Across the country, people are packing up their gear and heading to parks, trails, and campgrounds to take advantage of the warmer weather (and more space to practice social distancing). But how can today’s outdoor enthusiasts enjoy a high-quality cup of coffee while hiking or camping in some of the most remote parts of the country?
Balancing Quality and Convenience
Gone are the days of chugging cheap instant coffee out of plastic thermoses—today’s on-the-go consumers want products that allow them to brew a cup of coffee similar to what they might find in any third-wave specialty café.
“They’re so much more knowledgeable about quality coffee and available brewing techniques,” says Jess Nepstad, CEO and founder of Montana-based Planetary Design, which manufactures French presses and drinkware geared explicitly for travel and the outdoors. “Today’s consumers versus just ten years ago want to enjoy the experience of making coffee and are taking steps to be more involved in how the final cup turns out at all points of the process—from coffee origin to roast to water temperature and brewing technique.”
Planetary Design’s BruTrek line features double-wall insulated stainless steel drinkware and French press coffee makers with the patent-pending BruStop technology, which stops the brewing process once the plunger is pressed to avoid over-brewing. Starting out 15 years ago with its Big Sky Bistro, the line has since expanded to include eight products, including its latest release, the OVRLNDR.
“The OVRLNDR is a combination of everything we’ve learned over 15 years of making French presses,” says Nepstad. “Easy to brew, easy to clean, portable, pourable.”
The OVRLNDR’s most significant feature is the patented removable base, allowing for easy road or campground cleaning. The 28-fl.-oz. French press also features a handle-less design to keep it compact and easy to store; a no-leak, drinkable lid so users can throw it in the back seat or a backpack without worrying about coffee stains; and the BruStop plunger to keep coffee grounds from over-extracting and causing bitter coffee, even after a three-hour hike or long commute.
“Many of the needs for camping and commuting are the same,” says Nepstad. “You want a great cup of hassle-free coffee with gear that doesn’t take up too much space and is portable and easy to clean.”
The U.S. National Park Service encourages you to #RecreateResponsibly this summer: be sure to Leave No Trace when you visit parks and follow CDC guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Visit NPS.gov/findapark for current park conditions and availability of restrooms and other facilities.
Make a plan, bring the essentials, and stay home if you are sick.
Follow the state and county orders governing the open status of the area you’re visiting.
Stay six feet away from others whether you are on a trail, at a boat launch, or in a parking lot.
Cover your nose and mouth if you’re near others.
Postpone challenging hikes or trying new activities while first responders, parks, and communities continue to concentrate on responding to the pandemic.
Pack it in, pack it out: Trash pickup and restroom facilities will continue to be limited in many park areas.
An Exceptional Cup
Understanding the needs of the on-the-go coffee lover, Seattle-based company MiiR recently brought to market its Pourigami, a compact, flat-pack pour-over dripper ideal for travelers and minimalists alike. With three interlocking stainless steel panels, the Pourigami can be disassembled to easily fit in your back pocket, while its carrying case can also stash filters for the road.
MiiR founder and CEO Bryan Papé, an avid traveler, wanted to create an option that allowed consumers to enjoy high-quality coffee without bulky, fragile, or wasteful equipment. Inspired by the idea that coffee lovers do not need to sacrifice quality over convenience, the Pourigami was born.
“Exceptional coffee should not be an exception,” says Cecilia Vollert, marketing specialist for MiiR. “The Pourigami allows you to maintain your coffee routine and preferences, even when brewing on the go.”
Although it may not collapse for easy storage like the Pourigami, Hario’s Double Mesh Metal Dripper is another excellent choice for adventurers, as it’s lightweight, durable, and uses the same brewing method as the brand’s popular V60.
Other perks? “You do not need a paper filter,” says Hario representative Kaho Tanimura, and “it has scale marks for coffee grounds,” meaning you don’t need to carry a measuring scoop.
The stainless steel dripper’s two overlapping finely etched mesh filters allow users to brew coffee with rich flavor and deep aroma, so “you can enjoy delicious coffee,” says Tanimura, “even outside.”
