Last Updated on December 18, 2020
In Summary: I selected The Aeropress as the best travel coffee maker especially if you also get a separate steel filter like the Altura that allows the oil from the coffee beans into your cup or use the 2 filter method shown in the video below.
The steel filter is great because the normal paper filters can stop the oil from being pressed into your cup. You need the oil to get a lovely crema like you see on espresso.
An Aeropress with paper filters makes excellent coffee but without the same rich body, weight, and texture that is characteristic of a complex espresso.
The Aeropress was the top portable coffee maker because:
- It can make coffee so good it will make your barista blush
- No batteries or electricity required.
- It only weighs 7 ounces so it’s ideal for travel
- It’s only made of plastic so it won’t alarm airport security staff
- With an aeropress travel cap it turns into a handy storage container too
For those that want an acceptable cheap lightweight coffee maker where you won’t need to source filters I suggest the Primula Brew Buddy.
The Aeropress is a great all rounder but if you are obsessed with espresso try the Handpresso.
What Type Of Portable Coffee Maker Are You Interested In?
You don’t want anything too heavy but you want better than instant coffee while on the road…
Portable Brew Style
The Aeropress is not the only option for portable brew style coffee makers…
It’s Got To Be Espresso
Nothing but a shot of double espresso is going to do the job for you…
The 5 Best Ultra Portable Pour Over Coffee Makers
The lightest way to make coffee on the road
Pour over coffee can taste great but it can be slow and laborious to make. You need to pour in a little water at at time… then a little more… then a little more… then a little more… then a little more… and so on…
On the plus site there are some very compact and lightweight solutions for travel coffee makers. If you don’t want to add extra weight to your carry on or you don’t want something that takes up a lot of space in your bag then pour over coffee makers are your answer.
We tested these 4 portable pour over coffee makers to find out which one should win a space in your carry on:
Kuissential SlickDrip Review
The Kuissential SlickDrip is a collapsible, extremely lightweight pour over coffee maker that’s great for making coffee for one person.
Here is a great video showing you how to use it:
- Weight: 3.5 ounces
- Easy to find in your bag because of the bright color
- Requires a #2 filters
- Slow to drip
Primula Brew Buddy Review
Things don’t come any simpler than the Primula Brew Buddy. The Brew Buddy is basically like a reusable tea bag but for coffee.
As you’ll see from the photo it doesn’t require a filter. For me, this can be a bonus because I’m the type of disorganized person that would end up forgetting to pack enough coffee filters for my travels.
Check out the Brew Buddy in action in this video:
I love how lightweight this is and I love that you don’t need filters.
Because the coffee sits in the mug some people over brew their coffee using this…
If you use a tall mug and use the drip method of pouring a little water at a time you can make great coffee with this.
However hotels and apartments might not provide a tall mug so you’ll need to pack one. At which point you might be better with an Aeropress. Also while it’s easy to rinse out under a tap it’s not very fair on the hotel to clog their sink with coffee grounds.
Having said all that, The Brew Buddy is a decent low cost lightweight solution but I love coffee so much I’m prepared to spend a few more dollars and ounces to get better results.
- Very lightweight at only 1 ounce
- Only makes coffee for 1
- You might over-brew if you don’t have a tall mug
- Can be messy to work with and hard to clean
- Slow to drip
GSI Outdoors Collapsible Java Drip Review
The Collapsible Java Drip is similar to the SlickDrip but it’s a bit larger and heavier. Again it requires filters and they might not always be easy to get your hands on.
On the plus side it has a snap of cover. If you’ve just rinsed it out and want to throw it in your bag still wet then you might find the cover handy.
The cover though adds extra weight though at 4.8 ounces it’s still lightweight and an excellent camping coffee maker.
The people who don’t like it are like me… they hate the drip coffee process. Like waiting for a kettle to boil making drip coffee seems to take an age.
If you are going to be carrying your bag a lot, for camping or hiking then you’ll be glad of every ounce on weight you save. Travel drip coffee makers are great in this situation. However if you are not carrying your bag every day and staying in each place for a week or so then there are better solutions.
- Weight: 4.8 ounces
- Snap of cover
- Larger than the SlickDrip
- Requires #2 or #4 filters
- Slow to drip
Brewologist Pour Over Coffee Cone Review
Although it’s a theory I don’t really subscribe to some people don’t like plastic or rubber coffee makers because they feel the plastic contaminates the taste of the coffee.
If you are one of those people the Brewologist Coffee Cone is a stainless steel pour over coffee cone that doesn’t require a filters. For me a travel coffee maker that doesn’t require filters is a huge bonus because I am a continuous traveler. Though most people won’t have this problem if you are going on a 2 week trip you just take enough filters to last you 2 weeks.
