Making great coffee while traveling

by Mischa Hedges, Project Manager at Thanksgiving Coffee

Mischa enjoys a cappuccino

Mischa enjoys a coffee in Mendocino

I like traveling, and I love the natural world. When I’m not working, I spend my time adventuring outdoors: biking, surfing, trail running, camping and hiking. Growing up on the Mendocino Coast, I took wild places for granted, but now appreciate and respect the North Coast of California more than ever.

I also love great coffee and tea…but traveling and great coffee/tea don’t always go together, especially when you’re far from an urban center with fancy cappuccinos, pour-over bars, competition-level baristas and tea houses.

When I travel, coffee is what keeps me going – especially through camping and strenuous outdoor adventures. Finding a good cup while you’re on the road often means traveling far out of your way just for some less-bad coffee, or buying from large food-service chains, just for consistency’s sake.

diner coffee on the road

Diner coffee is hit or miss…

I’ve settled for some pretty terrible coffee while traveling (I’m guessing you have too), and at some point I took it upon myself to find the perfect brewing method for traveling that didn’t take up too much valuable backpack space, time or effort. I also wanted something that was easy to clean for camping trips.

In my search, I saw and tried all sorts of camping brewers, from unbreakable plastic French Presses, plastic or metal folding drip cones and cloth filters, strainers, mini espresso machines and percolators.

Brewing Camp Coffee

There are many brewing methods to choose from

All of these methods work, but they’re not always simple, small or convenient.

This June, I traveled across the country in a small truck camper with my partner Lillie. We spent 3 weeks on the road and covered over 4,000 miles, exploring America’s backroads, National Parks and wild places by foot, bike and watercraft. For our trip this summer, I wanted something without a lot of moving parts or accessories, and I didn’t want to use/buy filters (they’re hard to keep dry while camping).

Mischa and Lillie's roadtrip

On the road in Glacier National Park

While we were on the road, we made great coffee, tea and cold brewed coffee almost every day using this simple setup:

Hario’s Mini Mill hand-grinderHario Mini Mill ($28.95)

I love this grinder. It holds enough beans to make 2 cups of coffee, and takes about a minute to grind. It’s a fully adjustable burr grinder, and the handle comes off to save space. When space is extremely limited, I leave this at home and pre-grind my coffee to somewhere between french press and drip-grind.

Kleen Kanteen’s 16-oz  insulated wide-mouth bottleKleen Kanteen Insulated Bottle (27.95)

This is my everything bottle. I use it to make my morning Maté, late-morning coffee, and keep my water cool. I’ve used it to collect berries, roll out bread dough and pound out tent stakes. These bottles never let me down (but I’m on my 4th one, since I’m always losing mine!). You can get a couple different styles of loop caps, and a cafe cap for easy drinking on the go.

GSI’s H2Jo filter/infuserGSI H2JO ($12.95)

THE solution. It’s a fine-mesh filter that screws onto most wide-mouth water bottles/thermoses. I’ve only tried it on Nalgene bottles and Kleen Kanteens, but it works very well. It doesn’t always seal perfectly, but as long as it’s not buried in your luggage, you can keep it on your bottle to save backpack space and keep it clean. GSI recommends two methods for brewing coffee or tea using their H2Jo filter:

“Paul’s Blend” from Thanksgiving CoffeePaul's Blend ($14.50)

Smooth, creamy and chocolatey (and this season’s blend has notes of berry as well!). Paul’s blend is the ultimate balance of sweet, rich and savory…the natural-processed beans in this blend really make it exceptional for infusion-brewing and cold-brewed coffee.

 

GSI recommends two different brewing methods using this setup:

Our simple setup

Our simple coffee brewing setup

The Infusion Method:
Add hot water to your bottle, screw on the filter, add 2 heaping Tb ground coffee or 1 TB loose leaf tea per cup of water, cover and steep for 3-4 minutes. Then remove the filter and dump spent grounds or tea, replace and enjoy!

