Fantastic Espresso on the Plane!? Yes, Please!

Here is the ugly truth – airlines serve really awful coffee. You know it, we know it and everyone knows it. The bad reputation has been out there for a long time. And while airline coffee can be disappointing or tolerable at best, espresso is another thing. Remember that “taste” of a truly great espresso? Of course, you do. But, how about a phenomenal “straight from Italy” espresso served at 35,000 feet? Is that even possible? 

The Good, the Bad and the Airplane Espresso

A good cup of espresso can take you a long way. It can kick start a day and brew your ideas like no other drink out there. Unfortunately, if you happen to start your day with an airline espresso, you are pushing your daily karma to the test. So, why is airline coffee so bad and a great espresso, even in First Class, so rare? Let’s see. 

The first and base ingredient of any espresso is water. The water in airplanes has almost the same bad rap as the espresso itself. Airplane water systems are not designed to provide the clean, fresh water that good coffees and espresso demand. Water is stored in stainless steel and piped through metal and rubber lines, picking up tastes along the way. Hygiene  regulations are strict, but the water tastes metallic and sometimes like chemicals. A bigger problem lies in the basic physics of boiling water: water boils at 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit) at sea level.  The boiling temperature of water actually decreases as you go up in altitude.  The perfect espresso requires 92 degrees Celsius water, which is higher than the boiling point in an airliner cabin and means that the water is often not hot enough to extract all those wonderful espresso flavours. To answer the question, the problem with airline coffee and espresso begins with the quality and temperature of the “almost” boiled water. Pressurized cabins and high altitudes affect brewing dynamics and the result is your regular bland, thin airplane coffee or espresso. 

Setting aside the water issue, the espresso problem has roots in the very nature of standard airlines. Simply put, cost-effectiveness. For example, on long-haul flights, the coffee can sit in warming containers for long periods, dampening even the best coffee experience. Unless you’re sitting in First Class with one of the world’s best airlines, an airline is not there to give you a “one-of-a-kind” flight experience and your coffee or espresso experience will be disappointing. The airline is there to transport you. And there lies the ultimate answer to the espresso airline problem.   

The Italian 35,000 feet Café

Here in Camber Aviation, we have some serious coffee lovers. There’s Stephan with his otherworldly love for Espresso “Doppio”, Tom and Hal with their “Short Black“ and Tina with her Long Macchiato. We have to mention the ultimate espresso fan, Paul, our test pilot with his famous Long Black “Americano”.  Everyone in the team has their coffee favourites, but everyone enjoys their herbal tea mixtures, when the pressure is on and it’s time to be cool. But, it’s pretty easy to understand the passion for a good espresso that surrounds Camber.

We have tried every single option out there to get the great espresso in the corporate jets we are involved with. It was no easy quest. The countless tests, during the past two decades, finally led us to the ultimate espresso experience we now implement on our corporate jet completion projects – the so-called Iacobucci Solution. The only espresso maker that could meet our high standards was created by the Italian company, Iacobucci HF Aerospace, today a well-established brand in commercial aviation. All the Iacobucci HF machines utilize their patented heat exchanger technology instead of traditional water boilers. This innovative technology provides a non-stop brewing cycle allowing consecutive use, without waiting for the water reheating cycle. The result is an exceptional espresso or espresso based Lattes or Cappuccinos, easily matching some of the best you’ve had on the ground.  Together, we craft tailored high quality and reliable solutions that always result in the best possible espresso jet experience, matching the best counterparts from Italian cafes and bars.  

Next time you ask for an espresso on an airplane, look around before you do it. If you are sitting on a private or corporate jet, you are probably in for a treat. Otherwise, you are better off with herbal tea. Tina drinks it all the time and she is just one swell person.