While brewing coffee is a morning ritual for many, drinking coffee is a ritual for most of us. It’s a part of the morning that no-one wants to go without. When traveling, whether you’re camping, or traveling from city to city, the issue— aside from the fact that trees don’t make great Baristas— is that not every city in the world makes coffee the way you like it. Luckily, there are dozens of portable coffee brewers that are more than capable of making excellent coffee on the go. We’ve compiled 12 of the best and most respected travel coffee makers.
After extensive research and field testing of many brewers, the AeroPress GO stands out as the clear winner in the battle of the travel coffee makers. It is durable, inexpensive, incredibly easy to clean, and is portable enough to use on an airplane. It also makes amazing coffee.
What to look for when choosing a portable coffee maker that would fit your expectations? Here are the key things to consider.
Lots of small bits with too many moving parts — sounds like a nightmare for sleepy, cold handed campers. When choosing the perfect travel coffee brewer, we’re looking for as few steps as possible that stand between us and our one true love — coffee. Bonus points for being able to make either more than one cup at a time, or multiple cups quickly and easily.
For me, one of the most important things in a travel coffee maker is that it is easy to clean. Some coffee makers utilize single-use paper filters, generally making clean-up as easy as tossing the filter in the rubbish and giving the brewer a quick rinse. The downside to this is that you’ll need to carry filters with you— yet another thing to carry.
Other brewers employ a reusable mesh filter— and while being more environmentally friendly by not using paper filters, they do take more effort to clean for reuse.
Planes, trains, and automobiles— our bags go through hell during a long transit. If any given travel brewer can’t take a drop from at least head height, it has no right calling itself a travel brewer! Take the Aeropress, for example— the thing is bulletproof (not literally. Please don’t test it).
Heavy-duty plastic and stainless steel are both good options— just please, for the love of God, no glass, regardless of how insulated it might seem.
There are generally two filtration methods commonly used by coffee makers — mesh or paper.
Each method of filtration presents different results. A steel or mesh filter will allow more oils and sediment into the cup than a paper filter will, meaning the resulting cup of coffee will be richer and fuller with a heavy body. Coffees filtered through paper will be lighter and more delicate. Mesh filter brewers have the benefit of not needing paper filters, reducing overall cost, and making them more eco-friendly than brewers that require them. Having said that, I much prefer the clean flavor profile of paper filtered coffees.
Tip: Filter papers can be a tricky thing to store while traveling — put them randomly in your backpack and the chances are they’ll come out looking like an origami crane. Try keeping them flat by storing them within the pages of a book — Kurt Vonnegut, George Orwell, Sylvia Plath, they are all ideal for filter paper storage and an excellent coffee read.
With most forms of traveling, every single gram of weight counts. An extra 500 grams in a handbag might mean a heavier office commute, or your backpack not quite making weight as carry-on. It will also feel like a literal brick after eight hours of hiking the Appalachian Trail. The lighter and more portable a coffee maker is, the more likely we are to bring it and use it on the go.
Depending on the beans you buy— whether it’s a bag of Lavazza from your local supermarket, or a Colombia El Jordan from Stumptown— making a 250ml cup of coffee in one of these devices will cost you anywhere from $0.35c to $0.90c. This isn’t exact and doesn’t include the cost of water or the cost of the brewer and grinder. A cup made with similar coffee at a cafe will run you somewhere in the league of $2 and $4.
The reason I mention this, is because a coffee brewer will eventually save you quite a bit of money in the long run. So it’s good to invest in a solid product that will last. This doesn’t necessarily mean dropping a lot of cash on the most expensive brewer available (our top pick certainly isn’t) — just choose a brewer that matches what you need. You might spend a little more on the brewer now, but it will pay for itself in no-time.
Whether or not you need insulation, depends entirely on the kind of travel you do, and where you’ll be using your portable coffee maker.
A non-insulated cup of coffee goes cold in approximately 0.2 seconds flat (don’t quote me on that) when drinking it at 6 am on an ice-cold Himalayan plateau. This is not so much the case in a toasty office or hotel room. Choose wisely and you will be rewarded with hot coffee, for longer. And what a glorious reward it is.
