Airline Promises Coffee That Doesn't Suck

Alaska Airlines says partnership with Stumptown 'delivers a remarkably smooth' cup at altitude
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 11, 2023 2:40 PM CDT
Airline Promises Coffee That Doesn't Suck
The new brew.   (Alaska Airlines)

Alaska Airlines is hoping to attract coffee lovers by touting a brew that tastes better in the air. Travelers may have noticed that airplane coffee doesn't measure up to the stuff served on solid ground. "You're experiencing 8,000 feet of air pressure, which reduces your perception of sweetness and saltiness," while lower humidity disrupts the olfactory system, causing you to lose up to 30% of flavor perceptions due to smell, as a master barista for coffee brand illy told Thrillist in 2019. Alaska has partnered with Portland-based coffee company Stumptown to create a blend that's said to taste great regardless of those conditions; CNN calls it the first major airline to release a custom coffee.

Food & Wine reports 200 batches of coffee that played with 20 variables were tested, with everything from grind size to "pillow pod material" taken into consideration. The final version "uses the same clean and sweet base" as Stumptown's medium-dark blend Holler Mountain but includes "aromatic notes of toasted marshmallows, browned butter and toffee with delicate hints of citrus and cherry," according to the airline.

It adds the custom blend, to be offered on flights beginning Dec. 1, "ensures a well-balanced, complex flavor profile that delivers a remarkably smooth and enjoyable cup for our guests every time you fly with us." The move ends Alaska Airlines' decade-long partnership with another Seattle-based coffee company, Starbucks, which is still served on Delta. JetBlue serves Dunkin' Donuts coffee, and United offers illy. (More Alaska Airlines stories.)

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