Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Search for the Perfect Cuppa

And by perfect I mean, not only a steaming cup of full rich flavor, but produced by using a method which is simple, fast, easy to clean, and not dependent upon electricity.    

We traveling coffee drinkers face quite the challenge.  If we rely on what's out there, we are at the mercy of fate and may end up with anything from the convenience stores's burned-out toxic sludge or the $5 option that, while good, we always resent because it's $5.   And I'm not even that picky about the blend, I just want it to be made properly. 

Even a retail coffee source that proves reliable in most cases is still highly variable - yeah, I'm talking about you, Krispy Kreme - though it's easier to forgive a disappointing brew when it's accompanied by a glazed donut or two.  Or a dozen.  And let's not revisit the horrors of making your own in a hotel room.  Blech!  Instant coffee?  Puleeeze!   

In fact, if I had to choose one single reason why RV travel is superior to other forms of travel, I would have to say - you can always get a good cup.  Always.  Ditto wine, bed linen, and food.

For camping, we always used a stovetop percolator.  This worked pretty well except that one must be diligent while making a pot.  One moment's distraction could lead to boiling the water.  Once it boils, forget it, the result will be burned and bitter.  Let's just say I've "outgrown" this method as I'm easily distracted these days.  In fact, soon I'll reach the point where it will be unsafe for me to be left unatended. 

So I've tried just about every coffee-making method with the execption of the french press.  The single biggest drawback to using a french press for camp coffee is that the all the grounds must be cleaned from the pot - a real mess apparently.  (I always used a paper filter in the stovetop percolator basket which made clean-up a snap.  My favorite camping tip). 

However, the french press will been my next experiment should the Melitta Coffee Cone, which I received yesterday, prove disappointing.  Here's a video to show you how it's done.

When I ordered the cone from, I was hopeful yet apprehensive, because it all just seemed too simple.  And the price was right which is usually a red flag - $5 - about the cost of one Starbuck's skinny latte.  The price included the cone and five #2 filters.   

I have to say initial results are promising though my technique may take some tweaking. 
For the first cup, I filled my over-sized mug with water and poured it in the tea kettle.  A whistling tea kettle for which aforementioned distractions become a non-issue.  I then measured out a heaping tablespoon of coffee into the filter.  Result: too weak. 

The second cup was almost a 10.0 because this time I measured out 2/3 of a mug of water and the same amount of coffee.  I think my third cup will be the winner when I used a really heaping tablespoon of coffee.  Naturally, since the water was boiling, the coffee was piping hot enough that I was able to add a pretty large amount of cold milk which made the temperature just right.  Ahhhh!  

Other advantages to the Melitta cone are: it makes a single cup so nothing's wasted, it's about as lightweight as an item can be, it's not going to break unless it gets stepped on, it's handy to have about the house in case of electrical outage, and it's all-in-one design means I won't need both a coffee maker and a tea kettle.  And, it goes without saying, it makes an effective ice-scraper:

(The odd thing to me about this is not that he used the cone in this way, but that he documented the event in order to share it with the world).

Well, I know we all have our favorite ways to attain that elusive perfect cup on the road.  Want to share yours? 


  1. I've done just about everything to have my coffee. My preferred method is an insulated french press, clean out notwithstanding. I just use a paper towel after shaking out as many grinds as will go. I hate to just throw away the grinds as they are a great plant fertilizer, but our society doesn't like random mulching.

    The Melitta cone filter is a good method. The downside is that it cools too quickly and some of the flavors are left on the paper and not in the brew.

    I am picky about my beans. I also got a hand coffee grinder for my van. I get fresh ground at only a little cost in time. I store my beans in mason jars vacuum sealed with a hand vacuum device & that keeps them fresh. This is more important than the brewing method for great coffee. I got a good thermos to store a couple of cups for later in the day so I only make it once.

    In hotels, if you can boil water, decent coffee can be made. Even in a pitcher. Beats instant.

  2. A gourmet in almost all ways, but I still drink Taster Choice when I don't want to make a full pot.

    But then I microwave water for tea too! I understand that is awful as well.

  3. Oh you coffee drinkers are sooooo fussy ! I'm a tea drinker = boil water and throw in tea bag = lovely cuppa !!
    Now mind you I am fussy about what type of tea bag. Gotta be Tetley !

  4. We've used a cone for years, both at home and camping. It sits on a thermal carafe and we can have fresh, not-burnt tasting coffee for hours.

  5. Melita is good - I used to heat water in the microwave in a measuring cup to pour from. That worked well and the coffee is good.

    I used to have a French press, it made good coffee, but it was messy, even in a regular house, so that didn't last long.

    I have a Keurig - used to have a big one, which I LOVED. They make single cups from little individual coffee things that go into the machine. I got a smaller one for The Palms, but the coffee is just as good. Each cup figures out to be about 50 cents. But you need electricity. That was my choice, I love a good cup of coffee, too! :)

  6. I know what you mean about picky over your coffee. Life is too short for bad coffee. I like using a french press. But I am onto those Starbucks "microgrounds" or instant coffee right now. It is so full of flavor (in the bold variety). I love traveling around though and finding the best coffee beans in an area and giving them a try through my number 4 drip filter. (Have you been having trouble with blogger?)

  7. Good coffee, good scotch and good books are my priorities for camping..everything else is just icing on the cake. I use my little four cup stainless steel perculator on my stove even when I have good for me.


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