In Search Of The Best Travel Coffee Maker You Can Find In 2021

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For coffee fanatics, making a cup in the morning (or any time of day) is a sacred ritual we cannot go without. It’s not just about the perceived boost of energy, it’s also about all the senses it activates—the strong aroma, the grinding of the beans, the anticipation. It all sets the tone for a coffee lover’s day.

I like to start my day this way when I’m at home, and it’s no different when I’m traveling.

Making your own coffee when you travel is the way to go if you want to dodge the instant coffee at restaurants or hotels. There’s no need to lean over the counter at Starbucks to make sure they’re doing it right. By choosing the best travel coffee maker for your tastes, you can make the cup of coffee you want, wherever and whenever.

To help you avoid resorting to gas-station coffee or worse, we’ve found the best travel coffee makers out there, and here they are:

7 best travel coffee makers at a glance

Whether you want to save your travel dollars for something other than overpriced coffee at the local cafes, or avoid long lineups of students waiting to get their daily dose of caffeine, making your drink yourself is a good call. 

Now let’s go through these handy devices a little more thoroughly.

Our 7 picks for best travel coffee maker in detail

These coffee makers are easy to pack and carry, and they’ll help you create the perfect cup no matter where you are.

Best Overall: AeroPress Coffee Maker

The AeroPress is a highly popular product for good reason: It simply makes good coffee. The device consists of very few parts and can make a quality cup in seconds. The brewing process is quite customizable to your own liking. Such a simple setup might make it seem like there is no way to customize your coffee, but there are many factors that can influence the taste. Taking the basic ingredients—water, ground coffee, and pressure—there are many ways to use the AeroPress to make the cup of coffee you like. There is no wrong way, and believe me I have tried all the different recipes that AeroPress provides.

The machine is extremely forgiving, meaning that even if you are half asleep and don’t remember whether you put the right amount of something, the final product will still be drinkable. Whether you need a coffee maker to bring on your next camping trip or to take with you to your office that has those dry instant coffee packs, the AeroPress is a great hassle-free option for you.

Pros:

  • Hard to mess up for beginning home coffee brewers
  • Limitless customization to suit your needs
  • Minimal parts for quick setup and cleanup
  • Almost impossible to break

Cons:

  • Does not make all types of coffee
  • Plastic device
  • Requires small paper filters sold separately
  • May need to replace some parts after a while

Best All-In-One: Cafflano Klassic Portable Coffee Maker

The Cafflano Klassic Portable Coffee Maker is a great portable option that includes a hand mill grinder, drip kettle, metal pour-over filter, and insulated mug all in one. It feels no different than carrying a reusable cup around, but this one makes a damn good cup of coffee and you don’t need to worry about buying a separate portable grinder.

If you’re like me and worry about people judging you for bringing your own coffee machine, this is a nice, discreet option that comes in a tumbler-shaped package. You are able to grind, brew, and drink with a single product.

This device truly makes a fantastic cup of pour-over coffee, right on par with a normal pour-over maker. The only tricky part is grinding the coffee just right for your tastes. All it takes is some experimentation and you’ll soon find the setting on the adjustable grinder that creates the grind to satisfy your taste buds.

Another advantage of this design is that if you really need compatibility, I’ve been able to use just the pour-over filter on its own to make a quality cup of coffee at home in a regular cup. This is a great investment for traveling coffee lovers.

Pros: 

  • All-in-one package for easy transport
  • Clever design for discreet use
  • Fine metal drip filter for a clean cup of coffee

Cons:

  • Drip cone drips quite slowly (requires patience)
  • Takes some adjustment to find the grind you like
  • Not microwave safe

Best Portable Espresso Machine: Wacaco Minipresso

Like the name suggests, the Wacaco Minipresso is an extremely lightweight espresso maker that can give you that strong taste even on the go. The device uses a semi-automatic piston to push small spurts of water into the coffee adapter. With just a few pushes, the optimal pressure can be achieved, resulting in rich, bold espresso.

