When United stopped serving Starbucks coffee on board in favor of truly terrible Fresh Brew, Delta picked up a Starbucks deal. As an early signal that the airline was trying to turn itself around under new leadership, United started serving Illy coffee (and Stroopwafels).
There’s no doubt United uses the best coffee of any U.S. airline. However inflight coffee poses two challenges: the pressurized cabin and the water used for brewing.
The New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College studied airline tank water and found it severely lacking – and not just for coffee, but in some cases human consumption.
They tested for coliform bacteria as well as E. coli. They looked at the number of violations at each airline of the EPA’s s Aircraft Drinking Water Rule. And they looked at how cooperative each carrier was in their testing. And they ranked each airline with a score of 0 to 5.
American Airlines regional subsidiary Piedmont had the best water in the ranking, while Republic – which flies regional jets for American, Delta, and United – scored worst.
|Sun Country Airlines||2.78|
|Trans States Airlines||1.78|
|Delta Air Lines||1.60|
|Air Wisconsin Airlines||0.68|
Airlines refill their water tanks at a variety of destinations and their supply chain involves “the equipment used to transfer the water, such as water cabinets, trucks, carts and hoses” which varies markedly.
The study authors recommend not drinking any way water that didn’t come from a bottle, not drinking on board coffee or tea, and not even using water from the lavatory to wash your hands. I wouldn’t go so far as this last step and hope you wash your hands after using the lavatory, though I fully endorse using a paper towel to open and close the lavatory door.
Coffee Grounds are Useful for Eliminating Lavatory Odor
It Works Even Better When the Grounds are Out of the Package
By the way airlines should clean their planes more often, too.