There are three main methods of brewing coffee — immersion, infusion, and espresso. All of the three methods are capable of producing beautiful coffee, each allowing certain flavor characteristics to shine through in the cup. Choosing the right brew method is actually pretty easy. Just choose the coffee vibes you like and you're set.
The French press is the classic example of immersion brewing. All the ground coffee is immersed with all the water for the entire duration of the brew. The resulting cup is full and rich, with a heavy body and lower level of acidity. An immersion brew’s heavy body is thanks in large part to its common use of steel filtration systems, allowing most of the oils through the filter and into the cup.
Drip coffee, like a Chemex or a V60, is usually a fair bit lighter and more bright than both immersion and espresso brews. This is largely due to the fact that most drip coffee brewers utilize paper filters, which stop most of the coffees oil and sediment from flowing into the cup. That’s not to say that drip coffee isn’t full of flavor or is lacking in strength.
Coffee brewed via the drip method is gentler and more subtle— allowing for the delicate notes in a coffee— often light florals, to shine through. Drip coffee also provides a higher level of control, allowing an experienced coffee brewer to bring out more acidity in one coffee, and less in another, depending on the way the water is poured over the coffee bed. Because of this, many coffee fans won’t brew coffee any other way.
Espresso coffee is much thicker, fuller, and stronger than even the strongest immersion coffee could ever be. Espresso coffee is intense, and when done well, is incredibly sweet, hums with vibrant acidity, and has a silky smooth body that pairs excellently with milk.
Espresso is somewhat the infamous dark horse of coffee making. To brew good, real espresso, one needs a good and real espresso machine capable of maintaining enough heat and producing high enough pressure (9 bars) in order to force the water through the finely ground coffee.
This doesn’t mean we can’t get pretty damn close with a travel espresso maker though. Using nice fresh coffee, and hot enough water, we are able to pull a decent espresso-like shot using a small, handheld brewer, of which we’ve included our favorites here.
Grind, pour, brew, and enjoy — the Cafflano Klassic is a well-made, self-contained and portable coffee brewer that gives you everything you need to brew a delicious cup coffee
The Cafflano Klassic includes everything you need to brew coffee in wild places (BYO hot water). This all-in-one travel coffee maker includes an adjustable ceramic burr grinder, a stainless steel drip coffee brewer, a double-walled tumbler, and to top it off, a vessel that acts as a pour-over kettle, making controlled pouring easier. Each part of the set-up is sturdy and well-made.
The entire package weighs in at a touch over one pound and is the perfect size to throw into a backpack or handbag. Having said that, the Cafflano Klassic isn’t just a good choice for the outdoors or coffee on the go— it is also an excellent compact coffee maker for at home, or an option for those wanting to avoid the dreaded office Nespresso.
The Nanopresso is a unique little handheld espresso maker, designed for use while traveling. It gains the pressure it needs to brew via a pump, which is operated by hand. When a high enough pressure is reached, espresso-like coffee begins flowing from the bottom of the brewer. The Nanopresso has been praised by hikers and trekkers for its ability to produce espresso on the trail.
While it may not provide the best espresso, and it can’t compare to an actual espresso machine, for those wanting espresso coffee while camping or hiking, the Nanopresso is your most practical bet. It may also be worth mentioning that when using an adapter, the Nanopresso is compatible with capsules too.
Espro has been a trusted name among coffee nerds for a while for having one of the best French press coffee makers in the game. The difference between theirs and a regular French press lies within the walls of Espro’s double-walled steel filter basket— which not only filters out more sediment than a standard French press, it also stops extraction when the press is fully plunged.
Combine this filter basket with a quality insulated travel cup and you’ve got yourself one beast of a travel coffee brewer. I have used one of these on dozens of hiking and trips— it never leaks and never disappoints.
To avoid your stainless steel mesh filter from clogging, be sure to use a medium or coarse grind size— around the texture of raw sugar. Using espresso ground coffee with a mesh filter may clog and over-extract your brew, resulting in a bitter and unpleasant cup of coffee.