The Brewologist is about the same height as a coffee mug but it’s much wider. My main issue with it is that it’s not collapsible it’s reasonably sturdy but I’d be a bit worried that with long term travel it’s going to get damaged in my bag.
I also prefer not to have large metal objects in my carry on luggage since I think they attract attention from security staff when going though the departure gates.
If you love drip coffee then this might be for you. I find drip coffee a bit too much hassle and that’s why the Brewologist didn’t win my top recommendation.
- Does not require filters
- 8 ounces
- Is not collapsible
- Slow to drip
Presto MyJo Review
The Presto MyJo is a popular single cup portable coffee maker that is very simple to use.
Here is good demonstration of how to make coffee with it:
The Myjo works with K-cups. I’ve never used these but some people like them. It might not be so convenience when you are traveling though.
In a way the concept is similar to the Aeropress in that you manually force water through coffee but it’s not a full immersion brew.
The unit is also larger and heavier than the Aeropress so it’s no so great for travel.
Also you can make french press style brew coffee with an aeropress whereas the coffee and water don’t mix so much with the Presto. It’s more like a drip coffee where you pump a little water through at a time rather than using gravity.
If you use k-cups at home and are traveling for short trips then this might be the choice for you. For long term travel abroad I’d be worried about finding k-cups. There is a refillable filter, but if you are using this then IMO you’d be better off with an Aeropress.
The Presto takes a long time to pump the water through the k-cup. It’s about 2 mins. In comparison with the Aeropress I tend to pour the water, let it brew for 1 minute and the plunge down fast.
There were some complaints about the quality of the product and a number of reviewers reported the seal breaking after longer use.
- Weight 11 ounces
- Takes k-cups
- Easy to use
- K-cups might be hard to find with traveling
- Some quality issues. It might not last forever.
The 4 Best Portable FRENCH Press Coffee Makers
Try full immersion brews for maximum flavor
A traditional french press is all about full immersion coffee brewing which creates a unique taste that some people love.
The problem with the french press is that the plunger filters tend to wobble and the seal between the filter and the glass needs to be perfect or coffee grinds get into your drink… and I’ve yet to meet anyone that likes drinking gritty coffee.
Traditional french presses are also a pain in the ass to clean, because the used coffee grinds are not squeezed dry so the temptation is to rinse them down the sink and then you end up clogging the sink.
Some of the portable full immersion brew coffee makers in this section attempt to solve these problems.
The following travel coffee makers are all medium sized products that you could easily pack in your carry on luggage.
Espro Travel Press Review
The Espro Travel Press is a terrific kickstarter funded travel french press.
Here is a short video where you can see it in action:
One interesting feature is that you can use the Espro with either paper filters or just the mesh filter.
A paper filter takes out more of the oils whereas a mesh filter just stops the sludge getting into your cup.
If you intend on making a hot coffee in the morning and taking it with you to the office or up a mountain then the Espro is a great choice. It’s vacuum insulated and should keep your coffee hot for 4 hours.
The Espro is really a great travel coffee maker but it weighs a bit more than an Aeropress and it’s less versatile. It’s also a bit harder to deal with the leftover coffee grinds. Even though they don’t get into your coffee they are still wet at the bottom of the Espro.
In comparison the Aeropress leaves a pretty dry “puck” that you just shoot out directly into the trash.
- 12.2 ounces
- Keeps drinks hot for 4 hours
- Harder to clean
- A bit heavier
Aeropress Full Review
The Aeropress is a now legendary coffee maker and it’s my top pick as the best travel coffee maker for most people.
The thing I love the most about the Aeropress is how versatile it is. You can make french press style, drip style or even something approximating espresso with an Aeropress.
There is a large community of Aeropress users sharing recipes and videos online. Like this guy that has a method for Aeropress espresso:
The Aeropress is easy to clean and you simply push 99% of the coffee out into the trash and then rinse it under the tap.
It comes with some accessories like a scoop and a paddle for stirring. You don’t really need these and so I leave them at home along with the filter holder.
I don’t have a case for the Aeropress and I just throw it into the bag. The space inside the plunger actually makes a good space for storing filters and coffee if you buy a 3rd party travel cap.
As a frequent traveler I also like that the Aeropress is basically just plastic apart from my steel reusable filter. It draws less attention when I go through airport security.
Yes you can find smaller portable coffee makers but the Aeropress is the best weight/taste ratio. Many high end boutique coffee shops actually serve Aeropress coffee and top barista training courses teach the art of Aeropress coffee making.
All this adds up to the fact that the Aeropress is the best travel coffee maker you can pack in your carry on today.
