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Like most people, I have a habit, and that habit is Coffee. Unfortunately, this can be an expensive habit. There are plenty of methods of making it less expensive, but in my experience, most of them are pretty bulky and not conducive to being carried around the country. Others are more portable, but taste dire (looking at you instant coffee, cheap cup from a gas station, etc...)

Assuming the coffee maker in a given hotel room isn't capable of doing anything besides producing hot water competently, how can I make myself a decent cuppa, easily, cheaply, and effectively? What sort of equipment would I want to look into buying or using to do this? Cost effectiveness and ease of use is as important as portability/quality here. I'm open to cold-brew solutions, though hot coffee is definitely preferred.

As far as resources that can be assumed: Hot water and tap water is 90% of what can be relied upon. A fridge or microwave is occasionally present, but I wouldn't count on either.

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To me it seems like a subjective/polling question too. There has to be umpteen methods and umpteeen products for making portable coffee and depending on peoples opinions they could be all right or none of them right, which only leaves polling for the most popular solution. The wording "that doesn't suck" highlights the subjective nature. –  hippietrail Oct 2 '13 at 9:25
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@hippietrail Yeah, but it's definitely Good Subjective in my opinion; A good answer stands on it's own, is not a list of all possible answers, backs up it's assertions, includes detail and depth, etc. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Oct 2 '13 at 11:35

6 Answers 6

There are combination French press/coffee mug thingies which are very practical. You only need coarsely ground coffee and *Just Add (Boiling) Water (tm). If you shudder at the thought of pre-ground coffee, you can complement this with a small manual coffee grinder.

Bonus points: you can use the same device to make tea as well.

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Have you considered an Aeropress? I've been using one for around two years now, and I'm very happy with the quality of the coffee it produces.

As far as travel suitability goes, I think it would be a good fit for hotel room brewing, provided you have access to hot water and coffee grounds. It's compact enough to fit in luggage, easy to use and clean, and only costs around $30.

Cory Doctorow wrote a blog post about using the Aeropress as a cold-brew filter which might give you some ideas.

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If the OP wants to go beyond "doesn't suck" and make a fantastic espresso/americano/etc. Aeropress is the way to go. It makes a better espresso than my conventional espresso maker. –  Daniel Oct 2 '13 at 14:47

Nothing as subjective as what a decent cup of coffee constitutes. Some shiver at the thought of instant coffee, others (like me) shiver at the thought of cold brewed coffee.

If you like instant coffee life is easy as most hotels (at least in Europe) come with complimentary instant coffee and teabags.

For the grain coffee lovers, getting your daily shot becomes a bit more complicated, but only slightly. Often you'll find a coffee machine in the breakfast area. Outside breakfast hours, you'll probably be allowed to help yourself to a coffee if you ask at the reception. You might even just try pushing the button.
Often these machines produce good coffee.

If this doesn't help you getting a free coffee you can always pack your own bags of instant coffee. Or bring along filter paper and a coffee funnel.

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EDIT There are also these cups you see so often at flea markets. I have no clue what they are called, but image search on google revealed that some call them "Vietnamese coffee filters":

Vietnamese coffee filter. Given the abundance of these coffee filters on sale on French and Belgian fleamarkets, I doubt the Vietnamese origin though. I suspect some colonial French influence.

At every flea market I go to in either France and Belgium, I see them on sale. Anyway if you are interested in using one on your trips you might try to buy one on the internet. Try the term "koffiefilter" on for example http://www.2dehands.be or ebay.be

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I would head to your local outdoor / camping store and see what they have. "Cowboy" coffee is no longer good enough for camping (not that it ever was).

I have a one-cup Lexan French press that makes very good coffee, and has the benefit of giving you a place to store a zip-loc bag of fresh grounds. I couldn't find an exact match, but here are some examples from a store that I frequent.

One thing that I would not recommend: you can buy a device that looks like a tea ball with finer mesh (again, couldn't find a picture). This is (barely) acceptable when backpacking. If you have the room for a press, it's not.

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Since no-one else has, I’ll put a word of support in here for cowboy coffee (assuming that by that you mean: coffee grounds, steeped for a few minutes in a pot of water boiled on the stove). Certainly it’s not as good as a good espresso drink, or the french press coffee you can make at home with freshly ground beans, etc. But I much prefer a fresh pot of cowboy coffee, made with good quality and reasonably fresh grounds, to the average hotel coffee machine, or even to what plenty of second-rate coffee shops will provide. –  PLL Oct 2 '13 at 18:00

You can buy an electric moka which only requires some current and fresh water:

An electric moka

The coffee from mokas is stronger than coffee people usually drink in USA (or other countries outside EU/Latin America), since it passes through the ground coffee at higher pressure (about 1.5 atmospheres I believe). You can read more information on the wikipedia page.

They come with different sizes, the smallest one would be about 15 cm tall with a base of about 10x12 cm (at least, from the electric mokas I've seen/used). Depending on the space you have available it might be too big or small enough to pack.

The price depends a lot on the dimensions, the brand etc. but I have seen some at about €30 to €40 on Amazon/eBay and other websites.

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If you have to use the coffee maker in the room, here's what I do:

1) Clean it out by running it with water only. Throw that water away.

2) The coffee makers don't tend to heat the water enough, so run it again with water and ...

3) Put the water that's been heated once into the reservoir, and then put the coffee grounds in - the water will be hotter and it will do a better job of extracting what little flavor there was.

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Careful: most coffee makers warn against filling the water reservoir with hot water. It was not constructed for this. –  Konerak Oct 3 '13 at 13:41

protected by Ankur Banerjee Oct 2 '13 at 20:01

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