Brewing at Home: Cleaning Coffee Equipment

By Tyler Workman

Brewing at Home: Cleaning Coffee Equipment

One of the topics that comes up most often in questions from our customers is the topic of cleaning coffee equipment and gear. The questions include:

 

  • Should I clean my coffee maker?
  • How do I clean my coffee machine?
  • Is it OK to use vinegar to clean my coffee machine?

 

The very short answer is, yes, you should definitely clean your coffee equipment and gear. We believe this is one of the most important things you can do to make consistently great coffee.

 

Why is cleaning your coffee gear necessary? Think of it as a frying pan in your kitchen, every time you use that frying pan you probably clean/wash it before using it again to make something else in it otherwise the residue, tastes and odors of what you made in it before will affect whatever it is you make next. The same basic principle holds true with coffee equipment and gear.

 

When coffee is brewed, the coffee grinds release oils and soluble compounds which, even with paper filters, leave residue in your coffee making equipment which will build up over time and can become rancid and/or add unwanted flavors in each batch of coffee you brew. One of the tell tale signs that your coffee equipment needs cleaning is that all of your coffee, no matter what the roast profile or freshness, will have a more charred and bitter taste to it.

 

There are three basic areas of coffee gear cleaning to consider:

  1. Coffee Grinders
  2. Coffee parts that come in contact with coffee: Filter baskets, carafes/decanters, re-usable filters/screens, etc.
  3. Coffee parts that come in contact with water, such as heating elements

 

  1. Coffee Grinders

If you are grinding your coffee fresh at home, which we recommend, your coffee grinder and parts (bean hopper, burrs/blades, holding container) will build up residue from the oils that are released from the coffee beans. This is especially true with darker roasted coffee beans as the oils from deep within the bean [more info about grinding and grinders in an upcoming Brewing at Home article] come to the surface of the bean. *This is also why darker roasted coffees require a lower water temperature to extract the soluble compounds from coffee, whereas lighter roasted coffees require a higher water temperature to extract the soluble compounds from coffee.

 

To clean your coffee grinder, we recommend disassembling (check your grinder's owner manual to see how to safely do this) the grinder to expose the burrs, removing the bean hopper and the holding container. You will want to focus on these areas of cleaning your grinder:

 

  • Brushing the burrs – Light cleaning, maintenance
  • Cleaning the bean hopper and holding container
  • Deep cleaning the burrs, bean hopper and holding container

 

Brushing the burrs

Most burr grinders, such as Baratza brand grinders, will come with a brush. We recommend brushing the burrs (once you have removed the bean hopper) to remove any mild build-up including fragments of beans, coffee silverskin left during the grinding process, and residues building up on the burrs.

 

 

Cleaning the bean hopper and holding container

Once you have disassembled the bean hopper and holding container, we recommend washing the bean hopper and holding container in warm water with a mild, non-scented dish soap such as Seventh Generation, Better Life Cleaning Products. Be sure to thoroughly rinse and dry the parts before re-assembling your grinder. It's always best to avoid your burrs making contact with water so please dry the parts thoroughly.

 

 

Deep cleaning the burrs, bean hopper and holding container

For a more thorough cleaning of the burrs, we recommend BioCafe Coffee Grinder Cleaning Tablets or Grindz Burr Grinder Cleaner by Urnex. These tablets are specially formulated to clean the residue from coffee grinders and are run through your coffee grinder as you would with beans, to clean the entire surface area of the burrs. Once you’ve run the tablets through a grinding cycle, you will want to run 1-2 cycles with coffee beans. We recommend this type of cleaning 1-2 times a year depending on your amount of usage.

 

 

For deep cleaning of built-up residue of your bean hopper and holding container, we recommend soaking the bean hopper and holding container in a solution of BioCafe Coffee Equipment Cleaning Powder or Urnex Coffee Machine Cleaning Powder and warm water for at least 30 minutes to remove heavy build-up of coffee residue.

 

 

Once you have cleaned your coffee grinder you should notice the full flavor of your coffee shining through.

