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This airline says its new coffee was ‘crafted specially’ to taste better in the sky

Has your coffee ever tasted bitter when you’re 30,000 feet in the air? Alaska and Stumptown say they have a solution to that.
Stumptown cup of coffee on Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines has ended its decadelong partnership with Starbucks in favor of Stumptown Coffee. Courtesy Alaska Airlines

A good cup of coffee can make or break your day, and some say high altitudes can make food and drinks taste worse, meaning a bitter coffee while squeezed in the middle seat on a flight is often unavoidable.

But Alaska Airlines has set out to change that, even dropping their 10-year-long partnership with Starbucks to specifically design a coffee blend that is supposed to taste better when 30,000 feet up in the air.

The airline teamed up with Portland, Oregon-based Stumptown Coffee Roasters for the project, and the medium-dark brew will be on all Alaska flights — including its regional airline Horizon Air — starting Dec. 1.

“We are grateful to our friends at Starbucks and proud to have served their coffee on board our flights for years,” an Alaska spokesperson said in a statement to “With that said, we are always looking for ways to bring new in-flight food & beverage offerings to our guests.”

The blend was designed off of Stumptown’s classic original blend “Holler Mountain” but with some alterations to make it enjoyable for airline passengers. Alaska is also now serving oat milk as an option along with creamer, and the roast was designed to make sure it tasted good black or with either additional option.

“Having flown millions of miles fueled by countless cups of coffee, Stumptown stands out as first class,” Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci said in a statement. “Like travel, coffee has a remarkable way of bringing people together. I can’t wait for our guests and employees to enjoy a cup of Stumptown when they fly with us.”

But how did they test whether the coffee tastes better on a flight?

Alaska Airlines says that more than 200 pots of coffee were brewed throughout the process, with multiple in-flight tests and blind customer reviews to make sure it didn't fall victim to the altitude.

“We even taste-tested the coffee with Alaska’s inflight milk and Biscoff cookie to ensure both paired beautifully with the coffee we landed on,” the statement reads.

More than 20 variables that could contribute to the taste were tested, from the filter paper to dose, grind to filter-pack dimensions, says the airline.

“The custom blend served on flight is an organic coffee roasted deep enough to bring out notes of toasted marshmallow and dark chocolate, while remaining exceptionally smooth and balanced,” reads a statement from Stumptown.

Passengers will also be able to get their hands on some Stumptown coffee — including “Holler Mountain” for a brewed cup, “Hair Bender” for espresso and “Trapper Creek” as a decaf option — in the Alaska lounges at John F. Kennedy Airport and Portland International Airports.

Alaska Airlines is, perhaps surprisingly considering its name, based out of Seattle, Washington, and the choice to move from one of the largest coffee companies in the world based in the same city towards an Oregon-based brand will undoubtedly stir up some drama.

But if the new altitude-resistant coffee will refresh and energize you after a long, uncomfortable flight, it may become a staple while soaring the skies.