There is good coffee and then there is bad coffee! Good coffee can be expensive unless you make it yourself. At home, you probably have a fancy coffee machine, but what do you do when you travel?
When you travel you may even need coffee more than when you are at home. You might be battling jet lag, trying to wake up early to fit in all that sightseeing or have a long road trip ahead of you. I was surprised to learn that there are excellent portable coffee makers available so that you can have the fresh coffee you want, wherever you are.
In my opinion, the best travel coffee maker is the Aeropress. It’s small, easy to clean, and doesn’t need any batteries or electricity. We love the coffee it makes so much that we use it even when we are not traveling. In this post, I will explain why we are obsessed with our Aeropress and also tell you about some of the other popular coffee makers for traveling on the market.
There are a lot of different travel coffee makers on the market, so how do you know which one is right for you? Here are eight things to consider:
- Size – You want to pack light! I’m sure you have enough other things to pack in your suitcase. You want your coffee maker to take up as little space as possible. Remember bigger is not always better.
- How much coffee – Travel coffee makers vary in size and the amount of coffee they can make at one time. I think in most cases one that makes a cup at a time is fine, but if you plan on serving a large group you might want to consider a machine that makes multiple cups at once.
- Durability – Traveling can be rough on your belongings, especially if you check a bag. You want a coffee maker that is not going to break if baggage handlers get aggressive.
- Quality of Coffee – Why even bother with a coffee maker unless it is going to make good tasting coffee. Life is too short.
- Brew Time – When you are traveling, you may have a busy day of sightseeing ahead so you need to get up and go. There is a wide range of brew time with travel coffee machines, so it’s something to keep in mind.
- Easy to Clean – You will be on vacation, so you want to minimize the time you spend doing dishes. Some travel coffee makers can be put in the dishwasher, but when you are traveling you might not always have access to one.
- Power Requirements – Depending on where you are traveling, the power sources/voltages may vary. You need a coffee maker that can adapt. If it doesn’t use any electricity, that is even better. One less thing to worry about.
- Price – Your travel coffee maker needs to fit in your budget, whatever that may be. Lucky for you many of the best mini coffee makers are actually surprisingly affordable.
Top Travel Coffee Makers
The table below compares the 10 best coffee makers for travel. Below the table, I go into more detail about each one.
The Best Travel Coffee Maker – Aeropress
I think the Aeropress is the best coffee maker for travel. It’s simple, compact, and makes great coffee. I actually got it for Russell to take to work so that he would have another option besides the boring office coffee and Starbucks (nothing against Starbucks, although, it can be expensive). Then we realized it is perfect for our trips too. You can get it with a zippered nylon tote and fits easily in a backpack.
How to Use the Aeropress
The Aeropress can be used to make both coffee and espresso. One of the special things about this travel press coffee maker is that you can use it in two ways. First, there is the traditional press method. Second, there is the “inverted method” where you flip the unit before pressing the coffee.
We think that the inverted method makes a better tasting coffee, but we note that Aeropress themselves do not recommend this technique as there is a risk of splashing yourself with hot coffee. On that basis, we cannot endorse the inverted method either. We’ve never splashed the hot coffee on ourselves, but if you do decide to try the inverted method, don’t say you weren’t warned!
If you want to get fancy, check out this recipe book, especially for the Aeropress.
Additionally, this small travel coffee maker does not need electricity to work. The water should be just below the boiling point, so you can use a kettle, stove, microwave or even campfire to heat the water. We also tried using hot tap water and it still made a nice cup of coffee. It wasn’t quite as hot as I would have liked, but still tasty. You can also use room temperature water to do a cold brew, but that takes 12-24 hours.
While it only makes one cup of coffee at a time, it doesn’t take too long to make each cup. Once you have the hot water, it takes about a minute. If you were making a lot of coffee it might be an issue, but for two it’s fine. It also doesn’t have any way to keep the coffee warm. If you are planning on drinking your coffee right away that’s not an issue, but if you want to be able to keep it warm, I would recommend pouring it in a thermal mug like this one.
Cleaning the Aeropress is Easy!
We also love how easy it is to clean the Aeropress. The seal on the press is tight so it almost cleans itself when you press down. You press the last bit of liquid out in the sink (because this can be bitter) then pop the coffee grounds out in the trash. After a quick rinse, it is ready to be used again.
It comes with plenty of paper filters. We usually make a few cups of coffee with each filter so they last longer. You can also purchase a reusable filter (like this one) separately.
Pros of the Aeropress
- Plastic, won’t break
- Doesn’t need electricity, perfect for camping
- Small, won’t take up much space in your luggage
- Easy to clean
- Great Tasting Coffee
Cons of the Aeropress
- Only makes one cup at a time
- Doesn’t have a way to keep coffee warm
Check out this video demonstration so you can see how to use it.
