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Headed out of town for a late-summer vacay? Visiting family a few states over? Jetting off on a business trip where you just know there will be a terrible in-room coffee maker and bitter continental breakfast swill? Listen, just because you’re away from home doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to caffeinate in style. It’s not even all that hard to make sure your go-to morning drink is ready to go when you are. Here are some tips and tools to help you make fantastic coffee even when you’re suffering from a bad case of wanderlust.

Water

Hold on to your passport, because this might be a little shocking to your coffee-loving sensibilities: Honestly, if you have good water at the right temperature for brewing, you’re more than halfway to a decent cup. No, really: Water is often the most overlooked part of the whole shebang but realistically your finished cup of brewed coffee is made up of about 98 percent of the stuff so getting it right is crucial. There are two things to consider here: The water quality itself, and its temperature.

how to make better coffee

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Quality is relatively easy: If you’re in a city where you’d gladly drink the tap water, it might be good enough to brew. If you’re unsure, particular, or nervous about the faucet water, buy yourself a few bottles of spring water at any local store. (Make sure it’s not distilled, though: Distilled water is terrible for coffee and potentially deadly to any electric equipment you might use.)

Heat is the tricky one when you’re traveling: Most hotel-room auto-drip machines don’t reach the right temperature for brewing, as many top out around 185°F, while the ideal is 195–205°F. Don’t worry: You still have options! We live in a world where you can easily pack a collapsible electric hot-water kettle that’s easy to stuff into a duffle bag, or simply bypass the need for heat altogether by going cold with your brew (see “Brew” section, below for tips).

Gourmia GK320 Electric Kettle, $23.99 on Amazon

This collapse kettle will heat your water to the ideal temperature and save you precious packing space.
Buy Now

Grind

If you don’t mind putting a little elbow grease into it, there are plenty of options for grinders that can go along for the ride. We love slim-line manual grinders like the JavaPresse, which tucks into an overnight bag and has almost no footprint at all. Look for a model that has conical burrs and is easily adjustable (the JavaPresse has stepped grind adjustments so it’s not complicated to use).

JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder, $23.99 on Amazon

Take advantage of freshly ground coffee while getting some exercise.
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Remember that the longer your coffee and water are in contact during the brewing cycle, the coarser the grind needs to be: A 5-minute French press takes a coarse setting (should feel like rock salt), while espresso takes a very fine grind (like fine table salt).

Related Reading: How to Make Great Coffee While Camping

Brew

Brewing away from home is easier than it seems, and it’s definitely within reach, whether you like it hot or cold. Making road cold brew is one way of doing it because it eliminates the need for a hot-water source: All you’ll need is coarse-ground coffee, room-temperature water, and time (12–24 hours of it). Thankfully, the popularity of cold brew means there are tons of options for smaller-size kits, some the size of a reusable water bottle, like this one or this one, both with the added bonus of basically being their own drinking vessel.

Cold Brew Coffee Maker, $18.59 on Amazon

Get your cold brew fix on the go with this portable iced coffee maker
Buy Now

Related Reading: The One Thing You’re Doing Wrong When You Make Cold Brew

If you’re more of a hot-brew person, you’re still in luck: A collapsible pour-over cone, a portable French press, or even a good ol’ versatile AeroPress will get the job done.

Serve

Skip any Styrofoam or plastic cups you might find in your hotel room: You and your coffee both deserve better. (Not to mention the planet, of course.) Traditional travel mugs are often kind of clunky and, we hate to say it, not cute. We like the Scandinavian-like look of the Ello Cole travel mug and the color mix-and-match potential of KeepCups, which are stylish with or without their lid.

Related Reading: Trusty Reusable Coffee Mugs to Take Anywhere

Last Resort

Listen, you’re on a trip: Don’t beat yourself up over the coffee. If all else fails or seems impractical, look up a local café and let someone else do the heavy latte lifting. Or skip all the steps and the personal interaction and buy yourself some really good-quality instant coffee (yes, it does exist: meet Sudden Coffee), some steepable coffee bags, or a ready-to-go pour-over coffee kit and get out there on vacation already!

Do you have any other coffee-travel tips? Let us know in the comments!

Header image courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images

Erin Meister (you can just call her "Meister") is both a longtime journalist and a coffee professional with nearly two decades' experience. She has written about food, coffee, film, travel, music, culture, and celebrity for The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Rachael Ray Every Day, Saveur.com, Time Out NY, Chickpea Magazine, Food & Wine's FWx.com, BUST magazine, Barista Magazine, and more. She is the author of the brand-new book "New York City Coffee: A Caffeinated History (The History Press, 2017)".
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