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Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 9:59 am

How Come airlines are almost never able to brew decent coffee in the aircraft?
I recently tried United's coffee on a short hop BWI-ORD.Honestly it was a punishment taking it down.
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 10:03 am

Because they just throw a bag of coffee grinds...not even that much either, into the coffee maker, and they really don't care as long as the water turns black and it has somewhat of a coffee taste.
Remember when sex was safe and flying was dangerous?
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 10:11 am

Espion007: Don't like Starbucks? United serves Starbucks. Maybe they should serve the mocha Frapuccino!  Laugh out loud
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 10:15 am

CX serves decent coffee (Espresso Machines are available in J and F Class)
I believe it is one of the few airlines that offer espresso coffee to J Class pax.

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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 10:19 am

As stated above, UA serves some of the best coffee around. You must have hit them on a bad day. Also, AQ serves Lion Coffee which I have enjoyed several times (this coffee is much better than Starbucks, which is pretty good.)
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 10:22 am

Yeah, and you know, Starbucks has the worst air service from SFO to SEA.

Nobody served our republic like Republic!
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 10:34 am

Have you ever looked inside a coffee urn on an airplane...?? YUCK..!!!!
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 10:34 am

The technical explanation is that the cabin pressure in the aircraft has some effect on the boiling point of water. I don't really know what the exact effect is on the water. But, in order to brew coffee on an aircraft, the hot (boiling?) water must be forced through the coffee grounds. Hence, the water doesn't have the chemical properties nor the time to properly extract the full flavor of the coffee from the grounds. Now, this is what I was told some years ago and I don't know if it is true. But, from servicing aircraft years ago, I accepted this explanation because of the design of the coffee makers and the coffee pillows that were used on board. And since I don't drink coffee, I cannot be a judge of its taste.
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 10:38 am

Call me strange, but one of my favorite smells is the coffee smell that seems to linger on older aircraft. I especially remember picking up that scent on USAir's old DC9s and F100s before mainline service left CRW.

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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 10:42 am

SK has great coffee.

US carriers have uniformly terrible coffee, to my taste.

The only exception was AA from ARN - perhaps catered by SK?
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Airline Coffe

Fri Jun 04, 2004 10:50 am

Though I have never tried it I have heard that KLM has the best coffe. I worked for them about a year ago and other people who worked there sad they loved the coffe that was served on the plane. I even saw a person get arrested once for stealing coffe off the plane, customs caught the person who was a Security Quard for the airline. Pissed I quess it must be that good to go to jail for it. Big thumbs up
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 10:53 am

Good topic! When I found out United served Starbucks coffee I had to have a flight attendant actually show me an unopened bag to prove it.That's how bad I thought the "fresh" pot of coffee was.Part of the reason is the water doesn't get hot enough to extract the flavor properly,but mostly it's because the buildup of grime and deposits that could be years old is never removed with the correct cleaning method.Plain old white vinegar works fine at home for many folks,it removes oils and the other crap that makes up the deposits inside the machine without damaging it. BTW, CO used to serve expresso and cappuchino in business/first class,hope they still do. With milk and sugar,it makes it easier to drink but still absolutely the worse coffee I've ever had.United,Delta,US Airways,it's all the same. Come to think of it,who would ever have the time to clean the machines? It does always smell good,though.
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 11:09 am

Courtesy of my Honors Chem class I took this year, I can give a short technical explanation for those of you who care why coffee onboard is bad.

As has been mentioned, when water boils in an airplane, it does so at a temperature lower than 212 degrees F that we have at sea level. By comparison, the pressure inside an airliner cabin is equivalent to that of about 8,000' (correct me if I'm wrong).

First, I need to explain what happens when water boils. When heat is added to water, the water molecules begin to move faster and faster, and they start bumping and crashing into each other. Eventually, when they have enough heat added to them, they have enough energy to escape the water against the force of the air molecules pushing down on the water.

At such a high altitude, there is less air pressure, and therefore less air molecules in the air floating around the cabin. With less air molecules in the cabin, there are less molecules to bombard the surface of the water, so the water has to heat up less in order for the molecules to escape.

Since the water has to heat up less, the flavor of the coffee beans does not permeate as well through the water, so that's why the coffee tastes like crap.

