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Roaches in Your Kitchen? Check the Coffee Maker

Imagine my surprise and horror when, the next morning, I went to turn on my espresso machine, like I do every morning, and noticed a tiny bug dart under the hard plastic flap that covers the water tank. I almost let myself believe that I had fixed my roach problem the night before and tried to ignore it, but I flipped up the flap and pulled out the tank to find the bug, which I suspect was a baby cockroach, floating in the water. I peered into the depths of the machine and saw the shadow of an adult-sized cockroach fleeing into the dark.

And then it hit me: The cockroaches were living in my espresso maker.

How long had they been in there? How many were there? Most importantly, how long had I been making my morning coffee with cockroach bathwater? Needless to say, I forewent my morning caffeine fix and instead began investigating this horrifying and, apparently, common problem.

It makes sense — cockroaches are attracted to the warmth, dark, and moisture of coffee machines. Google “cockroaches living in coffee maker,” and you’ll find message boards and Reddit posts desperately asking for help; a Deadspin piece on how to clean your cockroach-filled Keurig; and an article about a coffee machine repair company in New Zealand that called for new nationwide espresso machine standards back in 2009 upon realizing that a quarter of the professional machines sent in for repairs are infested by cockroaches. Great, I thought. Now I couldn’t even buy a coffee from a coffee shop without fearing that it had been made in a machine just as infested as mine!

Once I had made my unfortunate discovery and calmed down a bit (I have since decided to give coffee shops the benefit of the doubt that not all of their machines harbor roaches), I needed to figure out a way to fix it. Some message boards and some of my horrified friends suggested dumping the infested machine altogether. But I got a good deal ($78 including shipping!) on my De’Longhi EC 155, and I’d only had it for around three months. Moreover, I didn’t want to let the roaches win. I needed to understand my enemy.

What Attracts Roaches?
Roaches are attracted to three key things: moisture, darkness, and warmth. General messiness, which often means food or places to hide, will also encourage roaches to make themselves comfortable in your home. Cardboard, especially, is like ambrosia to roaches, so make sure to get rid of any paper bags or cardboard boxes you have lying around. Food left out on counters or kept in non-airtight containers in cabinets will also attract roaches.

How Do I Get Rid of Them?
The good news is that it’s relatively simple to clean and disinfect your coffee maker. The bad news is that if you have roaches in your coffee maker, you definitely have them elsewhere in your home.

For my espresso machine, I immediately emptied the water tank, stuck the whole machine into two plastic shopping bags tied tight, and shoved it in my freezer to kill off any lingering roaches. Next, I used descaling solution and ran the machine a few times to clean out the pipes of the machine. But I knew that wouldn’t be enough. The cockroaches were hiding out in all the empty spaces within the machine — not necessarily the parts that would be cleaned by the descaling solution. So I’m covering up any holes or cracks where they could crawl in with electrical tape and taping around the bottom perimeter of the machine so roaches can’t crawl underneath. Defensive measures, people!

As for my overall roach problem, I immediately notified my building’s management. They had an exterminator come and spray the gaps next to the fridge, under the sink, and on top of the stove. They moved the fridge and stove and put out a non-toxic powder wherever they noticed roach droppings. Shudder. I have taken a break from cooking and take out my trash as frequently as possible. The only thing on my kitchen counter right now is a can of Hot Shot ready to go for any rogue survivors.

Have I mustered up the courage to use my espresso machine again since the discovery? I must admit that the answer is no. But the war between woman and roach is ancient and ongoing, and I’m not giving up just yet. I envision myself one day soon, when I’m confident my home is roach free, brewing up a nice hot espresso and toasting to my victory.