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Coffee-on-the-go - and you've gone ... now what?

Updated: Jun 18

Coffee-on-the-go can result in those nightmare scenarios where, in the midst of caffeine depravation, we make some rushed and dumb decisions ... which may include drinking an espresso from a well-known chain coffee store at 10pm. Yeah, we've done that too. That sinking feeling when you take your first sip and get that distinct "burnt rubber" smell and an overwhelming sense of major disappointment. (We're still traumatised - the evening was going so well). But we're not talking the rather first world problem of finding a decent coffee in the middle of a large metropolis - we're talking about coffee for people who are really "on-the-go". Coffee for people who have already "went" and want their favourite caffeine injection system at the top of a mountain, or even half way up it ... or just sitting in the car park at the bottom of it.

Whether you're Eurorailing it, camping, hiking, boating, walking or just sitting in the car park of a National Trust country house and can't face yet another Illy cup of sludge - we've got you covered for some quick easy solution for great coffee.

Before we start on the innovative cool kit below - all of these methods suit a strong, darker roast style coffee. Your Rwandan and Ethiopean lighter roasts do not really suit these types of portable brewers - and we figure that if you have just climbed a mountain - or are girding your loins and about to attempt it - you'll want a decent caffeine hit. Our Gunpowder blend is one - our darkly roasted Timor-Leste Samoro is another.


Aeropress Go Portable Coffee Maker

Up first is the Aeropress Go coffee maker. Based on the same design as the original Aeropress, except it includes a mug and lid (which are "microwave-able" as well by the way) - all neatly packed with the Aeropress in a compact and easy to carry package. This one is our choice and personal favourite. This is because we're into having control over the brew. This is one of the simplest and most effective methods of brewing a great strong cup of coffee. The Aeropress is great for any coffee with its flexibility - you can adjust the variables like brew ratio, grind size, level of pressure, stirring and swirling. This is the only brewing method that brews using a combination of the 3 methods of extractimng the flavour from coffee - namely percolation, immersion and to a small extent, espresso brewing. If you're not clear on these 3 methods - they are:

Traditional Aeropress Method
Using the Aeropress at home

Percolation - Water is poured from the top, and passed through ground coffee, with gravity pulling the water through. Drip or pour over coffee makers like the Hario V60 work this way. If you order a filter coffee - this is it. The water percolates through the grounds - driven by nothing more than gravity. The beans need to be ground pretty fine for this to work.

Immersion - Water is mixed and infused with ground coffee. A cafetiere is the most common example. The grinds just sit around in hot water. You then press the plunger having left the beans "immersed" in that hot water for a "while". We actually blogged about that here - check it out. The beans do not need to be ground so finely as above - the filter doesnt catch everything and cafetiere coffee can sometimes have a slight "sludge" at the bottom of your cup.

Espresso - High pressure pushing hot water through a puck of ground coffee. The espresso machine. This is what your local artisanal coffee shop uses - and what home based "bean-to-cup" machines do. That hot water is pushed through at a much higher pressure than your tap can do - or indeed gravity. It's therefore quicker. The beans must be ground very finely indeed - espresso grind is the finest.

So there you have it - an Aeropress Go coffee maker which given a bit of hot water and decent coffee beans - you can have great coffee wherever you are! Check out our Aeropress tutorial for a great recipe to get you started.


Cafflano Klassic All-in-one Portable Coffee Maker

The Cafflano Klassic All-in-one Coffee Maker is a portable Bean-to-Cup coffee maker, which includes a grinder, pour over vessel, and cup which all screw together in a neat compact cylinder shape. The only external things you need are beans and hot water. You don't even need to get your beans ground beforehand!

Brewing with the Cafflano Klassic Out In The Wild
Brewing with the Cafflano Klassic Out In The Wild

Whilst pre ground coffee can save a little time and be convenient for other brew methods, the main problem is ground coffee goes stale significantly faster than whole beans. See our blog on coffee freshness for more details. So carrying coffee beans with you, alongside a Cafflano grinder which takes up a fraction of the space of a normal separate grinder, is totally worth the gain.

Step by Step, Super Simple Guide to Great Cafflano Coffee
Step by Step, Super Simple Guide to Great Cafflano Coffee

In a nutshell, you brew with the Cafflano in the following steps. Firstly, grind the desired amount of coffee beans in the top grinder section, then pour hot water over the ground coffee inside the brewing section, and you're left with a cup of coffee in the cup at the bottom. As far as convenience, being compact, and making coffee brewing easy, it's one of the few bean to cup portable devices which includes a grinder, and gives all the coffee brewing essentials in a single package. This is a fun way - and most compact way - of brewing coffee on top of that mountain. That grinding will also warm you up if you're on the north face of the Eiger ... on in the car park at the bottom.



Wacaco Picopresso Portable Coffee Maker

For funky coolness however - you really should get one of these. A Wacaca Picopresso. This truly is new territory but incredibly fun and rewarding. This really is one for the true wild-campers and hikers out there.

Wacaco Picopresso Portable Coffee Maker
Wacaco Picopresso Portable Coffee Maker

This super-small compact device delivers an espresso that pretty close to what you find in a domestic bean-to-cup machine. Impressive! Yoiu shove your espresso pre-ground coffee into the brewing chamber, add the hot water to the water tank, screw it together, and then create the pressure needed by manually pressing and pumping a piston which creates enough pressure to brew the coffee. See our full guide here.

The Smallest Espresso Maker In The World
Wacaco Picopresso

Brewing this way requires some degree of faff, - you're going to need to carry that espresso ground coffee around with you for a start - which means you have coffee which is going stale faster than any other grind type. If you go whole beans, you'll need a proper espresso grinder which you'll be hard pressed to find an affordable one which is also portable. On top of that you'll need to pay attention to roast profile, coffee to water ratio, water temperature, given how sensitive minor changes to variables the espresso brew can be. Despite all that fuss, it's still a fun and successful niche product, which the coffee lover/hiker community absolutely love. And you'll look super-cool presenting that at Everest Base camp.

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