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Backpacker Magazine – June 2012

Test Kitchen: Coffee

We perked more than 100 caffeinated cups to find the best trail-brew technique. Here’s how to choose your method, gear, and grounds.

by: Mike Clelland

(Photo by: iStock Photo/P1Images)
(Photo by: iStock Photo/P1Images)
Coffee Grinder, Cafe Press, Coffee/Tea Filter (Photo by: Andrew Bydlon)
Coffee Grinder, Cafe Press, Coffee/Tea Filter (Photo by: Andrew Bydlon)

2. French press
Best for: Weekend-warrior connoisseurs
Convenience: 2 out of 5 stars Taste: 5 out of 5 stars
Grind: Coarse; finer grinds clog the filter (and muddy the finished brew).
Brew it: Measure coffee into a French press carafe. Add hot water and cover the pitcher loosely to preserve heat (don’t depress the filter). Wait four minutes, then remove the lid and stir briskly three to six times before replacing it. Firmly grasp the carafe with one hand and slowly push the filter to the bottom.
Tip: Decant all of the coffee into mugs immediately; it will turn bitter if it continues steeping with the spent grounds.
Tasting notes: Complex aromatics and robust flavor in a smooth-drinking cup.



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Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Mike
Jan 03, 2014

Not a Starbucks fan either, but Via is different and better than other instants. It has both crystallized regular instant coffee and fine ground coffee. Costco sells it in bulk for considerably less. Via seems to have a good caffeine kick. The roasts other than the French roast have less of that familiar Starbucks burned bean taste. Pikes Place is good.
The Aeropress wasn't mentioned. It's fiddly but the coffee is top notch. It's a combo of French press and paper filter. I'd take in short trips but not for longer ones.

Star Star Star Star Star
Mike
Jan 03, 2014

Not a Starbucks fan either, but Via is different and better than other instants. It has both crystallized regular instant coffee and fine ground coffee. Costco sells it in bulk for considerably less. Via seems to have a good caffeine kick. The roasts other than the French roast have less of that familiar Starbucks burned bean taste. Pikes Place is good.
The Aeropress wasn't mentioned. It's fiddly but the coffee is top notch. It's a combo of French press and paper filter. I'd take in short trips but not for longer ones.

Star Star Star Star Star
Mike
Jan 03, 2014

Not a Starbucks fan either, but Via is different and better than other instants. It has both crystallized regular instant coffee and fine ground coffee. Costco sells it in bulk for considerably less. Via seems to have a good caffeine kick. The roasts other than the French roast have less of that familiar Starbucks burned bean taste. Pikes Place is good.
The Aeropress wasn't mentioned. It's fiddly but the coffee is top notch. It's a combo of French press and paper filter. I'd take in short trips but not for longer ones.

Star Star Star Star Star
Mike
Jan 03, 2014

Not a Starbucks fan either, but Via is different and better than other instants. It has both crystallized regular instant coffee and fine ground coffee. Costco sells it in bulk for considerably less. Via seems to have a good caffeine kick. The roasts other than the French roast have less of that familiar Starbucks burned bean taste. Pikes Place is good.
The Aeropress wasn't mentioned. It's fiddly but the coffee is top notch. It's a combo of French press and paper filter. I'd take in short trips but not for longer ones.

Star Star Star Star Star
Mike
Jan 03, 2014

Not a Starbucks fan either, but Via is different and better than other instants. It has both crystallized regular instant coffee and fine ground coffee. Costco sells it in bulk for considerably less. Via seems to have a good caffeine kick. The roasts other than the French roast have less of that familiar Starbucks burned bean taste. Pikes Place is good.
The Aeropress wasn't mentioned. It's fiddly but the coffee is top notch. It's a combo of French press and paper filter. I'd take in short trips but not for longer ones.

Star Star Star Star Star
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wyatt
Sep 02, 2012

Peter 8/20 got it right - it's backpacking = cut the weight.
Just use instant coffee. Backpacking nearly 40 years, I'll tell you a baggie of your own instant blends is all you need. A little decaf, a little Medaglia D'Oro instant espresso, maybe a little hot cocoa powder - a yummy morning jolt. Water, mug, spoon - all the gear you need.

