How to make the world's best cup of coffee while camping, traveling, or at home.

How to Make the World’s Best Cup of Coffee While Camping

As a born and raised Pacific Northwesterner, I really appreciate a good cup of coffee to get me going in the morning.

I love the smell, taste, and ritual of drinking a great cup of black coffee; the morning caffeine jolt is an obvious benefit, but so too perhaps are the other purported health benefits of coffee consumption.

So what’s an avid coffee consumer to do when they’re out in the wilds, far from their favorite barista?

How can you make the world’s best cup of coffee while camping?

There are a myriad of camping coffee makers on the market that enable you to brew in the frontcountry and/or backcountry, from portable french presses, to white gas powered drip coffeemakers, to percolators, to various instant coffee variations, and many, many more options…

Some are super heavy, some are ultralight friendly, some are more convoluted to use, or a hassle to clean.

So how does one go about making the World’s Best Cup of Coffee while not only considering the ease of use and cleanup, but also the simplicity that most of us seek while out in nature?

I titled this post “How to Make the World’s Best Cup of Coffee While Camping” since this blog is outdoors focused. But if length weren’t a factor, I would have more accurately titled it “How to Make the World’s Best Cup of Coffee While Camping, Road Tripping, Travelling, or (Yes) Even at Home”.

While there might be a little bit of hyperbole in that, I truly believe that there is one device that fully delivers in all those environments and makes one of the best cups of coffee you will ever have.

I’m happy to say that I’ve found that coffee maker… And I used it while exploring the American West for a year, backpacking through Colombia–even using it at 13k feet in the Andes, and during our six months driving through all of Central America.

So what is it, you ask?

How to make the world's best cup of coffee while camping and traveling

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The Aerobie Aeropress Coffee and Espresso Maker

I hadn’t heard of the Aeropress Coffee Maker until reading Tim Ferriss’ book, the Four Hour Chef. He described it as a quick, simple, easy to use, and highly portable coffee maker that baristas frequently use while travelling.

So easy that you could make an exceptionally delicious cup of coffee right on the tray table of the middle seat of an airplane. Some boutique cafes and coffee shops even offer Aeropress brews at their stores.

Introducing the Aeropress Coffee Maker

This discovery was prior to departing on my Epic Dirtbag Adventure, but immediately the bells were going off in my head that, if true, this would be the ideal coffeemaker while dirtbagging, travelling, and living life on the road.

Fast forward, and I’ve been using the Aeropress now pretty much every day for the past few months years , and I’m more than 100% sold.

It consistently delivers a delicious, fresh, clean, and flavorful cup of coffee with none of the bitterness that you often find with over-steeped and over-extracted coffee brewed by other means.

It is quick and easy to make, and thankfully, clean up takes all of ten to fifteen seconds. I cannot recommend the Aeropress enough.

There are hundreds upon hundreds of glowing reviews on Amazon.com, many of which say something along the lines of “I own a French Press, drip coffee maker, and high end espresso machine, and they have all been retired and relegated to the basement thanks to the Aeropress.”

No joke, read them here.

If it delivers coffee that good in a home environment with an ease of use and portability that enables the same results at your campsite or on the tailgate of your truck?

And the thing costs less than $30? Count me in.

How to make coffee while camping with the Aeropress.

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How is the Aeropress Different?

The Aeropress is a unique plunger type of device that utilizes air pressure and a paper microfilter (or third party metal filters) to produce a coffee that is lower in acidity and bitterness than other conventional methods of brewing.

It looks sort of reminiscent of a French Press, but combined with the paper filter of a drip coffee maker…

The Aeropress differs from other coffee makers in a few key areas: conventional drip coffee makers tend to over-extract the beans where the hottest water contacts (at the top and the center of the grounds) while under-extracting other areas (like the sides and bottom), it is the over-extraction that produces bitterness in the finished product.

The Aeropress uses full immersion of the grounds, similar to a French Press. However, the French Press requires a coarse grind to be filtered, and thus requires a longer steeping time.

