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Monday, April 29, 2024

Better Coffee for Bikepacking

I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea, and the java and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup!
The Java Jive, Ben Oakland & Milton Drake (1940)

Ready to make some hot coffee, somewhere out in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Enjoying a hot cup of good coffee in the morning can really start the day right, especially in the backcountry. However, bikepacking back roads and trails often leads to remote campsites far from a civilized coffee shop. What to do?

In my first two years of bikepacking, I went ultra-lightweight and tried instant coffee. I really tried. Over the course of 20+ overnighters, the Cloud Peak 500, the Black Hills Bounty, and many CoffeeOutside rides, I experimented with all kinds of instant coffee, none of which were very good. Admittedly, a couple of brands weren't altogether awful, if just for one morning. So, I settled on one for my 2021 ride of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. However, after a couple weeks, I could no longer drink it and eventually gave away the few remaining packets.

Since then, I've tried more instant coffees, to no avail. So, I looked harder for alternatives. 

AeroPress GO ready to make some go-juice.

I first backed all the way up to making fresh coffee from grounds with my AeroPress GO. No problem there. An AeroPress will make as good a coffee as the grounds you put into it and the care you give to the process. I love my AeroPress and will take it on Overnighters or TwoNighters. I just didn't love the idea of lugging it around on longer rides, even though the GO model packs pretty small (about 3.5" x 3.5" x 6"). This works, but there must be other options.

MiiR Pourigami ready for a pour-over into a 10 ounce camp mug.

Another fresh-coffee-from-grounds option is a single serve pour-over with some kind of frame to hold a filter and grounds over a cup. One such device is the MiiR Pourigami, which features three small, stainless steel sheets that interlock to form a triangular-shaped funnel. It disassembles into a 1/4" x 3" x 6" case.

For the experienced pour-over crowd, this may work great. I'm not particularly skilled or patient with pour-overs and, out in the backcountry, I always seem to spill a lot of precious water and too often knock over the entire setup. So, this one should work well, but doesn't for me, due to operator error. I'll keep working at it, but I'll also keep looking. And keep using the AeroPress GO in the meantime.

Of course, the traditional French Press is another option, both as an accessory to a cook kit and as an independent device. However, I'm not going that direction, as I prefer my results from the AeroPress GO over any straight up French Press.

Front & Back of Single Speed Coffee Roasters' single serve steeped coffee bag.

A promising concept is the single serve steeped coffee bag, which works somewhat like a tea bag. My latest experiment with a steeped coffee bag was the "Wake Up And Kiss Me" blend from Single Speed Coffee Roasters out of Flagstaff, Arizona. I enjoyed talking with the folks running their mobile coffee shop at the 24 Hours In The Old Pueblo mountain bike race and picked up a box there. 

Although a big improvement over instant, I found my results to be inconsistent, even when carefully following the instructions. Four of the eight bags remain from the Old Pueblo, so maybe I can make it better with more practice. If so, I may order some more from their website or simply try to fashion a steeped coffee bag of my own.

The "Coffeebrewer," from The Brew Company of Denmark.
On the left, unopened brewer. On the right, brewer opened for use and then re-used 6 times.

And finally, a possible game-changer. The Coffeebrewer from The Brew Company of Denmark. 

On its website, The Brew Company describes its "Coffeebrewer" as "an innovative and worldwide patented coffee product, designed as a crossover between French Press and pour-over coffee. . . It is designed and constructed as a kraft paper pouch, with an inner filter containing 20-22 grams of fresh, pre-ground specialty coffee, and a very thin, BPA-free PE base, allowing it to stand upright on its own while you're brewing your coffee."

From the outside, it looks like a paper packet with a re-closable top and a spigot. Inside lies a coffee-containing filter pouch surrounded by a thin plastic bag. Pour hot water through the top opening into the filter pouch and close it. Water slowly flows through the coffee and filter into the surrounding bag. At the desired time, pour the coffee out through the spigot.

Instructions on the back of the "Coffeebrewer."

Magnificent design and execution. I love everything about it. Makes very good coffee. Very easy to use. Very stable while filling, brewing, and pouring. Very lightweight and compact (paper and some plastic about 5.5" x 7.5" x maybe 0.5" thick). And the bonus - re-usable. Simply scoop/rinse out the grounds, add fresh grounds, and brew again. I've re-used a packet 6 times with great results.

This is a possible game-changer for my longer bikepacking trips. For my next week long ride, I think I could take one, but I'll plan to take two "Coffeebrewers" with enough fresh coffee grounds for the rest of the trip. I'll enjoy great coffee all week and carry practically no more weight than that of the grounds.

The "Coffeebrewer" won't replace the venerable AeroPress GO for everything else, but it sure looks to be a nice alternative for a 5-10 day bikepacking trip.

NOTE. I'm not a reviewer and certainly not an influencer. I occasionally share my experience with a product that works well for me. That is all.

The Java Jive, The Ink Spots (1941).

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