You can brew up to 50 mL or 1.7 ounces of high quality espresso in each brew, perfect for a quick pick-me-up. This coffee maker has a sleek design and is no bigger than a normal water bottle, which makes it a great travel option. It also comes with a travel case, so even if baggage handlers toss your suitcase around, your machine will be kept safe.

Pros:

  • Great value for an espresso machine
  • Sleek design for easy transportation
  • Has one single component for easy use

Cons: 

  • Only makes one cup of espresso at a time
  • No way to disassemble end for easier cleanup
  • Only for espresso use

Best for Groups: 3-Cup Bialetti Moka Pot

The Bialetti Moka Pot is crafted from high-quality aluminum in a classic octagon shape that can transport you to Italy in just minutes. This is a great option to wow your friends on any camping trip or even a coffee break at work.

The pot is large enough to hold 4.4 ounces of coffee, making it optimal for two (me and myself). It only takes five minutes to brew and does not sacrifice any flavor at all. The distinctive design allows the perfect dispersal of hot steam through the coffee grounds to bring out the flavor of the beans. The device does require a heat source such as a stove, but it even works on an open flame if you want to bring this one on your next camping trip. 

Pros:

  • Sturdy build for easy transport
  • Classic Italian design will make you feel like you’re in Italy, even if you’re out in the woods
  • Great for more than one person (larger sizes available, too!)

Cons:

  • Requires heat source
  • Requires a bit more time to produce coffee
  • Can be a nuisance to clean

Best French Press: OXO Travel French Press

French press-style coffee is easier to brew on the go, but finding one that does not shatter during transport is essential. The OXO Travel French Press is durable and shatter-resistant. The windows help you check the coffee levels, or just stare at the magic happening in front of you. Its portable design is easy to carry around and does not take up a considerable amount of space while packing. This device has an eight-cup capacity, great for larger groups. If you want your French press-style coffee on the go, look no further.

Pros:

  • Makes coffee for more than one person
  • Shatterproof construction allows for optimal portability 
  • French press!

Cons:

  • Heavier than some other travel options
  • Handle makes for awkward packing
  • Only makes one style of coffee (but…French press!)

Best Pour-Over Maker: Kuissential SlickDrip

This silicone collapsible pour-over coffee maker is the most portable option available. The Kuissential SlickDrip is made of extremely lightweight material, making it great for those who want to travel light. All you need to do is place it over a cup, add a coffee filter with grounds, and pour your water over it. As with almost all pour-over coffee makers, you will need to bring a paper filter, but those are extremely lightweight as well. The only thing you have to worry about is losing it! It is truly as simple and portable as it gets. 

Pros:

  • Lightweight, compact design makes it easy to pack
  • Comes in one single part
  • Made of silicone for easy cleaning

Cons:

  • Requies coffee filters
  • Slower java drip requires more patience
  • Not the most high-tech option

Bonus Option: Espro Travel Mug

What if you could not only make the perfect cup of morning joe while traveling, but also take it with you?

The Espro Travel Mug is a leak-free travel mug that brews high-quality coffee for you to enjoy anywhere. It comes in a sleek package that features a patented double microfilter, leaving behind a smooth cup of perfectly brewed French press coffee. The insulated walls keep your coffee hot for hours and let you enjoy it for longer, even lasting through long work meetings. This design is a no-brainer if you want an option that combines coffee maker and cup. 

Pros:

  • Coffee maker and cup, all in one
  • Double filter to remove all ground coffee and most sediment
  • Keeps coffee hot for hours

Cons:

  • Only for personal use
  • Hard to open sometimes, since seal is tight
  • Small size (12 oz)

Do you really need a travel coffee maker?

First off, yes. Of course you could pop into the local cafe or even Starbucks to grab a cup of subpar coffee, but being able to customize your favorite drink is much more cost-effective and satisfying (unless you’re buying cold brew, of course—I don’t have the patience to make that myself).

