So the other day, I was making my afternoon cup of coffee. It was our fabulous Guatemala Antigua Santo Domingo, and I was looking forward to it. Only problem is, I forgot to clean out my Clever Coffee Dripper before I brewed my new coffee. Instead of a beautifully bright and sweet cup, I had a bitter and astringent brew that was barely drinkable. I drank it, because I wasn't going to waste good caffeine, but I was sad...
It reminded me of the importance of keeping your coffee equipment free of old, stale coffee oils. My sad story was a perfect example that even a small amount of old coffee can permeate an entire cup. Any of you who have experience with espresso already know that not properly cleaning your machine, will not only produce bad shots, but it can eventually ruin your machine. The coffee brewing device is the main culprit, but it is also important to keep your grinder and mugs (especially travel mugs) clean. Also, if you buy coffee and transfer it into an airtight container, good for you! But make sure you periodically clean that container or the stale coffee oils will leach into your fresh coffee. This is also one of the major reasons I like uncomplicated brewing devices. If I can take everything apart and put it in the dishwasher (like a French Press), it makes it more convenient to keep clean.
So what should you use to clean your equipment? I suggest using cleaning products that are specifically designed for coffee. Urnex makes a good line of cleaners that are for brewing equipment (they also make a great espresso machine cleaner). Vinegar and baking soda are also good natural options. The goal is to get your equipment to the point where you can't smell coffee on it anymore. That may not be possible in every situation, but greatly reducing the coffee smell will also have a good effect on your finished product.
So next time your coffee seems a bit off, check your equipment and see how clean it is. It might take some time and elbow grease but the end result is delicious coffee!