An electric kettle is a nonessential yet very useful piece of equipment to the manual coffee brewer. It boils water much quicker than a stove top and tea kettle combination. It is also handy in situations where a stove top is not an option, such as college dorm rooms and small offices. With the added bonus of the existence of gooseneck electric kettles, it is a convenient piece of brewing equipment I recommend. It will make you more likely to brew your coffee manually and will probably make brewing it more enjoyable.
An issue you most likely will have when using an electric kettle is mineral build up. This mineral build up, also known as scaling, makes your kettle less efficient and can shorten a kettle’s lifespan. With a little routine maintenance, you can keep your kettle looking shiny, new and build up free.
Before I get into it, I want to point out that different kettles can be a little bit different to clean. I have never had a problem with using vinegar to descale my kettle (or auto drip coffee maker) but there are apparently some electric kettles that specifically state to not use vinegar to clean them. If you have any doubts, buy a descaler such as Urnex Dezcal Activated Descaler. Descalers are relatively inexpensive and electric kettles can be expensive. If it gives you peace of mind, go ahead use a descaler.
In anticipation of this post, I let the scaling on my electric kettle get way out of hand…
Ok to be honest, I let the scaling on my electric kettle get way out of hand and thought I would use this opportunity to talk about descaling, proper kettle maintenance and as an object lesson for us all.
A surprisingly simple process
The steps to descaling your kettle are pretty painless. All you will need is 3-4 cups of white vinegar, tap water and a little patience.
- Make sure you are not going to be needing your kettle for the next hour or so- Maybe this is a simple sounding step but these things are incredibly useful. It takes some time to descale your kettle, especially if you have not done it recently. Get your coffee, tea, or oatmeal making done before you start.
- Make and boil the descaling mixture- Mix together a water/vinegar mixture at a 1:1 ratio. It should fill up your kettle about 3/4 of the way. Bring the mixture to a boil in your kettle.
- Now you wait- Let the kettle full of the water/vinegar mixture sit undisturbed for a half hour or so. If it is really bad you may want to wait even longer.
- Rinse, rinse, rinse and… repeat?- Discard the water/vinegar mixture and wipe out the inside of the kettle. Fill the kettle with water, boil the water and discard. You will probably have to rinse a few times to make sure you don’t taint that beautiful unwashed Ethopian with a vinegary taste.
If your kettle still has some mineral build up, you will want to repeat the whole process and let the mixture sit in the kettle for longer. You can also gently scrub the kettle, but be careful not to damage the heating element. If you still have some build up, bring out the big guns. Buy a descaler and next time remember what a pain it is when you don’t descale regularly.
How often you descale your kettle depends on the mineral content of the water that you use and frequency of kettle use. Leaving standing water in your kettle can also contribute to scaling. As a rule of thumb, if you are using your kettle heavily, I would attempt to descale every month to every other month.
I have also heard of using lemons and citric acid to descale a kettle but have never tried either method. If you have a handy kettle cleaning tip or resource, please let me know by leaving a comment below.