One Simple Reason I Won’t Make Coffee in My Hotel Room

I’m often tired when I travel. Doing some exercises before bed helps, but between flights, time zone changes, and extremely long work days I find when I’m back home Friday morning that I’m dragging. In fact I can get up dragging while I’m on the road too. Coffee is part of my morning ritual.

The problem with inflight coffee is threefold,

  1. Cabin pressurization makes brewing and taste more of a challenge
  2. Airplane water is often not conducive to a good cup
  3. Many airlines just use bad coffee. After United dropped Starbucks and went to Fresh Poo Brew, Delta picked them up. Now United uses Illy, a great brand, while American uses Fresh Brew.

Hotels aren’t always great for coffee either. In fact I’ll even choose a hotel based on knowing what the morning coffee situation will be like. What’s available on property, especially super early – I get up early to begin with, and time zone changes may exacerbate the effect? What’s walkable nearby? If a hotel isn’t walkable to 5 a.m. coffee it needs to have 5 a.m. coffee in the lobby.

hilton jfk coffee shop
The coffee bar at the Hilton New York JFK.. more than once I’ve shown up half an hour after opening to find no one working, this time I got lucky!

Many readers are going to say ‘just make your own in the room’ and while it’s true I don’t know the cleanliness of the machines that hotels are using, or coffee shops are using, this is what I almost always expect from an in-room coffee maker (HT: Joe Brancatelli):

And this is why you check the hotel coffeemaker before you use it…. from r/trashy

Reddit reactions included one poster making the point that “it took weeks, if not months for this for this ecosystem to develop” while a former hotel worker shared that they “had Keurigs in every room. The last time they had been descaled and deep cleaned was 4 years previous.” Others shared stories about what guests have done in the coffee pots.

Keurig machine at the W Austin

While there aren’t guarantees from a hotel coffee shop, I’ll play the odds and bet on buying a strong morning coffee there rather than trying to make one in my room. Besides I usually take my coffee with just a drop of half and half to cut the bitterness, which I’m willing to accept on the road when I’m not making my perfect cup of coffee in the morning at home.

Costa Coffee, Premier Inn, Abu Dhabi International Airport

There are readers who give me a hard time about being a germaphobe but just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you. Some hotels don’t change the sheets between guests, either.

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. When my Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Best Western, Choice Hotels or Four Seasons property doesn’t have coffee available in the lobby at 5 a.m., I am happy to buy a cup of crappuccino from a local gas station.

  2. Most europeans would laugh at an american getting a “perfect cup of coffee”. Half a liter of water and 1% coffee ,that is.

  3. @george

    Sounds like you guys are about as ignorant as we are, cause you can get some great coffee here. And it’s not that hard to find shit coffee in Europe.

  4. I just pack a small travel kettle in the US. Most of those pillow packs that they have here are individually sealed and it’s not hard to just do a pour over with some boiled water. In Europe, you’re going to get a kettle and probably instant coffee, which is probably going to be fine.

  5. @Gary We carry our own packetss of Starbucks Via (instant coffee, just add boiling water). When we book, we make sure that our hotel room has a water boiler in the room and upon arrival, check it for cleanliness, and always do ONE RUN of boiling water to clean/sterilize any unseen germs before we use it for our coffee. If the pot is filthy, we complain and usually get a brand new water boiler. Occasionally, we find a pot that someone has brewed tea in – and then we call and complain, and get a new pot. Yes, coffee in hotels and on the road is extremely variable, so we use the Starbucks Via packets for taste and caffeine consistency.

  6. @george
    ? Just go to a proper coffee house when in US and ask for a double espresso. We tried making a french press out of Lavazzo beans and special grinds brought from Italy but gave up beans are just too sour to my taste.

  7. We have a 0.5 liter travel hot water maker and just buy bottled water at gas station before heading to hotels. Always boil your own hot water and not using hotel’s . Btw don’t worry about what they say about plastic water bottles, your health well being always is more important.

  8. I would be 100 times more worried about eating processed food, eggs, meat, fish and milk products.

  9. I’m always amazed at what people pack to travel. Packing a kettle or coffee maker seems crazy to me. I’m not saying it’s wrong just doesn’t fit my travel. I love coffee but also refuse to use in room makers. I know how dirty my home Keurig and my capsule Expresso machine gets with good care. I usually will grab coffee in the lobby or wait until I can find a shop. Europe is no answer @george as they have the same issues in general. I never ever drink coffee on the plane as I don’t trust the water or process. I’ve seen the FAs wash out the pots in the Lav.

  10. Gary, I do respect that you’re consistent. The same possibility exists that people can ejaculate into your coffee pot as they can into your reusable shampoo dispenser, which I know you’re extremely concerned about. Now we should probably extend this to the glass you drink from, the sheets, mattress, and bedframe, doorknobs, sink handles and so on.

  11. Exactly. Don’t travel, Gary. There could be semen anywhere! Just waiting to jump out and grab you. I mean, the coffeepot is heating the water to a temperature that would kill any germs. If people want to run a cup of water through the machine before making coffee, I can respect that. But you are just trying to dress up your phobia with faux logic.

  12. > Packing a kettle or coffee maker seems crazy to me.

