I LOVE my coffee. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an addiction, but a thorough enjoyment of the pleasures of riding motorcycles and sipping Joe. Next riding buddies, and a cold beer at the end of a ride, few things compliment motorcycles better than coffee.
I've put together a list of some of my favorite ways to brew coffee out on a ride for your enjoyment. In no way do I claim to be an expert on the artful ways of making fine coffee (I’ll leave that to the rad folks at Stumptown Coffee Roasters, whose amazing coffee I enjoy on the daily). It also isn't a list about the lightest, most compact, recycled grounds, and minimalist brew methods, just so you know. And while it's not a complete list, I'm pretty happy with the options on it and think each is a very viable way to get your brew on while motoing about.
Riding motorcycles is already one of my favorite activities, and since I'm spoiling myself by going on tour anyway I like to kick it up a notch and make some damn fine coffee while I'm on the road. You better believe I can make room for a solid coffee setup in my ammo cans. Be it touring, camping, settling in at base camp, or sitting on the tailgate of your truck after a day at the track; brewing up some coffee is a nice way to jumpstart your day or reward yourself for a good one.
Every good cup of coffee starts with fresh beans. The fresher you can keep your beans the better the brew. It’s obviously easier to store and transport your coffee if it’s pre-ground, but if you like the ritual and taste of grinding your own coffee right before you brew it then I recommend the Porlex Mini Mill Manual Burr Grinder.
It’s adjustable, easy to clean, and actually surprisingly lightweight. It also fits perfectly inside an AeroPress (minus the handle) which I’ll talk about later. But if you’re really worried about weight you might be thrifty enough to fashion their own trailside mortar and pestle… Not that I’ve had to do that…
The AeroPress is a pretty awesome way to brew coffee. It’s made from a nice durable plastic, stores in a fairly compact way, and as previously mentioned the Porlex grinder fits perfectly inside. It does rely on a small paper filter (or optional reusable stainless steel filter) which you’ll need to pack along and keep dry.
The AeroPress seems to pull a lot of the acidity out of the coffee, which some folks will certainly appreciate. Other's (read: me) aren’t as much a fan that the taste isn’t as full bodied as other brew methods. But it’s durability and efficient compact design makes it easy to pack and even easier to clean (helpful when you’re limited on water).
The French Press has long been a favorite of coffee fanatics, and I’ve become fans of this smaller version. It makes for one of the most full-bodied tasting cups, and carries a strong air of the ritual of brewing. The obvious drawbacks are its glass construction which isn’t so great for bumpy roads (though stainless steel versions are available), but it does weigh less than the AeroPress. The French Press is also notoriously a pain to clean. If you value the taste over practicality then this is a good way to go. Besides, who’s worried about practicality when you’re living this good on a ride?
If you like your coffee brewed very, VERY, slowly and tasting oh-so-sweet then this is the brew method for you.
Add a dollop of sweetened condensed milk to the bottom of your cup before brewing, and into the filter goes finely ground coffee, a secondary screw-in filter, and hot water. Then patiently wait for bliss. The sweetened condensed milk is a staple of darn near every roadside store I’ve been into so it’s easy to find. The downside is once the condensed milk is opened it doesn’t keep too long. So unless you’ve got a cooler or cold stream to keep it in plan accordingly. On the plus side one of these filters will only set you back a couple of bucks, and is both compact and lightweight, and easier to clean than a French Press. Trust me, after a long day in the saddle, sitting back and sipping a cup of this sweet nectar as the setting sun lights up the surrounding mountain peaks is about as close to nirvana as I’ve ever found.
Turkish Coffee Pot
Hey, if we’re going down the fancy coffee road, then we’re doing it!
The Turkish Coffee Pot is just as easy to transport as most any of these brew methods, is incredibly easy to clean, and makes for an impressively rich (and damn strong) cup of coffee. It’s best to use freshly ground cardamom and natural sugar blended in with your coffee grounds before brewing. You can use some pre-ground cardamom for practical reasons, but honestly if you’re committing to Turkish Coffee on a ride why would you half-ass it?
This is definitely one of the “showier” brew methods and most certainly the strongest on this list. Weight and size will vary dramatically depending on the pot you pick up.
The pour over method is one of my staples for brewing coffee, and the collapsable cone made by Snowpeak has made it infinitely easier for me to take this show on the road.
It’s stainless steel construction makes it easy to clean and it’s collapsible design make it durable and a breeze to pack. Add a handful of your preferred paper filters in a waterproof bag and you’re good to go. Pour Over is known for being a solid full-bodied tasting coffee and has all of the richness many of us have come to expect/NEED in the mornings.
Given the weight, price, practicality, and exceptional taste the pour over is absolutely my favorite way to make good coffee on a ride.
Cowboy Coffee and Instant Coffee
The minimalist (you know who you are) will appreciate these brew methods.
Instant coffee is really up to you. Pick your brand, boil your water, pour in and stir. The upsides are it’s by far the simplest, lightest, and easiest to pack. The downsides are it’s still instant coffee, and we’re trying to spoil ourselves a little here. But if you must then you must.
Cowboy Coffee is very appropriately named. If you’re feeling a bit rustic, boil your ground coffee in water until it’s sufficiently brewed, pour over a splash of cold water to help force the grounds to the bottom of the cup, and sip away. [Insert picture of the inevitable coffee grounds packed into your teeth here] It may not be the most sophisticated brew method, but it works in a pinch and has for many many years. And heck, if you’re whipping up some Redeye Gravy for breakfast this is the perfect base.
So go forth, ride, brew, and enjoy. I know there are a few brew methods we left off the list. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments below, or take the plunge and try something new off my list.
This post is a slight re-write of a similar post I wrote for Sellwood Cycle Repair. To read a more bicycle-centric version and get more details on the weights of these brew methods check that post out.