Can you get a decent cup of coffee on a flight?

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We know several coffee connoisseurs who are so passionate about access to high-quality caffeine at all times that they used to take their own flask of coffee onto flights. Since restrictions on liquids came into force, though, that’s no longer an option. If you’re counting on getting a decent cup of coffee once you’re airborne, though, chances are you’re going to be disappointed.

There are three reasons why you’re probably never going to get a decent cup of coffee in mid-air – even though scientists claim to have perfected a machine for use on the space station! Factors that contribute to the taste include the water used, the brewing method and changes to your taste buds.

Airline staff don’t exactly have access to five-star facilities when they’re brewing up. Water comes from storage tanks, and it may have been sitting there a while, so isn’t as fresh as it could be. This will have an impact on the taste of the finished brew.

The second reason involves physics – at 30,000 feet, the boiling point of water is much lower than at ground level. This means that the temperature isn’t optimal for brewing good coffee.

To cap it all, your sense of taste alters (sometimes by as much as a third) when you’re flying. Your taste buds and sense of smell, which go to make up flavour perception, are affected and your ability to taste salty and sweet tastes is decreased when you’re in a pressurised cabin. Other factors include the lack of humidity, constant background noise and the lower air pressure, which all combine to mean your coffee really does taste different.

Probably the safest bet is to buy yourself a takeaway coffee at a concession after you’ve gone through security, and take it on board – or just switch to water for the duration of the flight.

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