For the past year, Lauren and I haven’t lived at home. In fact, we haven’t really had a home. We’ve been traveling full-time, living in Airbnb apartments for 2-8 weeks at a time while we work remotely.
It’s been great, but I’ll admit: I miss all my coffee gear at home! But while I don’t have all my toys with me these days, I can say the coffee’s still usually incredible.
Let me walk you through how we make specialty coffee while traveling full-time.
How We Made Our Gear Decisions
When we were planning our packing style and looking at strategies, it became clear that it’s important to save as much space as possible. Lots of tiny items really add up – which is why it’s important to make those items as small as possible. We also knew we would be away from home (Texas) for months at a time, which meant our chosen gear had to be able to take a long-term beating and not leave us hanging mid-trip.
So here were our priorities:
- Super Small
- Light As Possible
- Durable Enough For Long-Term Use
These criterion led us to leave behind a piece of gear that I was really wanting to bring with us: a coffee scale. That’s right – I haven’t brewed coffee with a scale in almost a year (minus Christmas, when we returned home for a few weeks). And yet, the coffee’s been pretty great. I’ll explain how we make it work without a scale later.
It was also immediately clear that a pour over brewer would not be ideal. I love pour over brewing, but to really thrive with the method you need a scale and a pour over kettle – and we just weren’t going to pack one of those.
It’s American Press + JavaPresse Manual Grinder
Our travel coffee setup is very basic (basically just two items), but it meets our needs pretty well. I wouldn’t say it’s the most effective gear combo, but it’s good enough for us. Let’s break it down.
- It’s American Press – Since I’m traveling with my wife, the small capacity of the Aeropress just wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted to avoid having to go through two brewing sessions each morning if I could, and the It’s American Press turned out to be the perfect alternative. We can brew 14-15 ounces per brewing session, don’t have to travel with extra filters, the brewer is insanely durable, and it’s not that much bigger than the Aeropress.
- JavaPresse Manual Grinder – I’ll be honest: if I had to pick a manual grinder to use full-time, it’d definitely be the Kuissential EvenGrind. Sadly, it was a little too wide for our purposes. The JavaPresse, on the other hand, is light, durable, and super slim – a much better fit for our packing arrangement. It doesn’t perform as well as the EvenGrinder, but the portability factor still makes it a great choice for light travelers with smaller bags.
We haven’t had any issues with these two items. They’ve both held up very well with being used once or twice per day for the last year or so.
If you’re traveling with someone else, I highly suggest the It’s American Press. However, if you have the money to spend and are trying to pack as light as possible, I’d suggest the Porlex Mini.
We Also Have Some Instant Specialty Coffee
When we left Texas in January, we had 3 different instant specialty coffee products with us. Instant coffee has come a long way in the last couple years and the specialty players in the realm are doing a pretty good job. Here are the different products:
- Sudden Coffee – These instant coffee tubes are excellent (the coffee’s from Equator Coffee & Tea) and the cheapest out there, but the selection’s pretty limited. We ended up using some older tubes as herb and spice carriers.
- Voila Coffee – This one comes in smaller, thinner packets that are easier to travel with. Voila works with a variety of coffee roasters (Ruby, Kuma, Coava) so there are plenty of different coffees to choose from.
- Steeped Coffee – We backed Steeped on Kickstarter in October. This isn’t exactly instant coffee. It’s more like coffee-filled tea bags – except they’re specially engineered tea bags that work pretty well. These take up the most space. If I had to choose again, I would have gotten more of either Sudden or Voila.
These have been really handy for afternoon cups when I just don’t want to grind more coffee manually or the couple times we’ve run out of coffee beans and needed emergency brews in the morning so we could have the energy to get out and buy more.
I highly suggest keeping a few of these on hand!
How We Brew Without A Scale
Here’s the thing: I actually have a pocket-sized American Weight scale. We could have brought it if we wanted, but I realized we didn’t have to – and I’m a huge advocate for scale brewing! Here’s why it works for us:
- There are liquid measurement markings on the It’s American Press. These make it easy to see exactly how much water I’m using, which covers that part. But what about the coffee?
- I can wing it with the JavaPresse grinder. By pouring in beans to roughly the same spot in the grinder’s lower chamber, I can be fairly consistent. Now, I still notice some inconsistency from time to time, but that’s the price I chose to pay in order to leave the scale behind and save that space.
- I brew the same amount of coffee every day. I never try to make just 7oz of coffee – always 14-15. This means I can follow the exact same steps every single time I pull out the coffee gear.
Generally, the coffee’s great. Some days it’s not quite where it should be because of bad bean measurements, but we’re usually satisfied.
Speaking of satisfied, check out Lauren with these llamas in Ecuador…
From the very first moment we dreamed of traveling abroad and moving cities every 2-8 weeks, we knew that we could NOT leave our morning coffee up to chance. We had to bring our own gear – and it’s been so worth it. Brewing with our own gear is familiar, helps us stay in a bit of a routine, and just makes us feel good.
What do you think? Are we missing any gear you would have expected us to have? Think you know the perfect upgrade for one of our items? Let us know!