One of the most charming things about the coffee kiosk I frequent every morning on my way to work is that they’ve nicknamed me “pink cup lady.” Recently, the barista apologised and asked me my actual name, but I insisted he call me by my coffee name: Pink Cup Lady.
But, last week my pink KeepCup exposed a rather shameful personality trait of mine: I’m very lazy when it comes to washing up. Usually this doesn’t really matter, because my unquenchable thirst for caffeine means there’s never any dregs in my KeepCup. But, last week I’d poured some cafetière coffee into my reusable cup and hadn’t given the consequences a moment’s thought. When I cracked open the lid, the inside of my beloved cup was caked with a thick layer of coffee grounds.
“I’m so sorry, I forgot to wash it out!” I said to the barista. “Oh, don’t worry, I’ve seen far worse,” she reassured me. My face puce with embarrassment, I thanked her profusely and silently admonished myself for being a disgusting, inconsiderate human.
Reusable coffee cups are all the rage right now as many people attempt to reduce their daily consumption of single use plastic. Disposable coffee cups can’t be recycled in the UK — per an Environmental Audit Committee report commissioned by the government in 2018 — and MPs have proposed introducing a “latte levy” in a bid to cut waste. According to Mary Creagh MP, the UK “throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year; enough to circle the planet five and a half times.”
Ashamedly, I’m somewhat new to the reusable cup realm, so the burning question on my mind this week was this: how often should I be washing it? And how can I ensure I’m a considerate coffee buyer? Since getting my KeepCup, I’ve been giving it a proper wash (with washing up liquid and a sponge) once a week. But, what I haven’t been doing is rinsing it out after use. I put my question to the coffee drinkers of Twitter to gauge what others deem acceptable cup-washing behaviour. Based on the replies, I’ve identified three types of KeepCup washers.
The once-a-week washers
One popular school of thought advocates rinsing out your cup with water after use, and cleaning it thoroughly once a week.
Literally just washed it with soap before I drank out of it, but I did just rinse it out daily last week instead of full soap and sponge. TLDR: one full clean per week
— Patrick SC (@PSungCuadrado) January 21, 2019
I rinse it out before I buy coffee and then wash it about once a week or so.
— Scotty Muska (@scottmuska) January 21, 2019
I use a hydroflask for both hot coffee and cold brew—I wash it (soap and water) once a week but rinse it with water before putting anything new in it.
— Nicole Clark (@nicalexiac) January 21, 2019
The lip gloss washers
For the lip gloss wearers among us, the frequency of washing can depend on whether or not we’ve been liberally applying sticky lip gloss. I wash mine the moment I can taste my Glossier cherry balm over my coffee.
Most important contributing factor is Stickiness of Lip Products Worn That Week
— Vicki Turk (@VickiTurk) January 21, 2019
The every-single-day washers
Some coffee lovers prefer to wash their reusable cups after every use. We commend these individuals for their commitment to the cause! Not sure I envy the amount of washing up, though.
I wash mine between every use. I’d have thought that’s standard practice 😆
— Tome Levi (@TomeLevi) January 21, 2019
I give mine a proper wash every day that I use it. The woman in my fav coffee shop rinses it with boiling water before filling if it’s already had coffee in.
— Ruth Colbridge (@RuthJimsdottir) January 21, 2019
I use a Keep up and wash it properly after every use 😁
— Pippa Says (@pippasays) January 21, 2019
Once a week is actually fine
So, what are the official recommendations, then? Per KeepCup, if you’re using your cup everyday, then “a quick rinse will do.”
“But we recommend a thorough clean once a week,” reads the care instructions on the website. KeepCup advises against using “abrasive materials or cloths” when washing up your beloved cup.
“Keeping your KeepCup clean makes the coffee experience great for you, and your barista — make sure you hand over a clean cup,” the instructions continue.
Not only does regular rinsing and washing give your barista less work to do, it’ll just mean your coffee doesn’t taste weird, and that your cup doesn’t start to smell damp.
My somewhat belated New Year’s resolution will be to ensure I rinse regularly. Especially if I top my cup up with home-brewed coffee.