The Coffee Concierge

How To Make Great Coffee On The Road

I'm writing this post from a hotel room in Rapid City, South Dakota. I've been on a cross-country road trip these last two weeks and having the time to do anything with coffee has been tough to say the least.

Before I embarked on this ambitious trip, I had a nice supply of freshly roasted single origin coffees that I couldn't wait to try out. Unfortunately, since I wasn't going to be home anytime soon with my usual setup, I would have to be creative with how I was able to brew it on the road.

The goal was simple: don't settle for gas station and/or hotel coffee just because I don't have access to all of my usual tools.

In action

Here is a video of one of my successful attempts at making coffee in a moving vehicle.

What to bring

I figured as long as I could get hot (or cold) water along the way, I'd make it happen. So here's what I packed:

AeroPress

The AeroPress was my weapon of choice when it came to brewing the coffee itself. Why?

Well, for one, it isn't fragile. Heavy-duty, BPA-free plastic pretty much guaranteed that nothing would break as I shoved it into my suitcase and backpack.

Secondly, it retains heat nicely, so I knew it wouldn't be too much of a problem for me to brew my coffee hot even if I couldn't find the hottest water.

Third, it makes delicious coffee. But you already knew that didn't you?

Finally, clean-up is simple if you execute carefully. Just have a place to dispose of your coffee puck and you should be good to go. Paper towels also come in handy.

Hario Mini Mill

While it certainly isn't the best hand grinder available, the Hario Mini Mill is still better than most cheap grinders on the market.

While it has been known to produce inconsistent grinds, particularly for coarser settings, I chalk this up as one of those situations where I'd rather focus on the 90% (freshly ground coffee) than the 10% (grind consistency). Yes, those were not real stats, but I think for most purposes the Mini Mill is fine.

Plus, since it handles fines pretty consistently, that is great for the AeroPress.

Until I can justify spending $200+ on a LIDO, the Hario Mini Mill will be my go-to travel grinder.

Travel Mug

I brought my thermos to add hot water to from gas stations and/or hotels. When it came time for me to brew, I had hot water ready to go without having to lug a kettle around.

Freshly Roasted, Whole Bean Coffee

Don't forget your coffee!

Plastic Bag

For dumping the grounds.

Paper Towels

For potential spills and clean up.

Tips from experience

Now, I don't necessarily recommend making coffee in a moving car, especially if you're dealing with hot water. So if you do decide to try this, please be careful.

I tried making coffee 5 times while in the car and I failed miserably twice.

The first time, I didn't wet my paper filter and as a result, it fell out as I was flipping my AeroPress. I got unfiltered coffee in my final cup.

The second time was even worse:

I was making cold brew and after precariously steeping the coffee for a couple hours in the car, I pulled the AeroPress out of the bag I was using to hold it in place and it got snagged on the edge of the bag.

The AeroPress was tipped over and unfiltered coffee got everywhere. I had to quickly clean up a good chunk of the coffee with my socks before having my sister pull the car over.

So here are some tips:

  1. Always pre-wet your paper filter and cap
  2. Setup a steady surface in your car so you can press easily
  3. Keep a plastic bag and paper towels handy
  4. Dump any excess water out the window (carefully and surreptitiously)

Taking it a few steps further

If you want to heat your own water in a moving car this is certainly possible, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Grab yourself an inverter and bring your electric kettle. You will likely need some pretty high wattage, but I'm no electrician so I can't really offer too much advice here.

Don't settle for second best

So there you have it! If you don't want to drink horrible coffee while on the road then you can definitely give this a try. It may sound like a lot of work, but if you have a solid hand grinder like the Lido you can have great coffee in no time at all.

Ever make coffee on the road? I'd love to hear about your experience. Please leave a comment below and let me know!