They’ve been found in the US and UK too
EC: This Is the Golden Ratio of Coffee Grounds to Water
Credit: Photo by StockImages_AT via Getty Images

The southeast Asian city state of Singapore has a reputation for impeccable cleanliness, thanks in part to stringent anti-littering laws that have occasionally made international headlines. But no measure of precaution is enough to prevent some truly gross goings-on in many of the country’s coffee machines.

According to estimates from local pest control experts, up tp 40 percent of the commercial coffee machines common in Singapore’s food and beverage outlets contain German cockroaches. This particular species of pest can often burrow inside the hot, moist, and dark environment, hiding undetected until exterminators perform their monthly checks. “German cockroaches are commonly found at F&B outlets and they are small enough to hide inside these coffee machines,” PestBusters director for technical and client services Eugene Surendra told Channel News Asia

The problem stems from the technology that powers automatic coffee machines. These systems usually rely on thermoblock technology, which only heats the water required to brew a cup of coffee, leaving space inside for cockroaches to thrive without getting cooked. Conversely, more professional espresso-pulling setups use big boilers that get too hot for would-be insect intruders to survive. Likewise, home coffee machines seem to be immune, since the bigger American cockroaches found in homes both can’t fit in coffeemakers and don’t prefer that kind of microclimate.

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that this sort of pest problem isn’t confined to southeast Asia, either. The Guardianrecently chronicled the saga of one Briton who found out the hard way that even a £1,195 De‘Longhi coffee machine isn’t safe from infestation, and a (not recommended) Google search for “cockroach in coffeemaker” shows that it’s happening on American soil as well.

So what can you do? Phil Ho of Singapore’s Highlander Coffee advises restaurants to place their automatic coffee machines in well-ventilated areas (i.e. out of humid kitchens), and ensure that scraps of food won’t encourage pests to explore the area and crawl inside. Singaporeans also might want to treat themselves to real espresso from a coffee shop, because you can’t put a price on the comfort of knowing that no cockroaches have been near your latte.