The Strainer/Cowboy Method:
Add 2 heaping Tb ground coffee or 1 Tb loose leaf tea per cup of water directly to your bottle, screw on the filter, add hot water, cover and steep for 3-4 minutes. You can drink straight from the bottle without removing filter, or pour into another vessel to enjoy later so you don’t over-extract the grounds.

NOTE – either method can be used to make cold-brewed coffee or tea as well! Just let it infuse overnight – at least 8 hours

Breakfast in Camp

Breakfast in Camp, with some delicious Paul’s Blend!


This worked SO well for us.
  There are no moving parts, no filters to pack, no stovetop brewer to clean, all you need is coffee beans and hot water to brew. When my insulated bottle is empty, I rinse out the spent grounds or tea and re-fill it with my water for the day, eliminating the need for multiple bottles/thermoses!

When I’m camping, we boil water for our coffee using a camp stove and kettle. While traveling by plane, train, bus or car, rest stops and food establishments will usually give you hot water for free. We keep small bags of coffee and tea in our backpacks, and can brew 2 cups in just a few minutes.

What’s your secret to making great coffee and tea while camping or traveling?

Lillie makes our morning coffee

Lillie making breakfast in camp

Share your tips in the comments below!

 

Brewing 101: Mason Jar Cold-Brewed Coffee

Part 6 in a series on brewing excellent coffee.

– By Jacob Long, Roasting & Quality Control Manager at Thanksgiving Coffee

With summer in full swing, now is the time to enjoy a cup of iced coffee. Cold brewing is the best way to chill your brew, but we realize that not everyone has all the proper brewing equipment. And so, with a bit of experimenting, we present the easiest method to make delicious cold-brewed coffee with materials most everyone should have around their kitchen.
jar_coffee-web

Mason Jar
Cold-Brewed
Coffee Recipe

 

What you’ll need:
• coffee, coarsely ground
• quart (32oz) mason jar
• strainer
• large bowl
• coffee filter

 

1. Use ~14 tablespoons (70g) of coarsely ground coffee beans (French Press grind setting). Pour the grounds into your jar and fill it half way with cold water. Stir the mixture to ensure all the grounds are wet, then fill the jar the rest of the way with water.

2. Put the lid on the mason jar with the coffee mixture, and place it in your refrigerator. Allow the coffee to steep for 12 – 16 hours, it’s a good idea to set this up in the evening and let it steep overnight. Be aware that the longer it steeps, the stronger your coffee will be.

3. Set your strainer over the large bowl and place a coffee filter in the strainer. Pour the cold coffee mixture through the filter to catch the grounds. Rinse your jar out, and transfer the cold coffee from the bowl back into the jar for storage.

NOTE: Coffee brewed this way may be stronger then you are used to. Try it straight and then dilute the coffee to your liking.

Learn more about cold coffee online at: ThanksgivingCoffee.com/ColdCoffee

We made our mason jar cold coffee with Guaya’b – Vienna Roast. The resulting cold brew was silky smooth and full bodied, which allowed for the rich chocolate notes of the coffee to come through even with the addition of milk! Want to try it? Pick up a bag and see for yourself!

Brewing 101: Cold SoftBrew

Part 5 in a series on brewing excellent coffee.

– By Jacob Long, Roasting & Quality Control Manager at Thanksgiving Coffee

Our last Brewing 101 post was about the SoftBrew method, which can also be used to make delicious iced coffee with ease. The amount of coffee to water will differ depending on the size of your brewer, but we recommend a ratio of 2g of coffee for every 1oz of water for cold brew.

Here’s how it works:

and here’s the text version of how it works:

  1. Grind your coffee beans at a French Press setting for nice coarse grounds.
  2. Add the freshly ground beans into the filter.
  3. Add half of the total water taking care to evenly soak the grounds.
  4. Stir for an even mixture and allow the bloom to settle.
  5. Add the rest of the water and give the  grounds another good stir.
  6. Put the lid on the pot and place it in your refrigerator for 12-16 hours (overnight).
  7. Remove the filter.
  8. Pour and enjoy!

