Maintenance a good idea for coffee maker

By Karl Terry, PNT Managing Editor

It’s been a frustrating week, mechanically speaking.

I’m not a complete incompetent when it comes to figuring out things mechanical, but things that don’t work when I don’t have the time or tools or knowledge to tinker with them get my goat.

Take my coffee maker for instance. I’ve been noticing it was getting a little slower at brewing lately, and a few weeks ago when we had company for breakfast it was very noticeable: My poor little drip machine wasn’t keeping up with these folks’ coffee habits.

Finally this week it seemed to be taking half the morning to get two cups so I figured it was time to find the cleaning instructions and give it a good cleaning.

I regularly change the oil in my cars. I even did it myself until they told me I needed to have an agreement with a hazardous waste transporter to dispose of the old oil. But I’ll admit I neglected the faithful little kitchen gadget that spews forth the java every morning.

The cleaning instructions said I should be cleaning the machine after every 80 pots. Twice that frequently — every 40 pots, if the water is hard. I think we fall closer to the latter category. Scratching my head, I tried to remember the last time I cleaned it. Then I remembered — I’ve never cleaned it.

Oh sure, I’ve washed the pot and the basket out faithfully every morning and wiped it down but I’d never done that vinegar brew thing they recommend.

I guess that would be a little bit like putting gas in the tank of my car and washing and shining the fenders but never changing the oil.

Anyway, I poured the prescribed amount of vinegar into the coffee maker’s reservoir and put the filter in as instructed and turned the machine on.

It said to put four cups in but to stop it after three cups had brewed. I figured I needed to watch to make sure I stopped it quick enough.

I waited and the machine made several guttural noises akin to those a two-pack a day smoker makes in the morning as it heated up. Soon my sinuses were clearing because of the hot vinegar but only a few drops of hot vinegar hit the carafe. A half-hour later, a few drops was still all she wrote.

I contemplated calling in a heart surgeon to try and isolate and bypass the blockage but instead decided I could accomplish the same result as an angioplasty with a straightened out clothes hanger.

The procedure failed. The patient gurgled a few more times then went silent.

It’s sad, but I figure I’ve brewed an average of six pots a week for nearly three years with that machine. Wow, that’s 936 pots of coffee. I didn’t know I was that addicted to the stuff until it quit flowing.

Applying a little more math to the problem, I figured I should have actually done this cleaning process about 15 times by now. Relating that to the the recommended interval for changing the oil in a car, which is every 3,000 miles, that would be like driving 45,000 miles between oil changes.
I’ll probably take the thing out to the garage tomorrow and place it on the shelf next to the coffee maker it replaced. Then I’ll go to the store and invest in a new machine.

I’m also going to take my car in this week for an oil change. While I’m there I’m going to ask if they could give me about 15 or 20 of those little windshield stickers. I’ll slap one on the coffee maker every time I clean the new one.

Karl Terry is managing editor at the Portales News-Tribune. Contact him at 356-4481, ext. 33 or e-mail: