What is my Coffee Maker Trying to Tell Me? | Direct Energy Blog

What is my Coffee Maker Trying to Tell Me?

Did you know your appliances are talking to you? Really, they are! Did you also know you can also learn an awful lot by listening to them? Really, you can! You can find out how much electricity you’re using, and how much money you’re spending, too! To highlight what customers can discover with Direct Energy’s Direct Your Energy Insights Tool, we’re going to dig into some of the lesser-known ways your appliances affect your electric bill. By learning more about your electricity usage, you’ll use less of what we sell!

What is my Coffee Maker Trying to Tell Me? | Direct Energy Blog

What is my Coffee Maker Trying to Tell Me?

For many people, their first conversation of the day starts in desperate hushed tones with their coffee maker. For the most part, coffee makers do their job in quiet efficiency, wreathed in aromas of Arabica or Robusta, and their owners usually don’t concern themselves much with how well their coffee maker works until something goes wrong and there’s no coffee.

Then it’s tears, pleading, anger, and finally, bitter acceptance that you need a new coffee maker. But all the same, the tragic loss of your morning minion could have been avoided with an understanding of coffee maker anatomy.

There are three basic kinds of coffee makers used in US homes:

  • The automatic drip coffee maker (ADC)— The most common home coffee maker, it uses a single electric-resistance warming plate to heat water and keep the beverage warm. Water is held in a reservoir and is then fed through a tube to the warming plate assembly. The warming plate assembly is either ceramic or made of cast aluminum with the warming plate on the top and a curved tube on the bottom. If the plate is ceramic, the curved tube is held in contact against it to conduct heat. Inside the curved tube is a little metal bead that acts as a valve. When watered enters the curve tube, the bead blocks any chance for back flow. The water is heated to boiling and the bubbles push the water up some more tubing that leads to the coffee basket and through the grounds.
  • Single server — These work in similar fashion to ADCs and some have large reservoirs. Their main difference being they make one cup at a time (actual serving size can vary).
  • Espresso machine— These use pressure to force hot water through a “puck” of ground coffee and a filter. This produces a thick, concentrated coffee. Espresso machines may be steam-driven, piston-driven, pump-driven, or air-pump-driven. Most home machines use a motor to drive a pump that creates pressure.

While different makes and models of coffee makers can have a number of convenient features (built-in grinders, milk-steamers and frothers, timers, etc.) that use energy, the major port of energy usage comes from heating water. Of course, that’s a coffee maker’s raison d’être —make hot coffee. The National Coffee Association recommends the optimal water temperature for brewing should be between 195° F to 205°F for proper flavor extraction.

What is my Coffee Maker Trying to Tell Me? | Direct Energy Blog

Getting Steamed

Energy usage is divided between heating the water to begin the process and keeping the coffee hot for a period of time after brewing. On the whole, coffee makers might use 1.14 watts on standby power to run a clock/timer. The usual home wattage runs between 750 to 1200 watts with an automatic shut down of two hours. An average full sized automatic drip filter coffee maker will use about 730 kWh annually, costing (assuming a rate of 12¢/kWh) $87.60 or $7.30 per month. Not a mammoth expense but noticeable.

It’s gasping and spurting, but there’s no hot water coming out!

The problem’s likely from lime scale built up inside the coffee maker and is causing a blockage. Anything that heats water will at some time have a problem with build up from limescale or minerals dissolved into the water. The way to fix this is to periodically pour regular white vinegar into your coffee maker’s reservoir and cycle it through the heating system two or three times. Do this once a month to help keep your faithful friend heating efficiently, extend it’s lifespan, and even prevent bacterial growth.

It brews fast enough but it’s starting to taste awful.

Whenever you brew a pot of coffee, there’s going to be some water left in the reservoir. It’s not much, probably a few drops. What happens is that as the day goes by, all sorts of bacteria, dust, and mold enter and set up house in that moist environment. Even the odd insect can wander into the reservoir (personal example — a box elder bug is unnoticeable but a ladybug can ruin an entire pot of coffee).

To see how dirty the reservoir is, take a paper towel and wipe out the inside of the reservoir. More often than not, you’ll see it’s probably time to give it a really good cleaning. Remember to clean out the reservoir after every 40 to 80 brews depending on your home’s water quality. SAFETY WARNING— Always unplug your coffee maker before cleaning and NEVER submerge your coffee maker in water!

I’ve got the pot lined up properly so coffee drips into the pot. But there’s still a puddle of warm water underneath after it makes a pot.

It’s possible some of the tubing that goes to the heating plate is leaking. Unplug the unit and wait for it to cool to room temperature. When it’s cool, unplug it and open the bottom cover and inspect the heating plate. If the unit uses rubber tubing, you’ve got a good chance at replacing it after a trip to the home center. However, if your coffee maker has an all-in-one aluminum hot plate and tube construction and you find traces of lime scaling along the tubing, then there’s probably a crack in the aluminum somewhere. Aluminum is really hard to fix in small appliances due to the heat-cold cycling, so it’s probably time to find a new one.

Want to know how you can save even more?

Customers who sign up with a Direct Energy plan can get complete access to the Energy Insights Tool to help them monitor their usage and take more control of their bill. If you’re a Texas resident, you can save even more by signing up with Direct Energy’s Free Weekends. From Friday at 6 PM to Sunday at 11:59pm, you’ll get FREE electricity. Just by switching to Direct Energy and saving your laundry for the weekend, you’ll really clean up!


Vernon Trollinger is a writer with a background in home improvement, electronics, fiction writing, and archaeology. He now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

Leave a Reply