Increasing the steeping time, or (if you don’t decant it) allowing the grounds to continue steeping, produces bitterness.

Not only this, but an uneven grind also allows fine grounds to pass through into the finished product, producing the unpleasant grittiness that can be found in a French Press cup, and which will become over-extracted as you drink your cup.

You've got to get a quality whole bean that you grind fresh.

You’ve got to get a quality whole bean that you grind fresh.

Beyond the beans and grind, there are a few key variables that change the taste of the finished product.

Namely by changing the temperature of the water, the time that you allow the grounds to steep, or the coffee grounds to water ratio, you can produce a cup of coffee that exactly suits your tastes.

The Aeropress easily allows you to modify the above variables, where other conventional brewing methods do not.

By utilizing the ideal water temperature (175 degrees F), limiting steeping time so as to not over-extract the grounds, and using a paper filter to produce a pure and grit free product, you’re left with a truly delicious cup of coffee.

Are there downsides?

The Aeropress is best used as a single cup coffee maker or for a couple (just double the grounds), and is not ideal for making coffee for large groups. The paper filter also removes the oils in the beans that you would find in a French Press or similar method.

So perhaps most accurately speaking, the Aeropress produces the best single serve, paper filtered cup of coffee you’ll ever have.

I most often use it to make an Americano style cup of coffee (diluted with hot water), but it can be used to produce an espresso-like, concentrated brew.

They do also sell reusable metal disc filters for the Aeropress which obviously reduces waste, while also allowing the retention of the essential oils of the bean in the press. I haven’t used the metal discs at this point in time (it came with like two years worth of paper filters), so I can’t comment on quality or clean up.

UPDATE: Since January 2014 I’ve been using the S Filter ultra fine stainless steel filter for my coffee down, and I can definitely say that the coffee it produces is as good or better than the paper filters.

I haven’t however had the opportunity to do a side by side taste test of each since I left my paper filters at home. I simply wanted to not have to deal with carrying a stack of filters in my pack or possibly eventually running out of paper filters.

Obvious PROs of the metal disc: only one filter, no need for replacements, it is durable (no visible signs of problems or damage after six months), and it allows essential oils to pass through the filter.

Obvious CONs of the metal disc: only one filter, so if I lose it here I’m in trouble; it is slightly more work to clean, you can’t just pop it off into the trash, usually some coffee grounds stick to it that you have to brush off and wash.

But yes, I’m more than content with having added the metal filter and would certainly recommend it to others who have purchased or are going to purchase an Aeropress.

Buy the Aeropress on Amazon.com

How to Make an Aeropress Cup of Coffee While Camping

What You’ll Need:

What I Also Use:

Supplies needed to make the World's Best Cup of Coffee on your tailgate, while camping, or while traveling.

Supplies needed to make the World’s Best Cup of Coffee on your tailgate, while camping, or while traveling.

Step-by-Step Directions

It may seem like a lot of steps, but I’ve really broken down the process here. Besides the boiling time and the steeping time (depending on taste), it’s actually really quick and simple.

1) Get your hot water going. I start to boil about 16 oz of water (for an Americano) in my Jetboil Sol TI.

I like the Jetboil because it is super fast at boiling water. Boil water in just a few quick minutes with a Jetboil

2) Grind your beans fresh–this is important. I use a hand cranked burr grinder to produce a single serving of grounds every morning. The Hario Mini Mill Slim Coffee Grinder is the one I’ve been using, and it’s great.

I use a hand cranked burr grinder.The Hario Mini Mill Slim Grind I grind up to the one cup mark.

3) Insert the plunger into the end of the Aeropress unit and flip it upside down–this is what is referred to as the ‘inverted’ brewing method, and is not the method described in the Aeropress instruction booklet.

Invert the Aeropress.

4) Dump your serving of grounds into the top of the Aeropress.

Dump in your freshly ground beans.

5) Once the water reaches 175 degrees F, turn off your stove and pour the water over the grounds up to the halfway mark of the Aeropress.