 

Get your SoftBrew system at Sowden.

We made our Cold SoftBrew coffee with Guaya’b – Vienna Roast. The resulting cold brew was rich and full bodied, which allowed for the complexity of the coffee to come through even with the addition of milk! Want to try it? Pick up a bag and see for yourself!

 

Brewing 101: SoftBrew

SoftBrew_blogpics-01

Part 4 in a series on brewing excellent coffee.

– By Jacob Long, Roasting & Quality Control Manager at Thanksgiving Coffee

While pour-over/manual brewing methods continue to gain popularity, SoftBrew offers a simple alternative for making a stellar cup of coffee.

In my opinion, this high-tech but easy to use brewing method provides the purest expression of the coffee’s flavor. The mouth-feel is similar to that of a French Press, but with a better range of flavors and less sediment in your cup.

The porcelain pot is great for serving, but it does not retain heat for very long. To enjoy hot coffee throughout the day, transfer the brew to an insulated pot.

Here’s how it works:

SoftBrew_how-to

and here’s the text version of how it works:

  1. Preheat the pot and filter with about 4oz of hot water.
  2. Empty the preheat water and add 65g of freshly ground beans into the filter.
  3. Add half of the total water (16oz), taking care to evenly soak the grounds.  The ideal temperature is 196° for dark roasts, 200° for light roasts.
  4. Stir for an even mixture and allow the bloom to settle.
  5. Add the rest of the water (16oz) and give the grounds another good stir.
  6. Put the lid on the pot and let the coffee brew for 3-4 minutes.
  7. Remove the filter.
  8. Pour and enjoy!

 

Miel de Cajamarca, PERU

Get your SoftBrew system at Sowden.

We made our first pot of SoftBrew with Miel de Cajamarca and the flavor was fantastic! Want to try it? Pick up a bag and see for yourself!

 

Coffee, from the farm to your cup

Great coffee is the result of incredible care taken at every step along the way. Finding, sampling, selecting, shipping, roasting, packaging and selling coffees from Africa, Indonesia, Central and South America is what we do – but there is so much more involved in an excellent cup of coffee. We created this poster to tell the story of the journey of our coffee from the farm to your cup.

Coffee: from farm to cup

Coffee: from farm to cup – poster designed by Sven Sandberg Studio


Steps 1-4

Farmers grow coffee trees, which take about 5 years to fully mature. They nurture the trees, which flower and produce cherries, which are harvested by hand as they ripen over several months.

Steps 5-8
In the wet process, the sweet, red fruit is removed from the coffee bean and the beans are washed, dried in the sun and hand sorted for defects.

Steps 9-12
After aging, the outer “parchment” is removed, and the green beans are put into sacks for export and shipped from origin to the port of Oakland. A truck carries them to our warehouse in Fort Bragg where we roast and craft our many blends.

Steps 13-16
We cup our coffees a final time before filling 12 ounce bags for grocery stores and our online customers, and the 5 pound bags we send to cafes, restaurants and bulk bins at grocery stores. The last 2 steps are crucial. It’s up to you to let the magic out of your bag of coffee and enjoy it.

As you sip your coffee, think about all of the people and hard work it took to bring this precious drink from the farm to your cup. For tips on letting the magic out of a fresh bag of coffee, check out our Brewing Guide.

Brewing 101: The Aeropress

Aeropress

Part 3 in a series on brewing excellent coffee.

– By Jacob Long, Roasting & Quality Control Manager at Thanksgiving Coffee

Interested in brewing a great cup of coffee – quickly, and without much cleanup?
The Aerobie Aeropress may be for you. Aerobie is known for creating sports toys such as the Aerobie Flying ring, which when thrown, can fly farther than any other thrown object! The company is based in California and was founded by inventor and Stanford University Professor Alan Adler in 1984.

