The Truth About Hotel Room Coffee

in Brewing Coffee

Question: “Dear Marc, I never thought these letters were true until something happened one night…oh wrong forum for this one. Sorry…

I would like your thoughts on coffee makers in hotel rooms. Are they cared for and cleaned regularly? There must be stories of BAD things happening to them.” – Bill S.

Answer: Bill, thank you for putting your magazine down long enough to ask this question.

It’s a great question, and if you follow me on Twitter, you know how much time I spend traveling, and in hotels.  All of this amounts to a LOT of bad coffee.  Unfortunately at times, I agree whole-heartedly with the following quote from David Lynch, “Even a bad cup of coffee is better than no coffee at all.” And if you don’t follow me on Twitter, you should be following me on Twitter.

Hotel lobby coffee is likely made with all of the same care, or lack of it, as hotel restaurant coffee.  It’s definitely the lesser of hotel coffee evils.  But, hotel room coffee should be avoided unless you absolutely need one and there isn’t any in the lobby.  It’s a rare case where I’d sooner recommend an energy drink.  Here’s why:

Coffee maker is of bare minimum quality.  The maker in the room is designed to heat water, drip it over the filter, and not blow up in the process.  As I type this, I’m staring at a Sunbeam coffee maker, probably the same quality as the mini Mr. Coffee that I used for making coffee in my room in college.

You don’t have access to filtered water.  The water you use to make coffee is so important.  When staying in a hotel, you’re probably using tap water from the bathroom.

Between guests, the coffee pot cleaning is suspect.  In a five-star hotel, I’ve seen housekeeping clean the coffee pot with a facecloth in the room’s bathroom sink.  Over your next hotel stay, look at the cart that housekeeping has to service the entire room, and compare that to how you would clean your coffee pot at home between uses.  Your question was about maintenance of the machines, and I doubt very much that the hotel is running vinegar cleaning cycles through its machines before they reach the end of their lives and are disposed.

The coffee will NOT be good.  I stay in hotel rooms almost half the time.  I’ve never had a quality coffee in a hotel room.  At home, I stick my face in the bag of new coffee each time I open it.  I wouldn’t even think to breathe in from a single serving of the mass-produced pseudo-instant coffee that are in the rooms.

Venture into the lobby for a coffee.  I find myself favoring chains that put coffee in the lobby 24 hours a day.  The best hotel room coffee experience I’ve ever had was at a Marriott in Portland, OR – they had a pod coffee maker in each room and an assortment of pods of coffee.  It was so exciting for me (and due to my kleptomania), here’s a picture that I had tweeted of what happened when housekeeping left their cart unattended in the hallway…

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