If you’re anything like me, getting my day rolling without a cup of piping hot coffee is nigh impossible. Because my backwood outings range from vehicle supported forays with copious amounts of gear, to trips with the absolute minimum, my coffee making methods vary wildly. Fortunately, there are a number of new products on the market which accommodate my ever changing java needs.
Libra Coffee Pourtables (Editor’s Choice)
Several weeks ago I was given a few samples of Libra Pourtables and based exclusively on the quality of the flavor, I was hooked. Then I started to learn more about the company founder, Eric Medina, and his amazing journey towards making a better brew for a better world. After earning an advanced degree in the science of coffee in Italy, he launched Libra. More than just a top-tier purveyor of fine beans, Libra Coffee donates a portion of their proceeds to provide clean drinking water to developing nations where their beans are produced. For consumers like me, it’s a no-brainer. I’m going to drink coffee. I might as well drink good coffee and help support an uplifting philanthropic project in the process.
Within my sampler of one-serving Pourtables, I received two varieties, one from Ethiopia and the other from Colombia. Both are 100% organic, roasted in small batches, and use responsibly grown and harvested beans. The Yirgacheffe coffee from Ethiopia is vibrant and floral while the Colombian Tolima is slightly richer and full bodied. I quickly burned through my sample assortment and foresee a re-order before my next backcountry outing. I’m not predisposed to cream and sugar and wouldn’t dare sully the perfectly balanced flavors of Eric’s coffee.
Stanley Stainless Steel Pot Plus French Press
The bad news is, this is the third time I’ve blathered on about this coffee maker. However, this is in my humble opinion, the best backcountry French press ever made. Unlike most presses with a central plunger and a filter disc, the Stanley press uses a cylindrical inner sleeve with the filter built into the bottom of the insert. Simply put, there’s no way for the grounds to sneak around the filter and get into your delicious brew. It won’t produce enough java for your entire coffee klatch, but it makes more than enough for a couple of campers. I know it works because I have used it every day for nine months.
Brew tip: This filter does not like a fine grind. An espresso grind will make it hard to plunge the filter.
I first tried this unique coffee product a few years ago and have used it quite often since. It’s the proprietary packaging that caught my attention but the coffee within is equally good. Created for maximum convenience and portability, Grower’s Cup coffee can be brewed within the PE coated paper envelope. Simply open the top, pour in the appropriate amount of hot water for your desired strength, wait 4-6 minutes, and dispense your Joe from the spout.
Available in seven varieties from Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, and Kenya, each batch is made from certified organic and fair-trade beans. I’m partial to the Honduran brew with its medium body. It really is superb with nice floral notes. It’s one of my favorites when I don’t want something too strong and overpowering.
When I first tried Grower’s Cup, the brew-in-package design was clever but perhaps not perfected. The latest design is far more refined and can be reused a time or two. I’m not sure how necessary that is, and doing so requires some fiddling as the package has to be fully rinsed and dried between uses, but I applaud them for their efforts to add utility to the packaging which is already environmentally conscious by virtue of the materials used in its construction.
One of the challenges with the packaging and the brew-within design is temperature retention. I often find by the time my 4-6 minutes has expired, the coffee has cooled significantly, particularly on a cold morning.
Coffee Blenders (Skip it. It’s not great.)
Coffee Blenders is a roasting company located in San Diego, California, and the subsidiary of NuZee, Inc. That doesn’t sound very artisan––because it’s not. Offered in a wide range of products, their coffee definitely flirts with the dubious distinction of snake oil. They have pour-over coffees with added ingredients to stimulate weight loss, boost a workout, help you relax, or enhance mental acuity. If I could insert a “roll eyes” emoji here, I would.
For those of us just reaching for a tasty cup of coffee, their Nude Cup pour-over contains no added voodoo and is just 100% Arabica coffee from Central America. After tasting it side by side with other small-batch roasts, I determined it is good coffee, but just not great coffee. Coffee Blenders doesn’t mention who roasts their beans, nor are they certified Fair Trade, so this a coffee I would pass up. It is certified organic as of this year, but I still think better options exist.
