Feb 19, 2019213 views

Musings about "ultralight" coffee

Can you make a great cup of coffee in the backcountry and keep pack weight down? Coffee. Its my luxury and my luxury item when I go backpacking. If it weren't for my morning (and maybe afternoon) coffee, I could totally do a no-cook system but coffee is such a moral booster for me personally, I voluntarily lug out my stove, pot, mug & fuel every time I go out. After these past few years and a ton of experimenting; I would like to share what I have learned, what I have tried and what works, all while trying to progressively lower pack weight. When I started out, it was full on pour over for me. The GSI clip on pour over. I heated my water using a 4oz canister with a BRS stove, Toaks 700ml pot and a GSI insulated mug. Total weight: 14.7oz with a full fuel canister.
Pros: Super tasty coffee I could grind my own beans and bring them on the trail awesome coffee mug (I love the GSI insulated mug) coffee grinds are compostable, no extra packaging Cons: Coffee wasnt always so hot after pouring on a cold morning. cleaning the filter kinda sucked Final verdict: In hindsight, this was a pretty decent setup and it made great coffee. After the GSI pour over, I figured I would give an Aeropress a try. I've heard a bunch of good things about how tasty the coffee was supposed to be, I thought the weight penalty might be worth it. Setup was again, the BRS stove, 4oz canister, toaks 700ml pot and GSI mug. Total weight: 20.8oz with full fuel canister and reusable steel screen for the Aeropress.
Pros: grind my own beans and bring them on the trail again, awesome mug coffee grinds are compostable, filter reusable = no trash Cons: Coffee was always cold by the time the whole process was over I never got the "amazing" coffee that the reviews suggested Cleanup, while easy at home, used IMO, too much water on the trail Heavier than the pour over Single use item Final verdict: I really gave this thing a good try, I used it for months on the trail and at home. While the coffee was way better than instant (patient, we're getting there) it was never as good or hot as the pour over method. Now we are progressing. I made my own alcohol stove, a Fancee Feast stove with a beer can windscreen. I am, at this point, using the KUJU pocket pourovers. Setup is now my trusty GSI mug, Toaks 700ml pot, DIY Fancee Feast stove & Beer can windscreen and a measuring cup for fuel. Total weight: 11.6oz with a full 4 fluid ounce bottle of Heet. The KUJU pocket pourovers are 0.6oz per serving.
Pros: awesome mug good tasting coffee lightweight easy cleanup Cons: similar to the GSI pour over, coffee wasnt always as hot as I wanted on a cold morning lots of waste to pack out, the KUJU pour over has a paper filter and frame to clip onto your mug. Final verdict: This was a great setup. Changing out my stove and fuel dropped the pack weight by more than a half pound over the Aeropress setup. The pocket pour overs were tasty, but who knows how fresh they are, I was unable to find a manufacture date on the packaging. On cooler mornings I was left wanting for a hotter cup of coffee, good thing the GSI mug is sort of insulated. Ditch my mug?? Yes, while the romance is still very much alive, it is no longer in my pack. Gone are the pocket pour overs and out comes the instant coffee... bleh. Through blogs, YouTube and reddit, you hear thru hikers as well as weekend warriors mention they use instant coffee. I figured I would give it a try. Medaglia d'Oro, Starbucks VIA, Cafe Bustello, G7, I tried them all. Setup: Toaks 700ml Pot, DIY Fancee Feast stove & Beer can windscreen and a measuring cup for fuel. Total weight: 8.4oz with full 4floz bottle of Heet. Instant coffee will vary between 0.3oz and 0.6oz per serving.
Pros: lightweight no cleanup, minimal trash to pack out only needs one pot, no second mug necessary Cons: holy crap, this stuff sucks Final verdict: While lightweight, I couldn't find a single brand that I would consider "tasty". Yeah, if you just drink coffee for the caffeine kick, it works but it did nothing for my trail moral. Dropping the mug did save me another 3oz pack weight. The Toaks pot is not fun to drink from. Where am I at now? Pretty much the same as with the instant coffee but I got some inspiration from our neighbors across the pond and I got creative. There are these heat seal tea bags you can get on Amazon. My wife uses them for loose tea. I figured I would grind up my favorite bean, throw them in the tea bag and give it a shot. Eureka! This actually tastes like something! I switched out the Toaks pot for the IMUSA pot with a fixed handle so its easier to drink out of and I wrapped the handle with some kevlar cordage that I had laying around. The lid is from Batchstovez. Setup: IMUSA 10cm pot, DIY Fancee Feast stove, beer can windscreen, fuel measuring cup. Total weight: 7.9oz with full 4floz bottle of Heet. The coffee filled tea bags weigh a measly 0.2oz per serving.
Pros: lightweight very tasty coffee I can use my own beans and grind them the day before the trip only needs one pot, no second mug necessary no cleanup Cons: have to pack out the filters. Being they are able to heat seal, they are not compostable. You could technically cut the filter open and ditch the grounds. Final verdict: This is what I am sticking with currently. Tasty coffee and the entire setup is under a half pound including fuel. The IMUSA pot is super cheap and combined with the DIY stove, total cost for this setup is $18. I do miss having my mug. The GSI mug has graduations for liquid volume and is somewhat see through making it super easy to measure out water for dehydrated meals. Maybe i'll decide one day to add it back to my pack. What does everyone else use for trail coffee? Is it a nice-to-have or a necessary luxury?
TheMailman1, Terri3157, and 3 others

