It seems about every other year or so, between the hectic pace of my everyday life, I manage to carve out a few precious days for a bicycle tour or some other outdoor adventure.
This year the hecticness is no exception and despite some challenges, I’ve been able to train (mostly at the expense of content writing for the blog) and schedule a week long bike tour through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This 500+ mile bicycle trip will have lots of fresh air, camping and of course, an abundance of manual coffee brewing.
If you’ve read my coffee outside post (and if you haven’t you should), you will start to get the idea that I’m pretty enthusiastic about brewing and enjoying coffee outside. A week long self-sustained tour is the perfect opportunity to enjoy some of the go-to outdoor brewing techniques as well as experiment with some different methods.
I thought I would share my “manual brewing by bike” packing list and give a brief descriptor of why each particular item made the list.
But First, What is Bicycle Touring?
It has occurred to me that while you could do a quick google search and get the gist of what a bicycle tour is, it would be easier for me to give a brief summary.
Self-sustained bicycle touring is basically camping with a bicycle. It has a lot of equipment similarities with the backpacking and ultra-light communities. The general idea is to ride your bicycle to a destination and then have everything you need to spend the night loaded on your bike. You can string as many days as you like together with a particular destination or route in mind (some people will ride their bike across a country or continent(s) in this manner).
There are some other forms of touring that don’t require you to carry as much gear. There is a variation where you will plan to stay at a hotel at the end of the day (known as credit card touring). This removes the necessity of carrying a tent, sleeping bag, and cookware. There is also vehicle assisted touring where you have someone driving a vehicle with your gear and also possibly to pick up stragglers (called a sag wagon).
If you didn’t know about touring and are interested, I would encourage you to explore it a little more. It is one of the most enjoyable ways to appreciate the outdoors and can be done from practically anywhere. Years ago, the book The Essential Touring Cyclist as well as my Surly Long Haul Trucker opened up a world I had not known existed.
The Equipment For Great Coffee on a Bicycle Tour
In many ways, this list will be no different than any coffee outside biking excursion. I have a few go-to items that are probably pretty similar to most “manual brewing by bike” set ups. I will admit that I bring an excessive amount of coffee gear (you can, after all, just make cowboy coffee).
Besides the ability to cover more ground, one of the best things about bike touring is the fact that you are not as limited by weight. When you are backpacking, every extra ounce you bring must be loaded into your pack and thus onto your body. With bicycle touring, your bicycle holds the weight. While weight is still a concern, you can afford to indulge in a few nonessential items. There are a few things I pack for fun and experimentation uses.
The Standard “Go-To” Items
This list is pretty standard, but still a nice checklist.
- Coffee- Surprise! If you forget to bring coffee, all is not lost but you may have a hard time locating a quality craft coffee roaster. For my trip I selected Quest Coffee Magrinelli Estate Ponto, a dark roasted coffee from a small roaster out of Washington. It is smokey, rich and perfect for early morning campfire coffee. I will also be bringing some green coffee (more on that later).
- Kettle- Nothing fancy here. I have a well-used Coleman camp kettle (Percolator guts discarded) with a beautiful patina. It is lightweight, inexpensive and durable. I have good results with using the spout for decent control of my pour-overs.
- Melita “Ready Set Joe”- At roughly 5 dollars, you can’t really beat this pour-over brewer on price and it has serval other virtues to recommend it as well. Virtually indestructible, the Melita “Ready Set Joe” is also light weight and uses the most common and easy to find filters.
- Filters- Don’t forget the filters. If you do, you will probably have more luck locating some Melita style filters than the less common V60 or Kalitta Wave filters. I’m bringing 25-30. While this may seem like a lot for a 7 day trip, it never hurts to have a few extras.
- Hario Slim Mill Hand Mill- While not the hand mill with the highest quality grind, the Slim Mill is inexpensive, durable and easy to use. These are three great qualities to look for in an outdoor grinder. The grind consistency issues are not a big deal, you are brewing coffee outside and hence will enjoy said coffee no matter what.
- Aeropress- It is a little excessive to bring another brewer but the Aeropress is such a great choice for coffee outside I can’t resist. It is a great brewer for “eyeballing it” but still can produce a fairly consistent cup of coffee sans any scales (I do not bring a scale typically).
- A Mug- Don’t forget to bring a mug, this would be a tragic mistake. I typically bring two enamel camping mugs. I am still on the fence whether I will bring a travel mug, it will be a game time decision.
- The WhisperLite Camping Stove (and Fuel)- A stove is way more efficient than a campfire for heating water (it also has non coffee applications). I feel it is pretty much a necessity. The WhisperLite is a great all-around stove with no frills and no problems.
My Experimental and Unusual Items list
Here are a couple things that I threw in for fun as well as to do a little on the road experimentation.
- Hario Woodneck Filter with Hoop- I thought this would be good to bring and experiment a little more with using it for immersion brewing as well as a reusable filter for pour-overs. Without the glass carafe, the Hario Woodneck is small and portable. The filter cleaning may be a drawback that will keep me from using it much.
- On-the-Road Cold Brew Kit- I’m going to bring a mason jar and some cheese cloth and attempt a cold brew on the move. I will keep the jar in my handlebar bag and strain the slurry with the cheesecloth and probably a paper filter at the end of the days ride.
- A Small Cast Iron Skillet and Green Coffee- There is no doubt that this is an over-the-top indulgence but I enjoy roasting coffee over a campfire. A small cast iron skillet has multiple uses and nothing beats a fresh fire-roasted coffee (even if it is a little uneven).
That is all the coffee paraphernalia I will be bringing on the trip I believe. I will be back with fresh content in a couple weeks. Enjoy the rest of September, it’s my favorite month.
If you find my list lacking, please feel free to add essentials, nice-to-haves and other items to the comments section below. I’d love to make this a rich resource for good coffee by bike. If you are interested in following my trip, I will try to put some pictures and updates on my Instagram and Twitter feed (#manualcoffeebybike). If you are not following me on either of those platforms, you should.