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What a Coffee-Obsessed Travel Writer Packs in His Suitcase

Photo: Branger/Roger Viollet/Getty Images

As someone who’s been writing travel pieces from the road for a few years now, the one thing that keeps me rooted in reality is a daily ritual of freshly ground, meticulously brewed black gold coffee. Since I’d rather not pack ten pounds of gear in a suitcase that’s already swollen, pulling that process off requires patience and planning.

After some hits and misses, I can finally say I’ve perfected a portable solution at a reasonable price point. It starts with a third-wave staple: the $30 AeroPress brewer favored by such respected micro-roasters as Tim Wendelboe and Verve. Since its two main parts fit together perfectly, pushing the AeroPress plunger into its plastic chamber cuts its cabin space in half. My stubby Porlex Mini Grinder that nearly earned me a spot on the no-fly list (turns out, it is not a pipe bomb) is small enough to squeeze into the other side of the plunger, maximizing its modest footprint even more. Completing this Lego-like combo is a reusable mesh filter (from Kaffeologie, which costs $13) with a lifetime guarantee, and the screw-on cap that keeps everything nice and snug.

Leave the filter holder, stirrer, and funnel that come with every AeroPress kit at home; unless you’re glamping, you won’t need any of it. Or an electric kettle, for that matter. Most hotels, and even some Airbnb’s, are pretty good at providing those sorts of things.

The real secret here is an iOS app, actually — a $5 AeroPress Timer that provides tips and recipes from world-class baristas. There’s even an ace iced-coffee approach that takes less than five minutes and won’t leave you trembling with hypertension the way some cold brews do. In several easy-to-understand steps, the app tells you how much coffee to use (1.5 scoops), the consistency of the grind (medium fine), and the brewing method (inverted, a hack Blue Bottle helped popularize). Follow the timer’s lead over ice, and you’ll end up with a clean-yet-complex cup that rivals anything you might find at a local café.

Think you’ll miss having your morning pick-me-up and afternoon Fika break in something much sunnier than a sad hotel room? That’s understandable. But do you really want to spend upwards of $10 a day when you’re on vacation just on coffee? Better to visit a reputable local roaster, enjoy a black coffee on-site, and ask what they recommend for an AeroPress. You’ll even end up with a decent souvenir that way.

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What a Coffee-Obsessed Travel Writer Packs in His Suitcase