Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Travel Tip: Brewing Coffee On The Road

Melitta's light but sturdy cup-top filter cone - about $3.00

Cilio's ceramic for +/- $15
Today's tip isn't any great shakes as tips go, unless you're adamant about having a decent cup of coffee while on the road, wherever that may be in the world.  I myself prefer to have a cup of something actually brewed and not some concoction spit out of a machine or - God help me - one of those little tubes of instant Nescafe that grace the coffee-making area in nearly every hotel I've ever stayed in there.  In lieu of that throughout most of Thailand you get nothing but tea.

Now, if you're staying in a nicer hotel you have a chance of being served a cup of coffee that isn't Nescafe in the dining room, but far too often it's been held too long, held improperly, or both. You know what I mean; you're served a cupful of black fluid better used to ink a stamp pad (for those of you old enough to remember those). You add creamer and it turns gray rather than a lighter brown. Makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it.

Cuissential's collapses
Back in an earlier life in restaurants it was almost always difficult to get a waiter or waitress to understand the Three Commandments of Restaurant Coffee Brewing: #1 Thou shall not leave the grounds above the pot after it is finished brewing, #2 Thou shall not serve coffee that's been sitting on the burner for more than twenty minutes, and #3 Thou shall not "marry" an older pot into a fresher one. The reasons are simple, and here's your bonus tip today: grounds left over the brewed coffee drip the acids into the prepared pot (which sours it), coffee doesn't hold on a hot plate without scorching or going stale, and putting the new coffee into old coffee makes the new coffee the same "age" as the old coffee.  These are all more evident in a restaurant setting where larger pots may sit a while, but you can replicate them at home if you want to try it.

Negativity aside, here's the tip for today: if you're willing to spare a bit of space in your luggage - and assuming you have a hot pot in your room to boil some water, which is usually a given - you can have a fresh, aromatic cup of your favorite coffee from home at any time of the day. It also involves bringing some #2 filters and a sealed bag-in-a-bag of ground coffee (for freshness), but that's hardly any weight at all.  You can buy ground coffee in Thailand, too, but I never have so I'm no help on pricing for you here.

A mug can be bought for less than a dollar if the cups in your room are too small for your taste. I've washed some I've purchased to use and left them with the final tip for housekeeping sometimes, but maybe you want to give yours to someone else or take it home. Up to you.

There are three basic types of filter cone holders available: ceramic, plastic and silicone.  In my opinion the ceramic is more weight than is practical, so I'll skip that one.  The red silicone one above collapses into a flat disc and takes up less space in your bag, but it's also five times as expensive as my favorite, which has long been the black (or red) Melitta cone up top today. It rinses easily, dries out easily, is just flexible enough that it doesn't crack when packed in among your clothes or other junk while being thrown about by baggage handlers, and costs between three and five dollars, tops.

After your initial investment for the filter holder I'm going to estimate your fresh brewed cup of coffee is going to cost you less than 20 cents, even if you prefer Peet's or another fine brand of coffee from home. That's around six baht per cup, and you can have it while sitting in your skivvies.

So if you prefer fresh brewed coffee without having to go out and find it, here's your answer.

[PS - Apologies for the image quality today. I pulled them off the internet as reference.]


Anonymous said...

Good to see there's another believer out there.

At home, I've tried various methods of making proper coffee and the plastic filter cone ives the best results and is the most prectical. I use the same method at work.

The collapsible silicon type interests me for travel.

khunbaobao said...

I'm a fan of French press coffee makers, too, but they're not practical for travel.