Sunday, November 22, 2009

Backcountry Coffee

As a self-diagnosed coffee addict I've tried a lot of different methods to get my fix in the backcountry. Hopefully summarizing my experiences will help you avoid a few mornings of bad brew and speed your path to coffee nirvana.

Instant coffees:

I've tried a few different instant coffees. They're lightweight, easy to adjust strength, simple to use and usually inexpensive. Sounds wonderful and perfectly suited for backpacking, right? Wait until you taste it. Its hot and easy... but its not coffee.


Coffee bags (commercial):

Until recently Folgers singles coffee bags were my go to solution for hiking. Similar to instant coffee, this is a lightweight option that can be scaled up or down for strength and the bags are relatively inexpensive. I typically use two bags for a 12oz cup of coffee. The quality is so-so but its far superior to standard instant coffee products.


Home made coffee bags:

At home I only drink coffee from a local roastery - Cashua Coffee. I've tried a few different methods of making the equivalent of the Folgers bags except with GOOD coffee inside. Theoretically this is the perfect solution, right? Great coffee, inexpensive and MYOG to boot? Perfection. Unfortunately, I never made good cup using this method. I'm sure there's a perfect combination of grind, fabric or paper and amount of coffee in the pouch but I couldn't find it. I was successful in making OK coffee using this method but not the great coffee I'm in search of.


Pressed coffee:

This is my method of choice at home. I have a press at work, a few presses at home, a cup with a press built into it for road trips... you get the idea. I'm addicted to pressed coffee. My sweet wife gave me the Snowpeak coffee press a few years ago and I love it. The only weakness of this system is that it only serves one function and its lighter than most presses but its still not UL. Still, I take it on some trips where I can afford the volume and know I'll have time to enjoy my coffee in the morning. Its hard to beat this.


Starbucks VIA

On my last trip I took a few pouches of Starbuck's new VIA instant coffee. I have to admit that I was pretty skeptical prior to trying this one even after reading a few positive reviews on the internet. I've had more than one horrible cup of coffee due to experiments with instant coffee gone wrong. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by the VIA Colombian blend. It even creates a crema that you would expect from freshly brewed. The only drawback to this the price at about $1 per 8oz cup.


Next experiment?

I've read that the Jetboil Coffee Press will work with the Snowpeak 700 mug . This could be the coffee holy grail - light at 0.8oz, low pack volume AND fantastic coffee.

Rating: TBD...


  1. Don, I've found the filter and fresh grounds from home to be the best for me. I've had the SB Via packs and I'd agree with you on their flavor. As for carrying a french press that's out of the question, it's just too complex and heavy for the experience I'm seeking.

    Good Luck in your quest! I'll follow along.

  2. Don, just came across your blog via the Internet BOB list. Great stuff and awesome gear!

    Anyway, have you ever used an aerobie aeropress? I use one daily and it's hands-down the best home brewed coffee I've ever had, and I say this as a french press user. I haven't had a chance to take it on the trail yet, but it's pretty light, and you could conceivably pack all of your grounds and such inside the contraption itself. Just a thought.

  3. I haven't tried an Aeropress yet but I hear universally good feedback. I'm kind of an idealist about multi use items so that's a knock on that system. Yes, I realize that's being a little psycho about the gear list. :)

    I have an idea for a small cottage production of presses for Snowpeak 600 mugs. Do you think many people would buy just a press insert for the 600 mug they're already using?

  4. That sounds like a great idea. I wonder about dented or otherwise deformed mugs. I have seen some single-serve presses that drop right into a mug, but can't seem to find any online at the moment.