An Asiana Airlines senior purser makes hand dripped coffee during an onboard service. Photo:  Korea Times/Asiana Airlines

An Asiana Airlines senior purser makes hand dripped coffee during an onboard service Photo: Korea Times/Asiana Airlines

Like most people I know, I started my morning off with a good cup of coffee.  I am not a fancy latte man; just a nice cup of black coffee does me well.  While reading with my coffee the other day, I came across an article on Asiana from the Korea Times.  The article talked about a new Hand-Drip Coffee service that is only on offer onboard Asiana Airlines in first class.  You might be thinking “so what? Other airlines have espresso, why go for hand-drip?”  Well, for someone like me, hand-drip coffee is pretty damn great.

Delta use the world's smallest coffee cup onboard their flights in Economy.  Just look at the size comparison with a Biscoff Cookie - Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter.com

Delta use the world’s smallest coffee cup onboard their flights in economy. Just look at the size comparison with a Biscoff Cookie Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter

Before we get to far into this, I must say one thing.  My name is Malcolm and I am a Coffee Addict.  Now that we have that out of the way, let’s continue.  Whenever I fly there is a 99.9% chance I am going to consume some type of coffee.  More than likely it will be onboard a flight, where the biggest issue is not what kind of coffee is on offer, but how big that cup is.  Our very own David Parker Brown can attest that when it comes to coffee, I prefer a cup that is about the size of my face.  Some airlines use the smallest possible cups to make coffee (not pointing any fingers… Delta) but others use fairly average size.  When you head up into the premium cabins, that is where onboard coffee takes on a whole other life.

Asiana’s new service, which they claim to be the only in the world, is a method of brewing a drip-style coffee that takes away the machine and replaces it with a human being.  Rather than leaving a pot under a machine and just letting it brew, a hand-drip allows a barista to grind the coffee to their liking and then, using a special filter set up, they pour the water in slowly over the coffee and it would filter as such.  This can also be called a “pour-over” method.  For someone who doesn’t drink much espresso (like me, since one shot of coffee is just never enough) this method is far superior to a machine.  You can adjust things like the temperature of the water, the grind of the coffee, the speed at which you have the water filter through the coffee and more.  Using a pour-over method like this means that you bring a personal touch to the coffee process.  No longer is coffee just a thing from a machine, but a hand-crafted offering.

Have to love the coffee machine. I used it twice.

An espresso machine like this can be found onboard an aircraft, albeit much more compact – Photo: Mal Muir

Pour-over though isn’t the only way of avoiding that machine-style coffee.  Some airlines use a French Press to make coffee (even down the back in economy) while others now advertise the use of espresso machines onboard so you can have that specially-tailored espresso drink that you dream of.  Perhaps you want that nonfat, half-caf, no-foam latte in the air – you can get it!  Singapore Airlines even gives you the choice in First Class of the type of beans that they are using.  You can choose between several different types of beans from all over the world to make that perfect cup of coffee to your liking.  Middle eastern airlines like Qatar, Emirates, Turkish, or Etihad all offer an Arabic coffee service during the boarding process.  This coffee, served with a date, is a way of making you feel at home and is part of the traditions of the region.  There is almost a ceremony that goes with the pouring of the coffee and etiquette states you should have no more than three cups.

A successful airline is much more than just a seat and food. It is about the people. Image: Mal Muir / AirlineReporter.com.

Arabic coffee being served onboard a Qatar 787 in Business Class prior to departure – Photo: Mal Muir – AirlineReporter

In Japan, tea is a big thing.  With so many different varieties of tea on offer, you would be surprised to know that coffee is also a big deal as well.  Find a vending machine on the street and you can get yourself a nice can of coffee, hot or cold, it’s your choice.  Is it suprising then that Japan has their own unique Starbucks product.  A “personal drip” – or as the product is called, “Starbucks Oragami”. All you do is open up the cardboard filter pack and pour the water over top.  Minutes later you have a piping hot cup of coffee, not made with instant coffee.  Would you be surprised then that ANA is selling these Oragami packs online with special airline branded mugs?  Sure it is duty-free, but still, when was the last time you saw coffee as a duty-free product?

The Starbucks Oragami "Holiday Blend" and Stackable Mugs.  Both can be purchased through Onboard Duty Free on ANA - Image: All Nippon Airways

The Starbucks Oragami “Holiday Blend” and Stackable Mugs. Both can be purchased through Onboard Duty Free on ANA – Image: All Nippon Airways

With all these different coffee styles and offerings, it is hard to really say which one is best.  Coffee tastes can be so personal, but suffice it to say, airlines are changing around what they do to appeal to more people. Maybe it is just in the premium cabins, but I’m not complaining.  I will take a cup of coffee hot or cold, whatever the brewing method. As long as it isn’t instant.

CORRESPONDENT - SEATTLE, WA. Mal is an Australian native who has been a huge fan of airlines and aviation and currently works in airport-related operations. Email: [email protected]

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10 Comments

That’s fun Mal, and yes, a good cup before or while flying is a bit of heaven. Sadly, most coffee (and tea) drinkers understand that the most important component is The Water. Push your favorite FA a little and s/he will confess that ‘the coffee is made from airplane water.’ Not saying that using Good Water is not possible, buts… Can you name cite any airline(s) that Do Not use their on-board, potable water source as the basis for their special coffee? If more folks understood the basics of an airplane’s water system, no one would use it, they could cut the H2O weight by half and the other beverages would also taste better. Its about the water dude – and tanked, airplane water is — in the tank.

Blaine Nickeson

I never even thought of this. I may have just thrown up a little…

golda meir

You flying Delta?

Well Hi Golda! I thought that you’d been gone for some years!

Am I flying Delta? For long haul domestic, I’d rather not, but my choices are limited. For international, I avoid them like the plague.

If you know something about Delta’s on-board potable water and/or hot beverage practices, Please Speak Up! I’d sure like to know. Thanks! What a handle!
-C.

Hi Blane. Sorry, but you just did. (Barf bags are available and J and F, not just in cattle class.) I guess it falls into the class of “Things They Don’t Want you to Know,” Hey-hey! Mal’s report was a genuine winner and I, too love good coffee. Ask around and/or watch the procedure when possible. If KAL takes their pointy end coffee service seriously, they have the means to use *quality* bottled water to prepare this F-class pleasure. My FA friends tell me that *some* brewing machines will accept external (bottled?) water, but most are hard-plumbed to the airplane’s system. Which ones at least have the option – I have no clue. While bottled water for galley/beverage use may consume a little more cubic space, the weight penalty in using good water vs. airplane water is trivial. water is water and it is heavy. Fussing about the *container’s weight* makes as much sense as would asking for a feather count in that F class pillow. Most folks, flyers and grounders alike understand that one needs extra hydration when flying for more than hour or two. I’d suggest that very good coffee is a far better choice than alcohol ‘with ice.’ Still, I have a lot more faith in the bagged ice and pure booze than I do in even ‘boiled’ airplane water. It may come out safe, but it tastes like [Please insert word of choice]. I’m glad that someone is paying attention. -C.

I just flew Asiana’s A380 First Class Suites LAX – ICN and there was no hand dripped coffee or tea offerred (I guess I had to ask). The dessert sucked and the food was pretty average.

Hi there,

Air New Zealand now allows customer to order coffee on their mobile phones when they enter the lounge in its domestic FFP lounges, via their app. They are then notified when it is ready to be picked up. Cool experience.

Very nice insight into the world of coffee up in the air.
I just disagree with you on the hot/cold part – Hot is a prerequisite 🙂

Doesn’t justify Asiana safety record

Super inrtamfoive writing; keep it up.

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