Stoked Roasters, STOKED STIX
I have tried more instant coffee than I care to remember. Some of it wasn’t just bad, it teetered on revolting. I had all but abandoned the idea of a fuss-free cup when I stumbled across a newcomer from Stoked Roasters.
Based in Hood River, Oregon, Stoked was founded by professional ultra-runner and marketing guru, Jax Mariash Koudele. Prone to wander to remote places, her STOKED STIX instant coffee pouches were a natural progression to an already thriving coffee roasting business. Marketed heavily to outdoor enthusiast, Stoked coffee is as much about the adventure lifestyle as it is about good coffee. Their certified USDA organic Arabica beans are roasted on-site and sold online across the country. Both the medium and dark roast STIX are delicious, but I find the latter suits my palate best.
I’m continually amazed how Stoked is able to get such a rich and flavorful cup of coffee from just a tiny amount of powdery grounds. The aroma is intense and when poured and stirred correctly, forms a thick crema. It’s not hard to find a good cup of coffee anymore, but it is tough to find a company I feel is worthy of my cash. Stoked Roasters is not just about coffee, but community by sponsoring various outdoor athletes, and I can get behind that. And it is damn good coffee.
When I first saw Jiva Cubes I thought it was just another riff on instant coffee, which it is. I also admit I dismissed them too quickly, and when I finally had a chance to try a cup––I was quite pleased. It really is unique and flavorful. The more I researched the brand and how it came to be, the more interested I became. While on a visit to Cite, Colombia, Miami resident Natalia Rodriguez noticed locals using small cubes of instant coffee mixed with Panela brown sugar. She quickly realized their commercial potential and after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Jiva Cubes was born.
Like many coffee drinkers, I sometimes like a hint of sweetness in my brew and Panela sugar is the perfect compliment to the rich nuttiness of coffee. With the added benefits of Magnesium, Potassium, Phosphate, and Iron, Panela is also a more complex carbohydrate and generally more healthy than other refined and heavily processed sweeteners. It has a flavor akin to molasses or caramel whereas pure sugar is just sweet. When mixed with hot water, a Jiva Cube produces a rich cup of coffee with just a touch of sweetness. I tend to gravitate towards the Mocha cubes which use real Colombian grown cacao along with local coffee beans. As an avid traveler myself, I really love the Jiva Cube backstory. If slightly sweetened coffee is not your bag, I would suggest the STOKED STIX instead.
MSR Windburner with Coffee Press Kit
I do have one coffee bean I favor over all others. I discovered it while living in Alaska and spend a fortune every month having a fresh supply shipped to my door. It’s called Deadman’s Reach by the java masters at Raven’s Brew Coffee. Although still somewhat based in Ketchikan, Alaska, it is now primarily produced in Washington state.
My preferred means of brewing Deadman’s Reach in the backcountry is with my trusted MSR Windburner stove fitted with the optional Coffee Press Kit. The stove is incredibly fast, boils in even a stout breeze with no need for wind protection, and can have my coffee ready in as little as two minutes. I typically travel with MSR’s own Stainless Steel Insulated Mug which keeps my coffee plenty warm, yet weighs only 4 ounces.
The Coffee Press Kit weighs but a few grams and stows neatly in the cup at the base of the stove. There are some downsides to using a press in the boonies. It does require significant amounts of water to rinse the grounds clear of the pot and filter, so it’s not often my go-to for desert travel.
Sea to Summit X-Pot Kettle
When I travel with pour-over pouches or instant coffees, I often toss an X-Pot Kettle in my kit. It seems like a goofy idea, and you’d think it would be flimsy and fragile, but you’d be wrong. It’s made of high quality silicone bonded to a 5 Series aluminum base with a translucent lid and glass-reinforced nylon handles. I’ve used my X-Pot Kettle for a couple of years now and it still looks as new as it did day one. At just 6.5 ounces with a fold-flat thickness under two inches, it easily fits into any bag. It boils quickly and the large handle and well defined spout produce a precise pour which is a important detail when trying to hit some of the small filter targets of some pour-over filters.
After a full morning testing various coffees, it’s safe to say I’m pretty jacked up an may not sleep for days. I also realize, there are literally thousands of brands of coffee in the world and almost as many coffee-making tools on the market. The above are just a few of my most recent finds aimed at the coffee drinker on the go.