If you’ve visited this site before, or if you’re in the habit of researching coffee, you know that it delivers a host of health benefits. After all, coffee contains antioxidants, lipids, amino acids, and a number of other compounds that work wonders for the human body. However, if you’re not keeping your brewer clean, your coffee won’t be as healthy (or as delicious) as it could be.
A recent study by the National Science Foundation (NSF) underscores this fact. The study found that the highest concentration of household germs is found in the kitchen. That’s no great surprise, since we store, prep, and cook our food there — and that’s not even mentioning the dirty dishes in the sink. What was surprising: your coffee maker could be one of the top five dirtiest items in your home. Nearly half of all coffee makers tested harbored mold and yeast, and ten percent tested positive for coliform bacteria.
This does make sense. Even those of us who diligently clean the carafe and filter basket don’t clean the reservoir as often as we should, perhaps with the thought that anything capable of boiling water probably does a passable job of taking care of bacteria. But coffee makers tend to be warm and damp — ideal conditions for bacterial growth — and the average coffee maker doesn’t hold boiling water long enough to kill the bacteria, mold and yeast that can multiply there. Don’t get your hopes up on your coffee helping, either; while coffee has shown limited antibacterial properties, it’s not strong enough to kill bacteria in quantity.
The good news is that you can keep your brewer clean with only a few simple steps:
Pot/Carafe and Filter Basket: Warm, soapy water and a gentle scouring pad are typically the only things you’ll need to keep your coffee pot and filter basket clean. If your machine uses a permanent filter (plastic or metal mesh), be sure to clean that after each use as well.
Reservoir: This doesn’t need to be cleaned daily. However, if you brew a pot of coffee per day, it’s a good idea to clean the reservoir at least once a week. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions if the reservoir is built-in, or clean with warm soapy water if the reservoir is removable. Don’t let the water in the reservoir sit for extended periods of time, since the heat and moisture are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and mold.
Water Filters: Charcoal filtration systems are included in several coffee makers to purify water. These should not be neglected; if they clock more than their intended number of uses, they will begin to harbor bacteria and won’t be effective at filtering the water that makes your coffee.
Descaling: If you live in an area with hard water, you should de-scale your coffee maker per your manufacturer’s instructions to prevent mineral deposits from clogging your coffee maker.
Exterior: Don’t neglect the dust, grounds, and dirt on the outside of your coffee maker. All it takes is a quick wipe down with a damp cloth. Don’t use harsh cleaning chemicals (especially on the burner).
There’s one simple thing you can do to your coffee maker that will keep it clean, descaled, and free of microscopic critters: once a week, run a solution of 1/3 white vinegar to 2/3 water through the brewer, followed by two full pots of clear water as a “rinse” cycle.
Regardless of the kind of coffee you’re buying, you want the best cup you can get from whatever beans and brewing method you’re using. With so many options on the market, that’s become easier than ever. But if you’re not diligent in maintaining and cleaning your gear — whether it’s a Keurig, a Mr. Coffee, a French press or a humble pourover cone — your tastebuds aren’t all that will suffer. Your coffee won’t deliver all the taste and all the health benefits that it could if you don’t keep it clean.
Video: How to Clean a Coffee Maker with White Vinegar: