Welcome to rsts11travel. Are you caffeinated? Have you ever wished you could bring your espresso machine on the road? You found the right place. We’re going to look at two great ways I’ve traveled with coffee gear–Aeropress and Clever Coffee Dripper, ready to brew in the morning for under $50.
|Aeropress coffeemaker ($30) by Aerobie||Clever Coffee Dripper ($25)|
|Uses finely ground coffee
Custom filters (350pk)
|Uses coarse ground coffee
Melitta #4 filters
What if a flying disc company made a coffeemaker?
Well, you’d end up with an Aeropress manual coffeemaker. Aerobie, known for their circular flying disk over the last 20 years or so, came out with a manual coffeemaker that is great for travel. The Aeropress makes up to 4 “shots” of something between coffee and espresso, with a process like French press except that you push the water through the grounds rather than the other way around. (It’s not purely espresso since it’s not brewed with 9 bars of pressure or more, but the result is pretty similar.)
You’re not likely to want to throw the Aeropress, but it’s fairly sturdy and would probably bounce unharmed off most things (or people) you might throw it at. And at $30 or less at Amazon or several national retail chains, you wouldn’t suffer as much if you did break it. Note that it comes in different tinting and labeling but the idea is the same.
The Aeropress uses a small paper filter that comes in 350-packs, with third party options for a metal “permanent” filter in their place. You place a filter in the screw-on cap, screw the cap onto the outer pump, deploy a scoop of coffee per “shot,” and set it on your coffee cup. Add boiling or near-boiling water (really hot tap water can do in a pinch), stir and steep, and then use the plunger to push the liquid through the grounds and the filter. It can take some arm strength, so if you wake up useless in the morning this might not be the choice for you. But it’s better than going out uncaffeinated.
Cleanup is smooth as well, as the coffee forms sort of a puck in the pump. If you’ve pushed it hard enough, when you unscrew that cap, the puck and filter will come out cleanly and you can just throw them away or compost them. Rinse all the pieces, dry them, and put them away for next time.
You will need ground coffee for this, so you can either bring some with you, acquire it at a coffee shop near your destination, or check out the Thirst Friend mini mill ($15). Obviously any coffee mill will grind coffee, but the Thirst Friend is the only one I’ve found that fits neatly inside the Aeropress itself. Again, lots of hand action, like 400 cranks to make enough ground coffee for 4 shots, but it’s compact and convenient and you can grind the night before if you need to.
You’re not imPressed? Want something more Clever?
Most of our readers have used, or at least seen, a Melitta type filter coffeemaker. If not, imagine a funnel that you put a coffee filter in, and you’re 90% there. It’s an old standard, still sold everywhere, but it doesn’t make great coffee.
Well, for under $35 (sometimes way under $35, the Clever Coffee Dripper kicks Melitta’s concept up a notch or two. It’s got the classic funnel, with a convenient handle and a lid, but unlike the original funnel coffeemaker, it uses a stopper at the bottom to let you steep the coffee before dripping it out.
You don’t have to reach in to release the stopper though. The stopper mechanism is activated when you set the filter on the cup… it pushes a platform that releases the stopper and lets the water filter through. No pressure required, and it takes about 5 minutes from inserting filter to disposing of it.
If you go this way, you’ll need the Clever Coffee Dripper, a supply of #4 Melitta filters, a cup that fits the stopper mechanism (most conventional 14oz or smaller mugs, as well as most travel mugs, are fine), and of course the ground coffee.
Over on rsts11: I blogged the Clever brew process back in 2013. Check it out!
You’ll want to accessorize, of course
None of these come ready to travel in a suitcase, although some Aeropress offers include a zipper case. However, they’ll all fit in a larger “dopp bag” or shaving bag with some room for a spoon, some beans or ground coffee, and even an immersion heater if you’re careful.
If you’re inclined toward Keurig’s K-Cup style single serve, the MyJO coffeemaker ($10) uses standard single-cup coffee packs like the Keurig K-Cup or various similar cup packs. It’s compact, packs and cleans easily, and lets you use any brand of single-cup coffee pack (K-Cup or aftermarket).
I have been known to take a Bodum 17oz water kettle with me as well, in its own dopp bag, since I may not always have a microwave to heat water.
And for several trips, I even brought a plug-in single up brewer (like the Black and Decker Single Serve (left, $25 at Amazon, also available at retail). These work with Senseo-style pods or ground coffee, and you obviously don’t need a microwave.
One last accessory I usually carry is a water filter. Some hotels have worse tap water than others, so something like an Every Drop filter ($15 or so at Amazon or Target) or the discontinued Brita travel filter (I find these at thrift stores every so often) are great for managing your most essential beverage ingredient.
In any event, I think you’ll find that one of the ideas above will serve you well in most hotels, and with almost any of these options, you can take advantage of the local boutique coffee roasters or your favorite regional or national brand of coffee.
So where do we go from here?
What do you require for your travel caffeination? Are you okay with leaving your room for your first cuppa, or do you call room service? Share your tips, tricks, or grumbles in the comments, or join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.
Disclosure: Links above are Amazon affiliate links, and if you buy an item through them, we’ll get a small commission. Our first giveaway already exceeded last year’s commissions across our various sites, so don’t worry about us getting rich off these links.
Further disclosure: We’ve purchased all reviewed items (at least once) out of our own pockets through publicly-accessible channels at the time. Most of them came from Amazon, although we may have acquired one of our Clevers at Red Rock Coffee in Mountain View, and one Aeropress likely came from a Mistobox promotion.
Photo credits: Most coffeemaker photos taken from their respective Amazon links. Clear Aeropress, Thirst Friend mill, and Clever Coffee Dripper action photos by Robert Novak (C)2013-2017. Mug in Aeropress photo courtesy of NetworkingWithFish.com.