The Best Portable Travel Coffee Makers For Backpackers

The Best Portable Travel Coffee Makers For Backpackers

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Caffeine is an integral part of most peoples morning routine but the method of ingesting this wonder drug differs from person to person. It is well accepted the world over that coffee is one of the most enjoyable ways to get your hit but whilst travelling, good coffee can be hard to find!

Your hostel is likely to supply a copious amount of instant coffee but for those of you craving more than this utilitarian option, finding a way to make good coffee on the road is imperative. 

With that in mind, we here at South America Backpacker have put together this list of the best coffee makers for travel!

Before we dive into the article, I must admit, I am a true Brit when it comes to hot drinks. AKA, I bloody love tea. It took me many years to appreciate a good coffee and that wasn’t helped by the fact that all the coffee drinkers I know, stuck religiously to their mug of instant. 

It wasn’t until I was visiting family in the USA that I drunk the first good coffee of my life. I was 21 years old and had never experienced a drink like it. My aunt ground the beans herself and let the concoction brew for what I thought was a ridiculous length of time. The result was heaven in a mug. 

It was the first time I had drunk a coffee without having to add copious amounts of milk and sugar and it changed the way I view coffee to this day. Now I understand the difference between a good coffee and a bad one and I get why people will go to great lengths to get a cup of their favourite brew. 

Despite producing a large percentage of the most high-quality beans in the world, good coffee in South America has not always been easy to come by. Therefore, to guarantee tasty coffee on the road, you will need a good travel coffee maker. These come in all shapes and sizes and finding the right on for you will depend on several factors. 

Best Travel Coffee Makers – Quick Answers!

What to Look Out for When Buying a Travel Coffee Maker:

When it comes to picking the right coffee maker for you, there are a number of things you need to think about. 

What Kind of Coffee Do You Like?

Whether you’re an espresso person or you prefer a big mug of full-bodied black coffee, there are different portable coffee makers out there to suit your needs. Whilst travel espresso makers are easy to find as well as small and lightweight, it can be a challenge to create something more fancy on the road. Unless of course, you carry a milk frother as well but let’s face it, that would be weird… 

How Much Coffee Do You Need?

Are you a solo traveller or backpacking with a buddy? If it’s the latter, will they be wanting you to share your valuable elixir? 

Pay attention to the capacity of each travel coffee maker you are thinking of purchasing. As standard, they tend to only have the capacity for a single cup which means twice as much washing up should you be making coffee for someone else as well!

How Easy is the Travel Coffee Maker to Clean?

Speaking of washing up… 

When purchasing your portable coffee maker, it’s worth thinking about the time and effort you will spend on keeping it clean. Some come apart easily to be cleaned but others can be a bit more fiddly. Unless you have tiny child hands, getting into all the nooks and crannies can be a challenge. 

If you are using a French Press style coffee maker, check out the great cleaning tips below to speed up your daily chores!

It is also worth considering what kind of filters your coffee maker of choice uses. Are they single-use filters? These are much easier when it comes to cleaning but can be hard to find on the road and create a huge amount of waste. The other option is to get a reusable filter. These often require a little more cleaning but mean you don’t have to carry stacks of the single-use variants with you at all times. 

How Portable is the Travel Coffee Maker?

Making sure your coffee addiction doesn’t take up too much space in your backpack is imperative. If you already have plenty of spare room in your pack, then happy days but the majority of backpackers will already be tight on space. As such, it is important to consider the size and whether you have enough room for it. 

How Durable is the Travel Coffee Maker?

This links directly into how portable your device of choice is. There is no point buying a nice compact coffee maker that won’t survive the rigours of travel! Remember, you will probably have to store it in your main pack which will get thrown around on buses and planes, as well as being bounced around on your back every time you head to a new town or city. 

Make sure you pay attention to the materials used in the construction of your coffee maker as thin glass won’t last long in your pack and can be a real chore to clean up when it breaks!

Does the Coffee Maker Use Coffee Pods, Ground Beans or Both?

Many portable coffee makers available in the US or Europe use single-use, plastic coffee pods to ensure the perfect cup each time. Whilst these are great for use at home, discounting the amount of waste they create, they are not very useful on the road. 

Outside of the US and Europe these pods are hard to find and even if you are lucky enough to stumble across some, they can be super expensive! Make sure the coffee maker you are looking at takes ground beans instead of the pods. 

There are no coffee makers that solely use pods in this list because they are not useful for travelling outside of the western world. However, we have included some hybrid coffee makers that can take both pods and ground beans. 

Does the Coffee Maker Require a Kettle?

