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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Coffee - How To Make The Best Cup While Traveling

Fully Equipped Galley With Coffee Maker!
    Mmmmmm....coffee. Whether it's for a morning "jolt" to get the day started or as a mid-day "pick me up, " coffee is a good thing! There are many ways to prepare coffee, less ways to prepare good coffee and just about as many opinions on which is best. To give you an idea where I stand, one of the MUST HAVES for my ideal RV was some kind of coffee maker (or two.)  On the road it can be a challenge to make a good cup (or pot) of coffee. There are easy ways to brew some and more complex ways, we'll take a look at a few of the more mainstream methods.

What's In Coffee?


Let's start with the basics. What makes a good cup good? I believe it's the water that begins the perfect cup. The more impurities in it, the lousier the coffee. Clean, filtered or even bottled water will be fine. Yes, I know there are REAL coffee fanatics that will argue the mineral content and mix will affect flavor, but that's WAY outside the scope of this article! Next is the coffee itself. It's always best to start with beans rather than ground coffee, since the flavors in coffee will begin to oxidize (lose/change flavor) as soon as it is ground. You can even find drip coffee makers that will grind your beans for you! Or simply use a small grinder (about $15) As a bonus, you can use this to grind spices and other small foodstuffs as well. If you want to use ground coffee, do yourself a favor and find a way to seal it into a container and pump out as much air as you can. This will keep it fresher, longer. The ratio of coffee to water is critical, but based upon personal preference rather than science. As is the choice of your coffee.

My Electric Under Cabinet Drip Maker
First of the brewing methods is the electric "drip" coffee maker. This is the most basic and usually the least expensive method. A current 10-12 cup unit can cost as little at $15 at the local mega-mart. While these will make a decent pot of coffee if you measure carefully, they aren't the best. They are, usually, the fastest. If your schedule or your brain says, "NEED COFFEE NOW!" than this is the easiest route. Bear in mind you will need 120V power to use it. Whether a generator, shore power, or inverter with a decent sized battery bank.  It will require some serious short-term Amps. This makes an OK cup of coffee, a bit on the weak side and is pretty wasteful of the coffee itself. They even make a version of the drip coffee maker that's PROPANE powered. When you're in a hurry, though, it cannot be beat.

Let's take a quick sidestep. When I use my large 12 cup coffee maker (when I have the power to spare) in the summer, I'll usually make a pitcher of ICED COFFEE with the remainder. Nothing beats iced coffee in the summer months!

4 Cup Aluminum perk Pot
Next up is the tried and true, old fashioned "Perk Pot." This was originally designed to brew coffee over an open flame, so will work with almost any high heat source. Your propane stove-top is particularly good at evenly heating the pot. This method boils water into steam and circulates it through a basket of coffee at the top of the pot. There is a small glass "Percolator" at the top where you can watch the color and strength of your brew. In my humble opinion this method really smells the best. I love the smell of coffee in the morning!

Basic French Press

Some folks say the absolute best flavor from coffee can be had from a "French Press." This device takes a coffee and water solution after it has sit for a few minutes and slowly strains out the coffee by pressing it down with a plunger. The spent coffee ends up at the bottom, locked away by the plunger and you pour off the brew from the top. It does work. You WILL end up with some grounds in your cup AND you have to boil the water before you can use it. It's a bit fussy to use, especially for me in the morning, but it does make a rich flavorful cup. Afterwards you have to disassemble it and clean up. Since there is no filter the grounds have to be rinsed away. If I have lots of time, I would use one. Not often, but sometimes.

Typical Pre-Measured Coffee Maker
What about pre-measured "K-Cup" style? This could also be "Nespresso" or "Tassimo" pre-measured style. While you can get a pretty good cup of coffee with these, the power requirements usually rule them out except on shore power. They ARE convenient and you can get a variety of different beverages including many coffees, hot chocolates and even tea! I have a friend that uses one on an inverter for multiple cups. He's got 2 house batteries and about 500 watts of solar panels. If his batteries are low, he fires up the generator. For him, it's more of a convenience factor. The coffee itself can be a bit pricey per cup. Figure around 70 cents or more. And you have to deal with the plastic trash. The machines come in various colors to match your decor! I use them at home.....


Instant coffee. Bleh. I put that right up there with non-dairy creamer! I guess if I was backpacking and could only take a tiny amount of stuff...maybe. Now that I think about it....nope. Not even then!

There are many other ways to make coffee in an RV, I have a Vacuum pot in my office that is pretty cool to watch, but really isn't practical for an RV

You could always just buy a cup at the local convenience store/gas station/coffee shop, but what's the fun in that?

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com








30 comments:

  1. You neglected to mention the electric percolator. Works quickly, brews up to 12 cups of coffee.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon,
      Electric percolators are fine, they just use an enormous amount of power. Great if you are on the grid, no so much so if you are relying on batteries.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  2. Hi Rich

    We use the old-fashioned Melitta Manual Coffee Maker. Canadians can get them from Home Hardware. All you need is boiled water. And cleanup, because of cone filters, is easy (unlike, to me, the French Press.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lynda,
      I've used those! They work great. Essentially, it's just a drip coffee maker where you have to boil the water separately. Good idea!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
    2. Melitta is the way to go. I use it always, even at home and have for over 30 years. No counter space used up by a 'coffee maker', no worries. Toss that plastic filter holder in the cupboard, add some filters, and drive on. To me coffee made this way tastes SO much better than 'coffee maker' coffee!

      Delete
    3. Anon,
      OK...I'll go buy one!

