I am planning some hiking/climbing trips this year so I started looking into portable espresso machines. I found these products and also this ESPRESSO ON THE GO (this one actually got me super excited and I'm definitely getting one). No idea what the exact differences are apart from the price - The first one is much more expensive. I was wondering whether there are any old school tricks to prepare good coffee on an outdoor trip that don't require you taking too much equipment with you - I would prefer espresso but I realize that this is probably unrealistic. Also, what type of beans would you take on such a trip and how would you store them?

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    Is this a high altitude camping/hiking trip? – hardmath Mar 25 '15 at 16:22
  • So far the Highlands in Scotland are the highest planned altitude. Would there be a difference in preparation or are you asking because of the flavor perception in high altitudes? – schvaba Mar 25 '15 at 17:06
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    Higher altitude will reduce the boiling point of water so if you use nearly-boiling water at higher altitude, you'll be using lower temperature water than nearly-boiling water at sea level. This will certainly make a difference for coffee extraction above the 2500m / 8000ft range (boiling point 92C/195F). @hardmath - good point! Other reasons? – hoc_age Mar 25 '15 at 17:35
  • Ah, I would have never thought about that... Good point to keep in mind. The highlands should be lower than that. – schvaba Mar 25 '15 at 17:37
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    @hoc_age: No other point, although speaking of high-altitude, this month's Scientific American (Apr. 2015, p.18) has a brief note about the International Space Station getting its first espresso machine. "ISSpresso is the product of a collaboration among the Italian Space Agency, Italian engineering company Argotec, and Lavazza, a 120-year-old, Turin-based coffee roaster." – hardmath Mar 25 '15 at 19:08

I'm going to focus on the "old-school" aspect of your question.

From my perspective/experience, the classic way of producing "camp coffee" is a percolator. To use this device, you put grounds in a basket on the top, water in the bottom, assemble the apparatus, and put it over a heat source (e.g., camp fire, stove, etc.). If you want a stronger brew (as it sounds like you do), you can also use a moka pot (some call this a "stovetop espresso maker", though I don't care for that term) -- there are some very compact moka pots like this one that are targeted for backpacking/camping. This will give you very good moka-pot-strong espresso-like coffee, but you won't mistake it for espresso out of a professional espresso machine. You get the full experience of brewing a pot of coffee in the wilderness, which I enjoy. See also my related q/a on the difference between a percolator and a moka pot. Those are my preferences for camp coffee.

For a little more technology, you can use integrated heater/container systems like the JetBoil; they also have small accessories like this French press insert so you can minimize the extra gear (e.g., you can use the setup for heating water for other cooking, and (separately) use it to make coffee).

On the extreme end of low-weight and low-technology spectrum, you could use instant coffee or try coffee bags such as these, which are like tea bags, except that they are filled with coffee. You could even make your own coffee-bags (see instructables and MtBoE). Though there are tradeoffs and reasons you might not want to do this, from Seasoned Advice. These single-serve coffee bags have the advantage of minimal clean-up, and the whole package may be compostable. Also you don't have to worry about hot gear if you're packing up to get on the trail quickly (e.g., backpacking). Bags and instant are passable, ultra-light substitutes for actual coffee that get the job done but are less enjoyable to drink (for me).

Storage of beans and/or grounds is tricky -- especially already-ground coffee goes stale very quickly. You can minimize the damage by keeping everything sealed and dry. See also questions about storage in general and vacuum-sealing. You could always use a hand grinder, but that's more gear and more weight.

In sum: I go "fast and light" for coffee on the trail: gear that's reasonably light, that I can use quickly (for me, this is moka pot) so I can get the caffeine-dose done and get back on the trail. Pre-grind the coffee into a zip-top bag and evacuate as much air as possible. Deal with the slightly-stale taste and focus on being outdoors!

