That first cup of coffee in the morning is a glorious thing. And if you’re here reading this, the chances are that you agree!
The beautiful first sip is something that most coffee drinkers won’t go without. This obsession sometimes gets us into some sticky situations, making us resort to some pretty extreme measures. That’s right— the dreaded hotel coffee — that bland hotel room coffee that is bitter and entirely flavorless, all at the same time.
With the use of a portable coffee maker, we can brew cafe-quality coffee anywhere — no more gas station coffee, weird convenience store instant, or that dreaded hotel room coffee. Whether you’re camping, hiking or city-hopping, a portable coffee maker is your ticket to delicious coffee anywhere you are.
What Is a Portable Coffee Maker
Most of us have come to accept the fact that when we’re traveling, we have to forgo good coffee. Unless, of course, we have a portable coffee maker!
A portable coffee maker is designed to brew high-quality coffee anywhere. Without the use of electricity, these lightweight coffee makers use a number of other innovative methods in order to get the job done.
Portable coffee makers come in a variety of shapes, sizes and brew methods. Ranging from a simple travel French press all the way through to some high-pressure coffee makers that brew espresso-like coffee. They are usually lightweight, compact, and have a small footprint— ideal for throwing into a backpack, handbag or suitcase.
Benefits of Using a Portable Coffee Maker
Brew How You Want, Anywhere
Fancy a tasty pour-over right next to your tent? How about a French press on the beach? Maybe an espresso at your office desk! Using a portable coffee maker, the world of brewing is completely opened up, regardless of where you are. All you need is access to hot water and you’re set!
Saves You Money
Traveling from city to city is expensive as it is. And the price of travel drastically increases when you add a couple of coffees a day for 2 people into the mix.
Spread across an entire week in a large city, cafe coffee might cost you well over $100.
Brewing your own cup of coffee costs a fraction of what it does in a cafe. On top of that, when you brew your own, you can brew as much coffee as you like! This will give you more energy to get out and see the sights— helping you make the most out of your trip.
Great for Those With Sensitivities
Not all coffee shops across the globe have decaf coffee. So for someone with a sensitivity to caffeine and no decaf option, they’ll have to resort to hot chocolate, or worse yet…tea! Portable coffee makers can help those with sensitivities avoid this terrible, terrible, AWFUL situation! (just kidding! Tea is delicious too!)
You can pack your AeroPress with a bag of decaf or your French press travel mug with a bag of low acid coffee and you’re ready to brew. No more disappointment when the coffee shop doesn’t have what you want.
How Does a Portable Coffee Maker Work
While there are a number of different portable coffee makers, all with their own ways of brewing, portable coffee makers work off the same principles as a regular coffee maker. Combining ground coffee with hot water. Letting the coffee steep, then using a filter to separate the coffee grinds from the coffee liquid.
Having said that, there are a couple of main differences between a regular coffee maker and a portable one.
First of all, a portable coffee maker usually requires no electricity. While there are battery powered coffee makers around, by and large, most are human-powered. Every portable coffee maker will, of course, need hot water— but water can be boiled over a fire!
Another key difference between a self-cleaning stainless steel machine for coffee and a portable coffee maker is its size. A portable coffee maker is designed to be travel friendly. Lightweight, small and compact, a good travel coffee maker should easily fit in a bag, with few extra bits of gear or accessories necessary.
Pros and Cons of a Portable Coffee Maker
- Brew coffee anywhere.
- The a large variety of coffee makers to choose from.
- Cheaper than buying coffee in a cafe while traveling.
- Make coffee exactly how you like it.
- Need to buy a portable coffee maker.
- It is an extra thing to carry while traveling.
- Still need to source hot water.
Types of Portable Coffee Makers
There are mainly three different types of portable coffee makers. While the type that you choose will mostly depend on your taste preference, you should also consider how lightweight and how compact you want the coffee maker to be.
Let’s take a look at the three main options.
Pour-Over Coffee Makers
Did you know that a Hario V60 is an excellent portable coffee maker? Though it wasn’t designed as a coffee maker perfect for traveling, it’s the combination of durable materials and lightweight construction make it ideal.
Some coffee maker manufacturers have taken classic pour-over brewers like the V60 and made them even more travel-friendly. Not only have they made them out of lighter weight materials, but some companies have also made fully collapsible pour-over coffee makers. These collapsible coffee makers take up about as much room in your bag as a coaster and fold out into a full pour-over coffee maker.
