It is no secret that airplane coffee tastes so bad, even non-coffee drinkers know it. But why is this the case? Is it because of the coffee beans? Well, no. Although initially the beans will be the suspect for poor-tasting coffee, they are not the problem in the case of airplane coffee.
Airlines might have gotten away with using low-quality coffee beans in the past. But with the steady demand for great-tasting coffee nowadays, they had to step-up to meet the expectations. Surely, you have seen some airlines brag in advertisements about the coffee brands they serve. This is their way of letting people know that they take coffee serving seriously.
Some examples of those airlines are Pacific Northwest, Delta Airlines and Alaska Airlines. They are now serving Starbucks coffee on board. Another one is American Airlines, which serves Java City, a Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee. When you ride United Airlines, expect a serving of Hawaiian Kona Blend Coffee. Aboard Virgin Atlantic? You’ll get a cup of Fair Trade Coffee. Lastly, fly on JetBlue and you’ll get Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (spoiler alert: No free donut).
Now, if airlines have excellent coffee beans on board, why are people still complaining about bad coffee taste? What is the real problem? The answer is in the water.
In 2012, a report from Environmental Protection Agency found that 12% of water from commercial airlines in the Unites States is positive of coliform. Does coliform change the taste of water or coffee? No, but its presence simply means that the water is basically just unfiltered water or tap water and it’s dirty. This means that at least one out of ten airlines is serving water that is not only dirty but also tastes either acidic or metallic, and that can change the way your coffee tastes.
Then what do coffee drinkers do?
It is ideal if you can just bring your own coffee to the plane. However, gone are the days when you could still bring your own home-brewed coffee in a thermos because liquids are not allowed when you check-in. Brewing your own coffee on board is no longer an option as well because FAA has banned brewing devices since 2014.
That leaves you with three options. The first one is to buy your coffee at the departure area before boarding the plane. Hoping that there is a good coffee shop in that area. Just like in Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, where you can enjoy Arizona’s own Cartel Coffee Lab just before you fly.
The second option is drinking your coffee at home before heading to the airport. But if you’re in for a very long flight and needs to be awake at some point of the flight or before landing, this will not be enough. This brings us to the third option…
Make your own cold brew on board.
Bring your own ground coffee, buy bottled water at the departure area, don’t forget to bring your Hario cold brew water bottle and you’re good to go.
If you are very particular with the taste of coffee, you can do any of these options and join some people with ‘No Airplane Coffee Policy’. Or maybe, you can just stick it out during your flight and have your coffee instead at your destination.