Whilst you can find portable coffee machines that are powered and will heat their own water, these tend to cost a lot of money and reviews show they aren’t as reliable as the ones on this list. 

For all but one of these travel coffee makers, you will need a way to boil water before it goes into the machine. If you think it is unlikely you will be able to boil water at your accommodation, consider investing in a travel kettle to ensure you always have a way to get your coffee!

The Best Travel Coffee Makers 

Aeropress

  •  Price: $$
  • Type of Coffee: Espresso, Filter, Drip, French Press style and standard coffee. Can also make loose leaf tea. 
  • Packed Size: 13cm x 10.5cm.
  • Weight: Approx 300g.
  • Capacity: 8oz/227ml – 1 small mug.

 

If you’ve spent some time searching for travel coffee makers, or even if you’ve just googled the phrase, you will have seen the Aeropress. This portable coffee maker is a firm favourite among travellers. It consistently makes great tasting coffee, is easy to use and even easier to clean. 

When you first open the box, you may be surprised by the number of parts that stare back at you. This can be intimidating to start with but you will quickly learn what each part does and how they all work together. It may take a couple of attempts before you can comfortably make top quality coffee but once you have it down, you will be the most popular person in the hostel!

The whole device is easy to clean. Once pulled apart, each piece can be rinsed under the tap to remove all trace of coffee. For situations where a more thorough clean is necessary, it is also dishwasher safe.

The Aeropress was designed with travel in mind. It is small, durable and lightweight enough to survive months of being thrown around in your backpack. There is also the Aeropress Go. This slightly smaller version of the original packs down within the included travel mug for ease of transport, making it one of the best coffee makers for travel. 

Both versions come with plenty of filters but for those who are conscious of their waste production, you can also get reusable metal filters that just need to be rinsed out between uses. These metal filters do reportedly affect the taste of the coffee but only real aficionados will tell the difference.

Top tip for using the Aeropress: Rinse filter paper before use. Just a small amount of boiling water will remove the papery taste that some filters can give the coffee. 

Bodum French Press Coffee Mug

  •   Price: $$
  • Type of Coffee: French Press style.
  • Packed Size: 22cm x 8cm.
  • Weight: 400g.
  • Capacity: 1 Big Mug.

 

The Travel Press from Bodum combines a French Press with an insulated travel mug. Put your coffee granules into the mug, add hot water and place the lid on. After you’ve allowed the coffee to brew for 3-4 minutes, depending on taste, slowly press the plunger down as you would with a French Press and your coffee is ready to drink. 

The insulated cup will keep coffee warm for up to two hours and there is a silicone ring around the mug so you can keep a good grip on it at all times. This mug is super handy for those that like a lot of coffee in the mornings but are often in a rush, you can now make your coffee and take it straight out with you, wherever you are in the world. 

The mug is as easy to wash like a normal French Press, just pull the two pieces apart and give them a good rinse. If a deeper clean is needed, it is completely dishwasher safe. 

Whilst the lid works fine initially, most customer complaints are based on the degradation of the locking mechanism. After the first few months of use, this system has a tendency to break and sealing the lid shut becomes all but impossible. 

If you want to use this mug for anything besides coffee, you can replace the plunger top with the spare lid that comes with it, to turn it into your typical travel mug. This spare lid is identical to those found on a normal insulated mug.

Top tip for using the Bodum French Press Mug: Keep it upright! Even when the lid is working, it does not create a watertight seal. Liquids can and do escape.

ESPRO Travel Press

  • Price: $$
  • Type of Coffee: French Press style and Pour-Over style.
  • Packed Size: 21cm x 7cm.
  • Weight: 350g.
  • Capacity: 1 Mug.

 

The ESPRO Travel Press is very similar to the Bodum French Press Coffee Mug and is generally used in the same way. The double insulation keeps your coffee warm for just as long as its competitor but where it differs, is also where it excels. 

Rather than just having a single press filter, the ESPRO Travel Press has a double filter system. Each filter is extremely fine, meaning you get a great, smooth mug of coffee, even when using very finely ground coffee granules. You can even add a paper filter between the two press filters, which changes the flavour to more of a drip-style coffee than a French Press style. There is even a tea filter available if you are more of a loose leaf tea drinker. 

It also has a double lid system. There is the normal drinking lid, like on the Bodum but it then has a travel lid that screws on top of that. This travel lid creates a seal strong enough that you can leave the mug in your bag, even when full and it will not leak coffee anywhere. Especially handy if you have a long day ahead of you and want to make sure you have your caffeine hit for later! 

