Best Portable Coffee Makers for Brewing
If you’re anything like me, you need a good cup of java to get you going in the morning. When my schedule changes, or I’m in an unfamiliar environment, it becomes even more important that I get my fix. While I love camping, and recognize morning to be one of the most wonderful times to be out and about in nature, I enjoy it so much more with a good cup of joe. Instant simply won’t cut it for me – I need the real deal. After having endured one too many comments about the real meaning of “roughing it,” and trying to put up with instant coffee or tea one time too many, I took things into my own hands. With the help of friends, I evaluated five different coffee makers. In no particular order, they are: the Coleman Camping Coffeemaker, the Coleman 14-Cup Coffee Enamelware Percolator, the GSI Java Press, the Melitta Ready Set Joe Travel Mug Coffeemaker, and the Wagan Personal Mini Coffee Maker.
1) Coleman Camping Coffeemaker – $35-$50
The Coleman camping coffeemaker was clearly made with familiarity in mind. The folks at Coleman wanted to make a coffeemaker as similar in appearance and design to a standard countertop drip coffeemaker as possible. The absolutely succeeded here, making a coffeemaker that nearly anyone who’s ever made coffee before will be comfortable using. This drip coffeemaker sits on top of a two or three-burner camp stove, and can make a standard cup of coffee.
Pros: Familiar. There’s no guesswork, because the process is the same as at home. Makes a full pot of coffee, so it would be great for group outings. Great for car camping.
Cons: Bulky for backcountry use. Glass decanter is fragile.
2) Coleman 14-Cup Coffee Enamelware Percolator $25-$35
The percolator is a backcountry CLASSIC. Aesthetically pleasing, this perc would be at home on the dying coals in an old cowboy film, and still performs well today. Solidly constructed, this percolator costs a little more than some of the aluminum percs you might see, but not much, and the blue enamelware will last a lifetime. As with any percolator, there is a danger of both strong and weak coffee, and it may take a few tries for you to dial it in just right. It’s also possible to scorch your brew if it’s not attended.
Pros: Attractive, time-tested, easy to clean, make what you need, up to a full pot.
Cons: Difficult to get truly consistent results.
3) GSI Java Press – $30
For about twenty bucks, you can get you hands on this back-country version of the popular French press. Consistent results with your precious high-end coffees, without the worry about a glass vessel. If you use a French press at home, and have had time to sort out the idiosyncrasies of these devices, this should be your hands-down choice. If you use a drip machine at home, skip the hassle and go with something else. This press makes a single cup.
Pros: Play with the subtleties of your roast of choice, just like a standard French press. Affordable.
Cons: Hard to clean, can be difficult to separate grounds.
4) Melitta Ready Set Joe Travel Mug – $10
Melitta is known for mastering both form and function in the coffee world, and this travel mug does not disappoint. If you make coffee just for yourself, there’s no need to read further – this is your choice. Using a drip funnel and hot water, brew a single cup of coffee, and toss the filter in the trash or compost when you’re done. Simple.
Pros: Affordable. Easy to clean.
Cons: Makes only one cup.
5) Wagan Personal Mini Coffee Maker – $25
The first thing I thought when I saw this little beastie was that it was more of a hotel coffee maker than for camping, but upon reflection it seems like just the thing for the car-camping contingent. This unit is unique among the coffeemakers featured here, as it features its own heating element. No stove or hot water are required for this baby to brew, but it DOES need power. It can run from a standard wall-plug, or you can plug it into your car, truck, or RV.
Pros: Flexible power input, self-heating
Cons: Requires power, single cup.
Whatever your needs, in today’s market, there’s a coffeemaker that can meet them. Hopefully this review has helped to steer you in the right direction.