My brother Andrew lives in Germany and surprised me with this post waiting in my inbox this morning. I think it’s pretty good!
I figure I should introduce myself as I hope to submit more content here as time goes forward. My name is Andrew, and I am Matthew’s younger brother. As it is just the two siblings, I have the unique distinction of being Matthew’s “favorite” brother, which he never fails to remind me when asking me for favors.
If you think Matthew has had an amazing and unique life with all of his jobs, travel and responsibilities, I would have to agree. I took the more conventional route, and have been a desk jockey in the professional services industry since finishing graduate school 6 years ago. However, I have had the unique privilege of being on assignment in Germany for the past year and a half, and have been able to do my fair share of travel as well.
My only other post on here was a 2016 review of Air Tahiti Nui, which was my flight back to Europe after being home for Christmas. You will notice in that report that my first picture is me getting my last pour-over coffee at LaMill in TBIT at LAX. I love coffee. I love it so much, that I almost never drink it on a plane. Not that I am so much of a snob that I require hand roasted beans and special brewing methods, but airplane coffee is inherently a mediocre experience. If it’s not the brew itself, it is the powdered creamer or the tainted water. I would rather buy a decent cup of coffee in the terminal than wait and have one on the plane.
Aer Lingus Fresh Filter Coffee
However, I recently flew home to Hamburg on Aer Lingus after a weekend in Dublin. I noticed their new Fresh Filter coffee on board, and had to give it a try.
The principle is simple: instead of brewing coffee in the on-board drip brewers, the coffee is brewed right in the cup in which it is served, creating a French Press of sorts. Flight Attendants need only add hot water to cup that has fresh coffee grounds inside of it, and 3-4 minutes later, the water will have extracted the flavor from the grounds, and a truly fresh cup of coffee is ready to drink. As for separating the extracted grounds from the brewed product, a unique lid is included which acts as a filter through which to sip.
Overall, I was impressed with the setup. The coffee was served with real milk, brown sugar (remember- brown sugar in coffee, white sugar in tea!), and I felt like thought had gone into putting together everything that a coffee drinker would want.
Here is the coffee being extracted:
And here is the filter lid, which ensure that the ground do not get consumed:
Why I Will Still Buy Coffee Prior to My Flight
However, I will still be buying my coffee in the terminal, and here is why:
- Water – Filtered coffee is over 90% water. While that may seem like a trivial observation, it underscores how important water is to the quality of a cup of coffee. The best beans and most advanced brewing methods will not produce a good cup of coffee if unfiltered or otherwise tainted water is used. While I agree that airplane water is potable and safe to drink (especially after being boiled), I am less confident in the condition of the tanks, pipes, and transport systems which the water has been carried in. If it affects the taste of the water, it affects the taste of the coffee.
- Brew Time – Another principle of coffee brewing is how long the water should be in contact with grounds. This is the fundamental shortcoming of Aer Lingus’ new product. There is no way to separate the coffee grounds from the brewed coffee after 3-4 minutes and thereby stop the brewing process. I noticed that as I was drinking the cup that the taste of the coffee changed from beginning to end, not only as the coffee continued to brew to the point of over-extraction, but as the temperature of the water cooled down, the extraction was affected.
If you are reading this, surprised that anyone would be critical of on-board coffee, I agree with you. No one flies with the expectation of a cup of coffee comparable to third-wave roasters (or even Starbucks), much less with the expectation of a meal that could be compared to a Michelin star restaurant. I applaud Aer Lingus for a unique and cool product. It is a step in the right direction.
We appreciated your brother Andrew’s blog piece on the fresh brewed coffee in a cup, especially since we will be flying on Aer Lingus in May. We’ll have to give it a try!
The observations on why on board coffee is so bad is on point. Agree that it is far better to buy your own coffee or grab one from the lounges- one of the things American has done well recently is to provide those to-go cups!
Unfortunately, I see no way but to accept less palatable coffee on long hauls though. That said, some airlines still manage to produce coffee that is very good. I would have expected the same ‘tanks’ to have been used though, no?
to the So called Critics……”get Over Yourself” or better yet, Buy Your Own Airline, Pick YOUR favourite coffee and Let Me Critique. morons
Ummm they’ve had exactly the same system on Ryanair for years