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. 

Snow Peak Titanium Single-Wall Cup - Foldable Handles - Camping & Backpacking - 15.2 fl oz - Anodized Blue
  • Durable Drinkware: Snow Peak titanium cup can be placed over a camping stove for cooking
  • Versatile Camping Mug: Drink coffee, tea, or soup from this single-wall cup wherever you are
  • Easy Storage: This coffee cup has foldable handles and is easy to pack in your handbag or backpack
  • Outdoor Dining Bliss: Enjoy the outdoors with our products' minimalism and elegance
  • Snow Peak: Our backpacking and camping products are made using a historic manufacturing process

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)

Sale
American Weigh Scales Fast Weigh MS Series Precision Digital Pocket Weight Scale, 600G x 0.1G (MS-600-BLK)
  • Unparallelled accuracy: accuracy to 10th of a gram with flexible measurements and small capacity
  • Protected and Durable: Flip top cover protects weighing surface while not in use and makes for convenient expansion tray while in use
  • Pocket size: small pocket size, about the same as a credit card and deck of cards, makes the scale portable and easy to carry
  • Multiweighing Units: flexibility of g, dwt, oz, oz allows for multiuse purpose like weighing coffee and herbs
  • Quality Guaranteed: All AWS scales are backed by a powerful 10 year warranty

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.

AccuWeight Digital Gram Scale for Weed with 300g/0.01g Limit Small Pocket Coffee Scale with High Accuracy, School Powder Jewelry Scale with Tare and Calibration for Kitchen Food Scale
  • Accurate readout: Digital scale with highly precise sensor measures weights between 0.05-300 grams with an accuracy of ±0.05%,, suitable for measuring small, valuable objects
  • Tare and PCS function: Easily and quickly get the net weight of powders or liquids with Tare function. Use the PCS function to count large quantities of small items such as pins, screws and beads, making this a handy digital pocket scale
  • Selectable weighing units: Mini scale meets all your various weighing needs with 6 selectable measuring units: grams, ounces, carats, discrete wavelet transform, ounces troy, and grains
  • Backlit display and warning function: LCD backlit display can be read clearly in any environment including low-light environments; The food scale also has overload and low battery indicators to warn of removing overweight item or replacing betteries
  • User-Friendly: Small scale with compact design can be put in your pocket. Protective cover doubles as a weighing tray; 90-second auto-off to conserve battery and calibration function to khelp measurement back to correct after using a period of time

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. 

Sale
Aeropress Original Coffee and Espresso Maker, Barista Level Portable Coffee Maker with Chamber, Plunger, and Filters, Quick Coffee and Espresso Maker, Made in USA
  • Professional-Grade Coffee Right at Home: A household name amongst baristas and coffee enthusiasts worldwide, the AeroPress Original is a new kind of coffee press that uses a rapid, total immersion brewing process to make smooth, delicious, full-flavored coffee without bitterness and with low acidity. The AeroPress Original brews a full-bodied coffee with maximum flavor every time!
  • Goodbye, French Press: No more bitterness or grit. The rapid brewing of the AeroPress Original eliminates bitterness and acidity while the micro-filters keep grit out of your coffee (unlike a French press). No more messy coffee grounds – clean-up takes seconds! The plunger wipes the chamber clean as you brew
  • Travel with Your Coffee Gear: The AeroPress Original is lightweight, compact, portable, and durable. It is easy to pack with some coffee and a cup for use while traveling, camping, backpacking, boating, and more! Includes the AeroPress Original Chamber & Plunger, 350 replacement AeroPress Original micro-filters, filter holder & filter cap, funnel, scoop, and stirrer
  • How to Use: Just add coffee and water, stir, and press. Easily makes 8oz (237ml) of regular coffee or 1 to 3 espresso style shots for use in lattes, cappuccinos, and other espresso-based drinks per pressing in about a minute. It can also make cold brew in just two minutes! We recommend a medium-fine grind, but vary your recipes however you choose!
  • About AeroPress: Smart design and creativity have always been the heart of what we do, and we are now squarely focused on inspiring even more coffee lovers around the world to revolutionize their coffee routine. Designed in Silicon Valley, Made in the USA, Materials used in AeroPress Original coffee makers are free of BPA and phthalates

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!