Should You Avoid Airplane Coffee?

We know that regular and especially healthy organic coffees are good for you. But, what about the water they are served with? Ideally the water for making coffee is boiling hot and kills any germs that are around. But what if coffee is made using instant powder and lukewarm water? This may be an issue with the coffee you are served on an airplane. So, should you avoid airplane coffee? Here is a news release from the EPA from several years ago. It reports aircraft water testing information from 158 randomly selected passenger airplanes.

As part of enforcement activities, EPA, during August and September 2004, randomly tested the water supplies on 158 aircraft. Aircraft tank water is used in the galleys and lavatory sinks. Initial testing of onboard water supply revealed 20 aircraft with positive results for total coliform bacteria; two of these aircraft (1.3 percent) also tested positive for E.coli. Both total coliform and E.coli are indicators that other disease-causing organisms (pathogens) may be present in the water and could potentially affect public health. When sampling identified total coliform in the water, the aircraft was retested. In repeat testing on 11 aircraft, the Agency confirmed that water from eight of the aircraft tested still did not meet EPA’s water quality standards.

The EPA notes that while water from municipal sources in the USA is generally free of pathogenic bacteria the same may not be said for water taken on in foreign nations during international flights. But, what if the airline has a coffee maker on the plane and brews its coffee fresh? There is still a chance that the coffee maker has not been cleaned and harbors bacteria or mold.

We wrote an article about your moldy coffee maker.

This unappetizing title has to do with cleaning your moldy coffee maker and removing the bacteria as well! Bacteria and mold are everywhere in the environment and when they land on moist surfaces they make themselves at home and start to reproduce. One of the unnoticed places in your home where this will happen is your coffee maker.

At home you can routinely clean your coffee maker but if the airplane crew does not have that chore as part of their routine, and the water contains pathogenic bacteria, maybe you should avoid airplane coffee.

How About Bottled Coffee?

An alternative to drinking instant coffee in questionable water on an airplane is to ask for bottled cold brew coffee.

Cold brewed coffee is about two thirds less acidic than espresso or percolator coffee. It has to do with extracting caffeine and healthy antioxidants but less acid using a slow, cool extraction process. Basically the coffee just diffuses out of the ground beans over a few hours. And now, if you do not want to spend the time making your own cold brew coffee, you can buy bottled cold brew coffee and store it in your frig!

And if the airline offers this choice of beverage you may wish to take it instead of running the risk of a bacterial infection from the infected water in their reserve tanks.

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