My friend and co-host of the Top Brew podcast, Joe Darnell, has written an important article about keeping your coffee-maker clean. Take a minute to read it. I’ll wait right here…
Assuming that you actually read the article, I imagine that you are now convinced about the necessity of clean equipment. I’m sure you already were, but a reminder every now and again is very helpful. While fresh beans, the right grind, and filtered water are necessary to get the best cup of coffee, they will not be able to counteract the negative flavors of a dirty coffee-maker. I recognize the “convenience” of the drip coffee-maker as one of its main selling points, but convenience only goes so far. This is why I recommend other devices for making coffee.
The French Press is a tried and true coffee-maker that will give you years of daily service. The main components of a French Press are a screen and a glass beaker (remember Chemistry class?). There are no “hidden parts” to a French Press and the whole thing can easily be disassembled for thorough cleaning. You should always (at least) rinse out the Press and let it air-dry in between brewings. A complete cleaning should be done every few days (including brushing and washing the screen).
Pour-over cones are another simple device that work much the same as the drip-brewer, but without the bacteria-storing machinery. A paper filter in the pour-over cone makes sediment in the cup a non-issue, and the only thing to clean is the cup and the cone. Most are designed to go in the dishwasher, making clean-up and sterilization a breeze.
A Chemex is another fairly simple device (and another one that reminds of the Chemistry lab) that works very much like the pour-over cone. The primary difference between the Chemex and the cone is that the filter holder and the brewing chamber are attached. Chemexes use thicker filters than the pour-over cones, which makes for an even cleaner cup of coffee. The primary downfall of the Chemex is that it is somewhat difficult to clean. A long-handled brush or something similar is required to get down into the brewing chamber if you want to scrub it (and you should every so often). And because the Chemex is made of glass it can get pretty dangerous when it comes in contact with soap, water, and human hands.
There are many other devices out there, but most of them are a variation of one of the above. It should be clear that the drip-maker is not the only coffee machine in town, and I recommend that you look into one of these other devices to supplement your coffee-making rituals. You may even find that you like these devices better than the drip-machine. If nothing else, you will have the peace of mind that your coffee is free of mold and mildew.