Putting some miles between you and the city doesn’t have to mean leaving creature comforts in the dust you kick up. Broadsheet sent our resident coffee writer off into the wild to trial, test and taste a swag-full of travel-friendly brewing gadgets.
The Aeropress is a perfect brewer for trekking – by bike or by hike. It’s made from lightweight plastic and the various parts all pack away inside each other. Neat.
A tree stump, flat rock or car bonnet are all perfect surfaces to set up on. Then simply fill the tube with coffee and water, wait a minute or so, and press out the brew through a filter. The result is similar to a traditional pour-over, but with a little more body, courtesy of the press.
Paper filters are included, but to reduce waste I recommend upgrading to a reusable metal one. Agitating (stirring) the coffee during the brewing process will help achieve an even extraction, and there’s a stirrer included for doing just that.
The Aeropress also provides an opportunity to casually flex your guns at the cutie from the campsite opposite.
What even is the NanoPresso? It’s like a coffee machine spent one hazy night with a bike pump, and this was the result.
I didn’t know what to make of it at first. I bought batteries only to discover it doesn’t use any. Turns out the super-compact unit screws apart and you just load it with coffee and hot water. Once it’s reassembled, a lever pops out and you pump to generate brewing pressure.
The result is espresso, of a kind. About 40 mililitres in length, it has light crema, but lacks the punch of a proper short black. The NanoPresso only holds eight grams of coffee, so the flavour can get a bit lost when served with milk or topped with more water. But if you’re looking for a quick hit, this’ll do it, with minimum fuss. Travel case included. Use the hottest water you can to get a decent extraction.
Hario V60 2-cup
The V60 is a staple in cafes across the country but is just as suited to life in the wild. This one’s plastic and weighs practically nothing. It’s easy to use and the clean up is virtually zero. Win, win and win.
Brewing with a V60 is as simple as rinsing the filter paper, adding ground coffee and slowly pouring over hot-ish water. (For the best results with any pour-over-style brewer, have your water just off the boil – around 95 degrees.)
Pouring in concentric circles not only ensures an even brew, it also creates a sense of calm, drawing you into the ritual and easing you into the day.
Bialetti Mini Express 2-cup
The hypnotic gurgle of a moka on the boil always conjures fond memories of Nonna’s kitchen – even for those of us who aren’t Italian.
It turns out the European classic actually makes an ideal travel companion. It’s tiny, light and there’s no need to carry filters or clunky kettles – just fill it with coffee and cold water and pop it on the stove. Within a couple of minutes I was sipping espresso that was as good as any served in a big-smoke cafe. I tested out the two-cupper, but you can get larger variations that do up to 18 cups in one go. It’s a great way to make friends. Get one brewing on the campfire and see if it doesn’t draw a crowd.
Espro Travel Press
I really liked this one. It’s essentially a plunger and a travel mug combined. The problem was going to be in the filtration, but the Travel Press has double-mesh baskets to hold most of the grounds, and also comes with papers if you want to double-filter your brew.
I had a decent hike planned, so I decided to give the Travel Press a spin as a cold brewer. I followed the instructions – filling it with coffee and then water – but instead of hot water I used cold, and instead of the recommended four-minute steep time, I left mine to brew overnight (for about 10 hours).
The result? Sweet and smooth without any silt or grit. You can drink straight from the vessel, but remember the coffee will continue brewing while it’s in contact with water. I decanted my coffee, emptied the canteen and poured the liquid back in – with a couple of ice cubes. Then, with the lid screwed on, I tossed it in a backpack and set off for the day.
It was great not to have to carry anything else – no kettle, no burner. And importantly, the flask didn’t leak. Tight. On the box it says the Travel Press holds heat for four to six hours. It’s made from double-walled stainless and seals well, so I believe it.
I wouldn’t want to be ascending Everest with a Bellman Steamer in my pack. It’s cast from heavy-duty stainless, it’s bulky and it weighs about a kilo and a half. This is one for road trips, caravans and beach shacks.
To clarify, this unit just makes steam, but there is a version that brews coffee too. I pulled out the Bialetti again to make an espresso base, then topped it with milk textured in the Belman. You get a good amount of steam and pressure from the little hothead. My first go resulted in an ’80s flashback-a-ccino, but after a couple of tries I had the hang of it. It’s a bit slow to boil, but who’s rushing?
Notes from the road
A few things to remember before you set off. In addition to your chosen brewer, you’ll need access to good water and, importantly, a means of heating it. If you’re using a pour-over method, the Hario Buono Kettle is a good option for boiling and pouring.
I’d also recommend freshly grinding your coffee as you need it. It tastes (and smells) much better than pre-ground, and a hand-mill is all you need. A set of compact scales is also handy.
Gadgets courtesy of Alternative Coffee Brewing.