24 Nov Kashruth Question of the Week
Q: Can one buy unflavored hot coffee both regular and/or decaf from any non-kosher establishment such as Starbucks or a Dunkin Donuts without a hechsher?
This is a very complicated question. I often see people coming out of Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts or other non-kosher establishments with a cup of coffee. I’m not going to delve into the issue of the milk that’s being used if you’re careful about cholov yisroel, because even if they have a container of cholov yisroel milk at the counter, since there’s no mashgiach, you cannot be sure that they did not just go out and buy a container of cholov Yisroel milk, and then filled it up with something else. You cannot trust that it’s cholov yisroel. But taking the cholov yisroel issue aside, either because you are not careful about cholov Yisroel or because you’re going to drink coffee without milk. The issue is as follows: They prepare the coffee with the same utensils they use to prepare other food items that they sell. Those utensils need to be washed. Typically they’re washed in the same dishwasher they use to clean the other pots, pans, silverware and whatever other utensils they have in the establishment. The utensils that are being used to prepare your coffee may have also been used for preparing non-kosher meat, or cheese. Even if the same utensils are not being used to make your coffee, they certainly are being washed in the same dishwasher. I’m asked this question quite often, and people argue that since they use soap and detergent in the dishwasher, the utensils being washed in there, would become pogum (foul tasting) from the soap in the dishwasher. This is the way I look at it: If somebody has at home a dairy dishwasher and a meat dishwasher and by accident a dairy spoon was put into your meat dishwasher, there are many halachic considerations as to why it’s not a problem. Yet, when I tell people it is not a problem, they don’t want to listen to me, they just want to throw away the dishwasher. “How can I use a fleishig dishwasher that washed a milchig spoon”? even though it only happened once by accident (I actually applaud that attitude because it shows a seriousness about kashrus and keeping our home kosher). However, that same person who is so meticulous in keeping such perfect separation in their home, won’t have a problem drinking the coffee that was prepared with utensils that are used on a regular basis for treif and are washed in a dishwasher with treif keilim. So, I strongly feel that one should not buy a coffee in a shop that also sells treif food. Now if you have a coffee shop that only sells coffee then it’s a whole different situation, but that’s not typically the case.