Stovetop use, cleaning and maintenance guide.
So you've made the *insert ridiculously large number here* cup of coffee in your favourite coffee pot and it just doesn't seem to be brewing as well as it once was. Perhaps the coffee seems to have a bitter finish these days, regardless of the coffee you use. Well, read on and we'll impart some of our knowledge that may just make a difference. Below you will find a guide on how to use your stove top espresso maker correctly, how we recommend cleaning your device and a couple of simple, but important tips for maintenance.
How to use a stovetop coffee maker:
1. Use *properly ground coffee (see below for more information). It should be a consistent espresso style grind, which is medium-fine, kind of like salt and pepper.
2. Fill the basket **loose and level (see below for more information). Do not pack and/or tamp the coffee).
3. Fill bottom chamber with cold water (preferrably filtered) to just below the valve, do not fill paste the valve.
4. Place pot onto stove on a medium heat setting (slightly lower for gas stoves). Do not heat too quickly with a high heat setting.
5. After several minutes you will hear the coffee start to extract into the top chamber. Once most of the coffee is in the top chamber, remove the pot from the heat. If the coffee has started to splutter, the bottom chamber is running out of water, so get it off the heat as quick as you can to avoid cooking it dry, ideally don't let it get to this point if possible.
6. Once you have removed it from the heat, pour your coffee out so it does not continue to cook in the upper chamber and turn bitter.
Further information about coffee grind and amount:
* When we say 'properly' ground coffee and not from a 'grinder' with blades, we mean the coffee must be from a burr grinder. If you don't have a burr grinder, get pre-ground coffee or ask your roaster to grind it for you. Why is this important? Espresso coffee is all about pressure. If you use blades that chop your coffee, instead of grinding consistently, you end up with chunks and dust and everything in between. When the pressure builds in your pot and starts to move up throught the basket, it is going to look for the path of least resistance - if there is a lot of dust, it will block up and give you a bitter finish and inversely, if there is a lot of chunks, it will flow through too quickly and won't pack a good flavour. If you have a bit of both, the pressure will push through your coffee unevenly and again provide you with mixed results every time. The nature of a burr grinder is that the grind will be consistent every time, giving you a consistent brewing experience every time.
** When we say loose and level, we mean just that, it is important not to overload your device with excess coffee that is packed too tightly as it will cause too much pressure and result in a bitter finish. If you want a stronger flavour, get a stronger/darker coffee. If you add too much coffee and pack it tightly, you run the risk of blowing out the valve, we are no longer able to get these as they can be dangerous if fitted incorrectly. Also, if your valve happens to be faulty and you have not checked it recently, then overloading your basket and adding too much resistance could cause the device to explode through too much pressure. Take a moment to look up some horror stories about coffee pots exploding from too much pressure/faulty valves etc. If you use the device properly and clean and maintain it regularly, there should never be an overload of pressure and therefore no safety issues with stovetops.
Important cleaning and maintenance advice:
You should periodically check all the parts of your coffee maker to ensure there is no major build up or blockages anywhere that could cause a major pressure overload.
1. Pull the filter plate out and hold it up to the light to see if the holes are blocked up. If they are, then you need to clean them and make sure the holes are clear before using your pot again.
2. Assume if there are blockages in the filter plate that the funnel is also blocked and clean it thoroughly as well.
3. Check the valve to make sure it is functioning correctly and not stuck or faulty. To check it is working, use some sort of pin or needle and from the inside of the pot, you need to push on the centre part of the valve. There is usually a spring loaded ball bearing or something similar inside that will move outward when pushed on and should pop back into place when you stop pushing. If it is doing that, then the valve is working exactly how it should. Do not push anything into the hole from the outside as you may jam or block the valve. These are designed to allow pressure out and once pressure is no longer there, should pop back into place.
4. Give everything a good clean when you have it apart to prevent build up. If hot soapy water does not have the desired effect, try using bi-carb soda and hot water. Alternatively, you may have better luck with vinegar and hot water. You could also use a pin or piece of thin wire to poke through the filter plate and funnel holes to clear them out. We recommend hand wash only for stovetop coffee makers.
If you need spare parts, we usually carry seals, filter plates and funnels for most major brands. Stock can sometimes be difficult to source. We are no longer able to get valves due to safety concerns if they are not fitted correctly and we are rarely able to source lids and handles these days.
If we don't have something you're after or if you're not sure, feel free to contact us here to make an enquiry.
- A little bit of TLC will give your coffee pot a new lease on life and keep it going for another *insert that big number again here* cups of coffee.
- Clean it regularly and check the valve often (ideally before every cup as your safety should never be underrated and overlooked).
- The coffee pot is not designed to have coffee tamped into it. If it were, you would find tampers for every size pot, but you don't...just coincidently some tampers will fit the mid sized pots.
- Get a proper grinder or get your coffee pre-ground. You will have a more consistent brewing experience with month old consistently ground coffee than with freshly chopped chunks and dust. No matter how good you think you have the timing of your $30 electric coffee blender, it will never be as consistent as coffee from a burr grinder.
- Remember, the coffee pot works correctly with the right balance of pressure build up and resistance from the coffee in the basket. Too much coffee or to fine a ground will result in too much resistance resulting in slow flow through and potentially bitter coffee. Inversely, not enough coffee or too coarse a grind will result in too fast a flow through and too watery a flavour. Heating the water too quickly will also result in too much pressure arriving at the coffee too quickly and could result in bitter coffee or even the valve blowing out.
- The grind consistency may need to be changed depending on the coffee. It is all about the right flow through...dark ,oily coffees or flavoured coffees may need to be ground slightly coarser as the oils could add resistance in the coffee basket, causing the flow to be too slow.
- Good quality coffee makes all the difference, check out our award winning coffee range and treat yourself.