So there I was, sitting slumped and semi-comatose on the awkwardly shaped bench lounge thing in the airport. I?d just done the 14 hour overnighter and now needed to wait out the next four hours before the flight to my final destination. It didn’t matter how many times I adjusted my position, leaned forward or sideways, or held my face in my hands, pressed my fingers onto my closed eyes and massaged my eyeballs though their thin lids — nothing moved me closer to being more awake. My head throbbed, I needed to wake up, I needed to move — I needed coffee!
I have a saying that I’ve used over the years when travelling. “It’s either bad coffee or a Panadol.”
Bad coffee has never been an option, hence my panic when I board a plane, take my seat, rummage through my bag for the usual bits — headphones, book and iPod — and realise that my Panadol stocks have been raided by one of my family!
Thankfully, since the emergence of simple, robust and very portable brew devices, these troubles are now behind me. I no longer have any reason to carry any form of paracetamol. As long as I can find boiling water, I’m set (and I’ve always been able to find or boil water.) With a few cleverly packed bits and pieces, I can now make coffee while I’m travelling almost anywhere and anytime (and not just when travelling by air), and I can make it in every travelling context. Is will hasten to add that I don’t just drink coffee to stave off a headache. One of my favourite things to do is to brew coffee in the middle of nowhere, in that place where just being there, just sitting outside your tent with a fresh brew in hand, red earth beneath your feet and the sun starting to peep over the horizon to warm the earth from its evening chill, is the actual event you’ve travelled so far to experience.
Now when I’m on the move, I carry an all-important coffee kit. I basically carry one of three combinations of kit depending on the type of travelling I’m doing.
Coffee Kit Lite
This is the kit I take when I travel by myself or with my wife. It is the most simple of all kits and stuffs neatly into a small bag which fits happily into my carry on. It contains -:
- 1 x Aeropress and filters
- 1 x Porlex mini hand grinder
- 1 × 600 ml Incasa milk jug*
- Some small zip lock bags (for the spent coffee, if there isn’t a bin handy)
- A bag of fresh Five Senses coffee
*Let me explain the reason for the jug. When you travel, you don’t always have access to suitable cups to pair with your Aeropress. Sometimes the diameter of the top of the cup is too small for the Aeropress to fit into, sometimes the only cup you can get is a takeaway foam or paper cup that may collapse under the pressure of the ‘press’ or sometimes the cups are just very small (like on an aeroplane). Because I don’t carry scales in this kit, I have to use volume measurements to keep my brew ratios consistent. I have a mark in my Porlex grinder that helps keep the weight of beans approximately the same each time and I have a mark on my Aeropress that allows me to fill it with a consistent amount of water. In the event of only having a small cup to brew into, I brew into the jug rather than trying to make arbitrary adjustments to my coffee volume in accordance with my water volume (which is otherwise dictated by the size of the cup). Another advantage of carrying a small jug over your own mug is that it’s lighter and easy to pour from in the event that you make one brew and want to share it with someone else.
Coffee Kit Medium
This is the kit that I take when I travel with my family by air and still need to be nimble. This kit is especially great if you’re constantly on the move. It’s exactly the same as the ‘Lite’ kit except I add these extra parts into my checked luggage -:
- An additional Aeropress (or two).
- 1 x small rechargeable electric screwdriver to attach to the grinder.
- 1 x hex to pent adaptor so you can connect your standard electric screw driver to the Porlex grinder. (Sorry but you can’t buy these — you have to have one made. It’s not hard. I just went down the road to a local engineering company, explained what I needed and one carton of beer later…)
- A couple of bags of fresh Five Senses coffee
Coffee Kit Max
This is the kit I take when I go on holidays with family and/or friends and I get dobbed in to be the guy who has to take care of the coffee. This kit goes with me when I’m camping in the outback, staying in a caravan park or flying somewhere like Bali where I know I’m going to be parked in the same place for a week or more. It consists of -:
- 2 – 4 Aeropresses and filters (depending on how many people need coffee)
- 1 × 600ml Incasa jug (if I don’t know what cups to expect at destination)
- 1 x Baratza Forte grinder*
- Lots of fresh Five Senses coffee (packed in 250g bags)
*Like many 4WD’s used for camping, I have big dual batteries and 12v power running through to the back of the car so I can run the portable fridge. The cabling in the car was upgraded to cope with heavier than normal electrical load specifically so that I could run the size inverter needed to power up the Baratza. Obviously I don’t need the inverter when I have easy access to power. I also pack the Forte into one of those protective suitcases with the foam cutouts. It has space for the grinder, two Aeropresses, the filters, the jug and a couple of bags of coffee. It bumps along both airline baggage conveyors and outback roads very happily.
I know that this might sound a bit over the top to some of you, but when you think about it, none of what I’ve done is a big deal.
Most of you probably have a plastic brewer (Clever Coffee Dripper or Aeropress) and you probably have at least one grinder. In fact, I’m sure that many of you would be able to cobble together some sort of travel kit without too much difficulty. I’ve been doing this for a long time now and my ‘kits’ have evolved to reflect what has become available for brewing as time goes on. I imagine that as rechargeable batteries and electric motor technology progress, it isn’t inconceivable that Baratza could invent the first serious, portable/travel battery-operated grinder. (Are you reading this Kyle and Kyra?) Imagine that!
Having a great coffee anytime and anywhere is well within reach for nearly everyone. It’s not expensive nor is it complicated. It just means you need to get organised.
What you put in your travel kit is totally up to you, but if you want something to start you off, check out these options: Five Senses Gifts and Packages