This afternoon I performed my annual New Year’s Day ritual, and cleaned all of my home coffee equipment. I’m not talking about a wipe down, either. This was a tear-it-down-as-far-as-you-dare and clean it till it shines cleaning.
Because your coffee will taste better from clean equipment. If you haven’t cleaned your home coffee gear in a while (or ever), why not make today the day? Here are some tips for common equipment.
Your grinder is among the most important pieces of equipment in your coffee-making arsenal. A clean grinder will prevent the flavor of rancid oils from passing through to your cup.
No matter which grinder you have, the first cleaning step is to UNPLUG IT!
If you have a blade grinder, clean-up is very simple. Wipe down the interior of the unit with a damp towel. That’s it.
For a burr grinder, it’s a little more complicated. The best way to do it, if you’re comfortable, is to tear down the machine till you can brush the burrs directly. I like a stiff nylon brush, or brass. Do not rinse your burrs unless you can remove them from the grinder (even then, generally a good brushing is all that’s required). Do not use a steel bristle brush; it won’t damage the burrs, but it may damage other parts you inadvertently brush. If you’re not comfortable tearing your grinder down, there are several cleaning products on the market, such as tablets like Puro Caff from Urnex, which can be purchased on Amazon or from specialty vendors that sell espresso machine parts. In a pinch, a cup of Minute Rice will do as well. Just grind the cleaning material, and chase it with a little inexpensive coffee that you don’t mind discarding.
Exterior surfaces of your grinder can be cleaned with common household cleaners (Lysol, 409, etc). Spray the cleaner on a soft cloth and wipe down the unit. Don’t spray the cleaner directly on the grinder, as you run the risk of overspray getting into the burrs and giving your coffee the flavor of cleaning fluid.
Power down you machine and let it cool before performing your maintenance.
If you have an espresso machine, hopefully you are pretty conversant in cleaning techniques, because espresso requires more cleaning than other types of equipment. Hopefully you are already doing a regular (weekly) backflush with a tablet or powder cleaner such as Cafiza; if not, you really need to read your espresso machine manual and start doing the regular maintenance.
Assuming you’re keeping up with the regular cleaning, intensive cleaning involves cleansing the portafiler and the group head. First, pop the basket out of the PF – I’ll bet the underside is nasty, huh? Throw it, and the end of the PF into a glass or metal container. Add hot water, and some cleaning powder, and let it soak for an hour or so. In a pinch, you can even use OxiClean.
While you’re soaking the PF, remove the screen from the brew group (usually one screw) and throw that in with the PF. Inspect the PF gasket, and clean the whole group head assembly with some warm soapy water and a nylon brush. I buy disposable nylon brushes from my local auto parts supply store, but espressoparts.com has a very nice selection, too.
Once everything is spiffy clean, reassemble, power and warm up, then pull a few blank shots to rinse and residual cleaners from the coffee contacting surfaces.
Most drip brewers come apart easily, and coffee contacting parts such as filter baskets can be hand washed, or go in the top rack of the dishwasher.
The trick with drip brewers is descaling. Over time, mineral deposits build up on internal components such as heaters and tubes, making heat transfer and fluid flow inefficient. An acidic [Ed. note: text previously read, incorrectly, alkaline] solution will take care of that. Run some dilute vinegar through the brewer (like 1 cup to a nearly full pot of water). There are also commercial cleaners you can use such as Cleancaf that will do the job.
Manual equipment such as French presses, pourover cones, etc, are usually best clean by a simple handwash with dishsoap or thrown into the top rack of the dishwasher. For particularly nasty buildup, soak offending parts in one of the coffee cleaners mentioned above, or OxiClean. Rinse well before use.
As always, exercise caution when disassembling or cleaning equipment. If you’re one of our local customers and don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself for the first time, bring your equipment into our shop and I’ll help you figure it out.