The Monumental Importance of Hotel Coffee

Lots of hotel coffee in the U.S. is bad, but tends to be so much better in Asia.

Coffee is important to me, a basic that I expect to be well provided-for by any full service hotel.

I was frustrated when the Andaz Wall Street got rid of their 24 hour complimentary espresso machine in the lobby as a cost-cutting measure. Without coffee machines in the room, and without 24 hour room service even that can be a big deal when you wake up at 5 a.m.

I always thought that the W brand’s ‘Whatever, Whenever’ concept was a good one though execution hasn’t often measured up. Like when the Whatever, Whenever line at the W San Diego couldn’t get me coffee at 5 am. The whatever part should have been easy since all I wanted was coffee.

None of which is bad, of course, as a hotel accusing you of stealing coffee.

Barbara DeLollis asks which hotel brands have decent coffee.

My wants:

  • A Nespresso machine in the room, with access to real cream
  • Illy brand coffee in the restaurant, or a good local quality brand

      Beans from the Andaz 5th Avenue, New York

I’ll often choose an airport hotel based on the availability of made to order coffee in the lobby, like at the Hilton JFK (although they have a problem showing up on time in the morning there…), knowing that if I’m staying near the airport it’s likely because I have a very early morning.

Does coffee matter to you, the way it does to me? What are your coffee needs?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Absolutely. I’m drinking coffee in my hotel room as I type this. I’ll go even further…I want coffee of some sort in the room, so that I can have it as soon I wake up and don’t have to stagger bleary eyed and in shorts and t-shirt down to the lobby or restaurant to get some (or overpay for room service).

  2. Always keep a few Starbucks Via packets in your bag. I’m a coffee snob who makes coffee in a french press from locally roasted beans daily, but I find Via Italian roast to be a decent substitute in a pinch. Heat your water with that in-room coffee maker, and you’re good to go.

  3. I travel a good bit. And in room coffee, or in the alternative, coffee in the lobby, it something I use 98% of the time it is available. But I do not recall ever making a buying decision based upon availability. Perhaps I should.

  4. At 5 AM? I’ll slam a cup of whatever swill I can find and be out the door. If I’m up at that time I have bigger fish to fry.

  5. Addiction = requirement

    Traveling for business and often at odd hours, baseline should be quality self-service in every room (Keurig).

    Agree on Asia vs. US assessment. Europe also not great, but easier/better substitutes generally available on streets,in airports, etc.

  6. The in-room coffee makers are a wast of time (especially when then come with styrofoam cups). The pre-measured coffee packets produce something that’s watery at best and generally stale. I’m happy to tramp down to the lobby for a proper coffee service, or go across the street to a deli (or even Starbucks) as an alternative.

  7. Convenient access to coffee is very important to me.

    I like to see the following three ways to get coffee when traveling:

    A hot water kettle with a selection of instant coffee and teas in the room. Like a previous poster mentioned, there are good instant coffees out there.

    Complimentary local roasted coffee with the usual accompaniments in the lobby starting at 5am.

    Full range of drip and espresso options in the restaurant.

  8. Must. Have. Coffee. In-room Nespresso is best, espresso machine in lobby almost as good, from there it goes downhill fast. My last hotel room had a Keurig machine–awful tasting but it did the job. Will check out Via packets.

  9. Not a coffee drinker, so I find your posts on the topic amusing 🙂 I actually like the flavor, I just don’t need the addiction, nor do I need caffeine to get going in the morning – a hot shower does just as well.

  10. Good coffee ranks right up there with free WiFi(with ample bandwidth!). And Keurig does not count as “good.” Gotta be some actual coffee in the machine.

  11. I didn’t like the Via, but the Westin’s have Starbucks that are usually fresh for the in room coffee. Much better than Marriott’s in room very stale subpar stuff.

  12. This may surprise you. Staybridge suites has Wolfgang Puck coffee in the rooms (also on their free buffet breakfast.
    Good coffee. LaQuinta has Maxwell House. Decaffeinated is quite good. They are both circular packs which make 2-3 large cups of coffee in drip coffee maker.
    Although I do not make coffee in the room, these are ones to take home.

  13. While staying at the Andaz 5th ave, my wife commented on how she liked the coffee and inquired as to what kind it was. The next morning a gift bag was delivered to our room with a bag of coffee beans and the grumpy bean orange coffee mug. That was nice surprise.

  14. Coffee and cream is so important to me. The Hyatt House out by Berkeley won me over by having cream at the morning spread (something I hadn’t seen before at the House/Places) . I am actually irritable without real cream.

  15. Or, get best of both world: Illy capsule machine in the room. I have one and it is fabulous.

  16. Lol hilarious post, love it 🙂 I don’t drink tea or coffee so couldn’t care less – I do want a couple of bottles of still water in my room each day though – way more important to me and I hate how stingy some places are in that regard.

  17. I second Mason’s suggestion to carry a few packets of Starbucks Via. There are several varieties available. Italian Roast is good if you like dark roast, as is French Roast also. Medium roast is available in Pike Place and House Blend. All are surprisingly good for instant coffee.

    Italian Roast is available in both regular and decaf — be sure not to confuse them if you need your caffeine fix (or not).

  18. i will take a starbucks in the lobby anytime, though of course a free pot is always better. lounge access works (depending on status) though I hate those push-the-button expresso machines which never have skim milk.

    i never use in room machines, too much pita and usually not good quality.

    my pet peeve is not so much hotels but US airlines – none have good strong flavorful coffee. you would think they could solve this problem.

  19. Fairmont is one of my favorite hotel chains because they actually have real milk/cream with their in-room coffee set-up. So many hotels have that horrible powder stuff or the chemical “creamers”. Shelf-stable mini moos are about $25 for 360 on Amazon so it’s not a huge cost investment, hotels! I’m actually thinking of starting to carry my own mini moos, but I shouldn’t have to; it’s a small thing that would be so easy to provide.

  20. I don’t travel enough to have an opinion. But I immediately thought of you when I saw our local W flooded! Serves them right (just kidding).

  21. Another suggestion that I endorse — Sheri’s suggestion to purchase “mini-moos” (Land O’ Lakes shelf-stable, ultra-pasteurized half & half in tiny cups). The cheaper way to get these is to “harvest” a few from hotel rooms/breakfast areas/restaurants for future use. 😉

    They are made by other companies as well, just check for words like “no refrigeration needed.” You may also see “ultra-pasteurized” or “UHT” on the label, but these may also say “keep refrigerated” in some cases, so use them shortly after harvesting unless it clearly states that refrigeration is not needed.

    If you’re like me, you may need a magnifying glass to read the microscopic print on the labels. (I actually carry a lighted magnifier in my purse at all times.)

  22. I don’t drink coffee, but was a diet Coke/diet Pepsi addict. I still remember staying at the Parker House in Chicago on the concierge level and having an unlimited supply of cans available 24/7. Sheer bliss.

  23. At the end of the day, there’s no hotel, no restaurant, nobody nowhere, who is going to make coffee as good as my freshly ground beans from my special ordered beans that I can make fresh in my house. So it hardly matters whether the hotel coffee is good, bad, or nonexistent. I once traveled with somebody who attempted to drag along a French press, bags of coffee beans, evaporated milk for the cream, etc. You know what, that nonsense takes the whole carry-on. WalMart sells caffeine pills for pennies a fix, and they take up no room in the bag at all. So, no, I don’t care about the hotel’s nasty coffee which is rarely made on a timely basis anyway when I’m trying to get an early start for a birding trip…

  24. not a comment but qns am given to discus the importance morning tea to hotel which has been challenge to me.

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