Pour-over brewing let’s true coffee flavors shine. Combine a portable pour-over cone with a travel-friendly kettle for pour-over coffee that will boost your coffee’s taste up a notch!
The humble French press has been a solid go-to portable coffee maker for a long time. But when parts of a French press are combined with a thermal travel mug, we might have the best portable coffee maker ever made! Not only will a standard French press mug for traveling brew your coffee, but it will also keep your coffee hot for hours.
For a coffee maker to brew espresso, it needs to be able to create pressure in some way. A domestic espresso machine uses an electric pump to create this pressure. But it is possible to build up enough pressure to brew espresso without the use of electricity.
Some portable espresso makers, like the Wacaco Nanopresso, use a hand pump to create this pressure. Others, like the Flair espresso maker, use a lever system. Designs like these mean that we can brew tasty espresso anywhere.
How to Choose the Best Portable Coffee Maker
Finding the best portable coffee maker is a little more tricky than choosing a good drip coffee maker. Unlike with drip coffee makers, we can’t just look for SCAA approved quality coffee makers. We need to do the research ourselves.
When choosing a premium travel coffee maker, there are a few key things to look at.
Weight and Size
The weight and size of a machine is probably the most important thing to consider when buying a portable coffee maker. A device being able to brew delicious coffee means nothing if you can’t fit it in your bag!
Think about where you will use the coffee maker, then go from there. If you want to make coffee in the office, an AeroPress might be the perfect size for you. If you are traveling from city to city with a wheely suitcase, you could go for one of the heavier portable espresso makers like the Flair.
Ease of Use
Another important thing to consider is how easy a coffee maker is to use. If you are backcountry camping in cold locations, you don’t want a device that has many small, fiddly parts. A portable coffee maker that isn’t a hassle to use will end up being used more often.
Ease of Cleaning
We also don’t want to have to put too much effort into cleanup after making coffee. A pour-over coffee maker that uses a disposable paper filter takes far less effort to clean than a French press travel mug. If you are in a place with limited access to water, a coffee maker that is easy to clean is especially important.
Are you making coffee for just yourself, or for a couple of people? Do you mind brewing two cups of coffee separately, or would you much prefer brewing one large one?
A portable coffee maker like the AeroPress can brew one cup at a time. While brewing a cup of coffee with the AeroPress is super fast, brewing multiple cups can become a hassle.
A large travel French press, on the other hand, is made to brew for 2 or even 3 people.
Whether it’s being loaded onto a plane, thrown onto the roof of a truck, or maybe falling off the back of a motorcycle, our luggage can really take a beating while traveling. We need a coffee maker that can stand up to what life on the road throws at it.
Choosing durable materials like metal and BPA free plastic will help a lot in terms of durability. As an added bonus, both regular and decaf coffee tastes better in a BPA free coffee maker.
A self-cleaning stainless steel machine for coffee on the go would be amazing. But unfortunately (or maybe it is fortunate!), there are no power outlets out there in nature. This is why electric and stove-top percolators don’t make great portable coffee makers.
Instead, we need to look for either battery-powered devices, or better yet, coffee makers that keep the heat in via insulation. An insulated, thermal coffee machine doesn’t need a hot plate to keep coffee hot.
The best cold brew coffee maker checks many of our portable coffee maker boxes. It is easy to use, fairly easy to clean and is durable. But one of its main drawbacks is it’s brew time of up to 24 hours.
We want to be able to brew a cup of coffee quickly. The less time we spend brewing, the more time we have to enjoy nature. Sitting by the campfire with friends, or have a lazy afternoon in the tent reading a book.
The AeroPress coffee maker is excellent for travel not only because of its size, but it’s super-fast, sub 2 minutes brew time.
A short brew time is especially important if brewing multiple cups of coffee at once.
Types of Coffee You Can Brew
Are you a fan of filter coffee, or do you prefer espresso?
There are dozens of travel-friendly devices on the market that cover the entire spectrum of brew methods— from drip to french press and espresso. There is a portable coffee maker for everyone. You can even brew pod coffee in a special machine that is designed to brew espresso style coffee using both pods and ground coffee!
When it comes to portable coffee makers, the simpler, the better, this is a good thing for our wallet. A simpler coffee maker is usually much more affordable than one that is packed with features. Though devices like the Flair espresso maker are pricey, most of the pour-over and filter coffee makers are very well priced.
How to Use a Portable Coffee Maker
Now let’s brew some coffee!
In this step-by-step guide, we’re going to brew coffee using a French press travel mug. These are super handy for traveling pretty much anywhere. Not only do they brew a delicious cup of coffee, but they also save space by including their own travel mug!
