Sailors call their unwashed coffee mugs ‘seasoned.’ (Photo via

The Navy may have the most complicated rank structure when it comes to its ratings system, but there is another, much more uncouth method for establishing hierarchy among sailors: Filthy coffee mugs.

It is a commonly-held truth in the seafaring service that one can tell a higher-up from a newbie based on the amount of sludge that lives in the bottom of one’s coffee cup.

So, in the interest of salt, here are some professional tips, from Navy veterans, to get an optimally seasoned mug.

1. Always drink black coffee. Milk or creamer curdles and introduces bacteria into the mix. Sour lactose creates a hostile environment — not ideal for going years without washing your mug.

2. Drink the whole cup of coffee. Don’t leave even a drop behind. You want to season the mug with a faint film, not swigging day-old coffee every morning.

3. For extra flavoring, take the leftover coffee grounds from the filter and let them rest in the cup for a few days before dumping it out. Treat your mug like a cast iron skillet.

4. If you need to, rinse it lightly with just a little water. This is only to be done in cases where the buildup is starting to become untenable.

5. Don’t wash the mug with the soap. Ever. You might be tempted every now and again to give it a good soak. Don’t. You will lose all the flavoring, respect from your near-peers and any chance at an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy.

Observation Post is the Military Times one-stop shop for all things off-duty. Stories may reflect author observations.

Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.

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