Coffee Maker Essentials – From Buying the Perfect Machine to Keeping It Clean
With over 80% of the American population devout consumers of coffee, it only makes sense that a huge chunk of the population would want the ability to make the perfect brew right at home. A lot goes into making that perfect brew a reality, though. It starts with making the right choices during the purchase phase of your coffee machine and extends all the way through to proper cleaning and maintenance of said machine. Maybe you think these processes are super straightforward, but are you really aware of all of the options and techniques out there? This is where you’ll get that insider look at all things coffee – and where you’ll walk away with the knowledge that’ll get you the coffee of your dreams.
That Make the World Go ‘Round:
Odds are, you’re probably one of those people that’s completely dysfunctional – and probably dangerous – before you’ve had your morning coffee. No matter how you blend it or what you add to it, for many of us coffee is what gets the world started each day and makes sure it keeps on turning. In order to find a truly prime machine to make your morning brew, you’ve got to start thinking about your relationship with coffee first. It’s easy to start straight with the machines themselves and get carried away by all of their features, but getting the most out of your coffee experience is really going to begin with how you consume the coffee itself.
Some of us are fill-up-the-pot kind of people, while others really only need or want a single cup of coffee, and knowing which kind of person you are is imperative in picking the right machine. If you or your household goes through multiple cups of coffee each morning – or even throughout the day – then a traditional setup that offers you a full brew is going to be more your speed. If you’re more of a single cup type of person, and you certainly like switching it up between blends and flavors, then a single cup coffee maker is what’s going to keep you smiling. These aren’t your only options, either. Percolators are also a great choice, as are espresso machines – perfect for those looking for a richer, more decadent caffeine experience.
Another factor to take into consideration is whether or not you want to grind your own coffee beans. For some people this seems like an endeavor that’s far too time consuming (your more grab-it-and-go type of people), but grinding your own coffee comes with some serious benefits. For one, the freshness factor is typically enhanced when you grind your own coffee at home. Grinding your own blend also allows you more control over the quality and, ultimately, the flavor of your brew. Some machines can grind your coffee beans for you, but most, such as your typical filter coffeemaker, can’t do that, which means you should invest in a quality coffee grinder to get the job done right. The better your coffee has been ground, the more flavor and, therefore, ultimate satisfaction you’ll be able to get out of it.
Once you’ve really assessed how you approach the coffee itself, you can go ahead and start paying more particular attention to all of the different features that various machines offer. Insulated carafes are ideal for those who are drinking coffee throughout the day, as these will keep your brew warm as well as fresh for a much longer period of time. This also means that you’re not constantly tossing out coffee and having to make a new pot, thus cutting down on wastefulness and overall cost. Timers are great for any kind of coffee machine as well. It’s so much easier to get coffee prepared the night before and have it already ready and waiting for you the next morning, hot and fresh, to help tempt you out of bed. It’s essential to check out all of the display models you find in local stores. Even if you’re considering buying something online that isn’t sold near you, look at the machine’s particular setup and try to find display models in a nearby store that offer similar features. This lets you test how easy it is to remove various pieces and, thus, lets you know how easy it’ll be to clean and maintain the machine, as well as whether or not getting the coffee made in the first place is going to be a hassle.
A Clean Pot
Is a Good Pot:
Cleanliness in general is really a no-brainer, but many people probably don’t think of the cleanliness of their coffee/espresso machines as being a huge deal. Maybe it’s the idea that extremely hot water works its way through the system’s components that makes people a little oblivious to the issue of cleaning their machine, as they may think this will be enough to kill whatever germs may be present. This isn’t the case, however. Coffee machines – no matter what kind you’re dealing with – can be major breeding grounds for mold and all kinds of bacteria. In fact, several studies have shown that many people’s coffeemakers have more bacteria/germs than areas of their bathrooms. If you’re not keeping your machine clean, then you’re literally transferring all of these germs directly into your coffee mug every morning. The following cleaning advice should help you avoid turning your cup of delight into a recipe for illness.