- 3 inches wide – 5½ inches Tall
- 7 ounces
- Can be used as storage container
- Non electric
- Not the smallest option for packing in a carry on
Presse by Bobble Review
The Presse by Bobble is larger than it looks in the photos.
The problem with traditional french press is that the plunger filters tend to wobble and the seal needs to be perfect or coffee grinds get into your drink.
The Press differs from a regular French press in that the plunger is actually a cup shape with tiny holes at the bottom. It’s hard to explain so watch this clip:
The holes are designed so that water will only pass through then pressure is applied… i.e. when you are plunging.
After you have plunged the brewing should have stopped. As the dude in the video says the mug is insulated and it can mean the coffee is too hot to drink and you need to pour it into another mug.
It doesn’t stay warm for as long as the Espro does but it will stay for for about 1 hour so if you like to work and sip your coffee over longer periods that’s a good feature.
- Can be used as a mug
- Keeps coffee warm for about 1 hour
- 14 ounces
- Coffee can be too hot to drink immediately
- Only makes 1 type of coffee
Bodum Travel French Press Review
The Bodum Travel French Press works really almost like a traditional french press except you drink out of it.
The thing I didn’t like about the Bodum is that unless you pour the coffee out into a mug it continues to brew while you are drinking it. That can lead to bitter over brewed coffee.
It’s well made and the plunger does a good job at keeping the sludge out your mouth, but there are now more elegant designs than a old fashioned french press.
If found the Bodum to be reasonably priced but for just a few extra bucks you can get an Aeropress and the coffee is much better.
The Bodum is something to consider if you are transporting coffee but otherwise there are better options.
- 14.4 ounces
- Not the most sophisticated filter mechanism
The 4 Best Portable Espresso Coffee Makers
True espresso is made with at least 9 bars of pressure typically provided by an espresso machine but that doesn’t mean that we can’t try to create espresso on the road.
These 4 portable espresso machines promise to get you a double shot wherever you are in the world. But do they deliver??
Read on to find out:
The Minipresso is a hand pumped compact espresso machine.
It’s all plastic so it keeps the weight down.
The guy in this video likes the Minipresso over the Handpresso:
From a travel perspective the Minipress is better because it’s lighter and smaller. You won’t find a smaller espresso maker.
That said I liked the espresso style coffee I could make in my Aeropress just as much.
And the Minipresso is a bit of a hassle to use. Sure it’s fun the first few times but I could see the prep time becoming annoying.
I also don’t think it get the required pressure to make true espresso.
- 10.4 ounces
- Small and light
- Not very high pressure
- Some quality control issues
The Handpresso was my favorite of the hand held espresso makers. It’s like an awesome combination between a bicycle pump and coffee maker!
The barista in this video likes the Handpresso over the Minipresso:
The pump really get the pressure up and the result is something that is very like an espresso you’d make from a machine.
One the negative side the Handpress isn’t small and it isn’t light and you can only make espresso with it.
Overall the Aeropress can’t be beaten for versatility, weight and quality of the coffee.
- Pressure guage
- 2 lbs
- Quite heavy
UniTerra Nomad Espresso Machine Review
The UniTerra Nomad Espresso Machine is big so only consider this if you tend to stay places for longer periods.
If you travel full time and live in Airbnb’s then you could take a Nomad with you but it’s not great if you carry your bag a lot.
It weighs 3.3 lbs which is not a lot for a coffee maker but it is heavy for a travel coffee maker.
Why is it on the list then? Check out this video:
Yes the espresso tastes as good as it looks!
If you are traveling and staying at your destination for at least a month and you love espresso and drink it every day at home then the Nomad might be the device you need.
It’s also a great coffee maker to keep in the office at work or in a boat or recreational vehicle. I could also see something like this being handy in your man cave or garden shed.
Staresso Coffee Maker Review
I liked the Staresso a lot it’s different from all the other coffee makers I looked at.
It’s interesting because it can do frothy milk too as well as strong or weak coffee.
On the down side it’s quite large, bulky and heavy. It’s almost in the same class as the Nomad… it’s good to have in the kitchen if you are going somewhere for a month or so… but it’s not so great to have in your backpack.
I don’t really do frothy milky coffees so the milk frothing feature is no so useful to me.
Because of the extra weight and messy clean up I couldn’t choose the Staresso over the Aeropress as my top pick.
Why You Should Trust Me
I’m James Eagleman. I’m a coffee lover, full time traveler and travel coffee is a topic that I’ve thought deeply about. Too deeply if I am honest ))
“How to make an excellent coffee in your hotel room” is definitely one of the world’s smaller problems…
…but I’m proud to say I cracked the conundrum.
