My team of Marines had a morning ritual in Iraq: Whoever was on watch, NODs on and M16 in hand protecting our vehicle while the other three slept, would also fire up our two Coleman Peak 1 stoves at first light, get water boiling in our stainless steel canteen cups, and dump a handful of coffee grinds in each. Once the coffee was made, we’d kick the sleeping bag wrapped feet of the other three and whisper, “Hey, get up, motherfucker, coffee’s on.”
At one point, our division spent two weeks assaulting from Kuwait to Baghdad, and Highway One, where we were camped, was a cold, muddy, desolate place. Divisions of AH-1W Cobra gunships constantly flew feet overhead, headed north with weapon racks full and returning south with them empty. We had just been ambushed in Az Zubayr a few days earlier and had to medevac two members of our team and cannibalize one Humvee to get the other running. Our nerves were well frayed, we hadn’t gotten much sleep due to the constant convoying, and our driver, Sgt. Jim Goff, was in 100 percent ‘no worse enemy’ mode.
On those cold, exhausted mornings, however, a hot brew made all things seem a little better, and I took comfort in the community we built over caffeine. The coffee was wretched, but the bond we had was everything and those early morning conversations helped us process the violence, loss, and uncertainty we were experiencing. After all, even a bad cup of coffee is better than no coffee. I wish back then that I knew what I know now. It’s possible to make a great cup of coffee in the field.
If you’ve read my previous reviews, you know I’m always on the hunt for more capable, less expensive, and lighter backcountry equipment. I detest a heavy pack and will do almost anything to shave grams off my carry weight. To date, I’ve been packing Starbucks via instant coffee packets on trips, but reached my culinary limit last month on the bitter, sour, and unsatisfying brew. So I began looking for lightweight options to make a better cup.
I called my long-time rock climbing buddy and Olympic cycling coach, Joe Holmes, who is an expert practitioner and encyclopedic resource of the dark arts of coffee brewing, for advice. Joe told me I’d, “be stupid not to get an AeroPress.” So, me, a genius and not being stupid, I called the AeroPress corporate office, and spoke to their general manager, Alex Tennant, about my sad situation. Alex was both affable and compassionate and said he’d send the AeroPress Go in the next day’s mail for me to test and review.
The press came in a bright, hexagonal box that proclaimed the AeroPress Go both delicious and portable. This is exactly what I’m looking for, I thought. With bated breath, I opened the top of the hexagonal tower which revealed a compact yet fairly weighty ribbed charcoal-grey plastic 440 mL (15 ounce) mug with a thick red rubber cap. Beautifully nestled within, like a set of wooden Russian dolls, was the press plunger and chamber, filter cap, stirrer, filter holder, and coffee scoop. Atop the mug was a box of 350 filters and wrapped around all were a set of instructions in myriad languages. I was amazed to see many components fit inside and immediately impressed with the industrial designer who designed the AeroPress Go. Upon inspection, I discovered the press had an 8 ounce (237 ml) brewing capacity —which is the equivalent of up to three espresso shots. The chamber and plunger, when put together in its fully-pressed configuration, measured a compact 4.6 inches by 3.6 inches by 3.6 inches (12 cm x 9 cm x 9 cm).
How we tested the AeroPress Go travel coffee press
The first thing I did was to tube up the Misfits’ 1982 album Walk Among Us on my IPhone and complete the Bluetooth connection with my Bose Soundlink II Mini kitchen speakers. With ’All Hell Breaks Loose’ booming, I pulled out my kitchen food scale and weighed the AeroPress Go. It came in at 238 grams (or 11.5 ounces) which is a bit heavier than I liked. For me to add a piece of gear to my kit, the performance and satisfaction have to outweigh the additional weight. After studying all the components and discerning what was absolutely necessary to make the unit work in the field, I was able to get the componentry weight down to a more acceptable 171 grams (6.03 ounces) with just the AeroPress, filter cap, 10 filters, and filter holder — or about a 30 percent reduction in overall weight. I also realized I could save another 11 grams by ditching the filter holder, settling in at a solid 32 percent reduction in weight.
But how would it perform? Would the quality of the brew offset the additional weight? Was my pal, Holmes, the evil wizard of beans? To answer this question, I tested the AeroPress Go under optimal, near-laboratory conditions in the kitchen and in field conditions while sitting in a hammock boiling water with my JetBoil MiniMo stove on an old tree stump.
As the water boiled, I perused the AeroPress’ directions, texted Holmes, and pulsed Twitter for people’s favorite AeroPress recipes, to which I received a plethora of advice. I learned that the AeroPress has a cult following that rivals the Rajneeshees, and its acolytes have even formed a World AeroPress Championship that’s been brewing strong since 2008.