I have always been self-conscious that people would judge me for bringing my own coffee maker to the office, but believe me, it’s totally worth it to get the drink you truly enjoy.

The perks of having a travel coffee maker include: 

  • Convenience: An automatic option can brew in a few seconds with a single touch of a button.
  • Affordability: Lattes with all the add-ons can be a great treat once in a while, but they definitely add up over time.
  • Portability: Compact and lightweight options make it easy to make your own coffee anywhere.
  • Customization: You can be your own barista, using your favorite milk frother or a cute cup that the shops can’t give you.

Different types of portable coffee makers

Not all coffee makers are made equally, and there are enough different types that you should be able to find one that suits your needs. 

Since you probably already have your own signature coffee, choosing the travel coffee maker that excels for your specific style of coffee is important. Choosing the wrong coffee maker can lead to watered-down coffee, or even worse.

As you plan your next trip and think about which travel coffee maker to buy, think about how it does its job.

Some common types of travel coffee brewers are:

  • Pour-over: These are fairly compact and can be thrown (or rather carefully placed) in your bag wherever you go. All you need is your favorite coffee ground up, and in minutes you could have your perfect cup. The water does take a few minutes to flow down through the grounds, but personally I love watching the water pass through the bed of goodness.
  • French press: A French press coffee maker steeps the grinds in hot water to extract a full flavor from the beans. It creates a strong, full-bodied cup of coffee that can give you a real kick. If you like rich, strong coffee and do not mind a slightly longer cleaning process, this is the one for you.
  • Espresso makers: Espresso makers tend to be a bit heavier and less compact, but if you enjoy big flavors and dense coffee, do not shy away from these machines. There are plenty of portable options that can give you the same high-pressure extraction that larger machines give. They are a bit more of an investment, but for a coffee lover, this is worthwhile.

Things to consider

If you’re going to be going on an extended trip for work or leisure, you should also think about the following factors:

  • Size and weight: This is crucial. Your beloved coffee maker needs to be able to fit into your luggage or bag. I would bring a whole bag just for my coffee needs, but I understand if you’re not able to do that. The optimal size for a coffee maker is one that is no bigger than a small bottle and doesn’t weigh down your bag.
  • Cleaning: Another factor to consider is how easily it can be cleaned. Stainless steel, for example, tends to wipe down easily or can be quickly run under hot water. If you’re on the go, you probably can’t be bothered to extensively clean and maintain your machine.
  • Durability: This might seem obvious, but I’ll say it anyway: Avoid easy-to-break materials. Even though we all love a Chemex or fancy French press, metal, plastic or even ceramic options are better for travel. You want to make sure your device can handle being tossed on the luggage belt or jammed into the overhead compartment. 
  • Volume: Will the device make enough coffee for you? If you’re like me and drink a 16-ounce coffee every day, then you don’t want to get stuck with a coffee maker that only brews six ounces at a time.
  • Power: Some devices do not require power. Others need to be plugged in or use batteries. Make sure you find one that suits your needs, and the places you usually stay.
  • Preference: Don’t forget to account for your coffee preferences as you search for the perfect portable coffee maker. If it makes the kind of coffee you don’t really care for, then you might as well just be getting it from the gas station. With so many options on the market you are sure to find one that will check all your boxes.

Final thoughts

If you need your caffeine fix wherever you go, a travel coffee maker is your best bet. If you’re environmentally conscious, traveling to remote locations, or just hate the office coffee, these options will allow you to make your own perfectly customized cup of goodness with a coffee maker that’s all your own.

As you go out into the world, I also recommend bringing your own beans and a grinder, or at the very least your own pre-ground coffee. This way, you can save additional time and money and get even closer to the cup of joe that you make for yourself at home every day. 

Image at top: © Sharon Chen | Creative Commons