The Aeropress is hugely popular amongst specialty coffeehouses and Baristas, and there is even an Aeropress brewing competion held at the national and international level.

Jacob and his pressIn the realm of hand brewing with so many methods to choose from, I believe the Aeropress is superior in the following ways:

1) Ease of use, allowing for a consistently great cup of coffee without having to pay a great deal of attention to detail as with the Hario or similar pour over methods.

2) Flavor; the Aeropress creates a really nice tasting, full bodied cup of coffee without the sediment of a French Press.

3) Portability; the Aeropress is great for travel as it is lightweight, durable and fits into an easy to transport carrying case.

4) Clean up is simple and fast.

AeroPress Coffee MakerWant your own Aeropress?
We sell them in our online store for $25.95
Add To Cart

Time to brew!

Here is a simple recipe which will produce a beautiful cup of coffee in about 2 minutes.

Aeropress: assembly1. Start with a medium-fine grind somewhere between the texture of granulated sugar and couscous.

2. Place filter in black filter cap and lock onto brew chamber, place over cup.

3. Bring water to boil and pour a few ounces through the filter-lined and capped brew chamber to rinse the paper filter and warm the sever below.

4. Let the water drop to 200°(about 2 minutes off boil). Empty water used to rinse filter and warm the server.

 

Aeropress: stir5. Fill the brew chamber to just below the “1” mark with coffee.

6. Pour approximately 2 ounces of water onto the ground coffee in the brew chamber and start timer. This allows for de-gassing of the coffee which will result in a more ideal extraction.

7. Wait 30 seconds for the “bloom” to settle.

8. Fill the brew chamber with water to just above the “4” mark, stir gently, place plunger and wait one minute.

 

Aeropress: pressing 9. Slowly plunge brew into cup.

10. Serve and enjoy!

 

Brewing 101 – The Hario Dripper

Dripping with the Hario v60

Part 2 in a series on brewing excellent coffee.

– By Jacob Long, Roasting & Quality Control Manager at Thanksgiving Coffee

How coffee is brewed is just as important as how it’s grown and roasted. Each step matters.
As it says on the bottom of our bags: “There is magic inside this package – only you can let it out!”

Since its introduction, the Japanese-made Hario v60 dripper has taken a strong foothold in specialty coffeehouses and cafes in the U.S. and around the globe. Hario, which translates to “the king of glass”, is a heat-resistant glassware company which was founded in 1921. In addition to drippers,  Hario also produces high quality kettles, servers, and hand crank grinders.

While aesthetically pleasing, the Hario v60 dripper is a manual pour-over method, which requires attention to detail in order to produce a high quality cup of coffee. Finding the right grind and perfecting the pour are key to mastering the Hario dripper. We recommend using the Hario Buono Kettle, as it has a very narrow spout which aids in controlling the pour.

Our brewing guide outlines basic preparation, which I will expand upon in this post. If followed, it will produce a flavorful, clean cup of coffee with a medium body.

»»» Grind your coffee

Start with a medium-fine grind, coarser than espresso yet finer than a standard drip grind. Somewhere between the texture of granulated sugar and couscous.

1. Measure out 1.5 grams of ground coffee for every ounce of water. 

If a scale isn’t available, use 2 level tablespoons of ground coffee for every 8 ounces of water. Brewing coffee using this ratio will ensure a good extraction, and allow the flavor profile of the coffee to be fully appreciated.

2. Place paper filter in dripper over cup or server.

3. Bring water to boil and pour a small amount through the filter-lined dripper.

Make sure to wet the entire filter – this rinses the filter so there’s no “paper taste” in your coffee and warms your cup or server.

 

4. Let the boiling water cool to 200 degrees.

Use a thermometer or wait about 2 minutes. Before starting to brew, empty the water that was used to rinse the filter.

