A Stinky Process (Or, There’s A Metaphor In There Somewhere….)

Do you know how to clean a coffee maker? With vinegar.

I wasn’t aware of this until recently. Actually, until recently I had never owned a coffee maker. They intimidate me because I always put the wrong amount of coffee grounds and water in so it’s either too strong or not strong enough and never quite where it should be. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, not that any of that matters.

It was only recently, after buying a nice little coffee maker for three dollars at a garage sale, that my mother told me how you’re supposed to clean it. You take a mixture of about one cup of vinegar for every two cups of water, pour it in the maker, add a filter, and then run the whole machine like normal. It’s a stinky process, as the strength of the vinegar smell is, well, a prominent one. So this process is a prominent one as it happens, since hot water only helps propagate the stench.

Once the vinegar water has run through and you’ve poured out the stinky concoction and everything has cooled down, you run regular water through to try and remove the vinegar, because vinegar will stink up the pot if you don’t.

This is seemingly the best way to clean out the insides of the machine. The vinegar is supposed to get into the machine itself, all over the different pipes that heat the water and transfer it through the coffee grounds and into the pot. While it’s not exactly a mind-blowing machine, it’s still one with some parts in it, and that makes it hard to clean out unless you run stinky vinegar through it all.

What’s most interesting, I think, about the whole process is that it’s the normal function of the coffee maker, but with that stinky addition. There’s not a special button to switch into cleaning mode. No, it’s the normal process, with a slight chance as to what goes through the machine and therefore what the machine goes through. Instead of the welcoming smell of fresh hot coffee coming out of the machine, it’s the harsh and cruel reality of vinegar. It pumps through the normal, everyday routine of the machine; a surprising disruption from what is normal. It is different, more difficult to deal with in many ways, and perhaps most importantly, the end result is awful. The normal routine of the machine is broken and instead, its life is temporarily filled with stinky, painful, burning vinegar.

Though that isn’t the absolute end result. It’s preparing the machine for more. And not for anything particularly amazing. It won’t suddenly start producing gold when the process is done. No, it returns to coffee: normal life. It is an annoying process that cleans, preserves, and prepares the machine to continue doing what it was created to do.

There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.


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