Great coffee is … essential. For me it is up there with fire, water and shelter. And frankly, I would often take it over. But when you travel, whether going to your parents or on a long-haul flight, it can be difficult to get the good stuff. Here's what you need to bring your own ̵
Things to Look For in Your On-the-Go Coffee Stuff
There are many things that claim to be on-the-go coffee stuff, but not everything is particularly useful or good. Whichever option you choose, make sure it works well.
It's also worth noting that on-the-go coffee stuff is a bit ridiculous by nature. Coffee is one of the most important crops in the world. It is available everywhere. Not sure if I've ever been somewhere where I absolutely couldn't get a coffee. Bringing the equipment needed to brew yourself requires a special kind of caffeine addiction. That said … good coffee stuff on the go should be:
- Able to brew better than what you can buy: There's no point in bringing a kettle and a big can of cheap instant coffee with you drag, unless you really leave the grid. Aircraft coffee is hardly drinkable, but it is drinkable. Unless you know you can brew something significantly better than, say, the average gas station coffee, it's probably not worth packing.
- Compact: More than anything, coffee stuff for on the road needs to be packed small. No one sits quietly next to you in a train or plane when you take out a giant Mocha master to brew. Likewise, you want it to easily fit in a carry-on or other small backpack. You are not looking for the best coffee setup of all time, but for a good travel setup.
- Lightweight: As long as your coffee maker is compact, it should also be fairly lightweight, but it is still worth considering. You should be able to toss your brewing gear into a bag and forget about it – not develop low back pain.
- Durable: When it comes to throwing your things in a backpack, it also has to be durable. Look for plastic and high-quality metal gears, not glass. You don't want anyone to meet you on the subway to crush your carafe – and your dreams of good coffee.
- Easy to Use: You can almost always get boiling water and a paper cup wherever you are. You can't count on much else. Whatever coffee stuff you bring with you, it shouldn't be much of a hassle to use.
- Just Make Coffee: I have yet to see someone who successfully makes a latte on a cross-country ski trip. All coffee stuff for traveling will simply make black coffee. If you're looking for cappuccinos or other milk drinks, the closest Starbucks is always the best option.
So with that said, let's dive in and take a look at some of the best coffee stuff on the go – as well as my personal travel kit.
The Obvisible: Great Instant Coffee
Instant coffee gets a bad rap – for good reason. Traditionally, it is made with low quality ingredients, especially cheap robusta coffee beans, resulting in a really low quality end product. But now there's a shift to high-end, single-serve, instant coffee pouches made with good-quality Arabica beans – like what you get in a good cafe – for those on the go. Of course it is still freeze-dried, but it doesn't taste like mud.
Starbucks' own Via Instant Colombian coffee is worth a look if you're a fan of (or can tolerate) its coffee. It is about equal in quality to an Americano from one of the cafes.
But in my opinion the best instant coffee from Waka Coffee is the instant coffee. It's smooth, easy to drink, and much better than anything from a vending machine. You just add 8 oz of hot water, stir and enjoy.
Or, if you're a real coffee addict, double up.
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So I was quite happy when I found out I could brew it on the go too
The Treeline Geo is a disposable disposable filter, paper To use it, open it, hang it from your cup and slowly pour 8 oz of hot water the real, non-freeze-dried, ground coffee beans Bam! Put a few in your bag and you have almost instant coffee that is better than instant coffee.
The capsule option: Wacaco Nanopresso
If you like coffee like Tom Cruise (short and sweet), there are still ways o get it on the way. Portable espresso makers struggle to get the pressure needed for a real espresso, but they get close enough in no time.
The Wacaco Nanopresso is the best of them (see our full collection here). It can make espresso with ground coffee or, even more convenient, Nespresso pods. You pour hot water into the top chamber and then, with a little pumping, push it through the coffee to brew something similar to an espresso. Everything is self-contained, so cleaning up is also a breeze.
A great travel mug
When you make coffee on the go, you don't actually have an insulated thermos that keeps it too hot to drink. You can get by with a regular KeepCup or something similar, but if you go over the top, a hard-wearing, heat-resistant, titanium camp cup fits perfectly.
This from Toaks contains just under 15 oz. It has a scale, which is useful for measuring hot water. And because it's made of titanium, it's lightweight and can take a beating.
The Best Travel Brewer: AeroPress
The AeroPress is the best way to make real fresh coffee on the go. Damn, the AeroPress is one of the best ways to make real fresh coffee at home – it's just a bonus that the plastic lightweight construction makes it super portable. (You can even get an end cap so you can keep it in the middle.)
With the AeroPress, place a filter in the holder, screw it on the brewer, place it over a mug, add ground beans, then add hot water and use the plunger to push it through the "puck" of coffee – ultimately a perfect mug of coffee.
The AeroPress is definitely the most involved option on the list, but it will repeatedly deliver the best results. I personally take mine with me when I travel. I have used it in the wilderness, on trains and in hotel rooms. There are even people who have used it mid-flight, although that is probably a step too far.
The Best Travel Grinder: Knock Aergrind
To make a delicious cup of coffee, you really have to grind the beans. Pre-ground beans have more surface area, which means they oxidize (and age) faster. If you want to go completely overboard, you can buy a portable coffee grinder for traveling.
If you bring an AeroPress, the best travel reel is the Knock Aergrind. It is specially designed to store in the course of an AeroPress, so it does not take up any extra space. Since it is a hand grinder, you have to do some work for the conical burrs to do their magic – but it definitely pays off.
If the Aergrind is a bit expensive, there are cheaper options out there like the Hario Mini Slim Pro. It just can't be stored that well.
The Best Travel Scale: American Weigh Scales Blade
To make consistently great coffee, you have to get the right ratio of ground beans to use water. A small bowl is the ultimate overkill your travel coffee needs.
We love the American Weigh Scales Blade. It is only 3.8 inches by 3.8 inches by 0.8 inches and accurate to the tenth of a gram. It fits in your pocket and weighs your beans perfectly.
A Way To Store Coffee: Movie Cans
If You Have Your Own Coffee, You Must Have A Way To keep it safe. Of all the containers and ziplock bags I've tried, the best I've found is super simple: movie bottles. They're cheap, lightweight, waterproof, and best of all, they contain an easy-to-measure dose of coffee – about 13g of whole beans, a little more ground – so you can brew consistently without a shell. Here's a pack of 50 for next to nothing.