Backpacking as a Coffee Addict

by Mike Joy, Community Manager at Couchsurfing

If you’re like me, then no day can start without a decent cup of coffee. It honestly doesn’t even have to be decent, it just must be caffeinated. I am the biggest supporter of trying the local coffee scene, finding the cutest corner cafe and sipping on the local specialty; but sometimes you wake up at 5am for an early flight (or ascent of Kilimanjaro) and the chic cafe doesn’t open for hours. Luckily, there are plenty of travel-friendly coffee makers that will fit in your backpack and brew you that little pick-me-up you need oh so badly.

Just a casual shot of the author drinking coffee in the Himalayas. Photo credit: Mike Joy


You know the old adage, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ With that in mind, the first spot on our list goes to the preferred way of the inventors of the espresso to take their morning caffe. Everyone remembers the first time they saw how a Cafetiere works – it seems so simple, unscrew the three parts, put water in the bottom, put the middle piece over it with grounds, then screw it together and put it over the fire. A few minutes later you have a steaming cup of espresso that will definitely perk up your morning. Are you in Milan fashion week or the jungle of Guatemala – you won’t know! Ok you probably will….

Step 1. Add water in the bottom piece.

Step 2. Insert the middle piece with espresso grounds.

Step 3. Screw the top section on (tight!) and place over a flame! Once it begins boiling it’s done!

Pro: You don’t need to boil water separately!

Con: You need an open flame

Stovetop espresso maker. Photo credit: Eric Barbeau


I have many friends who swear by the Aero-Press even in their daily lives. If you haven’t used an Aero-Press, the coffee it makes is incredibly rich but it does require a little bit of arm muscle – but hey, you’re probably looking to stay fit on your trip too! We suggest you buy the mesh filter as well so you don’t need to worry about the paper ones, but this compact little number will be a game changer on your next backpacking trip.

Step 1. Add grounds into the top section the aero-press.

Step 2. Add hot water and let sit.

Step 3. Carefully flipping the Aero-Press over, apply pressure slowly (it will be difficult, so the slowness will come naturally) and allow the coffee to be pushed through the mesh and into a cup you have waiting for it.

Pro: Makes a quick cup of coffee and very easy to pack

Con: Many parts that need to be kept track of

French Press

There is nothing better than waking up in your Parisian hotel, with a view of La Tour Eiffel, and pouring yourself a steaming cup of coffee from your French press as you munch on a croissant. But for the rest of us that do not live that reality, there is a French press travel mug hybrid that can be brewing as we run to catch the local bus.

Step 1. Pour grounds into the mug.

Step 2. Pour hot water into the mug.

Step 3. Screw on the top and let sit for ~5 minutes. When you’re ready, just push that lever down and as the grounds are pushed to the bottom, pure-sweet coffee will be left for you to sip out of the top.

Pro: No cup needed!

Con: Some complain of grounds at the bottom of the cup

Portable K-Cup Coffee Brewer

This is the only one of the list I have not personally used, but when I saw it I could not resist including it. The K-Cup is reusable, so you just add grounds to it like a normal coffee maker, then add the hot water and the machine does everything else for you.

Step 1. Add grounds to the K-Cup.

Step 2. Add hot water to the bottom section. Step 3, screw together and let sit. After a few minutes, press the button and coffee will be pushed into the removable cup!

Pro: No cup needed!

Con: Battery powered, so make sure you bring extras!


Pour over. Photo credit: Najib Kalil

For anyone who loves a good old cup of American coffee, the pour-over is the choice for you. It’s one piece, a metal filter, that can be put over literally anything, and lets your hot water slowly drip through a mass of coffee grounds. Did I mention, you can use anything? An old water bottle? A hollowed out coconut? Your hands? Ok, don’t use your hands but I have seriously used my pour-over with a blender. Desperate times.

Step 1. Put the pour-over filter over a vessel of any sort – preferably a cup

Step 2. Slowly pour hot water over the grounds and allow it to seep into the cup.

Pro: Probably the smallest to pack.

Con: American-style coffee is not for everyone, and if you are an espresso lover, this may not do it for you.

Not down to make your own coffee? No room in your bag for any of these toys? I get it. I have been you. When in need of caffeine and abroad, never underestimate the power of TripAdvisor to lead you to the cutest local gem serving a delicious brew. Sure you technically won’t be the first tourist to step foot inside, but you can always pretend you are, and your friends back home never need to know how you found it. 

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