I hope this wasn't too technical - I could make it much worse if I wanted to.
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 11:15 am

I've heard Midwest Airlines has pretty good coffee. They brew Alterra coffee (a local Milwaukee chain).
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 11:29 am

Air France (imo) serves the best coffee I've ever tasted in the sky. It's rich and dark. Delicious.
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 11:35 am

Hi Cory,Thanks, that was great-more detail would be fine by me(I took high school Chemistry about 10 years before your parents,if they took it;anyway a long time ago). After I read your explanation I thought that perhaps airline coffee might be better if they brewed 1 pot before takeoff in hopes of that coffee being much better,but nix that with takeoff and hot liquids tilting in a container spilling out,the angle of the plane cabin with climbing,etc...I wonder if expresso is really bad also,as the temperature and the intense pressure required to make it are very important.I think we've explored this enough but it's good to know the reason behind their dreadful coffee. Cheers,Tim
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 11:39 am

welcome to the forums CRWDUDE, good to have yet another Charlestonian on
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 11:50 am

I have found worse coffee. Never ever drink the coffee that the attendants sell on the bullet trains in Japan. Airline coffee is delightful in comparison.
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 12:21 pm

Hey, good topic! I have never thought about this, but rather just accepted it. I almost never ever drink coffee during flights mainly due to my many years working at Starbucks, (You become very critical after drinking that stuff everyday for many moons!) Seriously though, coffee mixed with sitting for hours on end can sometimes cause quite the situation!

I know United serves Starbucks, but since I have never flown them (I know, I know, its on my "To do" list) I have never been able to try it.

Oh, and Cory6188, well done on your explanation! You must have done well in your class!

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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 12:29 pm

Another explanation, the water quality especially on older a/c. It comes out of the spigot all cloudy. I know when I was at AA they did an analyis of why airplane coffee was icky and that was one of the answers. I think the solution was putting in filters or changing the ones that were already there. A funny side note I was working a flight once at AA and this gentleman tastes the coffee and spits it back in the cup "this is awful" 3 rows later I serve a little old lady a cup of the same coffee she tastes it and says "Mmm this is the best coffee" go figure there is no acounting for taste.
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 12:49 pm

Have you ever try a coffee in Avianca?? It is 100% Colombian Coffee, there is nothing better in the world.

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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 1:02 pm

Argh! I'll just stick to tomato juice... Airline coffee offends me. I live on Kona coffee. But I'll make an exception to AQ's Lion Coffee.
Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion.
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 1:23 pm

According to the site link below, the boiling point of water at 8,000 feet is 197.4 degrees F (sorry, don't know the Celcius, but it's obviously around 92). To me, that seems like it should be enough to infuse the water properly. Coffee is generally brewed around 180 degrees, isn't it?

The more likely explanations to me are, first, the sometimes disgusting dirtiness of the coffee makers on aircraft, and second, the chancy water supplies.

Stick with tea. Better for you anyway.
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 1:25 pm

Can't complain about the Starbucks served on UA. I got upgraded to First on a late Sunday night (7:30 p.m. EST) flight from ATL to DEN years ago. There were about seven of us in First. After passing through 10,000 ft the flight attendant poured me my first cup of the nectar of the gods of Seattle. For the next several hours the flight attendant kept my cup full. I was so wired that I didn't get to sleep until around 2:30 a.m. MST!  Wow!

I've been addicted to Starbucks ever since.

FWIW, does anyone remember some of UA's commercials when they first started serving Starbucks? My favorite was the one with the guy carrying the huge bag of beans through ORD, but with a hole in it that spilled beans throughout the terminal.
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 1:45 pm

Rumor or True?

All Coffee served on an aircraft at night is always decaf, even if the pax orders regular. Supposedly the F/As want everyone to go to sleep.

I heard this about 15 years ago from my dad who was then dating a WN F/A.

I need feedback from an F/A who would know for sure.
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 2:35 pm

I remeber reading an old airline ad (1960's), I think it was TWA and they were boasting about inflight coffee and that it was supposedly a remarkable achievement- so I guess making coffee inflight is difficult.
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 2:49 pm

NZ domestic is hot water and instant coffee. It's Nescafe Gold, so it's not the super cheap nasty stuff, but still instant.