Rick K
Aug 23, 2012

We've tried all these methods, but once Starbucks Via came along, my wife and I only use Via. Quick, easy, virtually as good as brewed.

As for diuretic effect, my understanding is that this is pretty minimal for those whose systems are used to regular morning coffee.

Peter
Aug 20, 2012

With all due respect to the coffee aficionados out there ... I'm no ultra-lighter but at my age (60) I look for every reasonable way to cut weight and volume and minimize clean-up. I love me a good cup of home-brewed coffee but when you're "out there" the instant coffee tubes (Taster's Choice) really are pretty decent (and cheap, too). It's quick, leaves no sediment, and there's essentially no clean-up. I generally don't like Starbucks coffees so I don't buy the Via but you get the idea ...

Joe
Aug 18, 2012

Not a Starbucks fan but the ease and great flavor it's the choice to go with and I've tried every method from cowboy to press to skoal style (pinch between cheek and gum) for that caff fix.
But ultimately it's your choice. Via is going to set ya back about 90 cents a cup not bad considering you probably pay a buck twenty at the gas station.

John
Aug 17, 2012

Am I missing something? I can not find the grinder on GSI.com.

Jeff
Aug 17, 2012

I use the GSR French Press. Light, easy to use and clean and it makes coffee full of rich flavor from selected grounds. No I do not pack out the gounds as they are excellent mulch for some stressed plant.

TheS
Jul 31, 2012

"The ideal temperature for extracting coffee’s flavors—without leeching bitterness—is between 195&#8457; and 205&#8457;."

Then why the need to boil? Unless you have no other way of sterilizing water, there is no need to boil. I personally use a steripen. You should not boil water for coffee. It removes minerals that are key to some flavors. Plus, boiling is a waste of fuel! Heat to almost a boil, but do not let your water boil!

Perry
Jul 31, 2012

I am a huge fan of Via. Can make it in cold or hot water. Obv. hot tastes better, but on the mornings where you have instant milk and cereal, it saves from using any type of stove.

To save on cleanup - use the packaging (the foil wrapper you just poured the coffee out of) as your stirrer. Then pack it out.

meanolddog
Jul 24, 2012

Out west, where I lived for 30 some odd years we avoided drinking coffee on the trail, particularly the Pacfic Crest Trail which is a hot and dusty trail, especially on the Southern end where water is not plentiful as one would hope. Because Coffee is a diuretic and makes you Urinate more fluid and more frequently than one would want to in a dry climate and having to carry all that extra water was the prime reason. Instead we used various types of Herbal Tea's which only required bringing water to an "almost" boil, which saved fuel, didn't require overly expensive additions to your equipment list and gave depending on what type of Tea you drank a slight caffine boost which was a lot better than that big jolt and the the subsequent let down a couple of hours later and probably a quart of Urine or more that you were going to be needed as a replacement..So if you find yourself real thirsty on that hike, think again about that big cup of coffee you had with breakfast. And switch to a more body and earth friendly as well as pocketbook friendly Tea. If you have read up on your Explorer History since Henry Hudson and even old Nessmuk, the true frontiersmen preferred Tea over Coffee except in the books or on Trail Drives with a Chuckwagon to haul the water and extra equipment...Just sayin'

Steve C.
Jul 23, 2012

Haul out grounds? Treat like other food waste.

WCcardinalsrule
Jul 21, 2012

i'm with calimobber. you simply can't top the jet-boil french press. is it a california thing?? convenience: 6 out of 5! except what do you do with all the icky grounds!? ;)

Susan
Jul 21, 2012

We usually have a group of 8 in the bwca and use a muslin coffee filter that we found at cubanmarket.com. It is only $1.99 and weighs practically nothing. Just hold it over your mug and pour water through the coffee filled filter. Don't use fine ground coffee or it takes too long to filter through.

Mudslide
Jul 21, 2012

You can make your own coffee packets to dip and dunk; Amazon sells empty tea bags that you can fill with your brand; just add boiling water and wait until strength desired.

Starbuck
Jul 21, 2012

Well, I have experimented with temps (using a meat thermometer) between 185° and 200°. I find 185 to 195 ideal.

Of course, that also depends on local conditions, like air temp and beginning temp of the brewing pot. When it's colder, I will go to 200 and above to start. The finish temp after 4 minutes can be as low as 165° in some cases.

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