Yeah it’s not up there with freeing the slaves but I like to think I’m contributing to humanity in my own small way. Even if I’m only helping out a few coffee deprived grumps!
Coffee is part of my morning ritual and wherever I am in the world I don’t feel at home without my morning coffee.
I need a good old cup of joe to kick start my day (spoken like a true addict). It’s part of my work routine and my coffee maker is an essential part of my portable office setup… because every good office needs tea and coffee right? ))
Who Is This For
We are a travel website so this page is about the best travel coffee brewing solutions.
A travel coffee maker is a great idea for digital nomads, perpetual travelers, frequent fliers, road warriors or whatever travelling tribe you belong too.
While you can buy good ground coffee or beans anywhere in the world making a good coffee is not always so easy.
A lot of hotel rooms provide a kettle but only have instant coffee and let’s be honest instant coffee is terrible.
So I always make space in carry on luggage for a portable coffee maker and TravelingLight.com is fueled by rich, black Americano coffee!
Regular readers will know that I like to travel as light as possible but I view the 7 ounces that I use for my coffee maker as ounces well spent.
This guide will help anyone that wants a good reliable coffee that they can make in an airbnb, in a hotel room, camping or anywhere else they can get their hands on hot water.
I have to say… I’ve bean through the grinder to make this post for you 😉 Get it? ))
How I Tested
I ordered every portable coffee maker that was suitable for carry on packing.
suitable for carry on packing.
I then spent a few weeks testing out the equipment by brewing coffee, drinking coffee and getting high on caffeine.
I then offloaded the gear that I didn’t want on ebay to get most of my money back.
I like americano coffee so my main focus was getting an rich full bodied espresso type brew that I could top up with hot water.
But for the sake of this post I also spent some time trying to create frothy milk coffees with travel brewing equipment because I know you guys love your hot milk.
I believe it’s possible to get an espresso or americano to rival a professionally brewed cup using only travel brewing gear.
But steamed milk on the road is much more complicated and the results don’t quite match what you can get down your local hot milk shop (aka Starbucks).
Travel Coffee Recipe Ideas
Just how far can you go with your career as a hotel room barista?
We created this section to let you quickly see how to make some well known coffee recipes.
You’re going to need to be creative to make them in a hotel room though.
For hot milk, you might need a microwave or some other method to heat the milk. A travel immersion heater might work for that if you seriously need hot milk.
Making the milk go frothy is actually pretty easy with an Aerolatte. You can see the process in the video from Monkey See and his son… you don’t even need to heat the milk so you are only limited by your creativity.
Advanced Travel Barista Tips
You can see that most of these coffee recipes use espresso as a base.
While not true espresso using an Aeropress with a steel filter I was able to get a good espresso like crema on my brew.
You want to use finely ground espresso roast and pack it down.
If you don’t have steel filter you could try using multiple paper filters.
And aeropress espresso is best made using the normal brewing method rather than the upside down method.
A steel filter in the normal filter position to let the oil through along with a paper filter above the coffee to increase the plunger pressure is an interesting option.
Frothy Milk In A Hotel Room?
The higher the milk fat content the better the milk froth.
So if you are on the road and you want frothy milk get 2% milk not 0%.
Hot milk in a hotel room can be a challenge. A travel immersion element can be used when there is no microwave. This will heat the milk but they are very very unreliable.
I used an Aerolatte to froth the milk and the results were surprisingly good. My main problem with the Aerolatte is the short battery life. Make sure you are using good (expensive) batteries.
And finally, cappucino art stencils and some chocolate sprinkles will add the finishing touch.
A Liquid Breakfast?
Coconut oil it’s the answer to all your health issues cures everything and might just even create world peace right?
You’ve probably noticed the world has gone coconut oil crazy in the last few years.
I’m skeptical about all the health benefits but coconut old does actually taste quite nice in a coffee.
You need a milk frother to blend the coffee and the coconut oil together. Blend 1 tablespoon of coconut oil into your coffee to make a great hotel breakfast.
A hot coffee + coconut oil first thing in the morning will stop you from feeling hungry until lunch time.
Yep you’re going to need water…
Filtered bottled water is a good place to start.
A lot of people don’t realize but your choice of water can have a big effect on how your coffee tastes.
Beans and Grind
Get a hand grinder or buy pre-ground coffee.
If you want espresso you’ll need a fine espresso grind… doh!
And you need to compress the coffee with a coffee tamper (improvise) because reducing the space between the coffee particles is required to reach the extraction pressure.
For french press use a courser grind.
Okay… now you’re just getting silly.
Here is a portable coffee roaster but you’ll need to find a fire to roast with.
Hmmm actually maybe you could do it on the stove in your airbnb…