The best coffee maker for boondockers
No day is complete without a great cup of coffee to start that day and, knowing this, I had to have my coffee ducks in a row when we bought our RV. While it would have been easy to buy the same coffee maker we have at home and put it in Curby, it wouldn’t have worked when we were boon docking unless I had a generator. That was out of the question.
My vision of boon docking means that I’m purposely going away from a lot of the infrastructure of the civilized world. While our trailer has the obvious bits like a stove, fridge, heater, comfortable bed and toilet I also like dragging that thing to places where there are fewer people and fewer services.
There is a dizzying array of coffee producing devices that actually don’t require electricity along with a ridiculous number of machines that do. The easiest thing to rule out was the machines that need some form of electricity to operate. Again, that boondocking rule that we have where all of our electricity comes from solar panels.
But another thing about boondocking is that, if you’re going to be doing it for any period of time, you’re going to want to be very efficient with your water resource as well. When you think about coffee production there is the water you need to make the coffee itself but there’s also the factor of cleaning the tool you use to make said coffee.
Originally, the most obvious tool would have been a French press as those produce outstanding coffee and need no electricity. You just bring your coffee grounds and some hot water and you’re set. In fact we bought both a traditional French press and also a coffee cup that somewhat resembles one for a test.
As expected, the coffee produced in a French press was outstanding and, of course, all we needed was the water we could heat on the propane stove inside the RV. Heck, you could even heat the water over a campfire for that matter and that’s just another beautiful thing about boondocking. But if you’ve ever owned a French press you know what a pain in the neck they are to clean.
Not only do you have hot, wet coffee grounds but you also get a sloppy press full of said coffee grounds. A big part of cleaning any French press or anything like one includes a lot of rinsing of the press itself which means coffee grounds going into your gray water tank, another thing I wanted to avoid.
Finally I came across the Aeropress. While this resembles the French press in both function and design, it’s very different in a few key ways. The Aeropress uses mini disc filters as part of the brewing process. This means that, when your brew process is complete, you can literally pop the filters and the used grounds into a trash can or recycling/composting receptacle. While there are some residual grounds left on the Aeropress, the amount is quite minimal so cleanup is an absolute breeze.
Another plus about the Aeropress is that it’s made of a very resilient plastic so even hard-core off-roaders won’t break it. It’s well suited to the bouncing around that is part of any good road trip.
How the Aeropress works
Like a French press you start with appropriately-ground coffee and very hot water. But then you put a little disc paper filter on the bottom of the Aeropress and drop a measured spoonful into the “tube.” From there you add water, stir a bit, and then a bit more water.
Lastly you put a second top tube on that has a seal and back it off just a wee bit, which stops the water from going through the filter. You let the water and coffee grounds work together to make your morning jolt and, after a couple of minutes, press the top of the Aeropress down to deliver that bit of liquid energy that makes the start of each day a little bit brighter.
The cleaning process involves removing the filter holder, and popping out the grounds and filter. Done. A quick rinse and you’re clean and ready for another cup of coffee, if desired. You could even just wipe the thing with a paper towel or a regular towel if you’re really going green.
The Aeropress is not perfect. As mentioned, there is a paper filter disc and you better make sure you’ve packed these for your journey or you’ll be sorry. There are certainly a number of places that sell these but you know you’ll need them and not be able to find them if you’ve let yourself run low right before a trip.
Aeropress sells these in packages of 350 and there are even some reusable metal filters, although I suspect these would require more cleaning water. Since they don’t go bad you might make sure you have plenty of these filters on hand.
The other disadvantage of this system is that you’re making just one cup of coffee at a time. If you’ve got a larger crew, this might not be the most effective way of making coffee as that process alone might consume your entire morning. However, if you’ve got a smaller posse, a single Aeropress might be sufficient. But be prepared, the coffee the Aeropress makes is pretty good so folks are likely to want a second cup.
I don’t clean the thing between the cups of coffee in the morning so, basically, one morning really only means one cleanup and that’s pretty efficient on the water.
I really like the Aeropress. In fact, I like it enough that I would bring it in the house and use it regularly. The coffee it produces is tasty and the process is simple enough not to be a pain in the neck. Of course, you should use a high-quality coffee to start with and I’m a big fan of Thanksgiving Coffee in Fort Bragg - they deliver via UPS - but there are local roasters all over the US and even Costco does a good job. But isn’t it cool to support a locally-owned business and also get good stuff?
For those who are picky about coffee and also love boondocking, the Aeropress might be just the right solution.