When it comes to preparing coffee I have never been much of a believer in the deification of those who prepare it for a living, nor have I advocated the labeling of certain coffee “destinations” as temples of worship. Now, please don’t mistake me for a coffee heathen. I have my favorite places in San Francisco, and just returned from a trip to Portland for coffee (and Voodoo Doughnuts as well as micro brews from Amnesia Brewing), but the great thing about this complicated beverage is that once you learn to do it yourself, and do it well, any place in the world becomes your cafe. So, after this long and chilly winter, I welcomed the first day of global warming. I set off into the hills to bike, to brew, and to drink one of my favorite beans.
Beside coffee, my other passion is bikes. This outing provided an opportunity to experience both together. Bike or hike, either is effective to break out of the city grind for a more mindful approach to your coffee day. A single speed bike keeps the transportation simple and maintenance free.
My present line up of coffee tools for outdoor fun:
1. Snow Peak GS-100 A Gigapower Stove with Auto Lite
2. Snow Peak ProIso Fuel Canister
3. Snow Peak Titanium Cafe Press (AKA French Press) CS-111
4. Snow Peak Mini Solo Cook Set Ti SCS-004T
5. Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill Skerton MSCS-2
6. Blue Bottle bonmac One Hole Ceramic Dripper with #4 paper filters
7. Blue Bottle “Chiapas”–Freshly Roasted Of Course!
I prefer Snow Peak for several reasons. It’s quality gear, and innovative. They place a priority on preparing coffee in the out-of-doors with their Titanium Cafe Press and their other coffee products. In addition, the equipment is made in Japan, where a lot of good design originates. Also, I don’t have to struggle with buying goods from a country where I have differing views on human rights (enough said). The Snow Peak Cafe Press performs well, and there is an extra little skirt on the plunger to reduce chalk and grit in your cup.
The Hario Skerton Coffee Mill is a must have for any coffee lover. I bought it for the office or hiking or backpacking, and now I use it all the time at home. The ceramic burr design is appreciated (no flimsy blade knock off here). You can also field strip it in seconds-for cleaning, and every part is dishwasher safe. If you don’t have one of these grinders, the only thing I can say is, shame on you. They are so much fun, and grinding your own beans in any remote location is so nice. The Hario is one of those possessions that I would retrieve from my burning house, that’s how much I like it. The directions are entirely in Japanese, but the unit is intuitive and therefore easy to use, adjust, and clean. Who reads directions anyway? Buy it now. Everything Hario makes is fantastic.
The ceramic dripper by Bonmac is also from Japan, and although it is a little heavy for packing, you can pound tent stakes with it all day, and then drip a great cup. This baby won’t break; unless you get angry, and smash it against a boulder. However, that will never happen when your having so much fun, relaxing under the spell of caffeine. Sure, there are lighter drippers (AKA pour overs) for backpacking. I have a plastic frame weight weeny pour over with a nylon filter that fits in the bottom of the fuel canister, but it doesn’t compare to the Bonmac in aesthetics or taste. When ever I use this light weight contraption, I feel like I am brewing the grind in a bra from Victoria Secret. So, don’t hassle me about weight. I love the Bonmac as an outdoor brewing method, it’s faster than Chemex, and certainly not as fragile. Most important to me is the fact that the taste results are tip top.
One last piece of advice, be sure to use your field equipment at home before the trek. It’s good to get acquainted with the gear to eliminate problems before you get to the hills. If your experience is anything like mine, you may discover that making good coffee doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, and can compliment your outdoor fun.
So, put together a coffee kit, grab a day pack, come out of your kitchens, and cafes. Enjoy the wilderness. Enjoy your coffee.
Thanks to my son Casey Riggs who took the photos for this post! –Thanks buddy.
© all photographic and literary rights reserved 2010 Pat Riggs