Finum brewing basket, on amazon. Ultra fine mesh, pops in a mug with home ground beans. Immersion technique. Leave for 4 mins remove, drink. Only weight extra is the basket which weighs nothing. Bring fresh coffee in a zip lock or similar and have as many cups as you like. Works perfectly as coffee brews for time you like, stays hot in the mug, even has a tiny lid to keep warmer longer. Only mess tipping out fines and a quick rinse.
I like it Ed! From the looks of the size of the basket, looks like you can brew a strong coffee also, a drawback to the tea bag method I've been using.
Check out Mont-Bell's pour over coffee filter on their website. It weighs a couple grams!
Looks good, didn't know Mont-bell was in this segment. I feel it would still have the same problem that all backcountry pourover coffee methods have; on a cool morning, the coffee is never hot by the time the pourover process is done.
well there's the Keith Titanium Ti3911 only $200 on amazon! that plus your fanceeFeast stove, w/g and 2oz of fuel will probably add upto 5oz (150g). has there been a Massdrop on this great little filter? Keith products do seem to pop-up often..
Nifty little gadget that Kieth Titanium put together there. I’ve never seen one or heard about it until your post. Well, without getting too deep, I am sure it would make a tasty cup of backcountry coffee like my other pour over methods did. Without trying it myself, I would still think that it suffers from, in my opinion the biggest drawback of doing pour overs outdoors, the coffee being lukewarm by the time the coffee is ready to drink. Additionally, even being titanium, it’s still another piece of gear to bring which would increase the total system weight. From the information I’ve found on it, it looks like it weighs over 3oz which would make my current setup come in at 11oz including 4oz of fuel, so more than double the 5oz you estimated. Im going to take a pass on commenting about the price tag. Thanks for pointing out this little filter. If you ever purchase one, please comment in this thread on your experiences.
SeatoSummit Ultra-Sil Bucket. At less than an ounce! Great for bringing untreated water (2+ gal.) to the campsite for whatever use, hang off a tree or rock and then you have a close water source. I am surprised how useful it has been. Of course, some high-test rum (Stroh) is always nice and light too.
Coffee gear and rum in my titanium hip flasks are necessities My fleshlight is a luxury. Nothing like sitting around the campfire at the end of a long day...
Wow lots of options to look over here thank you! I am in the same boat as you, I must have my coffee and it must be good. Following...
Hay buddy. http://jedscoffee.co.nz This is what we use down here in nz. They are just an off the shelf version of what your doing. If we didn't have these I would be doing what your doing!
Thats great man! Do you think they want a franchise here in the states? I'd be happy to start JedsUSA haha
Thanks for the spiritual journey and discussion. We drink Mt Hagen freeze dried at this time. It has a mellow round, light chocolate taste. We like it much better than Starbucks VIA line which have a licorice taste and it's hecka cheaper. We have been known to blend VIAs on the trail attempting to improve our back country coffee experience. "Give us this day..." I look forward to giving Golf ball dips a try. Oh boy, now I can't wait for my first spring backpack trip. Thanks! Our quandary/quest has been searching for a creamer. Any ideas out there. We like our coffee thick with chocolate notes and have tried a number of powdered milks products; none satisfying. Currently we have settled on Land O Lakes Mini Moo's Half and Half "single-serve" pods. They travel well in the bear canister and are worth their weight in gold. Take two in the morning to relax at your campsite and get moving... Happy Trails!
I haven't tried any freeze dried coffee. If I happen to find any, I'll give it a try purely for "scientific" purposes haha. As far as creamer, I actually blend my own. I get whole milk powder and mix in sugar to the correct ratio for my tastes. It ends up being one teaspoon whole milk powder to two teaspoons sugar. On the trail all I need is two teaspoons of the blended creamer. Whole milk powder is worlds better if you can find it. The Mini Moo's are a great solution because they dont need to be refrigerated. I have used them in the past as well as the Tetra Pak ultra pasteurized whole milk that doesn't need to be refrigerated, just pop some in a small 4oz Nalgene (which has now been repurposed to hold my alcohol stove fuel).
I made my own "dips" with doubled coffee filters and string. Just throw them into the cook pot and let it steep while bringing to a boil. One round golf ball sized dip makes a stout pot. Waste? Scatter the coffee grounds, burn the filter and string at the next firepit, or haul it out. Very light. I've tried the instants, and they ALL suck.