Best Practices: Caring For Airpots
Airpots deliver beverages at the touch of a button or press of a lever. Those buttons or levers are, in fact, pump mechanisms that press on a bellows in the lid of an airpot. The pump forces air into the pot, pushing the liquid into a delivery tube, which sends a stream of the chosen beverage up and out the spout at the top of the pot.
Like other thermal delivery devices, airpots have vacuum seals that keep drinks hot or cold. Airpot liners are either glass or stainless. Glass is a better insulator. It holds heat or cold longer—up to eight hours, compared to roughly four hours for stainless. Glass is easier to clean and is less likely to absorb odors from liquids, but it is more fragile. Stainless liners may retain odors or flavors of beverages, but are more rugged and durable. Airpots are easy to use and easy to maintain.
However, as with all things, they work better and last longer if you follow a few guidelines. We talked to several airpot manufacturers and service technicians about how to treat airpots to get the best results and longest life possible for these handy devices. Here are the insights they shared with us.
While the care of an airpot is not strenuous, it does need to be regular. Opinions differ as to just how much cleaning is required, but at the very least, every time a pot is emptied, rinse it out before refilling it. Then, before putting it away at the end of the day, empty the pot and rinse it thoroughly with hot water. Wipe it dry, but leave the lid open, so the interior dries completely. It is important that a pot be completely dry before being stored. If storage is simply overnight, you can leave the lid open. If it will be stored longer, close the lid and put it somewhere away from dust and sunlight.
While most sources say airpots do not need to be washed daily, they do need to have a regular schedule of washing. One maker, who uses airpots at the office, says, “We wash our airpots every Friday. In between washings, we just rinse them, but once a week, we make sure they are carefully washed.” One manufacturer that recommends daily washing says a monthly deep cleaning is a good idea, to remove lime scale, minerals and oils.
The dos and don’ts of airpot care are pretty straightforward: no rough stuff. Everyone agreed on that. Don’t use abrasive cleaners, strong chemicals or bristled brushes. Brushes or sponges should be soft and cleaners should be gentle. Many brands recommend specific cleaners designed for thermal pots, while others simply recommend mild dishwashing detergents. One technician notes, “Vinegar is the safest thing for cleaning the glass and tube. A little Dawn dishwashing liquid works for cleaning the lid, which is harder to clean than the body.” One expert says employees often are tempted to use something like CLR, but don’t; it’s too strong. Also, never use chlorine. Glass is more easily scratched, but harsh chemicals can actually eat holes in stainless liners. Stiff brushes and strong chemicals can leave scratches in both types of liners, making cleaning harder and affecting the flavor of beverages, as well as shortening the life of the airpot.
Never submerge an airpot in water. Never put an airpot, or any parts of an airpot, through a dishmachine, which use higher heat and stronger detergents than an airpot is designed to withstand. Plus, airpots are designed to be easy to clean, so high heat and strong detergents are not needed.
Care In Use
One technical expert says that among the most common ways people shorten the lives of their airpots are transporting pots with the lid open and, even worse, lifting pots by their lids. This puts tremendous stress on the hinges. Also, perhaps obviously, dropping a pot can lead to problems, from shattered glass liners to loss of the vacuum seal that creates the insulating effect. “If you find that the outside skin of the pot is the temperature of the liquid inside, either hot or cold, it’s a good bet the seal is broken,” one technician relates.
If properly cared for, the liner of an airpot will last for 10 years. However, one manufacturer suggests keeping gaskets on hand, as they can wear out. Also, replacing gaskets every three to five years, even if they haven’t worn out, keeps a pot in top shape. Another manufacturer suggests keeping spare lid assemblies and stems on hand, as these are the parts that are commonly dropped.
So be gentle, and be prepared, and your airpot should deliver beverages for years to come.
Top Tips For Airpots
• Rinse well every time the pot is emptied.
• Clean thoroughly on a regular basis.
• Never immerse an airpot in water.
• Never run an airpot through the dishmachine.
• Do not use harsh cleaning powders, abrasives or chlorine.
• Do not use any tools that could scratch the inside of the pot.
• Never lift or carry the pot by the lid.
• Always make certain the pot is completely dry before storing.
• When in doubt, read the manufacturer’s instructions or NSF guidelines.