It’s 5:00 am in the morning, and your alarm wakes you from a restful sleep reminding you that you have a bus to catch in an hour and a half. The bag of coffee that was left by a previous guest at the Airbnb that you’re staying at looks and smells like it is from the late 90s and the cafe that is down the street, while having decent coffee, doesn’t open until 7:00 am. If you’re going to make it through this morning, you’re going to need some coffee. Not just for the utility of caffeine but also because coffee is your comfort food and you’ve got a long travel day ahead of you.
There are a lot of reasons it makes sense for a coffee nerd to want to make coffee themselves in the morning. Not having to get dressed is the first thing the comes to mind, but it also can be quite a bit cheaper than going to a cafe. Or maybe there isn’t even a cafe near the place that you’re staying. Over the years, I’ve honed in on a recipe for consistently making coffee with my Aeropress while on the road.
Why go through all of the trouble of making coffee yourself if it isn’t going to be great? To make great coffee consistently with the Aeropress you need three things: quality coffee, a good grinder, and if you can afford the luxury, a scale.
Quality coffee can be found almost anywhere these days; the key is to make sure that it is fresh. If there isn’t a roast date on the bag, it’s probably best to avoid.
I covered which grinder to get in my post about my basic coffee gear (it was the Porlex Mini Grinder if you want the TL;DR). The thing I didn’t talk about in that post (because you can get by without it if you’re packing light) is the Joseph Joseph Travel Scale. By measuring your coffee and water, you’ll be brewing the same cup of coffee every time which also means that if you’d like to tweak something about the recipe, there is a consistent base to work from as you hone the recipe to your tastes.
Why the Aeropress?
Aside from being small and lightweight, I like using the Aeropress when traveling because it isn’t picky about water distribution and you can stir the coffee to bloom it. If you don’t know what blooming coffee refers to, here is a primer:
Coffee needs to degas a bit after it gets hit with the hot water. If you’ve watched a barista at your coffee shop pour a bit of water onto the grounds and then wait for 30 seconds or so, they are blooming the coffee. With the Aeropress, since it doesn’t use gravity-based extraction, you only need to add a bit of water to the coffee and then give it a gentle stir.
Also, as I mentioned above, Aeropress is that it isn’t picky about water distribution. A lot of pour over brewing methods don’t perform very well if you just dump water over the coffee. These brewers do better with a slow, even stream of water over the coffee which requires the use of a gooseneck kettle. Lugging around kettle just isn’t practical while traveling. The Aeropress is much more forgiving about water distribution. In fact, I’ve often just carefully poured water from a saucepan heated on the stove.
Using the Aeropress
There is practically an endless number of opinions and techniques online about brewing with the Aeropress. The method I’ve honed in on is optimized for traveling. One prominent example of this optimization is that my technique avoids using the inverted method of brewing that a lot of Aeropress users favor. The reason for this? It’s too easy to make a mess. Anyone that has tried the inverted method early in the morning has wound up with coffee grounds and hot water all over the counter and the kitchen at one time or another. When I stay at a place—especially an Airbnb—I want to leave it as clean as possible. Having finely-ground coffee spread all over the kitchen works against that. For me, it’s worth having a few drips of un-bloomed coffee in my cup to avoid making a mess in someone else’s kitchen.
The Recipe & Technique
First, you’ll want to start getting your water heated up. You’re aiming to get the water to a temperature of 200°F (93°C). Next, you’ll want to add a new filter the Aeropress, and then fill Aeropress 1/3 full of water. Now, place the Aeropress in the sink to drain. This rinses the filter and helps prevent the coffee from having a “papery” taste.
While the water is continuing to heat up, place your grinder on top your scale. Next, zero-out the scale and then add 17 grams of coffee into the hopper of the grinder. You’re looking for a somewhat-fine grind. Pro tip: Use the picture with this post as a guideline to calibrate your grinder before leaving on a trip.
Set a mug on top of your scale and then place the Aeropress on top of it. Now, dump the ground coffee into the Aeropress and zero out the scale again. Slowly and carefully, pour 70 grams hot water into the Aeropress and then give the slurry of coffee and water a gentle stir. Wait for 30 seconds.
Slowly add the remaining 210 grams of water to Aeropress. The pour should take about 30 seconds to complete. Now pick the mug and Aeropress off of the scale, place it on the counter, and push the Aeropress’s plunger into the coffee. This should take another 30 seconds.
After you’ve pushed all of the water through the grounds, take the Aeropress over to a garbage or compost bin and pop the grounds into it. Rinse off the Aeropress, and now you are finished! The whole process only takes about 3 minutes.
Now, you’ve got some coffee to enjoy! While you’re drinking your freshly-made cup of coffee, read more about my travel coffee set up on my post: Essential Coffee Gear for Travelers.