The press filters can be removed from the drinking lid if you want to carry another type of drink in the mug. This allows for a larger volume so whether it be a hot chocolate or tea that you want to keep warm or a cold drink that you want to keep cool, the mug has a large enough capacity to cope with your needs. 

Whilst most customers rave about the build quality and durability of this Travel Press, some users found that the rubber seals around the press filters started to fail after a few months of use. This caused granules to enter the coffee and in some cases, made it almost impossible for the plunger to be used effectively. 

A few reviewers also note that, due to its thinner size and very fine filters, the Travel Press can be hard to clean. 

Top tip for using the Espro Travel Press: Rinse as soon as possible after use to make the cleaning process easier. The longer the granules are allowed to dry out, the more likely it is to gunk up and it will be much more difficult to clean. 

PRESSE by Bobble

  • Price: $$
  • Type of Coffee: French Press style.
  • Packed Size: 15cm x 8cm.
  • Weight: 340g.
  • Capacity: 1 Mug.

 

The PRESSE by Bobble is another example of a travel mug and French Press combined. This version of the idea comes in a slightly more compact and fractionally lighter design. It is available in a variety of colours and even has special seasonal designs available depending on the time of year. Who wouldn’t want their travel mug to be covered in snowmen whilst visiting The Amazon?!

The PRESSE was initially designed for use in the great outdoors so is not only lightweight but also rugged enough to handle any travel style and is exceptionally easy to clean. 

The triple insulation keeps your coffee warm for most of the day but unlike the ESPRO Travel Press, you cannot fill this mug up and leave it in your bag. The silicone lid, although fine for normal use, does not stay in place well if the mug is thrown about a lot. To avoid getting coffee all over your stuff, make sure it is empty before putting it away in your pack. 

Speaking of the lid, a lot of users complain that the lid gives the coffee a very strong silicone taste. This is easy to avoid: just make sure you wash the lid thoroughly a few times before using the mug. The taste gets significantly less prominent with each wash so even if you do not wash it enough initially, the taste will eventually go away. 

Top tip for using the PRESSE by Bobble: Make sure you use coarse grind coffee. Any finer granules will find their way through the press filter and into your drink. 

Wacaco Nanopresso

  • Price: $$$
  • Type of Coffee: Espresso.
  • Packed Size: 15cm x 7cm.
  • Weight: 336g.
  • Capacity: 1 Espresso.

 

For those of you wanting a way to make great tasting espressos every time, look no further than the Wacaco Nanopresso. Aside from the fact it sounds like a toddler named it, the Nanopresso is a great espresso coffee maker and a good choice for backpackers who require a strong caffeine hit to get them started in the mornings!

It works by adding a scoop of ground coffee in one end and a small amount of boiled water in the other. You can then manually increase the pressure within the Nanopresso, by using the attached pump, until it is high enough to create a great espresso. It’s a simple yet effective way of giving you a consistent coffee wherever you are in the world. Providing you have access to boiling water, of course. 

There is plenty of add ons you can buy for this product, which extends its utility but for quite the additional cost. Even the travel case and Barista Kit, which gives you a larger water reservoir and the ability to make double espressos, will set you back a good chunk of change. 

If you are an avid espresso lover, then this lightweight device could be the perfect way to keep your caffeine addiction going whilst on the road but for most coffee drinkers, there are cheaper ways of getting your fix. 

Top tip for using the Wacaco Nanopresso: Use coarser grind coffee than you would normally use for espresso. The machine is not designed for use with freshly ground beans and can leak if the grind is too fine. 

Primula Brew Buddy

  • Price: $
  • Type of Coffee: Pour-Over style.
  • Packed Size: 10cm.
  • Weight: 45g.
  • Capacity: 1 Mug.

 

The Primula Brew Buddy is the smallest, lightest and most affordable option when it comes to coffee makers for travel. Its simple design means makes it super easy to use whilst still being incredibly effective. 

To make a great tasting cup of coffee on the go, place the Brew Buddy on top of your mug, put ground coffee into the mesh and pour water through it. Once your mug is full, leave the Brew Buddy in place for a minute or two, depending on how strong you like your coffee. After this time, remove the brew buddy, give it a rinse, then sit back and enjoy your drink!

The size and weight of the device mean it easily fits into any pocket in your pack or even into your coat or jacket. It is easily durable enough to see you through multiple trips and can be cleaned quickly by just running clean water through the mesh once you are done. 

Thanks to it being so simple, it can be used with any size cup and it even works great with travel mugs.

