Taking a trip across the country to see the sights, visit family, or experience a destination vacation? That can be quite the undertaking. It takes planning and fortitude to make those trips…and a whole lot of coffee.
Instead of collecting drive-thru cups on the floor of your car (which are destined for a landfill somewhere anyway), why not save money and improve the quality of your most reliable travel companion—your coffee—by making your own along the way?
What You’ll Need for Great Coffee on the Road
You might think brewing coffee on the road is impractical, but it’s far easier than you think. Here’s what you’ll need.
- A nice batch of coffee beans. Plan out the amount you’ll need based on your preference in brewing, how often you plan to make it, and how long you’ll be on the road. You can always grab some more beans at a coffee roaster in whatever town you’re passing by on the road, but if you’d like to keep your favorite coffee flowing, best to stock up appropriately.
- A portable travel kettle. You’ll need a way to heat water on the go, and there are some great options out there for kettles that can plug into the cigarette lighter in your car for power.
- Water. To be economically friendly, either bring large, 2- or 3-gallon jugs and refill them as you travel or just stock up on the road.
- A means of preparing the coffee—see the next section below to know which is best for you and what to bring.
- A portable coffee grinder. Coffee tastes best when it’s freshly ground, but you do always have the option of pre-grinding it all at home before heading out.
- A coffee mug. We’re not saying we’ve brought all of the equipment on a trip with us only to realize after brewing that we didn’t have a cup to drink it from. Definitely not saying that. But…it could conceivably happen. To somebody.
- A thermos. Make yourself more than a cup of coffee or two at a time and save time since you won’t have to keep pulling over every time you have a craving for a warm cup o’ joe.
Now that you’re properly equipped, you have a few options on how to brew on the go.
Best Brewing Methods for Great Coffee on the Road
Use a Pour Over Coffee Kit
Pour over coffee has remained very popular in recent years, and if that’s your preferred method of preparing coffee, being on the road doesn’t mean you have to go without it.
Reusable and durable pour over drip cone filters are available and inexpensive, not to mention environmentally friendly. Cafellissimo makes one perfect for travel, and the fine steel mesh of these will last through many individual pours.
If you want to learn more about what makes pour over coffee so special, and how to brew it, check out our article!
Use a Press
While many French Presses are delicate and aren’t made for travel, there are quite a few on the market made specifically to be portable, so they’re a little sturdier and easier to pack up, like the AeroPress. But if you can make room in your luggage, a French Press is a simple brewing process that makes delicious coffee; put in the ground beans, add water, let it steep for about three to four minutes, plunge, and voila! – your coffee is ready.
The “Cowboy” Brewing Method for Road Trip Coffee
Of course, if you want to use the minimal amount of equipment, or you just want to experience what those traveling across the country by horse were likely to drink when they needed a cup, there’s always the appropriately-named “cowboy” method of brewing. For this one, you just need a pot, a campfire, and some ground coffee.
- Start a fire and boil some water in a pot over it. If you do have a portable kettle, that works too.
- Once the water reaches a boil, take it off the heating source and let it sit for a bit—probably about half a minute. That should bring the temperature to about 200°F, which is ideal.
- Put the ground coffee (for this, finely ground works best) into the hot water. Yep, directly in there. 2 tablespoons for every 8 ounces of water.
- Stir the pot, letting the grounds swirl and mix thoroughly.
- Let the pot sit for about two minutes, then stir again
- Let it sit for two minutes more. Then, sprinkle some cold water on the grounds to help them settle to the bottom of the pot.
- Pour out the coffee carefully and slowly, so that the grounds remain at the bottom of the pot as you pour.
This process should take a total of about 4 minutes. Quick and easy.
Our Last Tips for Any Trip
DON’T brew and drive. Or brew in the passenger seat, either. Trust us when we say it’s not worth the risk of scalding hot coffee or water spilling if you hit a pothole or the car needs to move, or you need to hit the brakes. Pullover or park in a rest stop before brewing and then resuming your trip. We believe in safety first, followed closely by a delicious cup of coffee.