 

  1. Coffee makers & parts that come in contact with coffee

If you’re consistently brewing coffee at home, you will want to make sure you are cleaning all of the parts that come into contact with coffee (grinds and liquid). This includes:

  • Filter basket – The part of a drip coffee machine or pour over coffee maker that holds your filter and where water is passed through for the brewing process.
  • Re-usable metal filters/screens – This can be in a drip coffee machine, French Press, AeroPress, Mokapot, etc. Anywhere you use a metal filter or screen
  • Brewing Chamber – This can be the brewing chamber of a French Press, AeroPress, etc.
  • Thermal or Glass Pots, Carafes, or Decanters – Including Chemex pour over
  • Keurig – There are two areas of the Keurig that come into contact with coffee: the needle which pierces single use pods or enters re-usable pods and the pod chamber

 

Light cleaning

  • Filter baskets

For light cleaning and maintenance we recommend scrubbing or wiping the filter basket with a mild, non-scented dish soap such as Seventh Generation, Better Life Cleaning Products. For plastic filter baskets we recommend a baby bottle or water bottle brush to scrub the plastic surface clean (since most plastic filter baskets have ridges, the brush makes it easier to clean the entire surface area compared to a sponge or cloth). For glass or ceramic filter baskets (Chemex, Hario V60, Melitta pour over, etc.) we recommend wiping the filter basket with a cloth or sponge and using a mild, non-scented dish soap such as Seventh Generation, Better Life Cleaning Products. We do not recommend using vinegar to clean your coffee equipment, the vinegar may have an undesirable reaction to the materials of your coffee equipment since it is an acid, and vinegar will leave an odor and taste in your coffee equipment that will require a lot of rinsing to get out.

 

 

  • Re-usable metal filters/screens

For some coffee brewing methods a re-usable metal filter or screen is used instead of a paper filter. This can include drip coffee machines, French Press, AeroPress, Mokapot, and various pour over drippers/coffee makers. It is important to clean these metal filters and screens because they too will build up coffee residues over time.

 

  • Brewing chamber

This can include coffee makers such as the French Press, AeroPress, Chemex, etc. For a French Press and Chemex coffee maker, the brewing chamber is also the pot/carafe/decanter and it is important to clean this brewing chamber often (after every use is recommended). The Chemex and most French Press coffee makers are glass so we recommend wiping the brew chamber with a cloth or sponge and using a mild, non-scented dish soap such as Seventh Generation, Better Life Cleaning Products. Some French Press coffee makers’ brew chambers are stainless steel and the AeroPress brew chamber is plastic. We also recommend wiping the brew chamber with a cloth or sponge and using a mild, non-scented dish soap such as Seventh Generation, Better Life Cleaning Products. Be sure not to scrub too vigorously or your brew chamber will scratch or flake.

 

  • Thermal or glass pots, carafes, or decanters

Whether your drip coffee machine has a metal/thermal pot, carafe or decanter those parts also need to be cleaned often because they will build up the same coffee residue as other coffee parts. Check your coffee maker’s owner’s manual for instructions on how to clean the coffee pot, as some coffee pots are actually dishwasher safe. In most instances however we recommend hand washing the coffee pot, carafe, or decanter using a cloth or sponge and a mild, non-scented dish soap such as Seventh Generation, Better Life Cleaning Products. Rinsing thoroughly and drying before use.

 

Deep Cleaning

  • Filter baskets

For deep cleaning of the filter basket, we recommend soaking the filter basket in a solution of BioCafe Coffee Equipment Cleaning Powder or Urnex Coffee Machine Cleaning Powder and warm water for at least 30 minutes to remove heavy build-up of coffee residue. We recommend this for all filter basket materials including plastic, glass and ceramic. Then wiping, rinsing, and drying the filter basket thoroughly.

 

  • Re-usable metal filters/screens

For deep cleaning of metal filters or screens, we recommend soaking the metal filter or screen in a solution of BioCafe Coffee Equipment Cleaning Powder or Urnex Coffee Machine Cleaning Powder and warm water for at least 30 minutes to remove heavy build-up of coffee residue. Then wiping, rinsing, and drying the metal filter or screen thoroughly. This can include metal filters or screens for drip coffee machines, French Press, AeroPress, Mokapot, and various pour over drippers/coffee makers. It is important to clean these metal filters and screens because they too will build up coffee residues over time.

 

  • Brewing chamber

For deep cleaning of brewing chambers of all materials, we recommend soaking the brew chamber in a solution of BioCafe Coffee Equipment Cleaning Powder or Urnex Coffee Machine Cleaning Powder and warm water for at least 30 minutes to remove heavy build-up of coffee residue. Then wiping, rinsing, and drying the brew chamber thoroughly. This can include coffee makers such as the French Press, AeroPress, Chemex, etc. Be sure not to scrub too vigorously or your brew chamber will scratch or flake.

