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I’ll admit it: coffee is my vice.
I love starting the day with a big cup of nice coffee, no matter where I am in the world. However, as a frequent traveler and serial expat who made CHINA her home for 5 years, I’ve definitely had way too many cups of crappy instant coffee.
Finding coffee on the road, especially in certain countries, can be such a struggle. I’m tired of showing up to a hotel to find they only have instant coffee or green tea (looking at you China). I’m so over paying $5 for every cup of coffee I drink. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve ordered a cup of coffee at a hotel breakfast, only to find that it’s so acidic I literally can’t drink it without burning a hole in my stomach lining.
Hey, I’m no coffee snob or anything. I’ll have the crappy drip coffee, or chug down instant if I need to. But… what if I could have a nice cup of coffee every morning? Wouldn’t that be nice?
Why You Need a Travel Coffee Maker
If you’re a coffee loving traveler, backpacker, or camper, you need a portable coffee maker. It just makes life so much easier and cheaper.
If you usually stay in hotels, you can probably rely on their coffee which may or may not be good. But what if you’re a backpacker staying in hostels, a housesitter, a digital nomad, or staying in an Airbnb? Do you really want to just hope they have a french press or an affordable coffee shop around the corner?
What if you’re camping or doing a trek or pilgrimage? Do you really want to be like me, drinking green tea every morning of your two-week Kumano Kodo hike, dreaming of a nice cup of hot coffee?
Seriously, a travel coffee maker is one of the easiest, lightest things to carry with you. You can pack a bag of ground coffee, or pick one up pretty much anywhere.
Here’s why I travel with a portable coffee maker, and why you should too!
1. You Save a Ton of Money
Many travel coffee makers are super affordable and long-lasting. Sure, I purchased a pretty decent Philips coffee maker in China for around $40, but that was because I was living in China long-term. Obviously, this isn’t an option if you’re just in a place for a few days or even a few months.
Sure you can buy a new French press in every country you visit (if you can even find one), but why do that when you can just buy ONE small travel coffee maker and take it with you?
Brewing your own coffee at home is also a HUGE money saver. The average cafe serves up coffee for $4-5, or more! While this is a fine splurge once or twice a week, it gets really, really expensive if you go once or twice a day.
2. They Don’t Break
Travel coffee makers are meant to be portable. I have friends who’ve tried to bring a French Press from home, only to find it smashed in their bag. I used to travel with a small Vietnamese tin drip cup, only to find it crushed in my backpack.
Sure, you still need to be a little careful with these coffee makers, but they’re MEANT for travelers. This means they’re lightweight, can fit in your backpack or suitcase, and won’t crush as easily as a glass French Press or a tin cup.
3. No More Instant!
I’ve had more cups of instant coffee than I care to remember. I survived on those horrible 3+1 packets for over a year in China. You know, the horrific packets all over Asia with the milk and sugar built in? Yuck.
Personally, I’ve weaned myself off sugar in my coffee for my health. But even if I find instant coffee without sugar, the coffee itself is so bad I have to put sugar in it to mask the taste! There goes my diet…
The Best Portable Coffee Makers
After some major research, and testing on my part. Here are my absolute favorite travel coffee makers! I’ll be going over the pros and cons of each while pointing out who these coffee makers are best for.
There’s a perfect portable coffee maker for everyone, so hopefully, after this article, you’ll find the right one for you!
I love this video by Stumptown!
1. The Aeropress
I’d heard about this coffee maker from many travel bloggers and a few expat friends for years before I finally decided to give it a shot. Chris’ parents picked one up for me for Christmas, along with the additional metal reusable filter (so I don’t have to carry around a million filters on my travels).
I’ve been using the Aeropress for half a year now, and overall I’m super happy with it! The Aeropress makes great coffee, it’s easy to travel with, the reusable metal filter option is great for travel and the environment, and the thick plastic makes it less likely to break in my bag.
