How to make better hotel room coffee

Today’s topic is usually a culinary joke: hotel coffee. One of the most common and accurate complaints is that hotel room coffee sucks, and if you use the coffeemaker as designed, it does indeed. Coffee needs 3 things to work well: time to brew, water close to boiling temperature, and sufficient quantity of coffee grinds. Hotel room coffeemakers generally fail at all 3.

Seattle trip 2010

To remedy this, there’s a relatively easy set of fixes that can remedy this situation. First, if you can, double up the individual serving packets of coffee. Typically hotels provide one regular and one decaf. If you’re going for flavor, use both. If there isn’t room, wait for the next step.

When you fill the water reserve, start with hot tap water from the faucet. Don’t use cold – these little coffee makers don’t heat the water all that well and it will never get close to temperature. Instead, start with water that’s hot to the touch. Put the decaf packet in the empty cup before you start the brewing.

Process the coffee like normal. Then after it’s done brewing, remove the filter packet and put it in the cup or carafe like a teabag. Let it steep for another 2 minutes, then pull both packets. Voila! You’ll have coffee that tastes like coffee. It may lack the double strength caffeine boost you’re looking for, but at least the flavor will be there.

Bonus tip: if you get a chance during your travels to scoop up a couple of the little individual serving size salt packets, grab a few. Take the barest punch of salt and add it to your hotel coffee and it will dramatically reduce any of the bitter flavors. The reason for this is simple: salt partially blocks the neuroreceptors on your tongue that detect bitterness, making a bitter coffee a little more palatable.

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  • Mike Maddaloni – @thehotiron

    Hi Christopher:

    I’ve given up on hotel coffee and gone with Starbucks Via. And if you’re someone like me who needs milk in their coffee – not powdered creamer – make sure you get it the night before and pack the ice bucket tight!


  • Diane

    Great tips. Chris. I have tried using less water, but your fix sounds like it hits the mark without concentrating the flavor too much. I have to say, though, you are in SEATTLE: go out for coffee :)

  • charlesneville

    Some good tips Chris. If you’re serious about coffee, the AeroPress from Aerobie (yes the frisbee with a hole in the middle) is worth considering. Very light and portable portable (all plastic), take your own coffee with you, just add 80 degree c water.

  • Anonymous

    I use milk or cream to cut the bitterness, actually. Works quite well, however, if your hotel room doesn’t have a fridge, this may not be an option.

  • Michael Yasieniuk

    Excellent. I enjoy reading your blog and this just solidifies my need to continue reading it on a regular basis. Nothing hard to chew on here, just good solid advice, perfect for a Friday. I’ll definitely be trying this out next time i’m in a hotel room. Thanks again!

  • jaybaer

    How about we just travel together all year like Thelma and Louise and you can show me all these tricks in person?

  • finalrune

    Baggie of your favorite ground, and travel french press (the kind that is also a travel mug) is vastly superior than anything stocked in the hotel. Besides, you can buy coffee from the airport in your own mug and save a lot of plastic. One more thing to carry, but for me, something I never leave home without…