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Coffee tasting like sh*t? Now is the time to clean your coffee maker.

How to clean your auto-drip, Chemex, or French Press coffee maker

By Angela Garrity, Guest blogger

Does your morning cup of coffee taste like shit? The likely suspect is indeed the coffee maker. It’s probably brewing up more than just shitty tasting coffee, as it likely has a whole bunch of germs gathering, basking and spreading in there. Thus, a likely offender for the unpleasantness transferring into your mug. Pour it out immediately and pour your eyes over proper coffee maker cleaning techniques to enjoy a better brew.

A photo showing a person pour coffee out of a coffee pot while wearing a black "World's Strongest Coffee" sweatshirt

According to an article from Gear Patrol, if you’re using a coffee maker, you’re cleaning it the wrong way. Kitchens are nasty and contain more germs than bathrooms. A study done by NSF International found them to be the dirtiest place in the house because they contained the most germs. One of the biggest breeding grounds for germs — your coffee maker’s reservoir. Gross.

According to Erika Vonie, Director of Coffee at Trade, it’s more than just a matter of hygiene. “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 said in an interview.

Sounds great — I’ll take another cup right now. Hold the germs, please.

For auto-drip coffee maker brewing, wipe out the carafe with a few squirts of carafe cleaner wipes and some hot water, handwash the filter basket after every use and use a de-scaler or one to one white vinegar/water solution through the water reservoir. Rinse everything thoroughly before brewing. 

Carafes store stains and mineral traces left behind. Carafes should be cleaned daily to prevent buildup. A simple rinse out and once over with a clean sponge should do it, but let’s be honest, this isn’t usually a reality. We get busy and a lot of us are guilty of not cleaning our carafes immediately when we’ve reached maximum caffeine level.

When we eventually get around to the chore of doing so, just a scrub isn’t going to cut it because the oils from the coffee have fused with the minerals in the water, leaving us with more elbow work required to get in there and remove the unplanned science experiment now facing us. A deep clean of the filter basket, carafe and water reservoir are needed stat and should be done monthly to break down the buildup that has ensued from repeated brewing.

A photo of a Chemex coffee maker filled with coffee next to a mug shown on the counter in the window of a cafe

Chemex pour-over coffee makers need their own cleaning, too.

When the Chemex is cool, remove the wooden handle by untying the leather cord. Scrub the outside with dish soap and water. Add equal amounts of distilled white vinegar and warm water to the carafe’s brim. Let it sit for a few hours to loosen up the buildup.

Dump out the vinegar mixture and run warm water into the carafe, as the insides are scrubbed with a bottle brush. Wash it again with dish soap to remove any vinegar taste and let it air dry.

A photo of a French Press coffee maker filled with coffee on a wooden table

For those who prefer the French Press, Vous saignez du café, oui?

When the French press is cool, dig out the grounds with your hands or soft spatula to minimize the risk of breaking the glass and dispose of old grounds. Add a few drops of dish soap into the carafe with warm water and plunge until bubbly. Dump out soapy water, rinse, and plunge again. Scrub the plunger and inside of the carafe until water runs clean.

For a deep clean, preferably weekly, repeat steps above and disassemble the plunger. Cleaning with baking soda and water (just to make a slight paste) or a mixture of vinegar and water is also formidable.

Spend a little extra time on cleaning to minimize germs, bacteria and overall nasties that can transfer into your body and aide in making you sick. In addition, you’ll reap the benefits of a better-tasting cup of coffee and that is always something worth celebrating.

 Related: Why I love brewing in a Chemex

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