redkiosk Senior Member Joined: 13 May 2012 Posts: 196 Location: Chicago Metro Area Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Illy Francis-Francis X1 Grinder: Baratza Preciso w/ Esatto... Vac Pot: Someday, very intriguing! Drip: Trifecta MB, Kalita Wave... Roaster: A sure path to divorce!
Posted Tue May 15, 2012, 11:21am Subject: Backpacking Coffee
Longtime lurker, first time poster.
My daughter is going on a month-long NOLS backpacking course to Alaska next week and was shocked to learn that the majority of her coursemates were actually bringing Starbucks Via for their personal coffee. She pleaded with me for some help in coming up with a lightweight method of brewing decent coffee during her trip. Whole beans and my modded Hario Slim grinder were already a given, but she needed an easy to use and easy to clean lightweight personal brewer. After an exhaustive search on what contraptions were currently available for brewing coffee while backpacking, my initial thought was… just use a coffee sock. I experimented with one for a while and it made pretty decent coffee, but the amount of water needed to clean it after every use, didn't make sense for backpacking. There was another product that I had tried, that showed potential, an MSR MugMate. Essentially a Finum tea infuser that MSR relabeled and marketed as a camping coffee brewer. The concept was good, but it was too small and it brewed only so-so, luke-warm coffee. It seemed to me that total immersion brewing was the way to go, but personal press pot mugs are not conducive to nursing a big mug of coffee for a period of time.
She already had a nice lightweight (4.2 oz) insulated 16oz mug, so I started looking for the largest strainer/infuser that would fit into the mug. My search ended with a Chatsford Strainer Basket designed for their 6-cup teapot. This lightweight (.6oz) strainer slips perfectly into the Sea-To-Summit Delta Insulated Mug (little or no play), rests on the mug's lip and sits about 1/2" off the bottom. It also has a handy thumb grip to lift it out. The only potential problem that I could see was the "notch" situated on the side, which was designed to accommodate the little "foot" on the teapot's lid. In the end, this didn't pose a problem, for the bottom of the notch sits at about the 16 oz. mark on the mug and the brew volume could easily be held below this and still end up with a good 12-13 oz. mug of coffee. It's kinda' like a mini Sowden Softbrew, and it brews incredibly good coffee. Little to no sludge with a good coarse grind from the Hario. Both my daughter and I could not believe how good the coffee was. Also, after knocking out the grinds, the strainer is very easy to clean along with the other camp dishes. So along with the 10.4 oz Hario grinder, total weight for this brewing method is under a pound (15.2 oz)!
Here's how my daughter will be brewing with this set-up. Set timer on watch to 4 minutes. Place the strainer basket into mug and add approx. 24 grams (two, slightly rounded, 2 tbsp. coffee scoops) of fresh course-ground coffee. Saturate the grounds and fill mug halfway with hot water (one minute rest after boiling), start the timer and place the mug's lid over the opening. After a minute, lift the lid, give the grounds a good stir, and add additional hot water to bring the level to just under the notch on the strainer. Place the lid on again. When the timer goes off at 4 minutes, lift the basket out and enjoy a great cup of coffee. I opted for the two-step adding of water because if all the water was added at once, coffee residue from the blooming would slip under the lip of the infuser and deposit itself on the upper lip of the mug. Adding the water in two steps eliminated this problem.
Besides brewing an excellent cup of coffee, I noticed that the coffee stays quite hot in this mug. It's insulated with a thick, molded washable sleeve made from polyurethane, that does an incredible job of retaining the heat. So good, that just for kicks, I wanted to see at what temperatures the coffee was actually brewing in this set-up. For the next brewed cup, I grabbed my Thermapen Digital Thermometer and positioned the tip in the center of the mug. A reading when the water hit the grounds showed 205ºF, at the one minute stirring point and after adding additional the water, it was 202ºF. From there, it slowly dropped and just hit the 194ºF mark when the timer went off at 4 minutes. I did this test three more times with the same results. So if I'm correct, this little set-up, pretty much brews coffee within the optimal extraction range (195ºF - 205ºF).
