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Airline Coffee



If you’re like me, you have never ever turned left when boarding a plane. By turning right you have signalled that your ticket is for the economy flight section, those fortunate enough to be given the golden boarding pass that allows them to sit in comfort with ample leg room and superior food and customer service have we, begrudgingly admit, have had to pay through the nose for the experience. But as we sit in the cheap seats here’s something to think about?

Those people in first class and those of us in economy all experience the same thing when it comes to the taste of our airline coffees. Generally speaking all coffee at 35,000 feet tastes, well, a bit naff. Essentially there are three reasons why this is the case.


The first is that airlines generally, though not exclusively, speaking, don’t spend much money on buying in quality coffee in the first place. It’s all about the company’s bottom line after all. The second reason is the water available on board the plane and the third is the effect of flying has on human taste buds.

So let’s drill down into each of these a little deeper. The water for the coffee has often been standing in the tanks for some time and it’s the freshest it could be. Now here comes the science bit. Our atmosphere does funny things the higher up you go. At altitude water boils at a lower temperature and this does not work well with the coffee solids. Not all of the coffee grounds are dissolved and it’s not unusual for passengers to complain about gritty coffee with bits floating around.


The second science bit is that the atmosphere also affects the human taste buds. In the same way that all airline food really tastes of nothing it is the same with something even as strong as a strong black coffee. Cabin pressure is to blame for this as our taste buds alter by almost 30 percent at around 35,000 in the air.

But there is a solution. Coffee experts suggest you ask the flight crew for some salt with your coffee. Some salt will, it is claimed, perk up even the worst airborne coffee disaster. Alternatively just ask for a bottle of still water.



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