Picture of the Farberware Automatic Electric Percalator, Model FCP280.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Electric Percolators




We’ve brewed several tens of pots of coffee in our Farberware Electric Percolator.  We’ve found that without routine cleaning, this stainless steel appliance can become stained brown, and that unsightliness can be hard to remove if allowed to build up.  So, wanting to preserve that silver, new look as long as possible, we looked for procedures and practices, that would keep our coffee pot clean and gleaming.  The below techniques and tips we’ve found quite effective.



Keep it Clean to Begin With

With minimal periodic cleaning, stainless steel electric percolators, due to the fact that they’re stainless steel, are easy to keep coffee stain free.  Your first defense against accumulated coffee discolorations and the need for deep cleaning, is to not allow them to build up in the first place.  Wash out your percolator immediately after each and every use, and don’t allow the coffee to dry out inside.  Regular dish detergent (for the sink, not the dishwasher) works well.  If your percolator still smells of coffee after cleaning, than you did not clean it well enough.  Do it again.  It may require several tries, or a stronger soap solution too.

Picture of the Farberware FCP280 Electric Percolator, disassembled, showing all Its parts.
Farberware FCP280 Electric Percolator and All Its Parts

Follow Users Guide Cleaning Instructions

Most percolators come with an owners guide, with detailed cleaning instructions on how to clean a percolator.  First and foremost, follow them, as the manufacturer probably knows best how to clean their products effectively. Many recommend nothing stronger than a squeeze of dish detergent.  Do not worry about this creating an aftertaste in the coffee, for it will definitely not, if you rinse out the percolator and parts thoroughly

Avoid Scouring and Scratching

This type of finish resists staining as long as you do not scratch or mar it.  So to avoid dulling the surfaces in the pot, basket, spreader, and well stem,  and creating lots of binding points on it for stains, avoid scouring with any abrasive cleansers, pot scrubbers, steel wool pads, and bathtub cleaning agents.  By all means, avoid any sort of scrubbing device made of metal, such as wire brushes or burnishing tools.  Even plastic or Nylon scrubbers should be used sparingly on stainless steel parts.  Save these for the really tough stains, and rely primarily on your dishcloth for routine cleanup.

Throw Out that Old Coffee

Also, keep your coffee pot clean by discarding unwanted, unused coffee right away.  Best not to let hot coffee stand in the pot for long, as this can “bake in” that pesky java color.  Often, people allow the coffee to “mellow” in the hot percolator for days at a time.  Bad idea, as this can “cement” the coffee into the metal, and greatly complicate removing it.



Dissolve Hard Water Stains with White Vinegar

For those stains that dish soap will not remove, deep clean the coffee pot by running a pot of half water and half white vinegar through the percolation cycle.  If your water is hard, use distilled water to help maximize removal of the hard water deposits from the pot.  Cycling the coffee pot through, with all its parts attached, cleans it all.

When it does not, remove the well tube, basket, and water spreader, and soak them in a sink or bucket filled with hot vinegar water (half and half).  Allow them to marinate in this solution for several hours, periodically checking the descaling progress.

Try Soaking with Hot Soapy Water and Baking Soda

White vinegar may not completely descale your percolator, depending on the amount of and type of the mineral content in your water.  If so, then a couple tablespoons of baking soda added to a coffee pot full of hot soapy water (dish soap) may do the trick.

Do not perk with soapy water.  This will quickly create a sudsy mess.

Many report that automatic dishwasher soap (E.g. Cascade) added to a full pot of boiling water, and then allowed to mellow in the percolator, until the water cools, really lifts those deep brown stains effectively.  Automatic dishwasher soap is designed to be non abrasive and gentle on glassware and china.  So it is safe to use inside your stainless steel pot.



Percolators Need Not Be Brand New Clean

Some brown staining on the interior does not negatively affect the flavor of the coffee brews.  So it’s not necessary to become overly anal about maintaining an absolutely spotless coffee maker.  As long as you prevent buildup of the loose residues and oils that accrue after even just a single use, your fresh perked java will taste just fine. Besides, a brown cast on the coffee handling components indicates (to some) a well-seasoned percolator, that brews better tasting coffee than those brand new, brown-less coffee makers.

General Considerations and Warnings

Disconnect the power before cleaning.  Even in percolators, water and electricity do not mix.  Otherwise, you could receive a fatal electric shock.

Also, do not immerse electric percolators unless they’re designated by the manufacturer as submersible. Just fill them with the solution and let them sit on the counter while their interiors have a bath.

Note that procedures that work well for an aluminum coffee pot may be inappropriate for a stainless steel electric percolator.  So, be sure to apply the right techniques to your particular percolator.

When cleaning the well tube (pump tube), be sure to remove those pesky little coffee granules, that often imbed themselves behind the washer at the bottom of the tube.  Use a small pointed knife, needle, pin, or toothpick to dislodge them.  Too much buildup here can degrade the seal that the pump tube forms with the well in the bottom of the coffee pot, and decrease perking efficiency.  This produces either weak or foul tasting coffee.   Do the same to the holes in the fluid spreader piece (top of the basket).



No harsh chemicals, please.  Not only can they damage any plastic components (handles, knobs, Etc.), but can also dull the stainless steel finish.

When small amounts of vinegar do not clean, many folks perk a full-strength load in their coffee pots.  This often works better than the half-and-half solution with water.  While this probably will not harm the percolator, it smells dreadful!  If you must percolate undiluted vinegar, set you percolator up outside, and let it perk where the winds will carry away that strong odor.

Suggested Reading

References

Revision History

  • 2015-11-29: Added appropriate tags.
  • 2015-09-13: Added the Suggested Reading section.
  • 2014-11-26: Originally published.