Whether you’re on a road trip across the States or hiking through the mountains, it’s important to know how to whip up some tasty coffee on your own.
Making delicious coffee isn’t overly complicated but, like with anything, you get out only what you put in.
Here are 5 tips to making great coffee no matter where you are.
The Right Tools Make All the Difference
Like painting with a toothbrush, making tasty coffee is difficult without the right tools. A quick glance around any coffee shop and you’d easily get the impression that the “right tools” for coffee are bulky and expensive, but that isn’t true at all.
Sometimes the best coffee is crafted with the simplest instruments. Instruments which can easily fit into most travel bags.
Take the AeroPress, for example. This little device is shaped like a cylinder, is no bigger than a jar of your mammy’s famous jam, and pumps (literally pumps) out firework-worthy coffee in less than five minutes.
Personally I don’t leave my home without the essentials: my AeroPress and a mini hand burr grinder. With this combo, all you need is beans and hot water, and you have top shelf coffee in a matter of minutes.
The AeroPress isn’t the only portable coffee maker out there. Nearly the entire host of pour over brewers are small enough to pack away in a suitcase or even a carry on. They take a little more effort than the AeroPress, but most can be mastered with minimal practice.
If for whatever reason these tools are out of reach, check out my list of ways to make coffee without a coffee maker. It won’t be pretty, but it’s super minimalist, and it works!
Bean Quality Is Brew Quality
Good brewing is all about bringing out the flavors locked within your beans, and great coffee always starts with great beans. If you don’t invest in quality coffee beans then you can’t expect to get tasty coffee no matter how well you brew.
Since traveling is all about experiencing the places you visit, you might as well pick out some fresh beans from a local roastery. Most medium-to-large cities have a roastery somewhere within the city limits, and if you visit a local coffee shop (not Starbucks) the baristas can typically point you in the right direction.
Nothing beats freshly ground coffee, and luckily there are a number of hand grinders made specifically for travelers. One such grinder, the Porlex Mini fits in the palm of your hand and can cover any grind setting your heart desires.
If you don’t want to invest in a travel grinder, you can just have the roastery grind you up a fresh batch. Although freshly ground coffee is always best, you will be fine with grounds for a few days.
For you wilderness adventurers, simply take your favorite roast with you either in its own packaging or an airtight container.
Hot tip: old mason jars work perfectly, but I prefer to use any old jar with a sealable lid. You’ll see why in just a moment.
Make a (Fake) Latte
If you’re craving something a little creamier than a black cup of joe, you can easily make yourself a foamy latte. Forget the frother or the milk steamer, all you need is a sealable container and a pair of Shake-Weight sturdy arms. Remember that jar you stored your beans in earlier? It can do more than just store beans!
Simply pour a little milk into the container, seal it and shake like crazy. As you give your best Tom Cruise in Cocktail impression, that milk will turn to foam so remember to only pour in a little milk. If you have a microwave, give a 30 second zap just before shaking to get it nice and warm.
If you want to avoid dairy, alternatives like almond milk or coconut milk work just as well. Now you’re ready to top off your fresh coffee with generous dollop of creamy foam.
Spice it Up
If quality beans are nowhere to be found, and you’re forced to use some low-grade grounds, you can improve the flavor by adding spices. Cinnamon and nutmeg work best, but you can also use chicory, which is easy to find if you’re travelling through the East.
Most people would add these spices after they brew, but you can substantially upgrade your coffee’s flavor by brewing with the spices mixed in with the grounds. As the hot water flows through the bed of grounds, it will pull out the spice’s flavor and aroma and create a more even blend with the coffee.
Just Add Salt
Another way to improve “this is all we got” coffee is to sprinkle in a pinch of salt just before brewing. Salt will neutralize the bitter flavors in the coffee and help to even it out overall.
Just be careful not to add too much salt, or else you’ll end up something even worse than what you started with. Use no more than a pinch and mix it into the grounds a little with you finger.
Whether you’re out wandering some new metropolis, or meeting as many locals as you can, now you at least have a guide to delicious coffee no matter where your nomadic spirit takes you.
Coffee, travel and street art are what gets Alex fired up most in life. His passion for brewing and sampling food and coffee take him to all corners of the globe. Say hello to him on Twitter or catch up on his ramblings at HomeGrounds.