I do have a question regarding storage of the whole beans during the month she will be on this trip. On their first day, before heading out, they will be dividing and packaging all their food into one-week portions. They will be carrying the first week's portion with them, but after that, a bush pilot will fly in their weekly re-rations and haul out any garbage. My plan is to purchase 2 lbs. of freshly roasted coffee from a local roaster, prior to her leaving and re-package these into four, separate sealed bags. My neighbor has one of those vacuum sealing machines, but I'm not sure if this would be appropriate or if there was a better way to do this. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Here's a photo of the Sea-To-Summit Delta Insulated Mug and the Chatsford 6-cup Teapot Strainer. I can't figure out how to post more than one photo, so next post will have a photo with the strainer in the mug.
(Click for larger image)
The pathologically precise are annoying, but right!
ronburleson Senior Member Joined: 3 May 2012 Posts: 18 Location: Corona, Ca. Expertise: Just starting
Posted Tue May 15, 2012, 12:52pm Subject: Re: Backpacking Coffee
Your system looks like a good option. Jetboil also makes a nice backpacking stove system. It works well especially if you are using dehydrated food and just need to boil the water (google freezer bag cooking for some good information). Jetboil makes a version that has a built in french press. It is a good option without adding a lot of weight.
Bob_M Senior Member Joined: 30 Oct 2007 Posts: 76 Location: Ripon, California
Posted Wed May 16, 2012, 4:59am Subject: Re: Backpacking Coffee
I've used the jetboil system and like it. However when I have taken long trips way out in the boonies I don't want to carry anymore stuff than I have to. A bottle of No-Dose takes up little room and the pills are very refreshing and satisfying. A half an extra strength no doz tablet has 100 mg of caffeine-about the same as as a "cup" of coffee.
Posted Wed May 16, 2012, 8:42am Subject: Re: Backpacking Coffee
Wow, I think your solution is great! (New business!! :-D)
Several years ago I got a Liquid Solutions "Mountaineer" for work. It's a fantastic personal press & mug combo that's well-insulated & easy to clean. It keeps my coffee hot for more than an hour. It's not nearly as light as your setup, but it's pretty robust if you tend to drop/break things. Unfortunately, LS doesn't make this model any longer.
I had been using a Bodum Travel Press for a couple of years & it worked pretty well, but it's very tall narrow (great for car cupholders) & a pain to clean. My goal was to eliminate as much plastic from my diet as possible & the LS press has an all stainless interior & brew components, so the coffee only contacts plastic at the lid when I drink it.
I'm sure your daughter will be the envy of the entire group with your solution! Cheap, light, easy, and it works great! - that's just like every camper's mantra, isn't it?!
(Click for larger image)
"Just what I need - another 'geek' label..." - my friend Mark, on being told of Coffee Geek's existence
oktyone Senior Member Joined: 26 Apr 2012 Posts: 33 Expertise: I love coffee
Posted Wed May 16, 2012, 9:55pm Subject: Re: Backpacking Coffee
I would just carry some filters, a collapsible silicone coffee dripper and a collapsible silicone kettle (!)... too bad there's still no collapsible hand grinder that i know of :D, but a porlex mini would work.
Amazon has plenty of silicone drippers, but the kettle seems to be out of stock right now, although you can have it shipped from the U.K. it's made by a company called "wacky practicals" :p
jpender Senior Member Joined: 11 Jul 2011 Posts: 608 Location: California Expertise: I like coffee
Grinder: OE LIDO Vac Pot: S/S Moka Pot Drip: Aeropress
Posted Thu May 17, 2012, 9:52am Subject: Re: Backpacking Coffee
Nice job, that looks like a really good solution. And thanks for the tip. I also tried the mugmate and found it lacking.
The problem with a regular cone is that the water sits exposed to the early morning air and it's easy to end up with lukewarm coffee. The Aeropress doesn't seem to get hot enough above a certain elevation, somewhere around 8000 feet or so. French press is bulky (two containers or drink off the grounds?) and cleanup is an issue. The Jetboil system looks pretty nice but only if you're already using a Jetboil.
I've carried a moka pot, but it is heavy. So most of the time I take instant. I know, it's horrible, but not only is it light but I don't want to carry those heavy wet grounds for a week or more. Tossing the spent coffee is no more acceptable than tossing food onto the dirt where I usually go. People do it anyways but it's really too much of a load for that particular environment. Maybe it's okay in the part of Alaska where your daughter is going.
The Handpresso and Airspresso look like (expensive) possibilities. They're still a lot heavier than a tea infuser though.
I'm going to have to find one of those tea infusers and give it a try -- how easy is it to clean afterwards?
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