  • Thanks for all the tips. The moka pot seems like something I would go for at this point, at least before the minipresso becomes available, which I have to try :) Hmm, I've seen vacuum tupperware containers in a local store - they have a pump so you can suck the air out after closing. These might be a good option for proper storage. – schvaba Mar 25 '15 at 17:29
  • @schvaba - Moka is certainly my go-to -- if you haven't used one much, practice with it before the trip! See other questions tagged moka also. I'd still go for the plastic bag to reduce the size and gear over a vacuum box, but it sounds like it's worth a (pre-trip!) test also. If you discover something interesting, put a q/a here on Coffee! Fun question. – hoc_age Mar 25 '15 at 17:40

I think an AeroPress would work great on a trip. Just need hot water.

AeroPress Video Tutorial How To :: Inverted AeroPress Video Tutorial (YouTube)

See also other questions tagged .

  • AeroPress sounds like a good idea. Would you kindly describe the video link? Is it about outdoor use of the AeroPress, as pertains to this question? – hoc_age Apr 3 '15 at 21:24

I answered a previous question about making coffee with eggs that might also address your question. The method is very simple and I see no reason why you couldn't do the same thing without the eggs. Here is my original answer below:

I don't know any history behind the practice but I learned it myself during a rafting trip down the Grand Canyon back in the early '90's. The method was to put a couple of fistfuls of loose grounds in one of those giant porcelain coffee pots that look like they came out of a Zane Grey novel. Follow with two whole uncooked eggs and with a big metal spoon, stir the whole mess in the bottom of the pot, breaking the eggs and mixing it well with the dry grounds. Fill the pot with cold water and put on a hot fire until the thing boils. Take the pot off the fire and open the lid, dribbling about a cup of cold water over the top of the liquid inside. Somehow this settles all the solids to the bottom of the pot and the coffee really tasted pretty good. My take was that the egg sort of smoothed out any harshness the crude method would have introduced to the coffee otherwise. The grounds pretty much stay at the bottom of the pot and were not really a problem in the cup.

Your method might inlcude a smaller pot and less coffee grounds, but all brew methods are essentially just soaking ground coffee in hot water. A small French press might also suit your needs just fine. You should test out your method before you go, though.

  • I've read posts about egg coffee but I've never tried. I'll give it a shot, sounds very interesting :) – schvaba Mar 25 '15 at 17:30
  • @schvaba - It's surprisingly good for how crude a method it is. Speculation is that the egg somehow cancels out whatever bitterness comes from the method, but I've not tried that method without the eggs so I don't really know. – PJNoes Mar 25 '15 at 19:43
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    I suppose if you're taking eggs on the trail this could work, but you say "without the eggs" -- aren't the eggs part of the "magic" here? If you're suggesting simply to boil then decant coffee grounds, focus just on the "magic" of the cold water, which you say somehow settles the solids -- that itself sounds like your major point, and is a great answer to this question if it works! If you're not recommending to use eggs, take out the egg talk! :) – hoc_age Mar 25 '15 at 19:54
  • A few other recommendations, if you don't mind: Simply link to your answer (as I edited-in above) and paraphrasing instead of copying wholesale, as suggested here. Also, if you want to reply to a comment, please tag the user (as I edited into your comment); the poster of the question or answer you're commenting on will always get notified (as you did without me tagging you here). See editing help for more. Great points, and welcome to Coffee! – hoc_age Mar 25 '15 at 19:54

I agree that the Aeropress is a good option for making your coffee - I actually take one of those with me when I go on road trips so that I don't have to rely on terrible gas station coffee! I also found this article on travel coffee makers that might help you out. As for storing your beans, it needs to be something that is air tight and dark so that the light doesn't hit the beans.

  • For links, it's always helpful (and better received!) to give a brief summary. Can you edit your answer with a few highlights of the article you linked? – hoc_age Feb 16 '16 at 3:45

I recommend the bialetti. I think thats how its spelled. Its a stove top device (I suppose you could put it in a fire, too). It makes some of the BEST homemade coffee Ive ever had. Highly recommended. Its essentially an espresso machine, I put regular non-espresso coffee in it though. Still awesome. It's non-electrical, the one I have is no more than a half-pound heavy and about 6 inches tall and 3 or 4 inch diameter base.

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    Bialetti is a brand of moka pot. See also the other answers to this question about moka and the moka tag for more on this. Welcome to Coffee. – hoc_age Feb 16 '16 at 3:49

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