You're flying in a plane, not sitting in a cafe.
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 4:35 pm

I find Starbucks coffee bitter and strong and way too expensive. I only drink NW coffee when I am at work. I never drink coffee off the aircraft. The few times I have heard that the coffee was bad was becasue the water wasn't hot enough. People drink up NW coffee without any complaints, asking for seconds. I guess its a matter of taste. I don't see how anyone can drink black coffee.
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 4:44 pm

has to do with the altitude my dad is an ex-coffee industry worker and knows all about it...the altitude affects the brewing process greatly, however I have found SQ's coffee in first and raffles to be quite good, the specialty blends
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 4:53 pm

Who makes NW coffee. I've found it's pretty good also.

As for Starbucks (I was first raised on European and turkish strong brews) I love them if bought in a Starbucks owned store. Because of the rules involving local ownership of the concessions at MEM they did not have oversight into it's operation just like in an airplane and the product was pretty much bad all the time. Memphis has great fantastic water so that was not the problem. Lackadaisical attention to company mandates was. One man, Starbucks trained, could consistantly brew a wonderful full flavored cup. When he was off duty it was terrible. I doubt it's the F/As fault, they just throw in a pre-measured packet and turn it on. Perhaps the product needs more attention to detail than the average american galley can provide. I don't know but would like to find out.
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 4:57 pm

I live on Kona coffee. But I'll make an exception to AQ's Lion Coffee.

You're a very smart man! There's nothing like a fresh cup of Kona coffee!
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 10:02 pm

Well my friends, I guess in this one a have a point: Colombian airlines such as Avianca and Aerorepublica serves every day fresh, hot Colombian Coffee  Big grin
What I really know is that AA is one of our coffee customers, so must be a good coffee, unless they don't know how to prepare it.
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RE: Airline Coffee

Fri Jun 04, 2004 10:50 pm

The problem is also when f/a's leave the coffee in the coffee machine for more than 3 hours. It boils, then burns and it tastes very bad. At my airline we're told to brew new coffee after each service, so it remains fresh, but I know some f/a's who won't bother and keep it for 3 or 4 legs, and brewing new coffee without emptying old coffee leftovers in the machine first.
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RE: Airline Coffee

Sat Jun 05, 2004 12:16 am

Delta serves coffee from Java City-- . They use "Caravali Viennese Blend" on their mainline flights and "Caravali Caffe Della Serra" on their Shuttle flights.

They get them in the "pillow-pack" so they just drop a new pack in when they're ready to start brewing, which takes about 3 min or less. I have witness coffee pots being changed out while on the ground for clean ones. The coffee I've had on all my flights has been a little light in flavor but pretty good all in all.

It seems that many people prefer their coffee to have a lighter flavor instead of it being so strong it will dissolve the pot.

Everyone has their own taste for coffee, so it's impossible to please 100% of the people  Nuts
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RE: Airline Coffee

Sat Jun 05, 2004 12:45 am

I think the problem is the water sometimes. It tastes like water out of an old RV tank that hasn't been flushed.
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RE: Airline Coffee

Sat Jun 05, 2004 1:37 am

If you don't want it...don't drink it. It is as simple as that. Plus, there is almost always a starbucks in the airport  Big thumbs up
The next generation of aircraft is just around the corner!
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RE: Airline Coffee

Sat Jun 05, 2004 1:40 am

AF used to serve colombian coffee, the best in the world!! Don´t know if they still do.


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RE: Airline Coffee

Sat Jun 05, 2004 2:51 am

I don't drink coffee (maybe tea), but other issues as to poor coffee on aircraft: the water itself, the handling of it to and on the aircraft and the coffee making equipment.
Most water used on aircraft is from municipal sources, which may contain large amounts of chlorine or other water treatment chemicals, loaded with minerals, or just plain bad tasteing to begin with. We are not dealing with Poland Spring, Evian or NY City water here. Then you compound that with the handling equipment that delivers the water to the aircraft, which is probable not cleaned as often as it should and when done is probably with harsh disinfecting chemicals or bleach. The coffeemakers themselves are often not cleaned very often either - check out the coffeemakers where you work and pull out the part where the coffee goes, it's probably full of scum. Then of course, most airlines probably try to buy the cheapest coffee they can get, heavy with cheap Robusto beans, instead of 100% Arabaca beans, especially from Columbia or Central American countries. Lets face reality here too, do you really expect Cafe quality coffee at 35,000 ft.?
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RE: Airline Coffee

