each use—good luck with that—you can get away with soaking the parts on a weekly basis in a gentle coffee cleaner. Sara Ziniewicz of Urnex (more or less the only company making specialty products for cleaning noncommercial coffee equipment) recommends their Cleancaf (around $6) to soak away oils and prevent scaly build-up in the glass carafe. Fill your carafe with warm water and Cleancaf, disassemble the screens (remember how to screw them back together!) and soak for fifteen minutes, rinse completely, then dry off and reassemble. Wiping down the screens thoroughly as you put them back together will again help remove oily residue in the places they collect most.
If you're not butter-fingered, the Chemex is an easy brewer to clean—the dishwasher will do, again with the repeated caveat that you're best to rinse it thoroughly a few times afterwards, and of course you'll have to bend the rack posts a little to get her in there securely. Let the inside of your Chemex soak for 15 minutes in gentle cleaner, and use the soft side of a sponge to sweep over the inside of the glass to remove anything that the cleaning soak may have loosened up. Long-handled bottle brushes with gentle bristles that can angle are good for this job as well. Naturally, you've removed Chemex's sexy wood-and-leather corset before commencing this task.
Drip Coffee Carafes
Because of the nature of carafes on auto drip coffeemakers, people tend to leave them on heat plates—or full of coffee—perhaps a little more often than they should. Really scaly carafes can be attacked using a few simple methods, and if your carafe is really in trouble you may wish to try more than one.
The old, "homeopathic" salt, water, and ice cubes method is a great start for loosening up scale, but a good bath in coffee cleaner like Cleancaf or Dezcal (descale...get it?) may help prepare you and your carafe for a longer, happier future together.
If you're married to your Moka Pot, you should know that metal is more fond of keeping oily coffee-residues around than glass, and its porous nature will make your daily cleaning challenges tougher. Soaking your machine in a commercial-grade espresso cleaner— like Urnex's Cafiza (about $10) or JoeGlo (from about $5) may do the job better than traditional home techniques. Be sure to periodically replace the rubber gasket that holds the filter in place, too.
Probably the biggest concern in cleaning your siphon brewer is not shattering the upper carafe in the process. Try keeping the top carafe lodged in the bottom carafe while cleaning, and hold the brewer safely by the arm.
The second biggest issue in cleaning your siphon is keeping your filter well-maintained, which means soaking it thoroughly after each brew and storing in water in the refrigerator between uses. Note that while the siphon itself is made of glass components, the filter assembly is metal and will be eager to retain oils. Give it a good long soak in mild coffee cleaner now and again, and wipe the whole assembly down thoroughly, spring and chain as well. They all go into your coffee.
What Else Do I Need to Know?
"Often our fingertips are the best judge of cleanliness," said Ziniewicz, who suggests spot-checking your work after a good cleaning session. "Even when we can not see coffee oil residue, we can feel it." If using dish soap, always remember to give an additional rinse or two—try holding the glass up to a light source to make sure no soap spots remain. For drying, microfiber towels make short work out of polishing glass. Above all, be gentle, be thorough, be regular about it, and please—try not to shatter glass all over the kitchen floor.
Your coffee will thank you.
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently compiling photographs of the best coffee in the world to be published by Presspop later this year.