Whether you're en route to somewhere you want to be, or simply hiding from your relatives in a hotel room, there's one thing you definitely need to survive the upcoming holiday travel season, and that's a good cup of coffee. But is it possible to survive even in the wildest reaches of the world, where your nearest respite may be a stale hotel buffet—or the nearest gas station? As part of our ongoing public service commitment, we've compiled a cheat sheet to some of the best ways to survive in a hotel when you need a cup of coffee to even get yourself out the door.
Though some of these may sound like they require acrobatics, none should really take more than about three or four minutes. Let's check in!
Requires: ground coffee, hot water, Aeropress, and filter
Favored by everyone from campers to long-haul airline travelers, the Aeropress's lightweight, unbreakable plastic makes it easy to stow in your carry-on for any emergency. For those in a hotel, Aeropress is one of the easiest possible solutions to make reliably great coffee. The key reason for this is hot water: because of Aeropress' flexibility of brewing, there are several recipes that don't demand the just-off-boil brewing temps we're used to with coffee, which are sometimes impossible to achieve in a hotel. (Ever tried to use two-cup in-room coffeemakers to heat coffee for a Chemex or pourover? It doesn't work. I haven't ever tried the iron, though...)
The Aeropress offers a simple way to make cups of coffee efficiently in a hotel room (I suggest the bathroom) and if you do it with grace, you can even press the coffee into one of those to-go cups. And with one of those permanent Aeropress filters from Able Brewing, you won't have to remember filters every time, either. Done and done.
Requires: ground coffee, just-off-boiling water, dripper cone and filters
With your trusty dripper cone of choice (I like the hybrid Clever infusion-dripper, which comes in a small size that's easy to pack) and sufficiently heated water from a travel kettle or hotel microwave, you should be able to reproduce exactly how you brew at home in your hotel setting.
Standard drippers like Melitta, Kalita, Hario, Beehouse, Clever, Bonmac etc, should fit on any hotel cup, but where you'll find the Clever's advantage is it doesn't suffer from brute-force water pouring. That is, with the first several, non-immersion methods, the way you pour the water will affect the taste of your brew—and I'm guessing very few of you are traveling with your favorite Japanese fine-spouted water pouring device. With the Clever Dripper you're meant to put all the water in and give a quick stir before you await the steeping time to conclude, so how precise your first coffee-to-water contact is is of little consequence. You'll need filters—but luckily those travel light.
Requires: ground coffee, just-off-boiling water, Kantan drippers
For super-portable brewing that is ingeniously cute and makes a great cup of coffee, there is nothing more charming than the Kantan Dripper from Kalita. These tiny paper fold-flat coffee brewers perch perfectly over a cup while you carefully infuse water into the tiny little bed of coffee grounds.
The Kantan requires a lot of patience and stop-start action, so it's the most commitment of all these travel methods. But on the upside, there's nothing breakable or bulky (you can fit these in your laptop case, pocket, copy of Fifty Shades Darker, etc.) Also: cute!
Requires: room temperature water, hotel with K-Cup brewer
Now that the future is finally here, Keurig K-Cup single cup automatic brewers are truly everywhere. The brewers have reached beyond the office and countertop to select hotel rooms—the Hilton Garden Inn is the first to launch a chainwide deployment. Though I avoid these convenience brewers (for financial, waste-generating, and taste reasons) when in the "real world", hotel travel is far from that, and the ease of popping a coffee cartridge into a machine (which you've, of course, filled from the bathroom tap or that $7 bottle of Fiji water from the minibar) is impossible to top.
The biggest drawback here is that you'll be stuck with the hotel's choice of coffee—and let's be honest, certain of these prepackaged pod blends can really make hotel coffee feel like airplane coffee, and that's not a good thing. But for those who embrace the pod, you can always travel with your favorite varieties, or perhaps take it to the next level with the ones you can fill yourself? Either way, it's fun to live in the future...even if it requires a little more non-dairy creamer than you might've hoped.
Bringing your own travel kettle (Bonavita makes a clunky one, others exist with variable wattages as well!) will save you time and frustration in most of these preparation methods. Should you find yourself in a hotel with room service but no kitchen accoutrements, ordering hot water for tea may do the trick in an Aeropress (by the time it gets to your room, that is.)
Hand grinders are great for travel when you prefer the taste of freshly ground coffee, and when you'll be enough days that preground coffee will become quickly stale. Bonus points if you're traveling with a kid who will grind the coffee for you. Those rollaway beds aren't free, you know.
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 the creator of Nice Coffee Time, a book of photographs of the best coffee in the world, published by Presspop, is the New York City correspondent for Sprudge.com, and contributes to other outfits worldwide. Hotel room for testing provided by Keurig and Hilton Garden Inn.