A dear friend of mine used to use one of these big-boys on every trip we ever went on— from city hopping to jungle trekking. I saw it on about twenty trips over the course of three years, without fail. It goes without saying that this coffee maker wins ticks for durability.
The JavaPress is a big, simple, insulated French press, perfect for brewing coffee for two people (or one very sleepy and possibly greedy person). It is constructed of BPA-free plastic, has a silicone seal to stop coffee grinds from escaping into the final brew, and includes a handle, making it easy to hold or clip to the outside of a backpack. Its only downside for some people may be its mass— weighing in at just over 10oz. Not too bad really, considering its large size.
Thanks to its foldable legs and overall small size, the Coffee Rocket Maker offers the most portable and packable pour-over coffee maker on the list. Unfortunately, it falls short when it comes to the practicalities of making coffee.
GSI’s Coffee Rocket Maker is a unique take on a pour-over coffee brewer. It combines a 230ml water hopper, with a 10g coffee filter that fits onto a stand with foldable legs. The Coffee Rocket Maker sits atop your favorite cup when in use, and packs neatly inside the cup while transiting.
If you have a keen eye for coffee brewing, you may have noticed that the numbers I mentioned above— 230ml of water to 10g of coffee, make a 1:23 ratio. As a comparison, a normal pour-over coffee brewing ratio is around 1:16. What this means, is that if you stick with GSI’s recommended ratio, you’ll end up with an incredibly weak brew. If you really love the Coffee Rocket Maker’s design (admittedly, it is very cool) and size, I would recommend using closer to 170ml of water.
I’d be willing to bet that almost every die-hard home coffee geek has at least one V60 in their coffee brewing arsenal. Whether on the road, at home or at the campsite, you can’t go wrong the Hario V60. It is inexpensive, lightweight, and extremely durable. And best of all, it is capable of brewing insanely good coffee.
Combine a V60 with a pack of paper filters, and two Nalgene water bottles (which most hikers are carrying anyway— one for pouring, one for brewing into. A cup could also be used) and you’ve got yourself an excellent camp coffee setup. I’ve brewed like this multiple times and loved it.
The Pipamoka is a very unique travel coffee brewer with an interesting design and different way of brewing. I’ll do my best to explain it. First ground coffee is added to a filter basket. The filter basket is then placed in the filled water chamber which sits within the thermos cup, and allowed to sink to the bottom. The lid is placed on, then the ring is twisted, lifting the water chamber up, and out of the insulated cup. When the water chamber is all the way out, it can be removed, leaving a cup of coffee ready to drink. The twisting action actively pulls the water through the coffee, giving the Pipamoka a reasonably fast extraction time.
The original AeroPress wasn’t actually designed to be a portable or travel coffee brewer. Its ease of use, tank-like durability, and the fact that it requires almost no cleaning meant it just fit the bill perfectly. Let’s call it a happy accident.
The new and updated AeroPress GO is nearly identical to the original— just a little smaller. With a brew capacity of 200ml, it fits neatly inside the included cup, leaving plenty of backpack space for extra coffee. There is an entire worldwide coffee competition dedicated to the AeroPress, so there’s probably no need to mention whether or not it can make tasty coffee (spoiler alert: it can.)
From the makers of our favorite coffee storage container comes the BruTrek Double Shot. Designed specifically for use while camping and hiking, the BruTrek boasts a super solid handle, great for clipping to the outside of a pack, and a spill-proof lid. As a neat little bonus, the BruTrek comes with a mini built-in Airscape which screws onto the bottom of the cup— keeping your coffee beans completely sealed and airtight, away from the elements.
If you want a coffee maker that will brew a strong cup of coffee, all while sitting on a grill over some hot coals of a campfire, look no further than the Bialetti Express Moka Pot.
While the Bialetti isn’t the lightest or most portable coffee maker in the world, if you are car camping or dare I say ‘glamping’ and weight isn’t an issue, the Moka Pot is a pretty excellent option. Durable, easy to use, and depending on the size you choose, will brew between one and twelve cups of coffee.