Sat Jun 05, 2004 2:59 am

Fly on Horizon! Horizon serves Starbucks coffee fresh brewed! Acutally, on the Q200's and Q400's, the coffee is brewed in an actualy coffee pot, and placed on the planes as needed. All they have to do is call ahead for more! On the RJ's though, they have potable water, so it's brewed on board...but it's still good! Maybe it's the personal touch the F/A's put into it  Smile
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RE: Airline Coffee

Sat Jun 05, 2004 5:15 am

I remember when United started brewing Starbucks coffee on board, one of their commercials had the line "We don't just work here, we have to drink the coffee too". If you're ever bored, check out a book by Howard Schultz called "Pour Your Heart Into It" It talks about how Starbucks turned into what it is now. There's an interesting section in there about when the relationship with United was starting and the requirements Starbucks asked of United... I found it rather interesting...
You can't fix stupid.... - Ron White
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RE: Airline Coffee

Sat Jun 05, 2004 5:40 am

If just the airlines bought and followed the instructions by The Colombian Coffee Growers....
For those who a coffee lovers (like me) here's the link:
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RE: Airline Coffee

Sat Jun 05, 2004 6:06 am

The water for the coffee is from the water tanks in the A/C. The tanks are filled with heavy chlorine water and that is why the coffee is very nasty. It would be great coffee if you could use bottle water directly into coffee maker. At Delta's DC-9's whe made this nasty brew with instant coffee and just add hot water. Every flight attendant has their "special recipe", we would and some of this and some of that to the mixture to make it better. The best was adding sparkling water and hot chocolate mix. I don't drink coffee and I knew this was nasty. We never had to worry about doing refills. Air Midwest 340's made the coffee in operations and carried in a thermos and it tasted great.

[Edited 2004-06-04 23:37:22]
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RE: Airline Coffee

Sat Jun 05, 2004 6:14 am

In the 80's, it was all about wine....
In the 90's it was all about coffee...
Apparently, we're back to whine now.

99.99% of all coffee tastes the same. Only the truly bad stuff is memorable.
Please, no coffee's so five minutes ago!
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RE: Airline Coffee

Sat Jun 05, 2004 7:50 am

The flights where I've had the best coffee was Iberia. Consistent across all four flights. Which is strange considering how badly the flights sucked otherwise. MIA (742)->MAD (319)>BCN(319)>MAD(742)>JNB
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RE: Airline Coffee

Sat Jun 05, 2004 7:57 am

Hey Bongo !

You are missing someone, AIR FRANCE, they serve 100% COLOMBIAN PURE COFFEE !


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RE: Airline Coffee

Sat Jun 05, 2004 8:22 am

Westjet and Air Canada serve excellent coffee

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RE: Airline Coffee

Sat Jun 05, 2004 8:25 am

It has nothing to do with the coffee, and everything to do with the water. The water is potable water added to the tanks. Chemicals (chlorine I believe) is added to keep the water free of bacteria, so add that to the coffee, and YUK.. I NEVER drank coffee on the plane. I always would stop and get my BIG cup of Java before boarding.
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RE: Airline Coffee

Sat Jun 05, 2004 8:38 am

OK, you 'scientists'. If the problem with coffee is altitude, then why does the coffee in Santa Fe, NM (altitude 7,500') taste o.k.? And what about Leadville, CO (10,000'+)?
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RE: Airline Coffee

Sat Jun 05, 2004 9:09 am

When I flew nearly monthly the MIA-BOG-MIA route on AA b/w 2000 and 2002, AA always served 100% Colombian Coffee.

Btw, you guys (esp. you guys in NYC) might remember ca. 1980-1990 the infamous ads of Cafe de Colombia, and one just came to mind. There's a plane with contrails doing a 180-degree turn and the caption reads "Captain, we forgot the Colombian Coffee"

I'll try to search for the imagine, it was awesome! Big grin

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RE: Airline Coffee

Sat Jun 05, 2004 9:30 am

Last year had quite good coffee in Y-class on AZ between Milan and Cairo, and two years ago on Emirates between Zurich and Dubai. So, it apparently is possible to overcome the 'technical' problem.

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