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
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.
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.
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
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?