3 Things You Really Need to Know About the Coffee Maker in Your Hotel Room

published Jun 21, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Coffee maker with some cups.
Credit: Getty Images/Sellwell

Summer is here, which means you may be thinking about hitting the road for a vacation or a quick getaway. And maybe, just maybe, you might find yourself in a hotel room with a coffee maker. After all, most hotels offer coffee makers in their rooms for convenience (naturally, lots of people need a caffeine boost to start their day).

But before you flick on that machine and percolate your next brew, here are three things you really should know.

Credit: d3sign | Getty Images

1. Hotel coffee makers don’t necessarily get cleaned all that often.

Here’s the truth: Most coffee machines are never cleaned the way they should be. Yes, perhaps the exterior of the machine gets a little polish, but the inside of the machine is a different story. And trust us — and this study from Scientific Reports — it gets pretty dirty in there. 

You see, all coffee has some oil in it, which sticks to the interior of the machine. As oil builds up over time, it can get moldy and become a breeding ground for bacteria and other icky microscopic things you don’t want in your cup. Regular maintenance, like cleaning with citric acid or a specially-designed coffee cleaner, can remove those oils, but, again it’s unlikely that most hotel coffee machines are getting cleaned this way. 

So, what can you do? Many coffee cleaning companies make single-use or smaller versions of their popular cleaners, so consider BYO cleaner when you travel. You’ll likely only have to clean your machine once (and run a cycle or two of hot water afterwards to get all of the cleaner out). You can also bring citric acid with you, which doubles as a laundry detergent if you need to wash anything on the road. Just don’t use vinegar: Many sources recommend cleaning with vinegar, and while it is effective at removing coffee oils, vinegar can get stuck in porous tubes and impart a very unpleasant smell and aftertaste. 

Credit: sonsam

2. The hotel’s tap water might be questionable.

Because every city and municipality has differing water quality, it’s hard to know what kind of water is coming out of the tap. Unless you know who sources your hotel water, where they’re pulling water from, and if the sink tap is different from what’s flowing in the showers or other water spouts, it’s best not to trust the tap as a source of water for brewing. 

Instead, use filtered or bottled water. Filtered water is ideal for brewing coffee generally, and is often recommended for people who don’t have great water in their city or who don’t have access to a filtration system. 

If you really want to roll the dice on your hotel’s tap water, at least find out if your hotel has hard or soft water. Hard water will tend to mute the flavors of coffee, while very soft water can make coffee taste thin. Hard water has a high concentration of minerals, so you might notice scale buildup on the shower head or faucet. Soft water is low in minerals, meaning there’s not much for the water to bind to; if you notice that your soap isn’t sudsing, that might indicate soft water.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Many hotel coffee makers don’t get hot enough to brew a flavorful cup.

The Specialty Coffee Association recommends that coffee be brewed between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit, but most hotel brewers (especially cheaper models) only reach 180 degrees. But there’s a trick that can let you hack your way to a better cup!

Many hotel rooms have kettles, and if you fiddle around enough, you can hack a brewing solution that mimics a pour over. If can you remove the lid of the brewer and see the brew basket (where the ground coffee goes), take the kettle, bring it up to boiling, and then wait about 30 seconds to drop the temperature to the appropriate brewing range. Pour the water over the brew bed like you would a pour over. 

To sum things up: Hotel coffee makers are incredibly convenient, and if you know what to expect, you’ll be able to brew something that’ll help kickstart your day. If not, more and more brands are waking up to the ease of instant coffee, pushing quality up substantially in the last decade. And if all else fails, use the whole hotel coffee maker situation as a sign to explore your vacation city and get coffee with the locals.

What’s your method for making coffee while you are away from home? Tell us your tips in the comments below.