Other Travel Coffee Maker Options
We may be a bit biased since we do love our Aeropress, but there are several other travel size coffee makers that are worth considering. Depending on your preferences, you might find one of these better meets your needs.
Presto MyJo Single Cup Coffee Maker
This personal travel coffee maker is for the K-cup (Keurig) lovers. It also comes with a refillable cup so you can also use your own coffee. It’s simple to use and easy to clean. You add boiling water or use a microwave to heat the water in the reservoir. Then pump the heated water through to your mug.
If you are an espresso drinker, you may prefer a machine designed specifically to make espresso. You add the ground coffee and boiling water and then pump a few times to extract the coffee. It only makes one cup at a time unless you buy the larger tank which allows you to make two. This portable espresso maker also comes with its own cup.
GSI Collapsible Java Drip
This collapsible coffee maker is perfect if you need to serve a crowd. It can make up to 12 cups and then it collapses down to be only 1 inch high. The Java Drip is simple to use, you pour the boiling water over the coffee grinds and it drips through to your cup. No electricity needed! Some people say that it takes too long to make the coffee especially if it’s a large quantity, but customers do like the quality of the coffee it makes. You do need to purchase the #4 filters separately.
Kalita Wave Pour Over Dripper
Many customers love how easy it is to use that it has become their home coffee maker as well. It uses a patented “Wave” filter to make the perfect cup of coffee. Be sure to wet the grinds and let them “bloom” before pouring in the rest of the water. (Some users have figured out how to use a cheaper standard filter or a coffee sock too).
Primula Coffee Brew Buddy
The Brew Buddy is a reusable filter that fits into your coffee cup. You put a scoop of coffee in the filter and then pour boiling water over it. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. You can adjust the strength of the coffee by slowing down your pour. The slower the pour the darker the coffee. It doesn’t need any electricity and it is dishwasher safe. The Brew Buddy is the cheapest travel coffee maker on our list.
Kohipress Portable French Press Coffee Maker
This portable travel coffee maker is similar to the Aeropress but has a few important differences that you should be aware of. If you plan on making your coffee using the inverted method, you can’t do that with this coffee machine. I like that it comes with an insulated travel coffee mug and reusable stainless steel filter.
AdirChef Grab N’ Go Personal Coffee Maker
This is a traditional coffee maker in a compact form so that you can travel with it. You will need electricity to operate it. It comes with a mug but is designed to fit most travel coffee mugs. It has a permanent reusable filter so this electric travel coffee maker is eco-friendly.
Coffee Gator Pour Over Coffee Maker
This is a simple and compact pour over coffee maker that is ideal for travelers. It uses a laser-cut stainless steel filter to make delicious coffee. You don’t need a power source just hot water. The carafe is dishwasher safe so it’s easy to clean. It won’t work if you are trying to make a cold brew though.
Black+Decker DCM18S Brew ‘n Go Personal Coffeemaker
With the press of a button, this little coffee machine brews directly into your coffee mug (that comes with the unit). It has a reusable filter so you don’t have to worry about bringing along extra paper ones. It’s all dishwasher safe but you do have to plug in it to get it to work. Don’t worry it has an automatic shut-off function.
Tips for using your Coffee Maker on the Road
- Some coffee makers include a cup. If not, I would recommend bringing a to go cup with you, in case you want to drink the coffee while you’re out and about.
- Bring your own coffee – who knows what will be provided at the destination – and make sure you store it properly (read more about that here). You might also want to bring non-dairy creamer since it’s easier to travel with than milk.
- Minimize the number of filters you use, its good for the environment and will save you money. Either reuse the paper filters or consider buying reusable mesh ones.
Making Boiling Water
Most of these portable travel coffee makers need hot water – close to the boiling point. Many types of accommodations have an electric kettle or microwave where you can boil water. Some people do bring along their own travel-sized kettles, here is one that is dual voltage and folds up small. If you are camping, you can boil the water over the campfire. I also recently learned about immersion boilers that can plug into your car lighter. This could be a good option for making coffee on the road.
Grinding Coffee While You Are Traveling
Without quality coffee beans, you cannot make good coffee. Of course, you can buy coffee already ground, but I know a lot of people prefer to grind their own. You can use your coffee grinder at home before you go since the coffee should stay fresh for a few weeks (if stored properly).
If you are traveling for a longer period or prefer to have coffee ground freshly for each cup, you can bring along a coffee grinder. The JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder is affordable, doesn’t need any power source, and is compact.
As you can see there are some excellent travel size coffee makers available today. What is your favorite way to get your coffee fix on the road?
P.S. If you are planning a trip, be sure to check out my travel planning checklist. It’s everything you need on one page!
Expert Tips for Choosing the Best Coffee Maker for Travel:
- You can still make excellent coffee (or espresso) while you are traveling if you have the right equipment. In some cases, you don’t even need electricity.
- One of these coffee makers could be a great gift idea for the traveler in your life.
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