5. Place ground coffee in the rinsed and filter-lined dripper.

Dispense just enough water to saturate the grounds and create a “bloom”. This allows the coffee to off-gas, enabling a more even extraction. Wait 30-45 seconds or until the coffee settles before continuing your pour.

 

 

6. As the bloom settles, begin to dispense water.

Pour as slowly as possible directly in the center of the brew cone.

Stop pouring as necessary so that the water never reaches above the original level of the bloom. This will require stopping the pour every 15-30 seconds, with the goal of dispensing the total amount of water used to brew in about 3 minutes.

 7. Remove the used filter and coffee.

Swirl the brewed coffee for 10 seconds. This mixes and aerates your coffee and ensures an even, consistent body and taste.

8. Serve and enjoy immediately.

If you’ll be serving the coffee later, transfer to a thermos or carafe to keep it hot.

 

 

 

 

 

Brewing 101 – The French Press

Part 1 in a series on brewing excellent coffee.

– By Jacob Long, Roasting & Quality Control Manager at Thanksgiving Coffee

How coffee is brewed is just as important as how it’s grown and roasted. Each step matters.
As it says on the bottom of our bags: “There is magic inside this package – only you can let it out!”

Before the fancy Japanese drippers or even the Melitta, the French Press was and still remains a great way to consistently produce an exceptional cup of coffee. Early versions of the coffee press consisted of a metal or cheesecloth screen attached to some sort of rod, which would be pressed into a pot of hot water and coffee.

The French Press was first Patented by Italian designer Attilio Calimani in 1929, and is now available in many forms and sizes. It creates a brew with a heavy body and silky mouthfeel. Our brewing guide outlines basic preparation, which we will expand upon in this post.

»» Grind your coffee

Start with a coarse grind setting (#8 if you have a burr grinder) approximately the size and texture of kosher salt. The particle size should be flaky, with visible chunks. You can experiment with a finer grind for a more intense brew, or a coarser grind for a less intense brew.

1. Measure out 2 grams of ground coffee for every ounce of water.

If a scale isn’t available, use 2 generously heaping tablespoons of ground coffee for every 5 ounces of water. Brewing coffee using this ratio will ensure a good extraction, and allow the flavor profile of the coffee to be fully appreciated. Here’s some quick math to help:

– For a 12 oz press: 24 grams or 5 heaping tablespoons
– For a 32 oz press: 64 grams or 13 heaping tablespoons

Put the measured coffee into a small bowl, not in the press quite yet.

 

2. Bring water to a boil and pour a small amount into the empty press.

This serves to pre-heat your press so that when you start to brew, the room-temperature press doesn’t cool down the hot water.

3. Let the boiling water cool to 200 degrees – about 2 minutes.

Using hotter water for lighter roasts (no hotter than 202 degrees) and cooler water for darker roasts (no cooler than 195 degrees) will help you perfect your brew.

4. Pour out water used to pre-heat, add measured ground coffee and enough water to saturate all grounds.

Start a timer at this point to ensure proper extraction time.
Saturating the grounds allows the coffee to “off-gas”, releasing c02 contained within. This allows for a more even extraction, resulting in a well balanced cup. Wait about 20-30 seconds for coffee to “bloom” and settle. Then fill your press the rest of the way.

5. At one minute, gently stir with a spoon.

Gently stirring the “dry cap” that forms on the top back into the coffee saturates the coffee completely and ensures proper extraction of flavor from the grounds.  This is a good opportunity to quickly enjoy the nuances in the aroma before placing the top over the press to keep heat from escaping.

6. At four minutes, slowly press the coffee.

Pressing the coffee slowly ensures that no grounds make it past the screen and into your coffee.

7. Serve and enjoy immediately.

If you’ll be serving the coffee later, transfer to a thermos or carafe to keep it hot and avoid over-extracting the coffee.

For more info on brewing methods and perfecting your brew, visit our online brewing guide.
To order brewing supplies, check out our online store.

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