Hotel coffeepot = li'l ole mini meth lab!

Over at the Street Use "crude technology" blog, Kevin Kelly says,

According this the local news station in Huntsville Alabama, the ubiquitous cheap Mr. Coffee pot in hotel rooms is often used as a just-in-time makeshift mini-laboratory to make the drug meth.


Ask just about anyone in law enforcement, and they'll tell you to be careful if you ever brew coffee in a hotel room. "I know enough now that whenever I go to a hotel, regardless of how nice it is, I'll never use a coffee pot," said Marshall County District Attorney Steve Marshall.


Reader comment: Aaron J. Hicks says,

It is interesting to note that apparently the Texas Controlled Substances Act can apparently be interpreted such that an automatic coffee maker is, in fact, illegal under state law. Specifically, section 481.002 notes that certain apparatus are considered "chemical laboratory apparatus," as follows:

(A) a

(B) a distilling

(C) a vacuum

(D) a three-neck or distilling

(E) a tableting

(F) an encapsulating

(G) a filter, Buchner, or separatory

(H) an Erlenmeyer, two-neck, or single-neck

(I) a round-bottom, Florence, thermometer, or filtering
(J) a Soxhlet

(K) a

(L) a flask

(M) a heating mantel;

(N) an adaptor tube.


Of these, a coffepot contains G, K, L, and possibly I, depending upon ones opinion as to the nature of the carafe. I am not a lawyer, but it would seem that anti-drug laws have put everyone with a Mr. Coffee in Texas in trouble with the law if it is not registered under section 481.061. Interestingly, teachers are exempted under 481.0621, allowing them to get their cup of morning Joe without crossing the Texas DPS.

I have pointed this out a few times, and have yet to have anyone set me straight that I'm flat-out wrong.

J. Sherkow says:

As a law student, I would like to point of that Mr. Hicks is flat out
wrong. His citing of the statute leaves out the beginning of the
definition, limiting the apparatus by intent of manufacture. From Mr.
Hicks own link to the statute, I cite as follows: "(1) designed, (2)
made, or (3) adapted (4) to manufacture a controlled substance or (5)
a controlled substance analogue" (numbered elements added for ease of

(1) A Mr. Coffee maker is not designed to make meth. It's designed, by
Mr. Coffee, to make coffee. A Mr. Meth machine would be another story.

(2) A Mr. Coffee is not "made," that is, assembled to make meth.
Again, its parts are assembled to make coffee.

(3) Rarely, I suppose are Mr. Coffee makers adapted by their end
users. If they are, the end user only runs afoul of the law if it is
done for the purpose (actually, it would probably be with the
"reckless intent" but I'm not getting into this here) of making meth.

(4) Coffee is "manufactured" but coffee is not a controlled substance.

(5) Coffee is not an analogue of a controlled substance.

Now I hope it makes sense as well why teachers are left out–that is,
so they can set up science lessons in their classrooms without
registering what would otherwise be meth labs.

Hope this sets the law straight.

David Vennik says:

Just thought you might like to know that indeed the heating elements of
filter coffee machines do in fact make very excellent and, my
understanding is, increasingly popular heating devices, and extraction
devices and, what the article says, reaction heaters(I personally think
that it's not the best for reaction for the reason it's temperature
fluctuation is pretty broad and containing the vapours is impractical in
your average coffee maker). In that respect the idea of using a standard
filter coffee machine flask is impractical.

However I have seen flasks, specifically 'cona' band which are
percolator machines with a base flask and a funnel (all made of pyrex of
course) and a soda glass textured plug which functions as a filter – the
way it works is the boiling water creates pressure which pumps the
boiling water gently up through the coffee, and then when you turn off
the heat it acts as a suction (yes, filtering flask) filter which then
allows you to end up with nice percolated (yes, the best kind) coffee in
the bottom. Amusingly this device is very useful for extracting
alkaloids from many other kinds of dried plant material.

The comment from Aaron J. Hicks is incorrect in some respects however.
There is no transformer coil in them, just a thermostat of some kind and
a simple AC-powered heating element usually encased in aluminium (most
likely either like ring coils in electric stove elements or ceramic
encased nichrome coils) but they do indeed contain an interesting
chemical apparatus in the form of a heat-powered drip-producing device
which uses steam pressure in a heating cavity to push the fluid over
into the filter, it's usually directly coupled to the hotplate's heating
element, and indeed functions as a passively operated filter using steam
to move water upwards (note it would work equally well with ethanol) and
as for it being a texas law-illegal flask, it is not anything of the
sort, it is, at best, flat bottom flask (spherical with a flat bottom).
It vaguely resembles a soxlet but there is no condenser, it uses steam
to make water percolate upwards to the drip point above the filter.

Out of the list Aaron gave, these things are correct: G in some cases H,
almost a J, an L and close to being an M but heating mantles are
generally used for round bottom flasks and have a hemispherical base to
accomodate a round bottom flask, flat bottom (spherical with a truncated
flat base) and earlenmeyers can be heated by flat hotplates.

so to be quotable:

G and L, and almost J, H and M

You could probably criminalise the possession of many household devices
and chemicals if you wanted to take drug production laws to the extreme.
It is illegal, for example, to simply extract an illicit substance from
a plant source. In other words, a stove and cooking pot could be
construed as an extraction device, as these work quite well for making
opium tea.

I would guess from reading your drug-related posts in the past I am
preaching to the choir but if you took drug laws to the Nth degree you'd
have to be regularly inspected that you aren't using your kitchen,
laundry and bathroom to make drugs, and it should be pointed out that
the fallout from this is that hobby soapmakers, rocketry enthusiasts,
hobby chemists, gun geeks and even dyers would be unable to practise
their hobbies if all access to drug making devices and materials were

Regulating commercial sales of drugs of whatever kind, and taxing them
appropriately is one thing but impinging on the freedom of individuals
to engage in related activities is not something that would sell very
well, politically, and is a factor that the drug law liberalisation
people could capitalise on, in my opinion.