When you’re cleaning the kitchen, it’s easy to overlook your countertop appliances. Yes, you give them a swab down and everything looks sparkly from the outside, but it's inside the machines that problems can occur.
The warm, damp, dark interior of coffee makers can become a haven for mould, yeast and bacteria, which are then swilled down through the pipes and into your coffee cup. The heat may destroy some of the nasties but these are not the kind of added flavourings you want floating in your morning brew.
There’s also the issue of limescale, which can build up inside the machine and affect both its workings and the taste of your beverage. (Some coffee machines, like the Sage Bambino espresso maker, have a removable filter in their tank, which helps. But it'll still need cleaning.)
That’s why, if you have a coffee maker at home, you should clean it regularly.
If you use your machine every day, a proper clean every two weeks would be ideal. However, if that seems unrealistic, once a month should be enough for hygiene. Set a recurring reminder on your phone and get to it.
But when you can’t take the machine apart and see what’s going on inside, how exactly can you clean it effectively?
Luckily, there’s a very easy fix. The problems start in the water reservoir, so that’s where to begin.
Do this every week
- At least one a week, remove the water reservoir from your coffee machine. Clean it inside and out with warm, soapy water. Rinse and dry it well before fitting it back into the machine. (Okay, yes, that did involve a bit of cleaning – but not much.)
- If you have a bean-to-cup machine, make sure you regularly empty the grounds container – even if you're not using it that often. Used coffee grounds behave just like food and, just like food left in a room-temperature container for long enough, will swiftly become covered in mould. Clean out the container with warm, soapy water and dry it before you put it back into the machine.
- If you have an espresso machine, remove the basket from the portafilter and give them both a clean. Wipe down the dispensing head. Run hot water or steam through the steam wand, wipe it down and if it seems blocked, use a toothpick to clear the channel.
- If you have a pod coffee maker, wash out the cartridge head.
Every two weeks/ every month (depending on your cleaning tolerance)
- Clean the water reservoir as above, then fill it about two-thirds full with a mixture of white vinegar and water, in equal parts.
- Then run the machine as usual – except, obviously, don’t add coffee. But do put a cup under the spout to catch the vinegary concoction.
- Keep running the machine until most of the vinegar and water mixture has gone through.
- Then leave your machine alone for an hour to let the vinegar get to work inside of it.
- When you return, empty and clean the reservoir with warm, soapy water. Then rinse it and fill it with clean water.
- Run the machine (again, with a cup under the spout). Keep going until all of the clean water has gone through. Whatever you do, don't forget this step and don't forget to tell other members of your household not to use the coffee machine while it's being cleaned – or they'll be in for the worst morning pick-me-up ever.
- Refill your reservoir and you're ready to brew a non-disgusting coffee.
This is an effective way to clean any type of coffee maker or machine – pod, ground coffee, drip or bean-to-cup.
If your machine is on its last legs and you're considering buying a new coffee maker, have a look at our round-up of the best coffee machines we've tested.