The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Carafes

As a coffee connoisseur, people always ask me about good first steps toward improving the quality of coffee they brew at home and at the office. Rather than pitching Joyride or freshly roasted beans (which are both terrific by the way), I usually recommend that they try cleaning their brewing equipment. It is by far the easiest, cheapest and most important way to get better coffee immediately.

You wouldn't use the same plate twice without washing it in between. You wouldn't use the same cup, or mixing bowl or whisk, either. And yet, day after day and month after month, people use the same coffee carafes and airpots without thinking twice. Each time you brew coffee, whether into a Chemex or FETCO thermal carafe, coffee oils left on the interior build up. Eventually, you will notice a light brown patina developing around the interior and, depending on how long its been since you last cleaned it, perhaps even a dark brown gunky coating. It's easier to notice if your airpot is translucent though even opaque urns will show residues if you look inside.

Airpot and Coffee Photos (1 of 2)
Airpot and Coffee Photos (1 of 2)

The Problem

You should ideally clean your carafe at the end of each day to prevent this buildup. Simply rinsing out the old coffee and a quick once over with a sponge will keep it clean if done daily. But, of course, this is reality and, let's be honest, you have to catch your train, so you usually end up leaving it uncleaned for a day. Then one day becomes seven weeks and even the most well-intentioned people are left with coffee residue buildup. When you finally get around to cleaning it, you will discover that simply scrubbing it doesn't work. Even the toughest dish detergents have little effect. This is because the coffee oils have bonded with minerals in the water and formed solid substances bound to the interior.

Without properly maintaining the cleanliness of your coffee brewer and carafe, you end up dumping boiling hot water into a dirty vessel. The hot water acts to break down the leftover oils and you end up drinking some of the coffee that was left there yesterday and/or last Thursday. While drinking a fusion of all the coffees you've ever brewed in that carafe is somewhat poetic, it ultimately means that you can never brew a coffee bean to its full potential since the fresh brew is mixed with old, stale coffee.

The Solution

When detergents and scrubbing don't work, the only solution is a good deep clean, which I recommend doing at least once a month. There are a variety of ways to deep clean your carafe and they are all easy. Each method works by slowly breaking down the buildup of limescale, minerals and oils that have accumulated over the course of repeated brewing.

(1) Simply use a commercially available coffee cleaner such as PuroCafe. This is the miracle agent we use at Joyride to clean our clients' carafes on a monthly basis.

(2) Dish detergent can work wonders if you leave it sit and soak in the dirty urn for a protracted period of time.

(3) Spurn the chemicals and simply adding vinegar and letting it sit for a while. When you rinse the vinegar out, the nasty accumulations will come out too.

While it is vital to keep your carafe clean, it is also important to not neglect the brewer itself. These same techniques can be used on the brewer to ensure your brew basket and brew chamber are completely empty of coffee remnants.

-Blog post written by Noah Belanich, co-founder