At first glance, a home coffee maker seems like the most straightforward appliance in the kitchen.
With one push of a button, heated water flows over coffee grounds held in a filter. All of the essences of the coffee beans drips steadily into a waiting carafe, and the result is a perfect cup of coffee. A typical coffee maker has few moving parts and usually requires little maintenance beyond routine cleaning and replacement of the disposable filters.
But actually a home coffee maker depends on some very precise measurements in order to perform at its best. If the design of the coffee maker is flawed or certain elements are damaged, the result could be unpalatable coffee or even a hazardous situation for the owner. Here are some ways a flawed or damaged coffee maker can affect the flavor of the coffee it produces:
- Water temperature. Quality coffee is brewed, not boiled. Coffee makers contain heating elements designed to heat freshwater rapidly, but not past the point of boiling (212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Celsius). The water must be hot enough to strip away the oils and other flavor elements of the ground coffee beans, but not so hot that the beverage becomes sludgy or thick. If a coffee maker’s water heating element is improperly set, the result could be a form of overheated coffee soup. If the water is too cold, the result could be a thin, weak brew. There may be a way to adjust the water temperature through a thermostat, or a local appliance repairman may be able to adjust it manually.
- Filters. Coffee filters must fit snugly into the compartment in order to prevent spills. A damaged or flawed filter holder may allow the filter to pull away from the edge or become deformed. As a result, some of the coffee grounds and hot water could spill over the filter and into the holder itself. These unfiltered grounds could fall into the carafe and make the coffee cloudy and grainy. Defective filters could also allow the water to pass through the beans too quickly, causing a weaker beverage.
- Sneak-a-cup feature. Many modern coffee makers have a ‘sneak-a-cup’ function which allows users to pour a cup of coffee before the brewing process has stopped. This is usually accomplished through a mechanical (or in some cases electronic) stopper which will temporarily hold back the flowing coffee. Once the carafe is returned to the warming plate under the filter, the brewing process continues. This is a handy feature not found in older coffee makers, so always make sure the machine in front of you offers this option. If the mechanism or sensor which controls the flow of coffee is damaged or flawed, the coffee will continue to pour as you remove the carafe. The results could be hazardous as the hot beverage flows over your hand or onto the table or floor. The warming plate may become scorched as the coffee collects on top.
- Carafe. A good coffee pot or carafe should be heat-resistant, protected from excessive air, and easily cleaned. If a carafe’s lid is not secure, more air is introduced to the coffee and the result is much shorter shelf life. Some glass carafes or pots are very thin, which means they will shatter easily from drops or sudden temperature changes. It might pay to invest in a higher quality carafe or coffee pot to replace the original glass model. It’s also important that the filtered coffee finds its way to the pot or carafe safely. The top of the pot must align perfectly with the drip spout below the filter area.
- Warming plate. A good warming plate does not keep the coffee above the brewing temperature. It’s designed to maintain the level of heat, not add to it. If a warming plate’s heating element is flawed, the result could be burnt coffee at the bottom of acceptable coffee. When the user pours a cup, the burnt coffee mixes with the unaffected coffee and the result is an undrinkable beverage. Overheating could also compromise the integrity of a glass carafe, leading to breakage or a build-up of burnt coffee residue.