Dump hot water over the grinds. 175 degrees F is the optimal tem

Side note: I use one of those thin espresso thermometers to determine optimal temperature. It fits nicely in the hole on the Jetboil’s lid and ensures I’m not “overheating” my water too far past 175 degrees F (and thus also wasting fuel). With no thermometer, you can bring it to a boil and then let the water cool down for a couple minutes. The cooler brewing temperature reduces the bitterness extracted from the grounds.

A pointy espresso thermometer fits nicely in the lid hole. Which

6) Stir the grounds and hot water for 10-seconds or so, then top off the remaining space with hot water. Allow to steep for the desired amount of time–this is dependent on taste, but I do about 2 minutes for an Americano. If you are drinking it espresso-style, you will probably want a short steep time (some people press immediately).

Fill the Aeropress about halfway and then give a vigorous 10 or Mix the beans and hot water thoroughly then top off with more ho

7) While the coffee steeps, insert a paper filter into the lid and wet it with a little water (this keeps the filter in place for the inverted brewing method).

Insert a paper filter into the cap. Wet the filter with a little bit of water--this keeps the filter

8) Secure the lid with filter on the Aeropress.

Damp filter will hold in place when upside down. Top off the remainder of the Aeropress with hot water and then p

9) Using two hands, flip the Aeropress over on top of your coffee mug. Using just one hand, depress the plunger slowly and steadily over about 20-30 seconds. You will hear the remaining air escape at the end of the press.

Using two hands, quickly flip the Aeropress on top of your mug. Slowly depress the plunger over 20-30 seconds with one hand. A small air chamber (thus Aero-press) will push the coffee throu

10) It’s ready to drink espresso style or you can top it off with your remaining hot water for an Americano. If you want to get more elaborate you could use warm milk to make a latte.

You can enjoy the brew straight, or dilute it with hot water for

11) Twist off the cap and (over a garbage bag) fully depress the plunger to eject the filter and coffee ‘puck’.

Remove the cap. Plunge the filter and puck straight into your garbage bag. Some grounds remain on the plunger, just give it a quick rinse w

12) Give the end a quick rinse with water or wipe down with a cloth or paper towel. That’s it, clean up is done. 10-15 seconds tops. The plunging action has already cleaned the coffee grounds from the rest of the device.

13) Enjoy a delicious cup of coffee along with the morning glow of an awesome sunrise in a spectacular and wild setting.

Enjoy a fresh cup of coffee and the morning glow on Ship Rock.

The process is pretty much exactly the same in your kitchen as it is above, but replace the Jetboil with an electric water kettle.

Video Guide to Making an Aeropress Cup

In Conclusion

I’ve been using the Aeropress almost daily for the past few years and I really, really love it.

I have brewed up a killer cup of coffee at highway rest areas, beside some of America’s most beautiful natural wonders, in the middle of the desert, the freezing Canadian Rockies, and even at 13,000 feet in the Colombian Andes.

It is quick, convenient, and easy to use. the two biggest selling points in my eyes are:

  1. The superior cup of coffee it produces
  2. The super easy cleanup method.

I’ve definitely converted a few people to the Aeropress method of brewing during my travels.

It’s an ideal car camping and traveling set up, in my opinion, and meets almost all of my needs–although it’s not as well suited as a backpacking or backcountry companion, at least not for the alpine or ultralight backpacking crowd.

The plunger unit and end cap weigh in at only 8 oz flat–so it’s not too heavy, actually (a little more than a plastic Nalgene bottle). If I’m pushing the miles or elevation I would certainly ditch the Aeropress in favor of some ultralight Starbucks VIA packets in that scenario.

But if you are going to climb Denali or Everest expedition-style or you’re doing a casual backpacking trip and dragging along the DSLR camera, then what’s another 8+ oz in your pack for some truly world class coffee? 🙂

Buy the Aeropress on Amazon.com
How to make the world's best cup of coffee while camping and traveling

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Relevant Coffee Resources:

Disclosure: I bought the Aeropress, grinder, and other associated items with my own hard earned money. None of the companies advocated for nor contributed to the above review. This post contains affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I’ll get a small commission if you purchase after clicking through my site–thank you for the support!