The ability to maintain one’s coffee routine no matter where they are in the world has been at the heart of AeroPress since its inception in 2005. One of the most recognized brewing devices today, the AeroPress has been a popular travel companion for coffee lovers, particularly since it is big enough to stash a hand grinder.
In 2007, the company began selling the AeroPress with a zippered nylon tote bag big enough to hold both the equipment and a mug—an offering that eventually grew to 15% of total sales.
“We started getting consumer feedback from those using the AeroPress on the go that a more compact portable version that included a durable, lightweight mug would be enthusiastically received,” says Constance Romero, marketing coordinator. “We also quickly learned that a more targeted portable version was needed to break into the outdoor and travel retailer market.”
And so, last year, the company launched its AeroPress Go, a more compact version that comes with its own 15-oz. mug and fits all of the accessories (scoop, filter holder, and collapsible stirrer) inside. However, due to its smaller size, the Go does not fit most hand grinders compared to its original counterpart. Another tradeoff was that the mug is made of plastic—though food-grade and safe, some users may still prefer their own ceramic mug.
Whether customers use the original or the Go, Romero says that both products offer a lot of positive qualities, all of which appeal to outdoor enthusiasts and office workers alike.
“They are both easy to use, quick to clean, and offer lots of brew recipe flexibility,” she says. “But at the end of the day, the reason that they are so popular is taste. You can make an absolutely delicious cup of coffee with the AeroPress or the AeroPress Go, and that’s the key to their success.”
In the Palm of Your Hand
Years ago, Jessica Do Tully was an everyday coffee lover who enjoyed using manual brewers. However, she struggled to find one with all the qualities she was looking for: no plastic or disposables, completely reusable, simple to clean, nice aesthetic—and still made delicious coffee. That quest inspired her to start researching and prototyping, eventually leading to the Palmpress.
A sleek, all-in-one, collapsible press that requires no filters, the Palmpress allows users to hand-brew coffee that doesn’t come into contact with plastic: just add coffee to the marked line, pour in water, stir, and wait before inverting over a mug and pressing to extract. To clean, simply open it up, dispose of the grounds, and rinse with warm water and soap.
Besides its eco-friendliness (no disposables of any kind), the Palmpress is also popular for its aesthetic design and versatility.
“We’ve learned it addresses a variety of different needs for different people,” says Tully. “I think versatile tools are super useful, as we have different needs at different times, and one thing that contributes to versatility is portability.”
The Palmpress demonstrates that your primary way of brewing high-quality coffee at home can also be how you brew coffee at the office, hotel, Airbnb, or while camping.
“While portability or ease of use can mean a sacrifice to quality,” says Tully, “it’s neat that in other cases, it can enable you to enjoy quality coffee more often.”
Don’t Forget These Essentials
“[It’s important to] have equipment handy that still helps you meet your coffee standard and needs,” says MiiR’s Cecilia Vollert.
It’s assumed you’ll have access to hot water, whether from your home, at your office, or boiled over a campfire.
When he goes camping, Steeped Coffee’s Nate Appel turns to his Jetboil Zip cooking system to heat his water; another great option is the BioLite CampStove.
For shorter journeys, Vollert suggests boiling water at home and taking it with you in a travel tumbler.
“Our vacuum-insulated drinkware allows you to prep hot water and keep it toasty for hours on end, allowing you flexibility in your coffee prep,” she says.
While Hario’s manual grinders are especially popular, their Smart G Electric Handy coffee grinder is also a great choice. With a handle for hand grinding, it can also turn into an electric grinder with the Mobile Mill stick: just remove the coffee mill handle and lid, put coffee beans into the hopper, attach the Smart G grinder, and push the switch to start grinding.
“You can grind coffee beans easily anywhere,” says Hario’s Kaho Tanimura. “The compact size and lithium storage battery make it perfectly portable.”
Coffee Beans & Tea Leaves
What good is your brewing equipment if you don’t have coffee to brew? Be sure to choose storage that is lightweight and keeps your beans or grounds dry and fresh.