 

  • Thermal or glass pots, carafes, or decanters

Whether your drip coffee machine has a metal/thermal pot, carafe or decanter those parts also need to be cleaned often because they will build up the same coffee residue as other coffee parts. Check your coffee maker’s owner’s manual for instructions on how to clean the coffee pot, as some coffee pots are actually dishwasher safe. In most instances however we recommend hand washing the coffee pot, carafe, or decanter using a cloth or sponge and a mild, non-scented dish soap such as Seventh Generation, Better Life Cleaning Products. Rinsing thoroughly and drying before use.

 

Coffee parts that come in contact with water

 

Heating Elements

If you use a drip coffee machine or an espresso machine, your machine's heating elements will come into contact with water. . One of the problems with heating elements coming in contact with water is that the minerals present in water*, such as calcium and magnesium, results in the buildup of lime scale. To remove the mineral buildup, you should regularly de-scale your coffee machine. This will extend the life of your coffee maker and ensure that the water for coffee brewing is consistent. As lime scale builds on heating elements, it erodes not only the heating element part which decreases the life of your machine; it also affects the efficiency of the heating element leading to less consistent water brewing temperatures.

 

*We recommend using filtered, purified, or spring water and to avoid tap water which could result in very fast lime scale buildup. For more info about coffee brewing water, see our blog article: BREWING AT HOME - WATER

 

If you own an SCA/SCAA certified coffee maker [more info about SCA/SCAA certified coffee makers in an upcoming Brewing at Home article] or home espresso machine, you likely have made a significant investment to get the best out of your coffee. De-scaling your machine regularly will extend the life of your investment.

 

We recommend a de-scaling solution made specifically for coffee machines such as Dezcal by Urnex.

 

 

Water Chamber

If your coffee maker's water chamber is removable, remove the water chamber and clean thoroughly with warm water and a mild, non-scented soap then rinse and dry thoroughly.

 

Some notes on specific coffee makers:

 

  • Mokapot (stovetop espresso-style maker)

There is a tale with Mokapots that they should not be cleaned with soap and water and should retain their "seasoning" like a cast iron pan. Most Mokapots are made of aluminum and some are made of stainless steel. If you use a harsh soap or detergent and if you scrub them vigorously you may notice a metallic taste to your coffee, so there is a way to clean them that keeps the residue from forming without getting a metallic taste in your next cup of coffee.

 

We recommend that after every use of your Mokapot that you disassemble the parts (water chamber, top chamber, rubber seal/gasket, and metal screen/filter) and wipe them thoroughly with a wet towel or paper towel to remove the oils and residue then dry the parts. When re-assembling and storing your Mokapot, do not tighten the top chamber and water chamber tightly, that will lessen the life of the rubber seal/gasket.

 

 

  • Keurig Machine

As Keurig is a pod-based coffee maker, it needs to be cleaned in different ways.

 

  • Needle

First and foremost is the needle. The needle pierces the single-use pods and enters the hole at the top of any re-usable pods that allow you to fill them with your own ground coffee. The water used for brewing streams out of this needle. The easiest way to clean this needle is with the Keurig needle cleaning tool. There are also some videos on YouTube on how to clean these needles with a paperclip, but it is much more involved. The second part that comes in contact with coffee is the pod chamber where you put your Keurig pod. On most home Keurig machines, the pod chamber twists out, see your Keurig owner’s manual for directions on how to remove. If your Keurig gets a lot of use, you definitely want to clean this often. Once removed you can wash it with a mild, non-scented dish soap such as Seventh Generation, Better Life Cleaning Products and rinse it thoroughly. For a deeper cleaning we recommend soaking the pod chamber in a solution of BioCafe Coffee Equipment Cleaning Powder or Urnex Coffee Machine Cleaning Powder and warm water for at least 30 minutes to remove heavy build-up of coffee residue. Then rinsing the pod chamber thoroughly.

 

  • Heating Element

Keurig Machines also need to be de-scaled periodically. For this, we recommend the Urnex Keurig specific descaling & cleaning kit.

 

  • Nespresso Machine

The Nespresso machine is a pod-based espresso machine. For this machine we recommend the Urnex Nespresso de-scaling and cleaning kit. See instructions on the Urnex de-scaling and cleaning kit for detailed instructions on how to use for your Nespresso machine.

 

 

If you would like us to carry the cleaning products shown in this blog, or if you have any questions please send us an email or leave a comment.



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