The first and easiest step is to perform basic cleaning every day. This doesn’t have to be first thing in the morning – many of us probably wouldn’t be capable of such a task that early in the day – but it really should be done daily. This everyday cleaning should consist of the washing of any and all removable parts of your coffeemaker. These are typically some pretty hardworking parts, anyways, so they’re likely to see the most contact with your coffee and any subsequent germs left behind from residue or grown due to the moisture present in the machine. Many removable coffee machine parts are dishwasher safe, as well as easy to clean quickly in the sink with just some warm, soapy water – not much hassle there.
What about the inner workings of the machine that aren’t detachable and that don’t offer access for cleaning? In this case, you’re going to have to perform a whole-system cleaning, but don’t worry; this is pretty much as straightforward as cleaning the little removable parts. You’ll see a variance in the advised mixtures, but, for the most part, you’re going to use white vinegar and water to do the cleaning for you. Some suggest using a half and half mixture, while others suggest 1/3 white vinegar and 2/3 water. You can adjust the mixture over time according to how well you feel it cleans the machine, but, overall, it needs to be enough to “brew” a whole pot. You’ll need to do this about once a month, at least.
This process is basically going to be like making a pot of coffee, by simply putting in a coffee filter and then pouring in the vinegar/water mixture. Let this mixture brew through the system, and then discard what ends up in the coffee pot. Sources vary on the precise way in which to accomplish this part of the cleaning process. You’ll get a couple of choices, and you can decide which works best for you. Some suggest stopping the brewing process halfway, and allowing the machine to sit for 20 to 30 minutes before turning it back on and letting it complete the brewing cycle, rather than letting it brew straight through.
After the initial brew of vinegar and water, some sources suggest repeating the procedure with a smaller amount of vinegar. Whichever method you choose, when you’re done with the vinegar and water mixture you need to fill the coffeemaker up again with just water and let it run through the system to clear out any vinegar, repeating the rinse at least once. This whole process will not only flush out any germs and coffee residue, but will also help to break down any calcium buildups that have occurred due to the type of water being utilized (some houses have harder water than others, especially if you don’t use a water softener).
Alternative cleaning methods involve using a couple of denture tablets with a full pot of water, or an ounce of citric mixed with 4 cups of hot water, to which you’ll then add 4 more cups of water, but this time using cold water. While baking soda can be used for a variety of cleaning applications, in terms of your coffeemaker, you want to definitely avoid using it, because it will ultimate clog your machine and ruin it.
As with a standard coffeemaker, your espresso machine will definitely benefit from whatever daily cleaning you can provide it. Chiefly, you want to make sure to wipe both the shower screen and the steam wand after each use, using a clean, moist kitchen rag/cloth for both – one for the shower screen and one for the wand, thus ensuring there’s no transfer of germs. More thorough cleanings should ideally occur once a week, but you should most definitely clean your espresso machine at least once a month.
For the system’s cleaning process, you could use a mixture of vinegar and water again, but there are a variety of commercial cleaners on the market specifically for espresso makers, and it’s highly recommended that you use these. These cleaners will come with instructions on how you should flush out your espresso maker. Once you’ve run your cleaning solution through the system, clean the brew head of the espresso maker. Most can be removed simply by unscrewing it, and, if you can also easily remove the steam wand then it’s recommended that you do so in order to better clean it.
Once you have the brew head removed, you can use a toothbrush or small pieces of cloth to clean out all of the various crevices within the machine. After this, run another batch of water through the system to flush it out one final time. If you find that the water has a brownish tint to it, then this indicates that your machine still has residue left that needs to be gotten rid of, meaning that you’ll need to repeat the cleaning procedure again as per the instructions listed with the cleaning detergent you’re using.
Special brushes can be bought specifically for the cleaning process of an espresso maker. These include group brushes and wand brushes, both of which allow you to insert the brushes into tricky areas in order to clean out any residual deposits of coffee and/or milk. You’ll also want to clean your portafilter and basket by removing them and soaking them separately, again utilizing your chosen cleaning solution. Once they’ve had their soak, rinse and dry thoroughly, and reassemble any and all parts. Once you’ve gone through the cleaning process, flushed out the system with clean water, and dried everything, then you should be back in business with a perfectly clean machine.
Also, remember to keep your wits about you during the buying process. Some machines really do have a lot of impressive features, but remember to ask yourself if the price tag is really worth it if you’re only going to be using a fraction of those features. Handle products yourself where you can, be mindful of warranties, and pay attention to reviews in order to ensure you end up with the best machine your money can buy.