Who the Aeropress is For:
The Aeropress is perfect for the average traveler who likes a good strong cup of coffee. You will need access to cups for this coffee maker to work, which makes it ideal for someone who is staying in a hotel or apartment/house. If you have two people, this coffee maker can also make up to two cups per brew.
If you like full control over your coffee, the Aeropress is also really great. There are so many articles online about how to control the flavor of your coffee with the Aeropress, using the inverted method, among other things.
The Aeropress is also great for those who love espresso. The Aeropress will make up to two cups of espresso, and if you want to make an Americano or latte, you merely have to add extra water or milk. Easy!
Finally, I love the easy cleanup on the Aeropress. Just unscrew the cap, pop out the grounds in a little pellet, and wash everything up!
The Aeropress Cons:
The Aeropress has a lot of parts, which can be annoying to keep track of. Firstly you have the press, which has two pieces. Then you have the paper (or metal) filters, the cap, the scoop, and the stirring stick. There’s also a funnel, but it’s not necessary so I left that back in Australia. While some versions of Aeropress on Amazon come with a travel bag, mine didn’t so I’ll need to look into purchasing one when I’m at home.
The Aeropress can also be a bit technical. I had some major issues with pressure buildup when I used a fine grind. No matter how hard I pushed, I couldn’t get it to press all the way down. Seriously, I thought I was going to break the cup… or my arms. But then I switched back to a medium grind and it was fine. The Aeropress says you can use finely ground coffee, but I seriously recommend sticking to medium grind only.
Finally, the metal filter isn’t quite as user-friendly as the paper filters. While it definitely does its job, you kind of have to burn your hands getting the metal filter off the coffee pellet, whereas if you had the paper filters, you could just dispose of the filter with the coffee pellet. I love the environment and not carrying around filters though, so it’s an annoyance I’m willing to accept.
I do really love my Aeropress, and I’m hoping to find a way around that weird pressure problem soon. I do think that the Aeropress is perfect for the average traveler, and the traveling coffee lover who loves to make their coffee a specific way. Plus, it’s super affordable!
2. The Traveler’s Coffee Kit
Around the same time I got my Aeropress, I was contacted by the Traveler’s Coffee Kit to have a look at their new portable coffee maker. I was immediately interested when I heard that all of the profits go to charity, so I decided to take a look.
I had the opportunity to use it a few times while in Australia, and I did really like it. Firstly, this Coffee Kit comes with cups, which I think is a great feature for backpackers, hikers, and campers. If you want to use coffee mugs instead of the metal cups, you can still use the kit easily too. You’ll also have less to carry with you!
The whole product is very easy to use once you watch their quick informational video. Created by an expat in Thailand, they pay all of their Thai workers more than double the minimum wage, and all profits go to Unicef. Who doesn’t love a company that donates all the proceeds to charity?
Who the Traveler’s Coffee Kit is For
This kit is perfect for backpackers, hikers, campers, trekkers, and anyone who can heat water but can’t guarantee they’ll have cups available. The whole system is really lightweight, but it does take up a little bit of space since the cups and metal wiring are a bit wide. However, if you’ve got the room and you need cups, this system is perfect.
The kit is also great for someone who wants a system that’s a bit easier to use than the Aeropress. Just set it up, boil water, let the coffee drip and you’re done!
Obviously, the Traveler’s Coffee Kit is great for those who prefer pour over coffee to french press and espresso styles. If you’re big on supporting home-grown products and impactful charities like Unicef, you should definitely get this travel coffee maker.
The Traveler’s Coffee Kit Cons:
For me, this kit was a bit difficult to figure out how to use until I watched the setup and brewing videos. The main confusion led to figuring out how the plastic funnel fit in the metal frame. However, once I watched the video it was super easy.
If you really want espresso or complete control over your coffee, obviously the Aeropress is a better fit. Also, if you don’t have much room in your bag, you might be a bit annoyed by how wide the coffee kit is.
Finally, you will have to carry around paper filters with this kit. Thankfully, you can use any old coffee filter, unlike the Aeropress which has specialized mini paper filters.
