A perfect travel coffee maker: The coffee fix for travelers

by Nov 14, 2019Gear

Nothing less that a perfect cup of coffee will do when you need a java fix. But how to get that perfect cup when traveling? It’s not so difficult if you pack your own coffee maker. We review the best travel coffee gear and gadgets.

When you need your java fix, nothing less that a perfect cup will do. But how do you get the coffee you want and like when traveling? Not so difficult if you pack the right travel coffee maker, gadget, bag or grounds to make sure you get your java, your way.

Here is an assortment of press mugs, packable cones, instant bags and other gizmos and travel coffee makers we have used over the years and liked. Which one you choose will depend on how you are traveling (car? plane?) and where you are staying (hotels? B&Bs?) since packability is king. And, in all cases, you will need hot or boiled water. That’s not so hard if you are staying in a vacation rental, in a hotel that serves breakfast (snag the hot water for tea), or in hotels that have coffee makers (just make hot water than use it with your own choice from the list below and your own grounds.

Aeropress Espresso Maker

For those who will accept nothing less than the best press espresso coffee when traveling, the Aeropress is for you. It’s simple, non-breakable and fast. We adore the coffee that comes out of the Aeropress Espresso Maker. It is a bit bulkier among travel coffee makers if packing light is your mantra so choose wisely. Plus, it takes a special small round flat filter so shop carefully.

Coffee cones

Sure, you could pack along a regular plastic cone, but why do that when you can get the same thing the weight of a feather and flat as a piece of paper? Take a look at these lightweight packable coffee cones: 

>> Soto Helix Coffee Maker – A beautifully designed lightweight coffee maker that collapses flat into its own little bag. Just add a paper filter, coffee and hot water. This would be great for super lightweight travel endeavors, even backpacking.

>> Tetra Drip Coffee Cones by Munieq – These come in three super lightweight pieces packed flat in a tiny plastic zipper bag – the ultimate in portability. But the pieces of this little beauty come together into a nifty traveling coffee maker. The pieces latch together like a little jigsaw puzzle. Granted, your first assembly make take a little head-scratching so do watch the video and look at the photos closely. It’s kind of amazing what three flat pieces of plastic or metal can become. They take a super small paper filter although you could tear off the top of a larger one. These coffee maker cones are so small and lightweight, they would also work well for backpacking and other super lightweight travels.

Coffee press mugs

There are a lot of these travel coffee makers on the market. We tried the GSI Commuter Javapress Travel Coffee Mug and liked it.  The beauty of a press mug (depending on the design) is most can also be used for water, tea or other beverages too. You just need to be willing to pack a coffee maker with you that is water bottle size.

HITT Tip: If you have a travel coffee maker or press, you’ll also need coffee. We are particularly partial to Peet’s Coffee, a grind born in Berkeley, Calif., a few decades ago.

Pre-packaged brewed or instant coffee

Which of these traveling coffee types you may choose to take with you when you hit the road will depend on your tastes and preferences in both coffee and how to make it.

>> Steeped Coffee bags – These are a new item in the travel coffee segment. Basically, you have fine ground coffee in tea-like bags. We tried a variety pack and found the Dark Roast or French Roast came out pretty dang decent with reasonable body. Granted, we like darker, richer coffee, thus the light or medium blends were a bit thin for our personal tastes but may be fine for for other seeking a packable lightweight travel coffee maker.

>> Starbucks Via – We have to mention these since we do know any number of coffee snobs who pack along these when traveling, particularly if they are backpacking. They are easy to find and all you need is hot water and a cup.

>> Medaglia D’Oro Instant Espresso – There is a stigma about instant coffee these days, but heck this espresso is pretty dang good. Has been in our bag as a staple in situations like super light travel or backpacking for getting our travel coffee fix.

>> Growers Cup – Need coffee for a couple of travelers? The Growers Cup coffee maker is a paper package with grounds inside. Much like just-add-hot-water backpacking food, you open the top, add hot water then zip it closed and let it steep for a few minutes (longer is stronger). When done, the package serves as your pot; you just pour the coffee out into cups, making a half-liter total. Not a bad option for a travel coffee maker.

>> Robert Timm’s Coffee Bags – This is another option for simple coffee in tea-like bags that is surprisingly not so bad, especially if you need to stay lightweight. Harder to come by outside of its homeland of Australia (which is where we tried it), you can nevertheless find it online.

>> Kuju Coffee – This traveling coffee maker is really a cross between coffee cone and coffee in a bag. Kuju comes in a package with “wings” that you fold out to rest on the top of a cup so you can pour over it. Nifty idea for a lightweight travel coffee maker.

Learn more about European coffee culture in our story that discusses the ins and outs of when and how to drink coffee when traveling in six countries: Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain, France and England. You think you know how to drink coffee? Like with so many things, what is accepted and expected in different countries can be very different.

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  1. Blaine Parker

    Thank you for this post. I’ve begun grappling with the dearth of good coffee on the road. For extended trips to family, I’ve started packing a plastic French press and little, pre-measured bags of coffee. But that’s not going to work when traveling light. I see a Tetra in my future…

    • Michael Hodgson

      The Tetra is uber cool and so very very compact … did you ever acquire one?