Upon settling on the manufacturer’s instructions for the first go, I assembled the filter, attached it to the press, removed the plunger, put three rounded scoops of coffee grounds (about 45 grams) into the chamber, placed it atop a glass, filled it with 175 degrees Fahrenheit water (80 degrees Celsius) a few minutes off the boil, stirred the grounds for 10 seconds to ensure saturation, inserted the plunger, and gently pressed the plunger to extract the coffee into a clear glass below. Unlike my trusty French press, the coffee was clear and there was no sediment in the glass. I transferred the coffee from the glass into my mug, added 8 ounces of water (per AeroPress’ instructions for an Americano), stirred and tasted it.
It was amazeballs — and perhaps the finest cup of coffee I’ve ever made at home.
Next, I tried Holmes’ personal concoction using the inverted method, turning the AeroPress upside down to allow for additional steeping to enable greater extraction from the grounds. Joe’s recipe was, “Use a dark roast coffee that matches the color of your soul and grind it pretty fine. Dump an unreasonable amount of grinds into the chamber, about a small toad’s weight. I don’t measure. I care, but I don’t care that much. Fill with nearly boiling water. Wait long enough to recite the Aleister Crowley rule 10 times. Flip and plunge.” Wouldn’t ya know it, but that produced a magical cup of espresso-like coffee as well.
For my third attempt, I used the recipe my Pentagon national security journalist pal Julian Barnes provided: “Grind finer than pour over, more coarse than espresso. 14 grams coffee. Invert. Water to number four. Wait 1:30. Flip.” It became clear to me that Julian had the full-sized AeroPress (mine only went to three), but I tried it anyway and, BAM! It worked too. Another delicious cup. It started to dawn on me that the AeroPress is a pretty versatile, simple, and elegant machine that could deliver great coffee across a wide range of water, grounds, and brew time combinations. My AeroPress Go went to three. Julian’s AeroPress went to four. Might one go to 11, I wondered?
The AeroPress Go performed great in the kitchen, but how would it do in the field? My friend and fellow long-distance hiking friend, Stephanie, remarked on Twitter that I was, “only one lap full of spilled coffee away from finding out.” Would my nay-saying amiga prove correct? Would I be up to the challenge? Would I risk scalding and permanent disfigurement? Who better, dear reader, to test a cup of joe in the field than an actual Joe?
Feeling like I was about ready to vibrate into another dimension after drinking three cups of Americano (nine shots of espresso) in the kitchen, I set out to test the AeroPress in field conditions. I set up my Jetboil MiniMo stove on a stump, set out my titanium mug, loaded the AeroPress with coffee, and got to work. Just as the water in the Jetboil began to smoke, I turned off the flame, waited a few seconds, and poured the scalding water into the AeroPress chamber inverted style. While the chamber was too hot to touch, I was able to comfortably hold the unit by the plunger, affix the filter cap, and gently press out the air to ensure complete immersion.
After reciting the Crowley rule 10 times, I flipped the unit and discovered that my titanium mug was wider than the plastic flange on the chamber that allows it to be set over a mug or glass to enable a controlled press. Disaster loomed. Improvising, adapting, and overcoming, I switched to a two-handed grip on the press and intrepidly hovered the AeroPress over my titanium mug and began to use opposing pressure to extract the coffee. To my surprise, the vacuum created by the plunger and the filter allowed me to manipulate the press without leakage (even upside down) and steadily complete the brew. True to form, the AeroPress birthed another delicious cup of coffee into the world, and I emerged unharmed. (Take that, Stephanie!)
I tried several more recipe combinations to validate my findings, and my cold, black heart rejoiced, yet I nervously began to calculate how close I was coming to the lethal dose (LD50) for caffeine. Unlike cannabis but like alcohol, caffeine can kill you. Bet you didn’t know 175 shots of espresso will shuffle you off this mortal coil, huh?
What we like about the AeroPress Go travel coffee press
As a long-time French press devotee, I was skeptical about the AeroPress Go. Change is hard, and we know the safest thing for humans to do is the exact same thing they did yesterday. My expectations were very high. After rigorous and robust testing, the AeroPress Go far exceeded my presumptions and has now become my go-to at home coffee making gadget.
So, what do I love about the AeroPress Go? First, it makes a superb cup of coffee under a wide range of water, amount of grounds, and steep times. While I’ve found certain combinations to be better than others, the machine is Marine-proof. Truly, it’s really hard to screw it up, assuming you begin with quality coffee beans and a reasonable grind. I also dig that the coffee produced is far less acidic than what’s poured out of a typical French press — at least 1/9th less acidic, according to AeroPress. The flavor profile was both smoother and richer than what I’ve been able to produce with my beloved Bodum French press and there was zero grit in my brew. Au revoir, mon amour.