Make sure the mesh is completely dry before packing it though, some users report bad smells emanating from the Brew Buddy if they did not leave it to dry before packing it down. These are often fixed by giving it a good wash with hot soapy water but that’s just one extra thing to worry about in the morning!

Top tip for using the Primula Brew Buddy: Pour water over each spoonful of coffee grounds. This not only helps compact them down so you can fit more in the Brew Buddy should you want a really strong coffee but also allows the full flavours to be released. 

Handpresso Hybrid

  • Price: $$$
  • Type of Coffee: Espresso.
  • Packed Size: 21cm x 10cm.
  • Weight: 500g.
  • Capacity: 1 Espresso.

 

Yes, the Handpresso looks like a lumpy bicycle pump but don’t let that take away from just how useful this little device can be. If you are a fan of espresso and can’t bear to be on the road without knowing exactly where your next hit is coming from, this is the travel coffee maker for you. 

It can be used with fine grind coffee or with ESE pods, which are available in bulk online. There is a different adapter for each and the ESE pod adapter is in the Handpresso as standard. Make sure you swap it out if you intend to use ground coffee. 

To create a great tasting espresso, you must pump the Handpresso (in exactly the same way you would use a bicycle pump) until the gauge tells you there is enough pressure inside. Once this is done, you lock the pump in place, add hot water and fine ground coffee to the device, seal it shut and press the little black button. What follows is a jet of hot espresso that will be enough to keep you going for a few more hours. 

Handpresso say that it should only take 10 pumps to get enough pressure but most users state it is much closer to 40, so be prepared to work for your coffee. The company are also keen to state that the device is not microwave safe, which makes me wonder who decided it would be a good idea to try putting a high-pressure device in the microwave in the first place. 

The main downside to the Handpresso is the price. It is the most expensive option on our list.

Top tip for using the Handpresso Hybrid: Keep the spout close to your mug when dispensing the espresso. If you don’t, you will spill hot coffee everywhere and no one wants to have a cleanup job before they get their caffeine hit!

Bialetti Moka Pot (Stovetop Espresso Maker)

  • Price: $$
  • Type of Coffee: Espresso.
  • Packed Size: 15cm x 12cm.
  • Weight: 500g.
  • Capacity: 2-3 Espressos.

 

We’ve all seen that hipster guy in a hostel who insists on taking up the only working stove, so they can have their “I’m so edgy” espresso over breakfast. It is pretty irritating when there’s a queue of folks waiting to use the stove but annoyingly, the hipsters could be onto something here. 

With up to 90% of Italian households having a Bialetti Moka Pot, this is one of the oldest and most effective ways of making espresso. The advent of coffee pods and electric espresso machines have gone someway in killing off the stovetop espresso maker but for travellers, it is a great way to get your morning coffee without too much faffing around. Just wait until the kitchen isn’t too busy!

To make great tasting coffee, using a stovetop espresso maker, unscrew the bottom section and fill it with cold water. Fill the filter basket with ground coffee and place it in the bottom compartment. You don’t want very fine coffee grind for this because it will clog your pot but at the same time, you don’t want the coffee to be too course because it will not brew correctly. 

Screw the top section onto the base and put the whole coffee pot over a low flame. You do not want the flame too high as this can overcook the coffee giving it a nasty, burnt flavour. As the water in the base heats up, the pressure will force the water up through the coffee and into the top section of the pot. Once the top section is full, give it a stir and it is ready to be served.

These stovetop coffee pots are reasonably lightweight and very durable. The shape can sometimes make them awkward to pack but generally, you shouldn’t have too much trouble. Cleaning them can be a chore at times, especially if you allow the coffee grinds to dry out. The best bet is to clean it as soon as possible after use, otherwise, you might be scrubbing for a while!

Top tip for Stovetop Espresso Makers: There are actually cheaper stovetop espresso makers available for less than half the price. They do the same job but don’t have the brand name attached. 

Do you have a coffee maker you take travelling that is not on this list? 

If so, jump on over to our Facebook community page and let us know we’ve missed one!

Our Recommended Travel Resources

  • Join Our Facebook Group: South America Backpacker Community
  • Travel Insurance: True Traveller and World Nomads.
  • Flight Search: Skyscanner.
  • Accommodation: Booking.com and HostelWorld.
  • After a life-changing motorcycle accident, Tim decided life was too short to stay cooped up in his home county of Norfolk, UK. Since the incident, he has travelled in South East Asia, walked the Camino de Santiago and is currently backpacking around South America. His first book ‘From Paralysis to Santiago’ chronicles his struggle to recover from the motorcycle accident that changed his life and will be released later this year.

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