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How to Keep Coffee Makers Perked Up

October 31, 1998|From Associated Press

Automatic drip coffee makers have become one of the most popular and heavily used appliances in the American home.

A drip coffee maker works by passing hot water through ground coffee in a basket with a disposable paper filter or a reusable mesh filter. In the common pump-type coffee maker, water heated in the base is forced to the top of the appliance. From there, it is spread over the coffee grounds.

A heating element in most newer coffee makers automatically keeps the brewed coffee hot. Older coffee makers may have a separate keep-warm element that must be switched on manually.

For the best-tasting coffee, use cold, fresh water and coffee ground specifically for a drip-style maker. Bring refrigerated or frozen coffee grounds to room temperature before brewing.

The most common problem with drip coffee makers is the accumulation of mineral deposits in the water passages. Deposits interfere with proper operation and can affect coffee taste.

To Clean

Clean a coffee maker often--monthly if you use it daily, more often if you have hard water.

* Prepare a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water, or use a commercial cleaning mixture designed for the purpose; they are widely available in grocery and hardware stores.

* Pour half the solution into the reservoir and turn on the appliance.

* Let half the cleaning solution drip into the carafe. Then shut the unit off and let it stand for 30 minutes.

* Pour the solution back into the reservoir, turn the coffee maker on and complete the brewing cycle. Repeat if necessary.

* Finally, repeat the brewing cycle twice more with plain water to remove cleaner residue.

Most coffee makers have a plastic plate above the basket. The holes in the plate spread the water evenly over the coffee grounds. If hot water drips unevenly over the grounds, resulting in weak coffee, the spreader plate may be clogged or damaged. Upend the coffee maker and unclog the plate with a toothpick. If damaged, unscrew it or snap it out and get a new plate from an appliance repair shop.

The Carafe

The carafe is the most delicate part of your coffee maker. Treat it with care:

* To keep the carafe from cracking, let it cool before washing it.

* Don't reheat coffee by placing a carafe on a stove or in a microwave. Never heat an empty carafe.

Replace a cracked or chipped carafe right away, even if the damage seems minor. A damaged carafe can break when filled with hot coffee, resulting in serious burns.

For Safety

* Wait until coffee grounds are cool before removing them.

* Never immerse a coffee maker in water. Clean the housing with a damp sponge and dry it with a cloth or towel.

* To prevent electric shock, disconnect the coffee maker before cleaning up spills on or around the keep-warm plate.

* Always unplug the coffee maker before working on it.

* Don't let the power cord touch a hot surface or hang over a counter's edge. Keep the cord out of the reach of small children.

* If you get a shock from the coffee maker, unplug it immediately. Replace it or have the problem corrected before using it again.

* Check the base plate or access panel of a coffee maker for a warning against owner servicing. If there is such a warning, don't attempt internal repairs before checking with the manufacturer. Some companies sell parts to owners despite the warning; many don't. Note also that owner servicing may void the warranty. In the end, it's often easier and less time-consuming to replace a faulty coffee maker than to have it repaired.

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