There is simply nothing better than waking up on holiday and lingering over that morning cuppa without a care in the world, perhaps taking in a nice view or a few pages of a good book. Problem is, whether you’re heading off on a camping ‘staycation’ or planning a city-break on the continent – taking the espresso machine with you is simply not an option.
Thankfully, there are loads of fantastic bits of low-tech coffee gear that will fit in your suitcase or rucksack that will guarantee you can drink great joe wherever you go.
We have taken a dive into the world of travel coffee sets that will make a quality cuppa whether you are camping, at a festival, or flying to a hotel on the other side of the world. After all, even expensive hotel rooms often fail to offer anything more than a few sachets of instant coffee granules and a few yukky plastic pods of UHT milk. You deserve better – and there are loads of high-quality gizmos on the market at great prices.
Read on to find out some factors to consider when buying a travel coffee set.
What to look for in a travel coffee set
There are a few things to consider before taking the plunge (no pun intended). An ideal set will be powered manually, durable, safe to carry in hand luggage, and will not take up much space. It should ideally be easy to clean and not contain too many parts, as things can get lost easily when travelling. Another factor to consider is: what kind of coffee do you want to drink on the road. If you like milky coffee, espresso, cold brew or pour over there is something out there for you.
You also may need to buy more than one piece to make up your ideal set. We strongly recommend getting a portable grinder so you can freshly-mill your beans before you brew – it will vastly improve the flavours and aromas you get from your final brew.
Best Travel Espresso Maker
The Wacaco Nanopress is one of the leading travel espresso products on the market and with good reason – the designers have thought of everything you need to make good espresso with limited kit.
The product weighs just 333 grams and features an 80ml water tank where pre-boiled water is added. The water is forced through grounds in a filter basket by a patented manual pumping system that can generate up to 16 bars consistent pressure for extracting the best out of your beans. The machine produces an espresso with an impressive crema and is a more authentic espresso-style coffee than you can get with say, a Moka pot.
The kit packs away in an 18 cm long hard fabric pouch for portability and is easy to take apart and clean.
Wacaco has also designed an adaptor which enables the Nanopress to take coffee pods if that is your schtick.
Best Travel Cappuccino/Flat White/Macchiato/Cortado Coffee Maker
The Staresso 4-in-1 is a jack-of-all trade’s manual espresso maker cum milk frothier which can also make a decent cold brew.
The gizmo performs well on all fronts, but it really comes into its own when making milky coffees. Weighing in at 458 grams and measuring 28cm long when packed in its case the machine is a good deal heavier than the Nanopress above. This added length and weight is largely down to the inclusion of a detachable glass tasse cup that holds around 120ml of fluid.
If you are into your milky coffee, then you are going to need a larger cup so the size/weight trade-off is kind of inevitable. The Staresso takes 80 ml of hot or cold water into its water chamber which is then forced over grounds in a steel portafilter basket using a neat, self-contained pumping mechanism that pops out of the lid. Pump it up about ten times and the water is forced through the grounds at 15 bar pressure and into the included tase cup.
The whole pumping mechanism detaches and can be used to blast warm milk to froth it up for a Cappuccino/Flat White/Macchiato/Cortado. This works well, but the hand-pumped milk is definitely looser than something you would get from a café.
It makes good espresso and okay froth. While that sounds like we are damning the Staresso 4-in-1 with faint praise, we are not.
Making a professional flat white in the middle of a field or in a hotel room is not easy and the Staresso is hands down the best option if you are looking for a machine to make you one on the go!
Best Travel Coffee Pour Over Sets
Okay, so technically any steel pour-over set such as the Kalita Wave series will travel well. However, its not really a travel set. This stainless Cappuccino/Flat White/Macchiato/Cortado steel gizmo is hard enough for the rough and tumble of life on the road and collapses down to nothing for easy packing.
This set weighs a mere 140 grams and is the cheapest item on this list.
Sure you will obviously need to bring your own filter papers to go inside – but they are also cheap, light and easy to pack.
It’s not that flash, but its practical aesthetic is kind of cool. Very easy to use and made a lovely cuppa, no fuss.
Best Travel French Press Sets
This Espro set is a top-of-the-range French Press, mug and flask all rolled into one.
The main complaint here is that it only comes in one size, which will make you 250ml of coffee at a time. The product features an innovate basket-shaped gauze mesh filter, which is much finer than standard press filters meaning you get less grit in your cuppa.
The filter is also designed to seal off the grounds at the bottom of the pot once the plunger is depressed so that the extraction of the grounds stops. These two facts give a much smoother and sweeter brew.
The walls of the press are thermally insulated and double as a mug/flask for transporting around coffee, which it can keep hot for 4-6 hours.
Best Travel Coffee Grinder
While there are plenty of manual sets out there – this battery-powered unit makes campsite bean crushing easy.
The grinder features adjustable ceramic burrs that will smash your beans into uniform grain size. It can contain enough coffee grounds for a three-cup brew. Its battery lasts for 5/6 grinds and is charged via USB, so you will need to power it up in your car or from a battery pack if you are on the go.
The grinder automatically cuts out when the hopper is empty, and it gives you a range of different grinds from fine to coarse by adjusting the burrs.
It’s smaller than most manual ones, and while it is not quite as foolproof it will save you five mins of elbow grease before every cup!