What Dissolves Coffee Bean Oil?

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What Dissolves Coffee Bean Oil?
Even the best espresso machines accumulate coffee oil. (Thomas Northcut/Lifesize/Getty Images)

All coffee machines are prone to accumulations of coffee oil, imparting increased bitterness and unpleasant off-flavours to the brews they make. It is important to keep any implements that come in contact with the beans or brew clean in order to prevent this. In French presses, the filter is the most commonly affected surface. The same is true for drip coffee makers. Commercial espresso machines need to have their heads cleaned several times throughout the day to avoid producing bitter coffee. Although detergents are quick and effective, they can leave behind an unpleasant residue of their own that is difficult to remove.

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Dish Soaps

Dish soaps do in fact dissolve coffee oils. However, they are among the least effective of all available cleaners. Dish soaps also frequently leave a soap or perfume residue behind on the surfaces being cleaned. When using dish soaps to clean a French press or drip coffee machine, it is important to thoroughly scrub the surface under running water to mechanically remove any soap residue from the filter. Never use dish soap in an espresso machine.

Commercial Coffee Machine Cleansers

Commercial detergents are both expensive and effective. They have caustic properties that enable them to remove calcium alkali and other mineral deposits in your coffee machine. Like when using dish detergents, your equipment must be thoroughly scrubbed and rinsed to remove any lingering cleaning chemicals. It is not necessary to clean mineral deposits out of coffee machines on a regular basis, though; in fact, French presses never require demineralisation.


Vinegar is an inexpensive and highly effective way of removing coffee oils. One part white vinegar is mixed with two parts distilled water to create the mixture in which the affected area is soaked. It takes at least six hours of soaking to break up a heavy accumulation of oils and allow it to be scrubbed away with a stiff nylon brush. Less soak time is required if cleaning is performed regularly. Like other methods, it is important to thoroughly rinse all parts cleaned to remove the vinegary smell. Vinegar may be used to clean espresso machines, but they must be backflushed after treatment.

Orange Oil Cleaners

Natural orange oil cleansers are among the best chemical surfactants available for removing coffee oils. They quickly and effectively remove oil accumulations and require no soaking. They also rinse away quickly, leaving very little residual aroma or flavour. Although relatively safe and non-toxic, it is important that they be used at the recommended dilution or they can irritate the skin.

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