 
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Ryan

Author, Writer, and Head Honcho at Desk to Dirtbag
Ryan is an author, adventurer, and wanderer. Originally from Seattle, he headed to Washington D.C. where he spent five years working for Congress before heeding the call of the wild. He set out living in his pickup truck and road tripping across the American West. Since then he backpacked through Colombia, drove across all of Central America, and also wrote a best selling book: Big Travel, Small Budget. Right now you can find him driving his old truck across all of South America. Follow the adventures on social media or read more.

Comments 65

  1. I’ve not tried the “inverted” brewing method (seems more trouble than it’s worth), but I can tell you I definitely don’t throw away the filter. They’re fine for a few uses (especially if you’re making coffee back to back for friends). Just give it a quick rinse and be careful not to tear it.

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      Good point, Jay. The filters are perfectly good for a few uses. Generally I don’t reuse them unless I’m making back to back cups though.

      1. I’m old, most likely as old as most of your fathers. I hunt, fish, golf, RV and etc year round.

        I’ve been making coffee the same way over a campfire and it always tastes great, but these days i do pour it through a paper strainer in a large ss strainer.
        Getting old makes you picky I guess.

        I have an old coffee pot, porcelain steel. Set it on a rock in the fire till it boils.
        I put the correct amount of coffee grounds right into the boiling water and let it work for 3 or so minutes.
        Then I take an egg and crack it, stir it up like I was going to make scrambled eggs and pour it into the coffee pot and let it boil/roll a little longer.

        The egg grabs the grounds from the coffee water and settles to the bottom of the pot when you take it off the fire. Yeah there are some grounds that the paper filter takes care of but when you grind your coffee fresh, right before you put them into the boiling water, it makes great tasting and great smelling coffee. I let it set for a few minutes and just pour slow if I’m out of paper filters.

        I have people coming in from all over the park or campgrounds asking what kind of coffee I’m making.

        try it, it’s unique and something you can impress your buds and buddetts some day if you are out on the trail.

        Cya

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          That’s definitely unique! I’ve never heard of that approach to making coffee before… I’ll have to give that a try one of these days!

  2. Hi! This is @moteviolence from Twitter. Just wanted to comment on this and say that I used to work for a coffee shop that used Able coffee’s metal discs and those things are like God’s gift to the AP. Seriously, the flavor difference is so much better with the oils in it versus the paper filters (in my opinion). So you should start drinking a ton more coffee and use up the paper filters. ;o)

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      Awesome, thanks for the feedback, Brittany! I’d like to pick one up and try it out here soon. It’s good to hear that it makes the coffee even better yet!

      1. Oh, yeah, totally worth it! You will love it! (I promise I’m not multi-platform stalking you now. First Twitter, then your blog, dun dun duunnnn….)

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  5. Love the Aeropress and plan to take it on a long bikepacking trip, subject to pack space. I found a grinder than actually fits inside the Aeropress when packed – its amazing. Its the Porlex Mini Mill (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Porlex-Mini-Mill-Hand-Grinder/dp/B0044ZA066). If you remove the silicon ring, and take the top cap and place it on the bottom of the grinder, the whole thing then slides top first, into the hollow plunger of the aeropress. The handle has to be packed separately, but even so its a pretty amazing fit!

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  6. I’m glad I came back here and reread how you use the aeropress. I purchased one and brought it on an overnight river trip this past weekend and had a neck of a time getting it to work. I followed the aeropress directions and it was full of air and next to impossible to press. After wasting 3 cups, one full of grinds, another too week and the third too strong, I finally pulled up your blog, followed your directions and have an awesome cup of coffee camping for the first time ever!

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      Great to hear, Jen! Glad you finally got a cup you were satisfied with. I’m still using mine nearly every day. Haven’t got tired of it yet. In fact, I went to a coffee shop in Medellin and was SO thrilled to see they had an Aeropress that I always ordered that, even though I have my own at home right around the corner–sometimes it is still nice to just go out to a cafe.