Planetary Design’s top-selling category is its Airscape line, designed to store coffee, tea leaves, and other dry goods; its patented lid removes and locks out air to preserve freshness and flavor.
MiiR’s Coffee Canister can hold a standard 12-oz. bag of whole or ground beans, while its interior accordion-style seal compresses to remove oxygen and protect flavor.
With so many options on the market today, it can be overwhelming to figure out what’s the best mug to travel with, let alone what will stand up to a long weekend in the woods.
Some of Fresh Cup’s favorites include Fellow Products’ Carter Everywhere Mug and MiiR’s Camp Cup; both can hold up to the pressure from hand-pressing devices or fit a pour-over dripper. Click here for more options.
Further propelling the belief that today’s consumers don’t have to sacrifice quality over convenience when it comes to on-the-go brewing, Copper Cow Coffee prides itself on making a perfect pour-over as easy as possible.
Formerly in the banking industry, Debbie Wei Mullin, whose family is from Vietnam, started Copper Cow Coffee in 2016 to pursue her dream of creating a business based on her two biggest passions: Vietnamese cuisine and sustainable development.
Copper Cow creates all-natural specialty portable pour-over Vietnamese coffee sweetened with California condensed milk and sugar. Customers can choose from almost ten flavors, including bestsellers Classic Latte, Lavender Latte, Churro Latte, and the dairy-free Coconut Latte, as well as “Just Black” and decaf options that can be enjoyed either hot or iced.
“Americans love convenience—even the most discerning customer always would like to save time,” says Mullin. “As our preferences for specialty coffee have grown, so have the ways of making it as easy as possible.”
Sustainability and empowering communities are at the core of this mission-oriented company, which employs a women-owned supply chain.
“We have an active relationship with not only our coffee farmers in Vietnam but with every step of our supply chain,” says Mullin. “Our farmers are paid twice the market rate, and our farms only use organic agricultural and processing methods—that means no chemicals or pesticides.”
As for the physical product, used coffee filters and grounds can be composted, while the outer foil of each packet is recyclable.
“Each portion of our product is made to be better for the Earth,” says Mullin.
Accessible & Sustainable
Another company fully embracing sustainability while making portable brewing accessible is Steeped Coffee. Founder and CEO Josh Wilbur wanted to combine the convenience of single-serve brewing with the premium quality of ethically sourced coffee and with packaging made using fully compostable and renewable materials.
“Sustainability was one of the main goals of developing the Steeped Brewing Method,” says Nate Appel, director of marketing. “We felt people shouldn’t have to compromise on sustainability, taste, or convenience to make an outstanding single cup of coffee.”
Today, Steeped delivers 100% hand-roasted specialty coffee in nitro-sealed bags; just add hot water, steep, and enjoy. Its high-quality taste, ease, and versatility make it an ideal brewing method for anyone on the go.
“For the adventurer, Steeped brings the richness of French press coffee into the backcountry without the extra weight of…heavy coffee gadgets,” says Appel. “For the commuter, you can pour hot water over a Steeped bag, dip and dunk, throw the lid on your mug, and be on your way out the door….For the specialty coffee connoisseur, Steeped lets you easily explore new blends without the commitment of purchasing a whole bag of coffee.”
And in the last few months, another demographic has emerged: frontline workers needing a quick caffeine boost.
“Steeped bypasses any risks of using a communal coffee pot, which has been an extremely welcome option for healthcare workers, especially in hospitals,” notes Appel. [Turn to p. 16 to learn about Steeped Coffee’s “You Give, We Give” campaign.]
As the needs of specialty coffee drinkers continue to evolve, companies are quickly learning to adapt to provide the tools necessary for a high-quality cup of coffee—no matter where you are.
As Jess Nepstad says, “The inherent expectation for brewing equipment is to deliver on the quest for great coffee anywhere.”
Cover photo by Nikki Bigger and Ben Waugh
This article was originally published on August 5, 2020, and has been updated to reflect Fresh Cup’s current editorial standards.