Why I Travel with an Aeropress

Water boils a little too easily at 3650 meters. That’s where I am in the photo, after a rainy night at Chennak camp in the Simien Mountains, Ethiopia. Given the fact that any coffee would taste pretty bad brewed at low temeratures, the Aeropress did a pretty good job at making an decent cup.

I remember I was able to use the Aeropress make an acceptable, but not entirely delicious, cup of coffee with hot tap water direct in South America. Granted it was exceptionally hot water since as there was a 220v heater precariously perched inside the shower. And the fact that using any tap water in any coffee origin country is like playing Russian roulette with your gut health. But it was totally quaffable and far better than the fermented and foul coffee in the hotel restaurant.

In terms of convenience on the road, I have a grudging respect for Starbucks Via instant coffee because, given what you need  (a mug of hot water)  the resultsare pretty good. Those damn things are hideously expensive per cup though. And giving money to "big green" also has other costs, like besmirching some little part of your soul. On the flip side we have the rather annoying pour over craze.

Don’t read that wrong. I love dripper brewing. I always have, and sold the rather cheap and simple stuff to do it for 15 years. But the latest frenzy in pour over risks getting it wrong while trying so hard to get it right. First there is the fact it takes something so simple and relegates it to a mechanical technique of overbearing "do’s and don’ts". You must have this filter and that holder, made of the right material, with the proper kit now setting you back the price of 6 old melitta holders and 2 years supply of filters. My mom uses a plastic cone, chemex filters and a mason jar with hemp twine at the neck so you can handle it hot. It works. If she stopped roasting to 3rd crack it would taste a lot better. I know we sell fancy stuff and it costs more that it should. But in my heart I like basic and simple approaches.

These technique-dependent cones like the hario, with its gaping drain hole, require a curvy spouted watering can or you just can’t regulate the flow. It takes a simple method and re-mystifies it, so much that the brew bar fad at coffee shops can make a simple and direct method into a professionalized and inaccessible spectacle. If you price out the grinders and scales and kettles and hot water towers that are being used to create this coffee performance, it’s several thousand dollars minimum. Really? To pour hot water over coffee into a cup? Now this isnt about the hario v60 specifically. Really I like it. It works well. But it requires too much. Would it be a wise choice for all the variabilities of travel? No way. And I am not packing a buono kettle in any case, which would mean going without some much needed undergarments, god forbid. I have a cloth 5 lb Sweet Maria’s bag, and in it I fit a porlex grinder ( not cheap but ergonomic and small), a metal pitcher to brew into, a tiny metal enamel cup, a few days of coffee and the Aeropress. Some of these fit inside of each other. When Aleco and I were way out in the Simeans I packed a MSR stove that burns nearly any fuel you can imagine. And it’s kinda fun to make your own coffee in rather extreme conditions. It smells like home.