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  11. Having picked one of these up recently, I’m utterly with you in the AeroPress love camp.

    It’s been fantastic to read all of the different methods that are available to try.

    Still need a metal filter though and a hand grinder for longer road usage. Just a thought though, if you do run out you can probably just pick up some regular filters from a store and then just cut them to size. The thickness might not be perfect, but it’s something!

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      That’s a great filter hack idea if something ever came up.

      The Aeropress has definitely been a game changer for me. With the metal S Filter and the Hario hand grinder, I’m all set, so long as I can find a supply of whole beans! 🙂

      Thanks for dropping in and leaving a comment, Dale!

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  14. Good afternoon Ryan!
    I stumbled across your webpage today as I’m trying to find a coffee maker idea for my husband for Christmas. Out of curiosity, what makes this one better than, for example, the Titanium French Press by Snowpeak (only 200 grams) (6.3 ounces)? You certainly give a lot of detail in your coffee creations and I’m very tempted to order your the Aerobie Aeropress Coffee Maker as a Christmas gift. I do not drink coffee (never acquired a taste for it), yet my husband so enjoys his morning coffee and we do a lot of backcountry camping with currently boring instant coffee for him. Please reply to my email address too as I won’t necessarily see the reply on your webpage! Plus this way I can email you directly later (or Corey can!).
    Thank you! Patricia

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      Author

      Hey Patricia, thanks for the questions and leaving a comment here. I prefer the Aeropress over a French press for a variety of reasons–chief among them is that the Aeropress is a snap to clean (no moving parts that can trap grounds), also with a French press you generally have to do a somewhat coarse grind in order for the filter to work, but if you have a grinder that is somewhat uneven in size (smaller parts as well) those will slip through the filter which gives the French press a somewhat grittier taste. Unfortunately those small grinds that slip through will also continue to steep as you drink the coffee and overextracting beans leads to bitterness.

      As I mentioned in the review as well, you can customize the grind size, coffee to grounds ratio, steep time, and pretty much all the factors that alter the taste of coffee in order to suite your tastes. You are slightly more limited with a French press (for instance grind size). So you might even find a brew with the Aeropress that *you* like as a non-coffee drinker. Perhaps something lighter, while your husband prefers something stronger.

      I will say it is ever so slightly heavier than the Titanium French Press you mentioned above by about 2oz. So if weight is a major consideration then you should keep that in mind. If he’s a real coffee lover I’m sure he’ll love the Aeropress. Many baristas and such use it while traveling.

  15. Thanks for the post Ryan. Your article is really very helpful for me. I am working a project on coffee. After read this post, I am getting some good information’s and knowledge from this blog. This is really very valuable information’s for my project.

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      Author

      Nah, not really, it’s just that I really broke the process down. It’s not actually anything more than: boil water, grind beans (or buy pre-ground), mix hot water and coffee grounds, let it sit there for a few minutes, then plunge it into your mug.

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  16. Hi there Ryan, these are some good tips for campers and also for people like me who just like to test new makers. Aeropress seems to be one that I am going to try one of these days. Thanks for sharing.
    Cindy

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  17. Thanks for the great suggestion, maybe it’s time to retire the faithful Moka and try something new, only downside is I’ll need something else for heating water on the campfire. Will be worth it if the coffee is half as good as it sounds. Thanks for the excellent site!

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      Author

      Yeah, give it a shot, Matt! You could probably just use some sort of standard pot to boil water on the fire, if that’s your method. Or get a nice little portable stove. Let me know how you like the Aeropress!

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  18. Love this post! These are some good tips for all those who love to travel a lot.I will use these tricks when I will go camping!!Thanks for the amazing and unique tips!!

  19. Hey Ryan
    Nice share
    Well, I think this is the perfect place to be for coffee-lovers! I am forwarding this to a friend who happens to be in Melbourne for an event. She’s a certified coffee drinker who is always on the lookout for the best cafe. This will definitely help her.
    Thanks buddy for this informative article. You did a great job.
    Thumbs Up!!!

