Since the days when Starbucks became a fixture in every strip mall and top hotels began installing quality coffee makers or putting a cafe downstairs, getting a good cup of coffee when you travel has become expected. When good coffee is not around, we get cranky. For the price of a couple tall lattés, you can get this innovative collapsible coffee filter from GSI Outdoors and make a good cup anywhere. In the middle of the woods camping or in a cheap hotel with a cheap coffee maker, you can bring your own and get a good cup every time.
This filter collapses into a small disk that's about the height of a stack of five coins and a diameter of 5.6 inches. The covering case is made from plastic, the filter itself from silicone. That means you can pour boiling water into this fine, but it is very pliable and packs down easily to stuff in a backpack or suitcase. It's easy to clean and the silicone case can double as a trivet for a hot pot.
It works with standard drip machine paper filters (you do have to bring those along) but you can then adjust the amount of coffee to serve one cup or 12. GSI makes some portable java presses too, which are great for car camping---see my review of the 20-ounce one here---but this takes up far less room for when you're not able to load up a car. It weighs less than 5 ounces.
The process for this Java Drip is that you center the filter hole over your receptacle (anything with a diameter larger than 2.5 inches) insert the filter and coffee, and pour in hot water. This means you are the actual coffee maker though, so there's a bit of patience involved in pouring the hot water, letting it drip into the pot or mug, repeating until you're done. The longer you're into the cycle for a large pot, the longer it takes for the water to go down.
The waiting is worth it though: the results I've gotten with this have clearly bested any commercial drip coffee makers I've used. I've tried it with enough to fill up a home mug, with the Snow Peak Titanium travel mug, and a pot for four.
I've been quite impressed with this handy $13 item and it's a sure thing for my packing list every time I go camping from now on. I'll also be taking when I know I've got a dubious brand of coffee waiting in my not-so-luxe hotel or motel. (The trick is to use the provided coffee maker to just heat up the water, then transfer it to this filter.)
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