I do love my Aeropress for its espresso style and slim build, but the Traveler’s Coffee kit is also really great and I’m glad I own it. I would definitely use this kit over the Aeropress on a trip to China or Southeast Asia if I was staying in hostels. I would also use it on a camping trip, on my Kumano Kodo pilgrimage, or even a Chinese train. Basically, any place where I can get hot water, but not necessarily coffee cups.
I also love that this kit donates all of its proceeds to charity!
3. Bodum Travel Tea and Coffee Press
I have yet to use this tea and coffee press, but I considered getting it over the Aeropress and read a TON of reviews. This Coffee press is actually a coffee mug with a built-in French press inside. Wow!!
I love this idea because you only have to carry around a small travel mug, rather than a bunch of different pieces in a kit. You can use the press as a normal travel coffee mug, or you can brew your coffee inside of it. Finally, you only need to carry around one thing, which sounds like a godsend after looking at all of the pieces and filters you need for the Aeropress and the Traveler’s Coffee Kit.
Who the Bodum Travel Press is Perfect For
If you’re fine with a decent French Press coffee and don’t want to carry around a ton of stuff, this could be perfect for you. It’s simple, easy, cheap, and the mug is already there so you don’t have to worry about cups.
If you’re a camper, trekker, hiker, backpacker, or you just don’t want to carry around a kit, definitely have a look at this.
Bodum Travel Press Cons:
From what I’ve read, the coffee with Bodum is just okay. The filter doesn’t keep grounds from getting in your coffee, and the flavor isn’t as great as what you’d find with the two coffee makers above. This press is basically for people who don’t really care about the flavor and texture of their coffee, and just want a lightweight, simple caffeine fix.
If you want a really good cup of coffee, this is not for you. If you want to drink coffee out of a ceramic mug, this system won’t work. Finally, this only makes one mug of coffee for one person. If you’re traveling as a couple, you won’t be able to make two cups.
There are a few main reasons I didn’t go with this coffee press. Firstly, I want a nice cup of coffee, not just an “okay” French press. Secondly, I wanted to be able to make coffee for both me and my fiance Chris. Finally, as an expat and digital nomad with an apartment, I want to drink coffee out of a nice ceramic mug, not a travel mug.
Overall, I think this mug is perfect for people who don’t care that much about the quality of the coffee and just want something easy and simple. I would’ve totally used this when I taught English in the Chinese countryside and had to use a travel mug for my coffee because each of my classes were all in different classrooms. It also would’ve been perfect to throw in my backpack when I hit the road in Southeast Asia.
Yeah, maybe it doesn’t have the best coffee in the world, but it’s a hell of a lot better than instant.
Which Travel Coffee Maker is Best For You?
When you’re choosing the best portable coffee maker, be sure to think about where, when, and how you’re going to use it. Where do you usually travel? Are you a backpacker, a camper, or do you stay in nice hotels? Do you usually have access to cups? Are you making coffee for one person or two?
You might want to consider how you want your coffee. If flavor and complete control over your brew is important to you, the Aeropress is probably your best choice. However, if you’d rather have something super simple and easy to use, you might want to look into the Traveler’s Coffee Kit or the Bodum Travel Press.
No matter what you choose, there’s a perfect travel coffee maker out there for everyone. Give yourself the gift of a decent cup of coffee, and forget the instant stuff.
Now Let’s Hear From You!
Do you use a portable travel coffee maker? If so, which one do you use? Which of the three are you most interested in? Be sure to leave a comment below!
If you have any questions about getting your coffee on the road, feel free to leave me a comment at any time. I’m always checking for new comments, so I’ll be sure to get back to you ASAP!
A quick thanks to the Traveler’s Coffee Kit for sending a kit over for me to test out. Obviously, all my reviews are always open and honest, and I wouldn’t recommend something I didn’t love. If you’re interested in one of the coffee makers above, I’d really appreciate it if you could use one of my affiliate links at no cost to you. The money I make from affiliates allows me to keep this site running… and… you know… eat.