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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Travel Coffee Maker Buyer's Guide

Travel Coffee Maker- How to Make Coffee when Traveling

When you are away from home and want coffee, you basically have 2 options: you can buy coffee, or you can bring a coffee maker with you. If you are going to be away from home for more than a few days, buying coffee every day can get expensive- especially if you are at a tourist location or visiting an expensive city. If you need a couple cups of coffee per day, you could be spending $6 per day buying coffee at a coffee shop. It doesn't take many days of this before buying a travel coffee maker starts to make financial sense.

What are the Most Important Features in a Travel Coffee Maker?

Size, cost, and durability are the most important features to look for in selecting a travel coffee maker.

Travel Coffee Maker Size

Size is probably the most important feature in a travel coffee maker. If you are like me, you don’t have a lot of extra space in your luggage. In addition to the coffee maker, you will also need to pack some coffee grounds and coffee filters so you can use your travel coffee maker. Look for the smallest and lightest coffee maker that will make enough coffee. Most travel coffee makers weigh about 3 pounds and stand about 12 inches high.

Travel Coffee Maker Cost

There is good news on travel coffee maker cost- you can get some very inexpensive small coffee makers that make ideal travel coffee makers. Some models that include a thermal travel cup start under $20. Many 4 and 5 cup coffee makers that would make good travel coffee makers cost less than $35. If you want the convenience of a single serve coffee maker, you can get a Keurig Mini for $99. If you can use a coffee dripper (see description below), these can be purchased for about $10.

Travel Coffee Maker Durability

Your coffee maker will get some abuse if you travel with it. It will need to survive in your luggage. You don't want to bring something fragile that will require careful packing, so a good travel coffee maker should be durable. You may want to avoid a glass carafe for a travel coffee maker. You can choose small coffee makers with steel carafes. There are also small coffee makers that use a thermal cup instead of a carafe. There are also models that do not have a carafe- you provide a cup that is not included with the coffee maker.

Types of Travel Coffee Makers

There are three primary types of travel coffee makers:
Auto drip. This is the easiest to use and probably most similar to your coffee machine at home.
Espresso maker. You could pack a small espresso maker. If you want coffee rather than espresso, simply mix a shot of espresso with hot water to make cafĂ© Americano.
Pour-over coffee dripper. There are several ways to make coffee without a coffee maker, one of the simplest is to make pour over coffee. One is to use a coffee dripper. This is a plastic or ceramic cone that uses cone filters. Place a cone filter and coffee grounds in the dripper, place the dripper over a coffee cup, and pour hot water into the coffee dripper to brew coffee. You will need to get hot water to use a coffee dripper to make coffee. You can microwave water in a coffee cup at the hotel to get hot water.

Auto Drip Travel Coffee Makers with Carafe

Small 4 and 5 cup coffee makers work well as travel coffee makers. Some have a steel carafe rather than a glass carafe, which should be more durable for travel. These coffee makers can make enough coffee for 2 people at once.

small coffee maker
Black and Decker 4 cup travel coffee maker with glass carafe
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Cuisinart 4 cup travel coffee maker with steel carafe
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Mr. Coffee 5 cup travel coffee maker with steel carafe
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Auto Drip Travel Coffee Makers without Carafe

There are also small coffee makers that do not have a carafe. I like the ones that brew directly into an insulated travel mug. This would be ideal if you are traveling alone and only need coffee for one person. You can also get small coffee brewers without a carafe the brew into any cup that you provide. This reduces the size and weight of the travel coffee maker since you do not need to carry the carafe.

Black and Decker travel coffee maker with thermal cup
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Kitchen Select travel coffee maker brews coffee into a cup that you provide
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Single Serve Travel Coffee Maker

The Keurig Mini is a small Keurig coffee machine that could be packed and used as a travel coffee maker. Using K-cups while traveling would be more convenient than dealing with coffee grounds and filters. At $99, the price of the Keurig Mini is a bit higher than the other travel coffee maker options.

Keurig mini travel coffee maker- take your k-cups with you!
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Espresso Maker Travel Coffee Maker

A small espresso maker could be used as a travel coffee maker. This would be a fun way to get your daily dose of caffeine while traveling!

Use a small espresso maker as a travel coffee maker
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Travel Coffee Maker Filters

I always use a paper filer to make coffee- the paper filter removes oils from coffee that can contribute to cholesterol. Some travel coffee makers have a permanent nylon filter. This is handy, but doesn’t filter the cholesterol out of your coffee. I recommend using a paper filter to avoid issues with cholesterol. Using an espresso maker or French press to make coffee has the same issue. If you are not using a paper filter, you are getting some cholesterol from your coffee.

Hotel Coffee Makers- Use at Your Own Risk!

Don’t most hotel rooms provide a small coffee maker and some coffee pods so you can brew coffee in your hotel room? Yes, but there are a couple issues with using hotel coffee makers. First, the coffee is not very good- I have yet to brew a great cup of coffee using the pods and the hotel coffee maker. Second, the coffee maker may not be cleaned regularly, or may be wiped down with the same dirty rag used to clean the counters and other surfaces of your hotel room. I once saw a TV news story showing video from a hidden camera to reveal how maids cleaned coffee makers in hotel rooms- and it wasn't pretty. I would recommend either buying coffee at the hotel coffee shop or bringing your own travel coffee maker rather than using a hotel coffee maker.

Hotel coffee makers are often not cleaned properly- use at your own risk!
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Travel Coffee Maker Recommendations

  • There are some interesting travel coffee makers that include a thermal travel mug instead of a carafe- this would be really handy for one person while traveling
  • If you are traveling with others who drink coffee, pack a small 4 or 5 cup coffee maker, can of coffee grounds and box of filters on a longer trip if you don't want to buy coffee
  • If you have a bit more room, pack a Keurig Mini and some K-cups
  • Hotel rooms often provide a coffee maker, but consider it dirty and rinse it out if you decide to use it
  • Use a paper filter when brewing coffee to avoid cholesterol from your coffee

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Penny Pincher. All Rights Reserved. Coffee Maker Journal


  1. I think this is the best blog I have been through all this day.

  2. The above mentioned information really amaze me and helps me think that a best coffee makercan be varied depending of what feature you want to have in your machine.

  3. Although almost all of the motels/hotels that I have stayed in have coffee pods.

  4. Hey nice blog!! I'm planning to go trekking with my family next month and we were thinking of taking some coffee makers and some nice brands of coffee for the trip that last long and don't lose the aroma or get stale or stuff. I thought it would be better if I checked online for some coffee reviews that could help me decide which brand to buy for the trip. Well I came across your blog so I think I'm decided about the coffee maker atleast. Thank you.