I like a good cup of coffee. It doesn’t have to be great. But a good cup of coffee is so much better than a bad one. Getting a good cup of coffee at a hotel can be a challenge, especially for early risers. Honestly, it isn’t that difficult to make an enjoyable brew, even when you’re on the road. After all, the recipe for coffee is pretty simple. Add water to ground coffee beans, give it some time and you have coffee.
I don’t take my portable set up with me on every trip, but there are times when I feel the end result is worth the effort. I start with good roasted beans, grind them fresh and pour hot water over them to make a cup that I know will be smooth and fresh.
It all starts with the beans. My taste preferences lean toward lightly-roasted Central American coffees. So for this trip I loaded my grinder with a single source Costa Rica roasted at Dynamite Coffee in Cape Girardeau, MO. I count the revolutions as I grind to determine the amount of ground beans to put in the filter. While this is an imperfect measurement, it works well enough for me. I adjust the number of turns based on the size of cup and roast of the beans.
The ground beans are placed in the ceramic dripper, lined with a #2 paper filter. I use a Hario-styled dripper and sometimes I rinse the filter, but more often do not. The benefits of pouring some hot water through the filter are to warm the ceramic and remove some of the paper taste from the filter. These benefits are marginal to my uneducated taste buds.
Hot water is the next ingredient needed for this process. Fortunately many hotel rooms have a device to heat water, either a coffee maker or microwave oven. I normally run a cup or two of water through a hotel coffee maker before starting the brew. This hotel had a Kuerig machine which I ran a couple cups of water through to produce clear hot water.
Water quality and temperature are a couple variables most coffee shops like to closely control. For my purposes, the variation is not critical. Sometimes I bring enough water from home, or have some bottled water with me. But I also use tap water quite often.
Up to this point, everything has been a resource. From here on, technique is the focus. I normally wet the grounds and allow them to bloom. Without a gooseneck vessel to control the water, this is inconsistent. However, on most occasions, I give the grounds a chance to release carbon dioxide and prepare for brewing.
Once the water from this initial wetting has passed through, I give the beans a few more seconds before initiating the pour. My technique here is quite different from the timed stages some baristas use. I do try to use a slow, circular motion that fully engages and surrounds the ground coffee with water. One somewhat consistent pour of water across the beans if fine for me.
A word of caution regarding the amount of water. Make sure you gauge the quantity of water to the size of cup to keep from overfilling. There are many ways to do this, like using the same cup, but you are smart enough to figure this out. From someone who has cleaned up the remnants of an overfilled cup, plan the amount of water poured into the vessel containing the finished brew.
Time is the final component to a fresh, satisfying cup of coffee. With a little planning, some basic tools, and available resources it is possible to produce coffee you know you will like while traveling.