We are going to use a 300ml French press travel mug. This means that we’ll use 20g of coffee and 300ml of water. This is a ratio of 1:15, meaning 1 part coffee to 15 parts water. If you have a smaller or larger French press, simply size up or size down according to your needs.
- French press travel mug
- 20g or 4 tbsp ground coffee
- 300ml hot water
Step 1 – Measure out the coffee
First, we need to measure out our coffee. Because we are traveling and are away from our set of scales, we’re going to measure the coffee using a spoon. Add 4 tablespoons of medium ground coffee to the French press. This will equal around 20g.
Step 2 – Add hot water
Once your water is boiling, remove it from the heat and let it sit for 30 seconds to cool slightly. Now we can top up our French press with hot water. Press start on your timer and pour the water evenly over the coffee, so every bit of coffee grind is saturated.
Step 3 – Let it brew
Let the coffee steep for 4 minutes. If you don’t have a timer on you, that’s ok! You can either count 4 minutes in your head or just guesstimate. We’re out in nature, so we’re not super fussy here!
Step 4 – Stir and plunge
Once 4 minutes is up, give the coffee a stir. Place on the plunger lid and gently press down all the way.
Step 5 – Enjoy
Your delicious French press coffee is ready! Enjoy!
How to Clean a Portable Coffee Maker
Now it’s time to clean-up. Thankfully, the coffee maker we chose is a French press travel coffee maker, so it is super easy to clean.
Step 1 – Remove the coffee grinds
Remove the lid and the plunger. Remove the used coffee grinds and discard them. Now rinse out the French press with water. If you have dishwashing soap, use that to wash out the French press. If not, that’s ok— rinsing it with water will suffice for a few days.
Step 2 – Wash the plunger
Next, wash the plunger piece with water and soap if you have it. The mesh filter is the hardest and most important part to keep clean. Make sure you have washed away all of the used coffee grinds. If we don’t do this step properly, our next cup might taste like old, stale coffee.
Step 3 – Dry
Either dry the French press with a tea towel or leave it to air dry. Try not to throw the French press into your bag wet as this may impart some unpleasant smells onto the plastic.
Does More Spending Mean More Quality
When it comes to portable coffee makers, spending more doesn’t always equal better quality. A plastic V60 is an excellent, high-quality coffee maker. It is also pretty cheap.
What spending more will get you is a coffee maker with more features.
Espresso coffee makers generally cost more than drip coffee makers. This is because espresso is, by default, a more complicated brew method that requires more from the coffee maker.
Do’s and Don’ts With a Portable Coffee Maker
- Do e sure that the coffee maker you choose is durable enough for the travel you’ll be doing.
- Do pick up a travel burr grinder. While they aren’t essential, burr coffee grinders do bring the best out of every coffee.
- Do keep your coffee maker clean. If you are camping, make sure you fully rinse your coffee maker. Wash it with soap whenever you can.
- Do get a coffee maker with the right capacity for your needs.
- Do dispose of coffee grinds properly.
- Don’t forget to dry your portable coffee maker before packing it.
- Don’t choose a coffee maker that includes glass. If it smashes while you are in transit, you’ll have shards of glass all over your luggage!
FAQ About Portable Coffee Makers
Can I take a coffee maker in my carry on?
It depends on the coffee maker you choose. Most non-powered portable coffee makers such as an AeroPress, a plastic V60, and a French press travel mug are totally ok to bring as carry on.
When it comes to coffee makers that use battery power or ones that are bigger and heavier, best check with the airline you are flying with.
Is there such a thing as a battery-operated coffee maker?
Yes indeed! There are dozens of battery operated coffee makers that brew both drip and espresso coffee. Most battery-operated coffee makers are on the larger size, and as such, suit people who are not carrying their luggage from place to place.
How can I make coffee without electricity?
For most portable coffee makers, all you need is hot water and ground coffee. When away from electricity, water can be heated in a pot using a gas stove.
Is there a portable coffee maker/mug that brews hot coffee from cold water?
While coffee makers like this are rare, there are a few that heat the water before brewing. All of these coffee makers that are capable of heating water then brewing are battery-operated. Check out the Amly portable coffee maker and the Makita DCM500Z.
Whether you’re on a fishing trip, hiking in the Andes, or simply delayed at the airport, a portable coffee maker is an excellent choice for brewing coffee in unconventional places. They are generally inexpensive, easy to use, light to carry, and are capable of brewing delicious coffee anywhere. Give one a try!