Second, the unit is fairly lightweight and yet durable. The performance and taste and foreseeable boost to morale on cold mornings on trail outweigh, in my estimation, the additional 145 grams (5 ounces) in weight. The design is compact enough to not take up lots of room in a backpack and can efficiently store a ziplock bag of coffee within. Although the coffee filter holder reminds me of a priest’s pyx — eucharist container — which I think is funny, I’d leave it at home and just put the filters in a ziplock bag. For vacation and business travel, I’d bring the entire setup, as weight isn’t as much of a concern. And, the mug is rugged enough to protect the stowed press from the bag-throwing gorillas at most airports who make sport of trying to obliterate your luggage and its contents during their daily destructicon Olympics.
Third, I loved the versatility of the AeroPress Go, as it is capable of making espresso style shots or Americanos when cut with additional hot water. But lastly, and most importantly, it’s easy to clean: Once the filter cap is removed, the used filter and grounds can be popped into the compost bin and the entire unit can be quickly rinsed and dried in seconds.
What we don’t like about the AeroPress Go travel coffee press
There’s only one thing that I think could be improved, and that’s the overall weight of the press itself. Would different plastics reduce weight yet maintain rigidity, durability, and food safety? I dunno. My pops is a retired plastics engineer, and might know, but would the additional R&D costs be offset by volume of sales to gram-conscious backpacking nerds like me? Doubtful. Also, the AeroPress Go is intended for individual use, so it can’t produce large quantities in a single use. So if that’s a factor, you’ll want to be aware. I believe that sharing is caring, and the AeroPress works fast enough that you could hook a buddy up with their own brew in minutes. There’s lots to like and exceptionally little to not like about the AeroPress Go.
Like Mad Max’s Thunderdome, two devices (a Bodum French press and an AeroPress Go) entered, and one gadget left. From Brooklyn to the backcountry, the AeroPress Go is a winner. I’m most definitely taking the AeroPress Go along on my next backpacking or climbing trip and getting the larger version for day to day use. You can bet your sweet ass I’m taking it on my next vacation so I won’t be tempted by those foul, bacteria-infested, poorly maintained hotel Keurigs. I’ve also woven a hairshirt, smeared my face and body with used coffee grounds and ashes, and am using the combination of the Internet, a Magic 8 Ball, and a divining rod, to find the local AeroPress cult in my area. AeroPress, please take me to your leader. Take all my money! I’m yours!
FAQs about the AeroPress Go travel coffee press
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much does the AeroPress Go travel coffee press cost?
A. The AeroPress Go’s MSRP is $31.95. If all you are worried about is money, then you need to reflect. Think of how this machine will change your life! You are worth it, my friend.
Q. I hear the AeroPress Go travel coffee press can cold brew as well. Is that true?
A. Yes, young grasshopper. The AeroPress Go is designed to cold brew coffee. Here’s the magic formula: Add one rounded scoop of fine drip coffee. Fill the chamber with tap water. Stir for one minute. Press gently. Add tap or ice water to make 8 ounces (237 ml) of cold brew. Sit back, contemplate the universe, and enjoy. Memento mori, my friend. Memento mori.
Q. Where can I find out more about AeroPress coffee recipes?
A. Where to begin? Our AeroPress cult is now global. We’re currently beefing for turf with the Scientologists, Branch Davidians, Heaven’s Gaters, and QAnon wackos and winning. Check out the World Aeropress Champs site to learn how you can get involved in the revolution and stick it to the man.
Q. Are there after-market add-ons for the AeroPress Go travel coffee press?
A. Yes, there are. Once you present me with your AeroPress cult membership card™, I can reveal the full panoply of options available to you. For now, I’ll just give you this pro tip: There’s a Prismo AeroPress attachment available for $25 that enables a pressurized extraction that can result in crema atop your espresso — that lovely tan-colored froth — and eliminates the need for paper filters. And, that’s more environmentally friendly, too.
Got questions? Comment below & talk with T&P’s editors
Joe Plenzler is a Marine Corps veteran who served from 1995 to 2015. He is a backcountry expert, long-distance backpacker, rock climber, kayaker, cyclist, wannabe mountaineer, and the world’s OK-est guitar player. He supports his outdoor addiction by working as a human communication consultant, teaching at the College of Southern Maryland, and helping start-up companies with their public relations and marketing efforts.
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