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      Interesting! I had not seen that… I look forward to seeing how it comes together. Compact is definitely nice for camping and travel.

  20. I don’t have any previous experience how to make Aeropress cup of coffee While Camping. I must try my next trip. Thanks for sharing your experience,

  21. Yes true. This makes a great cup of coffee, to rival any cup of coffee from any coffee shop. I have tried many different coffee makers and being a coffee junkie I keep looking for the combination of simplicity, cost and excellent coffee – this has all three! It does take a bit of time to make, maybe five minutes in the real world, but worth it with an aromatic and smooth cup.

  22. Who says we should leave our coffee bone while enjoying some time with mother nature? Well not this writer! Apparently y’all coffee addicts out there this is definitely a must buy!!

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  23. I read your post with great interest. Coffee and I go back a long, long way. I drinks several, very big, cups per day. Given that I would like to offer the following.
    Some of the best coffee I ever drank, drunk, whatever; had nothing to do with how it was made, but where I was at the time. Some of the best coffee I have ever had came out of an old camp perk type. A frozen, snowy morning in the Panamint mountains, my buddies Husky shaking off the snow. I started the old Coleman stove, Yuri went off to do puppy things, shaking off the snow. When the coffee was ready, I held it outside of my buddies tent, just out of his reach. That was thirty-five years ago. He still has not forgiven me.
    Yosemite Valley. Dawn is cracking the darkness. The coffee is scalding in my old canteen cup, bacon is sizzling on the stove. The scent of bacon, chalk, coffee and pine trees stays with me forty years later.
    A blazing sunrise, anchored off the ICW in Georgia. Dolphins off the bow, just poking around. So quiet that I could hear them breathe. The same old coffee pot, perking in the background.
    A cup of not quite hot, barely warm, half dissolved MRE coffee after a long night and day and night in a foreign country. The crystals were half dissolved. The water was lukewarm, and I was shaking so badly that I needed help to sip it. It was the best cup of coffee I ever had. I was alive.

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      You raise a very important point! Context certainly plays a role. Like how any food tastes better in the backcountry, especially after a long hard day out. I fondly remember the unexpected Coors Light some stranger gave us as we stood on the summit of Whitney after climbing the East Buttress and spending 12 hours to get there. I never drink Coors Light, but that tasted to be about the best beer in the world.

  24. Wow! what a great post. I like it quite much. Thanks for sharing lot of informative tips here. Just want to give a thumbs up to your amazing post.

  25. Thanks for breaking your process down. I recently became an Aeropress convert and use it almost daily at home and work. I’m heading down to do a Grand Canyon camping trip in a couple of weeks and will be the barista for our group so getting my process down is important. I’ve been using the inverted method but haven’t played with steeping times. Looking forward to great coffee with great friends in one of the greatest settings.

    -Jake

  26. I never thought about taking my Aeropress on a camping trip before, but now I’m definitely going to do it! I also take it when I travel, but for some reason using it while camping never occurred to me. Thanks so much for sharing, and a HUGE thank you for the long-form and attention to detail in your article!

  27. I have to agree about the Aeropress for camping. We used to make coffee in our camper van using an electric kettle and a stainless double-wall French press. Good coffee, but the cleanup was always a bit of a pain. The Aeropress makes (in my opinion) better coffee than the French press plus the cleanup is ridiculously easy – just discard the filter and grounds to trash, rinse, and you’re done. We’ve used the classic method so far, no inverted unit, steeping about 30 seconds before pressing.

    As for grinding, you guys are serious about your coffee. We usually start the trip with a pound of our favorite, ground for the Aeropress. As we get low we look for a coffee roaster in one of the towns we’re passing through and get more beans ground for us.

    So, another vote for Aeropress. Enjoying your work.

    Dennis

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      Awesome, thanks for chiming in, Dennis! I can’t imagine going back to coffee pre-Aeropress. It’s just so delicious and yeah, like you said, the cleanup is a cinch.

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