One of the most compelling reasons to get out of bed in the morning is coffee.
Trouble is, when you travel, finding that first cup of morning caffeine can be far more challenging than at home. Perhaps your hotel is one of the many who have embraced the concept of aluminum or plastic-filled pods as “luxury” coffee. Or—the horror!—your Airbnb only has instant granules. Or the nearest cafe wants to charge you €4 for a watery americano.
If, like me, you require caffeine before you interact with humans, the solution is to simply do it yourself. True, it may seem over the top, pretentious, or more trouble than it’s worth to cart your own brew station around the world. But there are a slew of products and gadgets which allow you to be a lightweight traveler while still enjoying coffee options that don’t taste terrible. Plus, if you’re on the road often (and you drink a lot of coffee) it’s probably a lot cheaper just to brew your own.
Anna Brones, a mobile brewing enthusiast and author of several books about coffee—including one about Paris’ speciality coffee scene and another on the art of “fika”—says that taking her setup on the road can also deepen the enjoyment of a destination.
“I’ve brewed everywhere from airports to trains to the banks of the Seine to the back of my car. I think brewing your own coffee is also a great way to slow down and appreciate not just the process, but your surroundings—it’s also a great excuse to explore local roasteries when you are traveling and buy new beans.”
Here are some nifty options for brewing on the go. Note that all of these assume you have access to hot water, which most hotels and accommodation options offer. (Though if you’re camping, check out Jetboil’s range of mobile stoves and kettles).
Let’s be honest: It’s probably easier to pre-grind your coffee before you hit the road, but if you insist on freshly-ground beans (no judgement here) there are some good options for hand grinders to throw in your suitcase. The Japanese outdoor lifestyle brand Snowpeak makes one as part of their “Field Barista” range, and Porlex grinders are known for their easy portability. Neither are cheap, but you can use them at home, too.
Snowpeak’s Titanium French Press is great for a lightweight and straightforward way to brew pre-ground ground coffee, with no filter or fuss. If you prefer a pour-over method, this inexpensive plastic brewing cone plus a regular filter is a good bet. If you want a more premium option, Snowpeak offers a collapsable titanium pour-over option, too. Or, if you’re the rugged type, this ultralight (if not ultra-chic) polyester drip contraption will do the trick, no filter needed.
Whether you’re using pre-ground or freshly-ground beans, Aeropress is probably one of the easiest options for making coffee on the go. The plastic contraption is lightweight and extremely low fuss—and very easy to clean in a hotel sink. You do need small, custom coffee filters, but if you want to up your coffee game further, buy this reusable one made specifically for Aeropress.
If all of the above sounds too complicated—but you still can’t bear to drink Nespresso—you can try one of the new crop of single-use pour-over coffees. Long popular in Japan’s legendary convenience stores, this origami-like method of brewing a cup—where ground coffee is suspended in a teabag-like contraption over a mug—is becoming more prominent elsewhere. Amsterdam-based brand Freshdrip sells a box of seven portions for €7 on their website (and soon-to-be launching on Amazon), while in the US there is Libra coffee’s “pourtables.” True, the cost is more-per-cup and there is additional waste involved—Freshdrip’s founder said they’re working on biodegradable components for theirs— but it’s palatable fallback option when all else fails.