I’ll admit it, I’m a coffee snob and an addict to the black gold. That’s what four years of living in Williamsburg does to you. Before this move to hipsterville, I drank terrible lattes, and even god forbid, the Frappuccino. But now, times have changed, I’ve grown up, I have been awoken by strong dosages of caffeine, and how coffee should be served, Black. Black like the soul of a emo loving teenager.
On my long rides, weekend tours and overnight hikes I have to have good coffee in the morning, and won’t settle for anything less. I was now on a mission to find the perfect brewing method for two people. It had to be lightweight, easy to brew and clean, but most importantly, make good strong coffee. As for the grinder, it needed to be robust to withstand life on the road, compact, and be able to produce an even grind.
Coffee and the outdoors have gone together since man started to explore the world, and in recent years the whole artisanal way of brewing coffee outdoors has exploded into a new realm. Areopress, Titanium French Press, collapsible drippers, the list goes on and on. All have pros and cons, but all will give you a decent cup of Joe. For our tandem bicycle ride down the Pan American Highway I settled on the Snow Peak Titanium French Press & Porlex Mini Grinder.
Let’s talk about the Porlex Mini Grinder. This is the ultimate travel grinder, polished stainless steel exterior, ceramic burrs which can be easily adjusted from a coarse to fine grind. It looks great, it’s easy to use, and a breeze to clean.
Using the grinder couldn’t be more simple, fill the hopper (the top part) with wonderful aromatic beans from a distant land and close the lid. Attach the crank hand and use some elbow grease to grind away. After the beans have pass through the burrs, the coffee grounds will be collected in the bottom cup and be ready to use.
Adjusting to the desired grind is straight forward, this is done by using tightening and loosing the winged nut on the bottom of the burrs. The nut has little nubs on it that make it ‘click’ as you turn it, this helps you fine tune your adjustment.
I find these settings work best for me when setting for various brew methods:
Fine (Espresso) = 3 – 4 clicks
Medium (Filter) = 7 – 8 clicks
Coarse (French Press) = 11 – 12 clicks
It’s been reported on the interweb that the coarse setting doesn’t give an even grind. And I have to agree, the bottom of my mug does from time to time contain a lot of coffee sediment. The reason is, as the beans pass through the burrs the movement of either burr will cause the gap to become uneven, this leads the grounds to contain fine coffee powder. Not good for a French Press, uh oh. And yes, unfortunately I do find this is the case when using it in conjunction with my Snow Peak French Press. I would stick to using the Porlex Mini Grinder with a pour over or espresso for best results.
I’ve always loved the elegant way of brewing coffee in a French Press, it captures more of the coffee beans flavor and essential oils, this produces a bolder flavor, that’s otherwise lost brewing coffee through paper filters.
After much research I picked the Snow Peaks Titanium French Press. And my, it’s a thing of beauty. Weighing in at just 200g it’s perfect for week long back country hikes or bicycle tours. It holds 24 fl oz (0.70liters) so it’s great for two people, or if I’m feeling especially greedy that day, one large dose of caffeine to get me up those steep mountain passes. The downside of the french press is that it requires more coffee, I find between 27-30g of coffee works best. If I’m making a full pot, I will grind a full load in the Porlex Mini and then grind an additional 1/4 worth of coffee. This seems to give me a nice amount to get the most flavor out of the French Press.
The other thing worth mentioning, many people on the internet have reported that the french press lets through a fair amount of grounds through the side of the plunger, though they do escape from time to time, I rarely find this a massive problem. The first time I used it, I had this issue, my mug was full of many large grounds in the bottom. It was like chewing dirt, tasty dirt, but dirt nevertheless. Not good. I’ve found the best practices to stop the grounds escaping is depress the plunger gently and very slowly, far slower than a regular kitchen French Press. The other thing which can help is not to fill the water pass the top 3 cup indicator on the side of the French Press. I have also read that by removing the screen between the filters can help, I disagree, I find removing this lets in more ‘fine’ coffee grounds.
How do I get the best out of the French Press. My morning routine:
- Wake up, unzip the tent. Go on, breathe in that fresh air. You’re outside after all.
- Check for bears, snakes, or anything else that could upset your morning ritual.
- Grind 25 to 30 grams of fresh, course ground coffee and place in the empty French Press. Admire your work.
- Walk down to the creek (Waterfalls if you have them, they look better on Instagram) and collect the best mineral water you can find. If you’re in a desert, sand will not do.
- Boil the water in another pot, in my case, I use the Snow Peak 1400.
- Just before it reaches boiling point remove the pot from the heat.
- Bloom the coffee by pouring the water slowly over the grounds, just so the grounds are wet. Wait 30 seconds and the coffee should have produce a froth. Go on, give it a sniff, the wonderful aromas will be released.
- Pour the rest of the water in and stir for a couple of seconds. Start a 4 minute count down.
- At 4 minutes slowly depress the plunger. Once the plunger reaches the bottom of the french press, remove the coffee immediately to stop the brewing process. If the coffee remains in the french press it will continue to extract and cause it to become very bitter.
In all, I think both the Porlex Mini Grinder and Snow Peak Titanium French Press complement each other ok……ish. They’re not perfect and yes both have a few little frustrations, but once you’ve got them down, you can make them work well in the back-country or on a long distance bicycle tour, and more importantly, you’ll never have to touch instant coffee again.