Make a Better Pot of Coffee

I love coffee. It smells wonderful, good coffee tastes smooth (as opposed to bitter), and the caffeine has significant pick-me-up benefits. But there are several factors your need to look at when choosing a coffee maker and keeping it clean.

coffee beans

How Fresh Do You Want It?

For the ultimate in fresh coffee, buy your whole coffee beans in small batches in air tight packing, maybe one week’s worth at a time. Grind just what you need just before you make your coffee. Coffee oxidizes pretty quickly, so be sure to close up the container to keep the unground beans fresh.

Be sure to use good water, which in most locales does not mean straight from the tap. There may be metals and other impurities in the water, and the water works may add other chemicals. Your best bet is spring water, followed by filtered tap water. If the water doesn’t taste good from the tap, you should filter it anyhow.

Brew your coffee as usual, and don’t let that pot sit around. Most coffee makers have a heating element under the carafe to keep the coffee warm – more precisely, to keep the coffee brewing and getting stronger and adding bitterness over time. The longer it sits, the worse your coffee becomes.

This is one reason coffee pod systems are so popular. The ground coffee is in an air tight container, and since you brew it right into your coffee cup, there’s no need to keep it warm over time.

Another solution, which I prefer, is a thermal carafe that keeps the coffee warm with no additional heating to make it stronger. It also saves on electricity, since the coffee maker is no longer providing heat. I’ve had one from Food Network for many, many years now, and if I take my time sipping my coffee, what’s in the carafe will still be warm (but not hot) 3-4 hours later. Oxidation is also reduced in a thermal carafe, so it won’t grow much more bitter over time.

How Do You Clean It?

Coffee makers need to be cleaned, and that doesn’t just mean the carafe. I run about 3/4 of a pot of vinegar through my coffee maker twice a year. Be sure to run fresh clean water through it at least two or three times before using it for coffee again.

If you have the traditional glass carafe, you can tell when it’s getting stained, and at home you can usually throw it in the dishwasher and have it come out sparkling. But what about stainless steel carafes and thermal carafes?

Thermal carafes are often glass lined, but stainless steel is another story. I’ve used the dishwasher and, thanks to advice from my parents, denture tablets. Both have some effect, but my stainless thermal carafe had years of accumulated coffee stains that even the Polident barely touched.

So I went online and did my research. Guess what, you don’t need anything fancy to clean your stainless steel coffee pot. This article lists four different methods for cleaning your carafe, and one of them worked beautifully for me. If you have a stainless steel coffee pot, consider using it.

This method did the trick, while the first one I tried using a dishwashing pod didn’t do much at all. Pour in a cup of baking soda and at least a half-pot of very hot water, but not hot enough to scald yourself. Use a dish brush that fits through the opening in your metal carafe – or huge industrial coffee maker – and scrub away. You will see the whitish water turn a light, heavily creamed color and get stronger/darker as you go along.

It’s fascinating how dark this can become as you work on cleaning the coffee pot. By the end, my carafe with years of accumulated coffee stains seemed to be filled with coffee with just a bit of creamer. That’s how you know it’s working.

Rather than just rinse it out as the site suggested, I added vinegar to react with the baking soda and did some more scrubbing. When I finally dumped this concoction down the drain and rinsed out the carafe, I was shocked. It almost looked new on the inside! No need to use hydrogen peroxide and let it soak for another 30 minutes, which the site suggested might be necessary.

I don’t doubt that for cleaning every month or so denture cleaning tablets would do an adequate job, but in my case that had only cleaned the bottom of the carafe and maybe one inch up from that. Everything else had remained brown.

Keep your coffee maker clean, use freshly ground beans, and be sure you have good water, and you’ll have wonderful coffee again in no time.

If you’re not a coffee snob, you can continue to buy coffee in cans or bags, but be aware that it will oxidize over time. Then again, if you’re used to that, fresh water and a clean brewing system will still give you better coffee than you’ve been making.

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