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The automatic drip coffee maker is still the most popular type of coffee maker sold in the U.S. Despite the popularity of espresso and cappuccino beverages, most Americans still start their morning with a fresh cup of coffee made in that old kitchen standby. I personally love the aroma of freshly brewing coffee – and I happen to adore that first cup of coffee from a drip coffee maker that’s nearly twice as strong as the rest of the pot. While most coffee afficionadoes will tell you that espresso is the way that coffee should taste, I’m of the belief that the taste of coffee is – well – a matter of taste. And there are some times when my tastebuds prefer a good, strong cup of coffee brewed in a drip coffee maker. The added bonus is that a cup of drip coffee tends to contain anywhere from 25% to 50% more caffeine than a cup of espresso, or cafe Americano.
There’s no mystery to making coffee in your standard drip coffee maker – put the ground coffee in the filter, pour the water into the water tank, turn the coffee maker on and wait. There are, however, many variations on the standard coffee maker, and a number of tips that will help you make better tasting coffee in each one. The most important of all these coffee maker tips is this one: keep your drip coffee maker spotless for the best tasting coffee.
There are some very good reasons for that. First, the flavor in coffee comes from volatile oils in coffee beans. When you steep the ground coffee beans in hot water, those oils are released to mix with the water. Those oils will also cling to anything with which they come into contact. Have you ever taken a look at the inside of a coffee mug just after someone has finished a cup of strong, black coffee? That brown stain clinging to the ceramic is – you guessed it – coffee oils. Those coffee oils will cling to the filter basket of your coffee maker, the drip spout, the coffee pot lid (both inside and out) and the carafe. And they will get rancid. And rancid coffee oils make your coffee bitter and nasty tasting.
The other reason that you should clean your coffee maker is mineral deposits. Unless you use distilled water – which will make flat-tasting coffee – your water contains minerals. Those minerals leave deposits on the inside of your coffee maker’s water reservoir and the tubing that pipes the water up to the filter. It takes time for those minerals to build up, but if you give them enough time, they can clog the tubing – and they will change the flavor of the coffee you get from your coffee maker. So what’s a coffee lover to do? The answer, of course, is to clean your coffee maker. Here’s how.
After every pot:
Don’t just rinse the carafe. Wash it with regular dishwashing detergent, and rinse it well. Don’t forget to wash the underside of the coffee pot cover. Give the filter basket a good rinse too.
Once a week:
Remove the plastic lid from the carafe if possible. Soak it in water and dishwashing liquid while you clean the filter basket.
Fill your sink about halfway with warm water. Add 4-8 tablespoons of baking soda. Use the solution and a clean dishcloth or dishrag to wipe the filter basket clean, getting into all the nooks and crevices. If your filter basket has a ‘brew pause’ feature, be sure to open it up a bit and wipe the surfaces clean. Rinse well with clear water.
Using the water and baking soda solution, wipe the coffee maker down. Be sure to get up under the shower head where the water drips down over the coffee filter. It’s one of those places where coffee oils collect.
Once a month:
Remove the coffee filter and filter basket from your coffee maker and do your usual weekly soak with them.
Dissolve two tablespoons of citric acid in four cups of warm water. Add four cups of cold water. Fill the reservoir of your coffee maker with the citric acid solution.
Leaving the filter basket off, turn the coffee maker on and let it run through half the brew cycle.
Turn the coffee maker off and let it sit for ten to fifteen minutes.
Turn the coffee maker back on and let it finish running through the brew cycle.
Run clear water through the brew cycle two more times.
That’s it. You’re done. Put it all back together, and you’ll have fresh tasting coffee from your drip coffee maker, without the stale leftover taste of old coffee oils.