The Best Way to Make Coffee While Traveling

When I sold off most of my things and moved abroad, there was one collection of things that I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of: my coffee set up.

Over the years, I had built a small arsenal of different coffee equipment in my kitchen (much to my girlfriend’s dismay). As I was getting ready to fit my life into 2 backpacks and move abroad for the foreseeable future, I knew good coffee wasn’t something I could leave behind completely. I had to put together a travel set up that was consistent, reliable, and didn’t take up too much space in my bag. 

Now, this isn’t to say I only drink specialty coffee or that anything less than that is “bad”. I’ve long said that there’s something charming about the burnt taste of diner coffee and I’ve never been above a drink from Starbucks. I just don’t share Southeast Asia’s love for instant coffee. Plus, sometimes you just want to make it yourself.

So I examined my setup, went through some trial and error, and tried to come up with a quality travel kit that was both compact enough for someone on the go and convenient enough that I could use it almost anywhere. 

In a nutshell:

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While trying to assemble my coffee travel kit, I was operating under the assumption that: 

I would have access to hot water.

Electric kettles can be found all over the world and even most hotel rooms have a kettle or coffee maker that can heat your water. Heck, even if you want to brew a cup on the plane, the flight attendant can get you some hot water.

I would already have a drinking vessel

I have no problem buying a mug once I’m on the ground, since I’m usually in one place for at least a few weeks. Either that or I can grab a mug from the hotel.

I decided that I’d be fine without having to carry a mug and so far, so good. If I had to, I’d grab a camper cup like this one from Snow Peak and clip it to my bag. 

I would buy my coffee locally

Coffee can be found all over the world and the third wave coffee scene in Southeast Asia has pleasantly surprised me. And if I’m in a place so remote that I absolutely can’t find coffee? Well, then I guess I’m having tea.

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The Necessary Criteria for my Coffee Travel Kit

Doesn’t take up too much space

Everything I currently own fits into my two bags and I relocate every three months or so. This means that if it can’t fit or if it isn’t “essential”, it can’t come. As someone who has a history of struggling with organizing and packing, this was my biggest test.

Didn’t require a precise pour
I wasn’t bringing my gooseneck kettle with me and they don’t exactly come standard in anywhere that isn’t a third wave cafe. This means that a v60 dripper was out (spoiler alert) but didn’t eliminate cones altogether. 

Didn’t require electricity

If I can boil water while camping or get it from a flight attendant, I should be able to, theoretically, make my coffee anywhere. 

Tasted good

Obvious, I know. But If I was going to go through the trouble of grinding and brewing my own coffee, it had to be something I could see myself drinking back home. I love the process of making coffee, but in a place like Vietnam that seems to have 65 cent coffee on every corner, spending more to make my own brew had to be worth it.

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Equipment

Scale

Fast Weigh MS-600 Digital Pocket Scale (link)

I needed a scale for a few reasons. The obvious one is that I want to know how much coffee I’m drinking. This helps me budget and know how long a bag will last me. So if I use 17g of coffee per cup, I know a 200 g bag will give me 11 cups or so. Using a scale also helps me dial in my brew and keep the taste consistent.

The MS-600 by AWS is definitely a pocket scale. This thing is tiny, about the size of a deck of cards, which solved my space issue. My previous scale was from AWS and I liked it so much that grabbing this pocket scale was a no brainer. AWS scales may not look the coolest and they’re not the most technical but they’re affordable, super accurate, offer fast reads, and are durable. 

The MS-600 comes with a cover to protect the scale that doubles as an expansion tray. It conveniently runs off 2 double A batteries, which have proven easy to find pretty much everywhere.

This one can be hard to come by these days. If you can’t find it, try checking out this alternative from AccuWeight which has a similar size.

Grinder

Porlex / Porlex Mini

Porlex grinders are probably the ideal travel grinders. They’re slim, sleek, and have a durable steel body. Plus, their spring-loaded ceramic burrs make it easy to adjust the grind size. But for many people, the main selling point for the Porlex is that it fits so snuggly into an Aeropress that you’d swear they were made for each other.

Porlex Jp-30 Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder, Silver
  • Ceramic conical burrs with wide range can grind from powder to french press
  • Made in osaka, japan
  • 30 gram capacity
  • Stainless steel, static free body
  • 47mm diameter and stands 178mm tall

Brewer

Aeropress Coffee Maker (+ Mesh Filter)

This was probably the easiest pick for me because the Aeropress is also my go to for making coffee at home. I love brewing with my Chemex and I’ll go through a french press phase now and then, but I always come back to the Aeropress. It’s affordable, durable, and very forgiving. I tell people who are looking to upgrade their home set up that it is legitimately difficult to screw up coffee with an Aeropress. Plus it’s small and clean up is a breeze. Just pop the grinds and filter into the trash with a simple push and rinse. 

As for the filters, I have to admit up front that I am a fan of paper filters. I brought my Aeropress brand paper filters abroad with me but before I hit the road, I also bought a reusable mesh filter for my Aeropress. This was both in an effort to save space and to be a bit more eco-friendly. 

Plus, it’s nice to have another way to change up my coffee when I only have one brewer on hand. If paper filters are an absolute must have, I’ve already seen them for sale in Vietnam, Thailand, and Taiwan. If you need them, you can get them.

As for brewing parameters and variables, I’ve established my own personal Aeropress recipe at this point but I really like the brew guides from Heart, Stumptown, and Counter Culture as starting points. I recommend you give them a shot and from there you can experiment and create your own! 

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So How Has My Travel Kit Held Up So Far?


Over one year later, this setup has served me very well. I always have the option to make coffee the way I like it and haven’t once felt that this equipment was too much to carry around. Surprisingly, I haven’t even had any issues with airport security yet! 

Did I forget a product that you’ve loved traveling with? What does your coffee situation look like when you travel? Let me know in the comments!

Last update on 2021-10-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API