Time and time again, people have said it can be difficult to get their hands on a good cup of coffee when they’re travelling.
If you’re in a city, you might get lucky and stumble upon a decent coffee shop, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll like what they serve. On the other hand, if you’re in a slightly more remote area or on a more “outdoorsy” holiday, you may have to brew coffee on the go.
To learn more, I spoke to some travel and coffee enthusiasts who love to brew on the move. They shared their experiences, as well as some tips for making great coffee when you can’t find a specialty coffee shop. Read on to learn more.
You may also like our guide to the inverted AeroPress method.
COFFEE WHILE TRAVELLING: AN OVERVIEW
Over the past few years, specialty coffee shops have emerged in cities all around the world, from Europe and Australia to both North and South America, making good-quality coffee more accessible than ever.
Unfortunately, however, this doesn’t mean that you can find good coffee everywhere. Whether you’re staying in a city or in a slightly more rural area, there will undoubtedly be times in your travels where you have to look for an alternative to a flat white or a latte.
Ben Waugh is a professional photographer and videographer with a passion for the great outdoors. He says that brewing coffee on the go – especially outdoors – can really add to the “travel experience”.
“Having freshly brewed coffee is the best way to start any travel or adventure,” Ben says. “There is something special about starting your day with coffee you make, rather than buying one on the road. I think it’s the love that you put into it that you can taste.”
With the rise of third wave coffee culture, we have seen a focus on the “craft” of making coffee. High-quality brewing equipment – from grinders to brewers – have also become increasingly accessible, meaning that you can easily grind and brew fresh coffee on the road.
Corrie van Niekerk is a South African adventurer and influencer who spends much of his time scaling mountains. For him, starting with a good cup of coffee sets the tone for each day.
“I normally brew coffee on each summit I visit,” Corrie says. “They are pretty memorable cups.
“One of my favourite memories was brewing coffee on Du Toits Peak (a mountain in South Africa). The views were amazing. It awakens my adventurous side and widens my imagination. Some of my best adventures have started with a cup of fresh coffee.”
Finally, Valentina Palange is an Italian coffee influencer and events planner. She explains how taking the time to really enjoy each cup of coffee you brew can become a memorable part of your travels.
She says: “It’s a magical moment. When you’re travelling, relaxing moments are important and they can be so magical, especially when you travel around natural places like the mountain or near the sea.
“It’s a good opportunity to take a moment to reflect while you are brewing coffee.”
WHAT SHOULD YOU CONSIDER WHEN BREWING COFFEE WHILE TRAVELLING?
Making great coffee doesn’t need to be complicated. Corrie says that all you need is freshly roasted coffee, good tasting water, a little bit of practice, and a good brewer.
As tempting as it might be to pack more delicate brewers, remember that your bag will likely get knocked, squashed, and moved around, no matter your destination. Stick to metal and strong plastic equipment – glass is arguably less suited to brewing on the go.
Corrie says that he values lightness, strength, and versatility. “When I’m out in unpredictable situations, I look for something light, compact, and extremely versatile. This is especially important if you like to mix things up and experience your coffee in different ways.”
Where possible, you should bring a compact, good-quality hand grinder, too. This will help to make sure your coffee stays fresher.
If you’re brewing outdoors, Corrie says that the most challenging part is getting your hands on hot water. If you’re setting off from a hotel or hostel, he notes that you can pre-boil your water and store it in a thermos.
However, if you’re camping, a portable stove may be the best answer to your brewing needs. Just make sure that the water you’re using is filtered, so it is clean and odourless. Bottled water may be the best option.
Where are you going? What will you have access to?
No matter where you’re going, packing for your trip should take some planning. Think about where you’re heading and adapt your out-of-town coffee setup accordingly.
Where you are going will naturally change the way you prepare and what you need. For example, hotels will usually have a kettle readily available in each room.
However, if you’re venturing into the great outdoors for an extended period of time, you may need slightly more equipment.
Corrie says that when he is hiking, it’s all about finding the right location and travelling light.
“When you’re on the move, you don’t want to be carrying unnecessary bulk with you, so size and weight become factors,” he says. He recommends choosing a portable, compact brewer like the AeroPress Go.
He adds: “For me, the biggest challenge is finding a nice flat spot to brew coffee.
“Once you have found the right spot, the most important next step is starting a fire, so you can boil the water and use it for extraction.”
How’s the weather out there?
Deciding whether to brew hot or cold could seem like an obvious choice to many. Would you really want a freshly brewed cup of hot coffee if you’re in a warmer climate? And does iced coffee suit snowy surroundings?
Typically, hot coffee suits colder climates, and vice versa. But that doesn’t always have to be the case.
Corrie, for example, says that he isn’t particularly set one way or the other. He says that he occasionally enjoys brewing hot coffee while hiking in the heat of summer, and notes that there’s no hard rule about what you should or shouldn’t do.
He adds: “What I like to do if it is really hot is to brew a strong concentrate and then add cold mountain water, or even make a cold brew. You can use cold water and steep your coffee for way longer. It is surprisingly good.”
Valentina has found herself in similar situations, and notes that “living in the moment” has allowed her to adapt her recipe.
She says: “I always brew hot, but one time, I tried to brew an AeroPress in front of the sea with room temperature water.
“If I have a place where I can find ice, I make Japanese iced coffee, where you put the ice directly in the cup and brew coffee onto it.”
If you’re looking for a quick cold coffee solution on the road, you can even make cold brew with your AeroPress. While typically, cold coffee extraction can take anywhere up to 24 hours, you can do so with an AeroPress in just a matter of minutes.
CHOOSING A BREWER
While it may be tempting to bring a pour over brewer to make coffee on the go, the list of equipment you need for optimum extraction can get quite long.
It often isn’t practical to pack pouring kettles and server jugs, and finding a flat surface to swirl your dripper and keep your coffee bed level may well be impossible out in the great outdoors.
Prioritise something strong. As mentioned above, you also need to keep the material in mind; anything made of glass or fragile ceramics should stay at home.
Keep the size of your brewer in mind, too. Smaller and more portable options can be perfect when packing space is at a premium.
Finally – remember that you’ll need to clean your brewer on the go, too. French presses and moka pots can require a lot of water to clean properly, which might exclude them if you don’t have access to a sink or a source of clean fresh water.
Ben says: “If you’re not using the right equipment, simply taking everything with you can really be a challenge. Before we found the AeroPress, we used to use a French press, but they can break very easily and also use a lot of water to clean properly.”
The AeroPress Go is made from tough, heat-resistant plastic. It also has a measured scoop and water lines, so you can accurately measure your brew for optimum extraction – even if you don’t have scales to hand.
Ben concludes: “The AeroPress Go is lightweight, doesn’t break when thrown in a backpack, and is super easy to clean – it’s the perfect portable coffee companion.”
No matter where you are in the world, making a great cup of coffee can really help to bring your travels to life. But brewing on the road is easier said than done.
Use this article as a checklist before you set out. Think to yourself: where are you going? Where will you be spending most of your time? On the road, under the stars, or in the comfort of a hotel room? Once you know more about your situation, you’ll be able to effectively pack and prepare for your trip.
Enjoyed this? Then read our guide to making great coffee when camping.
Perfect Daily Grind
Please note: AeroPress is a sponsor of Perfect Daily Grind.