      Thanks,

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  3. I use the Keurig with regular ground coffee. Simply get an EZ cup and filters and then you can each have whatever flavor coffee you want. You just through away the small filter when done. Costs less then 10 cents a cup. And no bad taste having either reheating the cup in the microwave or keeping it hot on the stove. Saves the envioment from all the plastic waste.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon,
      Yup.. I have the ground coffee Keurig accessory as well. Still need to have lots of power so it isn't the best solution unless you run the genny, or have lots of battery or, of course, are plugged into shore power.

      Does save quite a bit over buying the cups, but isn't as convenient.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  4. My stove top peculator is ancient! It was purchased years ago for tent camping with the Boy Scouts where we brewed a good cup of java over a campfire. It looks a little worse for wear but that's memories & character. I love it & the coffee it makes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon,
      What's wrong with ancient? :) They are like the timex of coffee pots...take a licking and keep on ticking! And the smell of coffee in the air....mmmmmm.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  5. We use a drip coffee maker with an insulated pot. It doesn't use any electricity to keep the coffee warm and we can take the whole pot outside so we can enjoy the morning sun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon,
      I've been eyeing a replacement carafe (or whole coffee maker) that brews directly into a thermal carafe. When I brew a bog pot I like to have it around for a while. Sometimes, I just let it cool then make a pitcher of ICED COFFEE. Nothing like iced coffee in the summer months, MMmmm.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  6. I use the Melitta cone for drip coffee. Easy to use and easy cleanup. You can heat water in an electric kettle or stovetop propane. I hate the sound of a grinder, esp. first thing in the morning, so I buy my own blend at a coffee store, they grind it, and I store it in cool dark and airtight. Just enough for a week. Melitta also makes a large cone that drips into a thermos for making large batches.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon,
      Yup your spot on! Only keep it around for a short time and it will be good. What do you do if you are way out in the boonies for more than a week? :)

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  7. And for those who like the Keurig K-Kup variety, but don't want to use the power, or risk freezing the reservoir (all but the mini have a permanent reservoir in addition to the refillable one), there is now a hand-brew device that uses K-Kups, or "pods" like Tassimo, and comes with a fill-it-yourself cup. It's called Cafejo, about $30. You heat water - stove, microwave, whatever - and it works like a French Press, but without the messy grounds. My husband & I like different combinations of coffees, so this is great. Used it in a hotel just a week ago so we could have "our coffee" instead of the cafeteria variety.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Deborah,
      Way cool! I will tell my friend about that one. He LOVES his k-cups, but hates taking so many amps from his batteries so early in the morning before they charge.

      If only I knew before I bought him his holiday gifts!

      Thanks!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  8. I have a travel mug that has a atleast 750,000 miles on it and still going.Iama retired truck driver and my coffee was only thing drank out of it.I never used soap to wash it out just good ole hot water..Now if you used soap the flavor would be gone.I almost lost it a couple times one time in Amarillo,TX it took me two weeks to get back to pick it up..And the other was in Yakima,Wa. lucky for me my mother and dad went to truck stop and retrived it.Retired for two years and still useing it in motor home...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon,
      I don't have nearly as miles on mine, but for a long ago holiday I was given a heated mug. It plugs into the cigarette lighter and will heat (or reheat slowly) my coffee. I wouldn't leave home without it!
      May you have many more miles with yours!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  9. What about cold brewed coffee? You end up with coffee concentrate you can add to hot water or use for iced coffee. The process makes the coffee less acidic for those who are bothered by coffee brewed by other methods.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Billy,
      To be honest, I've never tried it. Sounds interesting and I'll go and research it a bit then try it out. I like the idea of a concentrate I can use to mix up coffee, iced or hot, at a later date.

      I wonder how long it will last??? Can it be frozen without going bad??

      Thanks,

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
    2. Cold brew is the best! I freeze it in small juice bottles and it keeps for months. No Power to make it. Storing the maker is the worst of it. Check it out on amazon, that seems to be the best price.

      Delete
    3. Anon,
      OK...I'll try some! If three people tell you you're drunk...lie down!

      Cold brew is up for experimentation!

      Thanks all,

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  10. Melitta cone is about the cheapest and produces a fine cup. Bialetti Mako Express espresso is also fast (7 min) and easy to clean. Get the 6 or 9 cup version as espresso cups are like 2 oz. Use a hand grinder if you are worried about power. -Starbucks VIA instant coffees are a fine cup of coffee. Pricy but often you can find on sale. No cleanup on them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon,
      Looks like the melitta is the cheapest and simplest when you are boondocking. I stay away from pricey mass manufactured coffee pack though.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  11. What about the Melita drip filter used with freshly ground coffee beans coffee!! Heat water with stove and great for boondocking!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. recyclequeen,
      Yup it's the most frugal!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
    2. I second the cold drip method. I grind the beans...for me half-calf. I keep mine in the frig...never tried freezing. There's no reason why it shouldn't work.
      You have control over the strength of your coffee
      Check www.filtron.com .
      Martine

      Delete
    3. Anon,
      That filtron looks intriguing. I have a feeling there will be a Part 2 to the coffee saga after I receive all the new bits and pieces I've been ordering!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  12. Got a big old blue enamel 12 cup percolator that I plop on the stove for those rare times I make coffee. Usually, I brew it for other people as I have to weigh it down with so much cream and sugar that it really isn't worth making coffee.

    Keep an equally sized two screw cup top thermos as well in the cabinet for storing any extra coffee.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Matt,
      You're not an addict! Rejoice!!

      Seriously, coffee is a needed fuel for lost of folks in the morning.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete

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