Pour-over coffee minus the device. If you really don’t want to carry any extra weight while traveling, and cowboy coffee isn’t your thing, a pour-over coffee bag may be right up your alley. Just tear open the bag and slowly pour water.
These simple little pour-over coffee bags by Kuji come in three roasts and three different single-origin coffees. They also fit neatly right in your front pocket. Use the tabs to fit the bag over your coffee cup, slowly pour hot water over the coffee bed as you would with any pour-over coffee maker, and then let the bag steep for another thirty seconds or so, depending on how strong you like it. Coffee bags are a good option for times when traveling light is of utmost importance.
Lightweight, collapsible, and when expanded, opens up to a full sized pour-over brewer that is easily capable of brewing two large cups of coffee. As with other GSI products, the Java Drip is designed for use on the go.
The Java Drip is a large size coffee dripper that collapses down— and it ends up so flat (one inch), that it could find a permanent home in most people's backpack or daybag. Did I also mention that it weighs a mere 136 grams!?
The GSI Java Drip presents itself as an excellent option for brewing on camping trips for a few reasons — both its collapsed and expanded size, and the single hole at the bottom of the brewer, which slows the coffees flow rate, which in turn will make the grind size you use a little less important (good for people who are using pre-ground coffee).
To brew a delicious cup of coffee, we need to start with delicious coffee beans. Head down to your local specialty coffee roaster and ask them what they would recommend (they won’t bite!) The biggest improvement one can make to his or her coffee game is an upgrade in beans. I guarantee you, the difference in taste between specialty beans and regular store-bought ground coffee is enormous, and you’ll most likely never go back.
Clean, taste and odor-free water is crucial for making good coffee. While many cities in the world are blessed with excellent water straight from the tap, other cities are not so lucky. When traveling, the best option to ensure your coffee is tasting its best is to use bottled water. While I wouldn’t recommend doing this at home (we have far too much plastic waste already), it is a decent option for short trips.
Also, make sure your water is hot enough. While Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) recommends to use near boiling water temperature of about 200°F (92.2 – 94.4°C) when poured on grounds, many coffee professionals, including James Hoffman, say that when it comes to water for brewing coffee, the hotter the better. Hotter water extracts more of the good stuff from the coffee — and that is precisely what we want.
The fact of the matter is, any grinder will provide you with better-tasting coffee than week old pre-ground coffee. A decent burr coffee grinder will change your life and you’ll never know how you lived without one.
You can pick up a solid little hand grinder, perfect for traveling for under $100. Of course, the more you spend, the better and more consistent your grind will be, but for people unsure of whether or not they want to take the plunge, a hand grinder like the Porlex mini is a good and inexpensive starting point.
While there are dozens of capable options that will have you drinking a delicious cup of coffee super fast, tasty coffee and speed aren’t the only things to look at when choosing a travel coffee maker. Our pick for the best travel coffee maker is the AeroPress GO. It is small, lightweight, easy to use, and even easier to clean. Oh, and yes, it does make delicious coffee quickly.
Are there battery-operated coffee makers on the market? Absolutely. We didn’t include any of them on this list because none of them that we know of have really stood the test of time, but you may know a Japanese power tool company Makita. They do a coffee maker powered by a drill battery. This could be the right option for you!
Coffee can be brewed using only a mug. This method is known as cowboy style coffee. Giddy-up!
Add 3 tablespoons, or about 15g of coffee to a cup, then top it up with 225ml of boiling water. Wait 4 minutes then give it a stir. You can now either scoop any ground coffee left floating around on top using a spoon, or not. Wait a few more minutes and most of the coffee will sink to the bottom of the mug.
Using this method, you’ll inevitably find a few coffee grinds in your teeth, but hey — think of it as a little extra caffeine! Cowboy style!
A good alternative would be the Kuju Pour-Over Coffee. Take some of these bags with you and get a cup of specialty grade coffee right when you need it.
A good travel coffee brewer makes life on the road, on the beach or on the trail just that much better. There is something special about brewing coffee in nature — tent-side, mountains in every direction with no buildings for miles. So get out there, explore our great big blue planet and drink delicious coffee while doing so. Enjoy!