Awful Airplane Coffee

If you are having a cup of coffee on your flight from New York to Chicago how does it taste? There can be good airplane coffee and there can be awful airplane coffee. And it does not necessarily have to do with the quality of the coffee beans. The New York Times wrote that for want of a coffee pot flights get delayed. In this article they mention that sometimes the water for the coffee comes from a bottle of filtered water and sometimes it comes from a tank of water on the plane.

Marcos Jimenez, an engineer at Zodiac Aerospace who has developed patented coffee-maker technology, said there were two main types of machines: those that use water from an airplane’s water reservoir, and those that require a flight attendant to pour filtered, bottled water into the machine.

Most commercial airlines use machines hooked up to a water tank. “Because it’s in a tank, they have to take particular care to make sure the water is not growing bacteria and whatnot. So they treat it with chemicals, kind of like a pool,” he said.

These chemicals, along with minerals in the water, can cause residue to build up in the machinery. Clogs can cause the machine to break down, particularly if maintenance crews don’t clean them often enough, Mr. Jimenez said. “I don’t drink the coffee unless I know the water’s coming from a bottle.”

Think of going out to the swimming pool to get water for your otherwise healthy organic coffee made from organic Arabica coffee beans. What is the point, you might think. The reason for awful airplane coffee is probably not that they buy bad coffee but that they just cleaned out the reservoir tank with disinfectants and chlorine!

Or Is the Coffee Merely Old?

In our article How Do You Know When Coffee Is Old we wrote about coffee stored for 9 years.

Did that last cup of coffee from the vending machine taste more than a little stale? Maybe that is because the beans the coffee came from were 9 years old! For that matter how do you know when coffee is old? The Wall Street Journal reported that coffee that is nine years old is coming out of storage and being sold.

Before you take that next sip of coffee, consider this: Some of the beans in your cup of Joe might have been picked during the Bush administration.

If you are making coffee at home a good way to make sure that your coffee is fresh is the bloom that occurs when you pour hot water over freshly ground coffee.

The coffee bloom is the release of carbon dioxide gas when hot water is poured over ground coffee beans. Carbon dioxide gas is trapped inside coffee beans when they are roasted. Darker roasts contain more carbon dioxide and lighter roasts contain less. Roasted whole beans retain the carbon dioxide longer than roasted and ground coffee and storing in a cool environment keeps the carbon dioxide longer.

Because you don’t get to watch them make the coffee you will have to rely on taste to know if the coffee on your flight is fresh and not made with swimming pool water.

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