    My rule for packing something is whether or not it will fit comfortably in my IATA-sized carry-on luggage. If it does and it serves a useful purpose, I’ll bring it. I used to carry around a Nespresso machine, but it tends to get me pulled aside more often than I’d like, so a kettle is a reasonable compromise for making the coffee in the room. I like to slowly wake up before I head down to the lobby for coffee, so it serves that purpose well.

  13. @brteacher, I agree. I travel all over the world, and one thing and others I’ve visited about it have noticed is that those who take normal precautions usually do well. Those who obsess over germs are usually the ones who get sick. Of course it could be that a person who knows he or she is prone to get sick easily will take more precautions and it still isn’t enough, so my observations certainly don’t prove anything. It is easier going through life though without always needing to fear that someone has touched the thing you’re about to touch since the last time it was sterilized.

  14. When I wake up I want a cup of coffee just so I can get a cup of coffee. I do check the inside of the in-room machine, but if looks OK, it’s good enough for me. The Grand Hyatt DFW at the airport has stopped putting coffee machines in the rooms, because they want you to get a complimentary cup from the barista in the lobby on your way out. Which does no good, because you have to dump it out in 30 seconds since the TSA line is right down the escalator from the hotel lobby.

  15. Random points:

    1) I am a glutton for punishment…I keep making coffee in my hotel room, and then can’t drink it because it tastes so gawd-awful!

    2) Most of the W Hotels I have stayed in do *not* have in-room coffeemakers, but they do have fresh, self-serve coffee in the lobby. Still not great, but a damned sight better!

    3) I have a commercial espresso machine installed in my kitchen. I make sure I know where I can get a great espresso/cappuccino NEARBY the hotel…for example, directly across the street from The Algonquin in NYC is a great café. I don’t mind throwing on some clothes, crossing the street, grabbing two lattes (one for my wife), and going back the room…shower, shave — they can wait! Coffee first.

  16. Barcelona, Paris or Athens beautiful but looks like crap to me many mornings without my cup of coffee

    I just want a American style drip coffee (Dunkin’ Donuts) hotel lounges coffee shops around offer Expresso late this n that, wtf is americano? Watered expresso?!?! I like a mug of basically med to lite coffee brewed, then later in the day a nice expresso in a city plaza is needed too

    Sounds bizarre It’s an American craving in the morning, weak DRINKABLE coffee then I’m ready for the day, lots of ice in my Diet Coke too munich (soda without ice is just wrong) and yes peanut butter with apple slices in a park in Lyon (locals stare) Americans feeding his kids crap on apples… my wife often offered to share it to some curious kids with family’s approval some liked it but still said looked like crap n apples lol

    I’m bringing my 10 year old 2 cup coffee maker from brookstone with me on Int travel

  17. The solution is to buy yourself a portable nespresso machine called a nanopresso. I also carry my own pods (not nespresso, I prefer L’Or 12 strength) and I make my own in my hotel room and like you add the smallest touch of milk

  18. I wash the Keurig machine. Easy. Just unplug it and take it to the bathroom. Use a towel to scrub a little and do a final rinse.

  19. Here’s what I do – I travel with my own portable kettle and make my own coffee in my own pot. Now I could get creative and use a filter-based coffee, but I have found some reasonably decent and quite good European instant coffees. Don’t laugh, but instant coffee is a big norm in Europe as I’m sure most people on this blog know. I found an importer and buy what is not readily available in the US.

    With my kettle and my own coffee, I am prepared for anything. Of course, when I went to Vegas and stayed at the Mandalay Bay, I stupidly made the assumption that cups would be available. NOT! To get to a cup meant breaking a seal to reveal a k-cup – which was $5! First day I did, after that, I grabbed a couple of extra cups from Starbucks for the following days. So now I will have a cup with me as well. I have my kettle, my coffee, a cup, and a spoon. I’m set.

    Try it. A travel kettle fits easily in the carryon.

  20. Road warrior here and I don’t go anywhere without my Aeropress — it takes up relatively little space and less than 1 pound in my eBags Weekender. Next to disposable contact lenses it’s the most important item I have with me.

  21. Sometimes I prefer to stay at the free breakfast places just to make sure coffee is available. If there’s a Starbucks on-site, even better.

  22. Ok. So whatever happened to folks carrying those little plugin immersion heaters that heated a cup of water for coffee, tea, or other liquid? Crew members traveled with them prior to the days of in-room coffee makers. Of course those were the same “stewardesses” and pilots that turned the iron upside down and used as a hot plate.
    @GypsyJake. I’m grateful I use to layover in Paris in the 70’s and 80’s. Paris WAS beautiful but as of my last visit three weeks ago … it’s uncontrolled immigration has turned the city into a third world sh*thole, literally.

  23. I used to be a flight attendant and I can tell you for a fact that it’s common practice for FAs to wash their panyhose in the htel coffeemaker. I never did, cause that’s all kinds of wrong, but lots of them do.

  24. The aeropress is an essential piece of travel kit for road warriors! Now that I don’t travel as often for work (I’m semi-retired), finding a great coffee house/café is generally easier. Dunkin’ Donuts? Starbucks? Uh…OK. Not. ;^)

  25. I never will either… 1) A favorite pastime of a friend of mine is pissing the coffee maker reservoir. 2) Upon entering a hotel room once, I was greeted by the sight of a rather large turd in the coffee carafe… and it was an upscale brand (I won’t say which one).

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