We've all been there. Telling ourselves that the week away from civilized coffee shops will be fine, just fine. Convincing ourselves that the rest-area kiosk really doesn't do that bad a job, especially considering it's midnight on a Tuesday. Lying to the parents who raised us. Look. You don't have to live like this anymore. If you really love your coffee, it's time to stop leaving home unprepared.
For many who plan to travel during the holidays, the coffee landscape is uncertain. After all, we're not all from cities that have launched incredible coffee companies, boast a vibrant food and drink culture and a healthy enough spirit of cafe competition that nowadays there's even a pourover bar in the spot behind the gas station on the corner where we grew up. (Thank god that I am, though!)
For those who plan to "rough it" during holiday, or anyday, travels, bringing your own brewing gear keeps getting easier. Whether you're crazy-passionate about coffee or just really want a decent start to the day, whether you're sharing with your family or steeping behind closed doors so as not to offend your mom, here are 5 compact, lightweight, durable coffee solutions you can totally fit in your bag to avoid terrible bad-coffee emergencies anywhere.
Porlex Mini Hand Coffee Mill
Available online, $75
Grinding off-the-grid has been reasonably accessible lately what with the availability of of great Hario hand-grinders (I prefer the Ceramic Slim for travel), but leave it to Porlex to make grinders even smaller. The stainless steel Mini stands just over 5" tall and can grind 20 grams of coffee with its precision conical ceramic burrs: the perfect amount for your lightweight, portable, one-cup-at-a-time brewer, like the...
Clever Dripper (Small)
Available online, $18
Always high on my recommendation list, the Clever Dripper's BPA-free plastic immersion-brewing pourover cone (meaning it holds the water and coffee together like a French Press before dripping down through a magically sexy valve into your cup) has only gotten more awesome. It's gotten smaller! This new one-cup size takes a standard #2 cone filter, fits handily in any bag, and won't shatter on the floor of the hotel bathroom, either. Neither will an...
Aeropress and Disk Filter
Available online, $26 for Aeropress and $12.50 for filter.
The versatile, delicious-coffee-making Aeropress is a no-brainer for travel. Small and light (and a slightly less awkward size to pack than the cute mini Clever), Aeropress' durable plastic tubes can be pressed together for travel, and Able Brewing's handy permanent Disk filter means lower overhead as well. Not sure how much coffee to put in your Aeropress or mini-Clever? You could always bring a....
Small, portable scales (of which hundreds of kinds exist, strictly for jewelers, we're certain) make measuring out coffee easy on the go—though some grinders offer marked-off quantities which you can use for consistency. Portable pocket scales can measure enough weight in grams to make coffee dosing easy, though you can't really measure out a Chemex while brewing on them. No big deal. You didn't pack your Chemex.
There's one thing missing, though...how do you get hot water? Oh yes! In a...
Bonavita "Bona Voyage" Travel Kettle
Available online, $33
Anyone who has ever shared a car trip or hotel room with me knows how long I've been waiting for someone to invent a reasonable, portable, travel-sized kettle. Alternatives just don't work, and produce bad flashbacks to making coffee in a travel steamer in Nottingham, England, or trying to use a 2-cup Mr. Coffee to heat water (it doesn't work) to boiling off the interstate in Breezewood. The genius lifehackers at Bonavita have finally answered my call, disappointing me ONLY with the wee, 0.5-liter kettle's non-collapsible travel handle (that's okay, I can shove my coffee filters into the space between) and thrilling me on every other count. Does this have an electric kettle's trademark, calcified exposed heating element? No way, the element is hidden in the stainless steel body. Does it take forever to boil? It sure doesn't: this thing heats up water like a bandit. Did they think of cord control? Yes, there is a velcro strip—how thoughtful. And what about cups? Did we remember to pack cups? They did. There are two cups stored generously inside. We are ready to travel and make coffee. There's just two more things we need to remember to bring....
Coffee and water! You got this.
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently compiling photographs of the best coffee in the world to be published by Presspop in 2013.