Brewing and Grinding

A Sub-Page of Bicycle Coffee Systems

Last Update: 23 May 2008


I received some e-mails noting that for fresh coffee it should be brewed on the bicycle while riding, not stored in a vacuum flask. Probably the best method for on-bike brewing would be to fill a vacuum bottle with boiling water, then use a stainless steel French Press or one of the French Press mugs; but even in a vacuum bottle, the water wouldn't be hot enough for very long. You can carry a small camping stove with you instead. Or if you have an electrical outlet bring an immersion heater or a Zelco Brisk Brew.

1. Lightweight Camping Stoves


The MSR PocketRocket stove weighs 3 ounces, plus the weight of the fuel canister. Olicamp Space Saver Cup Holds 16 ounces and can be used to boil water on the Pocket Rocket or Esbit stoves The classic Optimus Svea 123 is an ideal stove to carry on a bicycle. It uses white gas for fuel, has a built in fuel tank, and comes with a small pot that doubles as a cover. It's rather tricky to light without starting a forest fire. A small pump is available to pressurize the stove mechanically (the usual way is to heat the fuel tank by putting fuel on the outside of it and lighting it).
$40 from Campmor

$6 from Campmor

$66 from Campmor


The Optimus Hunter is essentially the same as the Svea 123, but in a different package that may be more convenient. No cooking pot/cup included. A small pump is available to pressurize the stove mechanically (the usual way is to heat the fuel tank by putting fuel on the outside of it and lighting it). 3.75 ounces, each fuel tab is 0.5 ounce

This stove is fine for boiling a cup or two of water, but is not for large pots of water.
"Convenient-Jetboil™ includes all the elements required for outdoor cooking in a single unit. Burner and cooking cup are in one simple package. Lid design includes a drinking spout- no need for a mug." Each "cup" is 1 liter. Unit comes with one cup, and extra cups are about $30.

The greatest thing, is the optional French Press attachment. This makes the Jetboil the only complete system for off-grid brewing.

$68 from

$10 from Campmor

$80 from Campmor


My friend manufactures stoves that run on denatured alcohol or methyl alcohol (sold as gas drier at auto parts stores). These stoves are extremely light, and work well.  It's extremely efficient because of the large flame area.
$10.95 each plus $3.50 shipping & handling to US and Canada only.
$19.75 when you buy two plus $3.50 shipping & handling to US and Canada only.

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2. Unbreakable French Presses

Nissan Stainless
Nissan makes a vacuum insulated, stainless steel, 1 liter, French Press (US$35), but it doesn't seal tightly (intended only to keep the coffee hot after brewing, not for transport) so even if using this you would have to carry the hot water separately and brew the coffee soon after filling a thermos with boiling water.

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10 ounce polycarbonate "Java Press" ($13)

For boiling water, one option is to carry a small camping stove such as a butane powered Gaz stove (not really practical while in motion). Heating water uses far too much energy for a battery powered system to be practical. There are several 12 volt coffee makers available for cars and RVs but it would probably take a 12AH battery just to make a couple of cups. You could also carry a small immersion heater and find a place with an outlet to boil water.

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3. Nissan Coffee Cone
Campmor also sells a 'Nissan Coffee Cone' which lets you brew coffee directly into Nissan bottles (80746) for $5. It fits only quart size and above.

Note: Basic Melitta coffee cones are now surprisingly hard to find. However Daiso Japanese stores do sell coffee cones that are similar to Melitta cones, along with filters to fit them.

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4. Nissan RSVP6066 Coffee Cone
This is the best cone for brewing directly into narrow mouth bottles. About $7.50 from

Note: Basic Melitta coffee cones are now surprisingly hard to find. However Daiso Japanese stores do sell coffee cones that are similar to Melitta cones, along with filters to fit them.

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5. Espresso on the Road
The Campmor catalog has several aluminum and stainless steel espresso makers that are usable with camp stoves.

Small & Large Aluminum Large Steel Small Steel

15773 (Small)
15774 (Large)

15776 15775

Campmor is at: or 800/226-7667 (phone orders), 800/230-2153 (FAX credit card orders), or 800/230-2151 (catalog requests).

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6. Grinding on the Road
Coffee goes bad very quickly after being ground. On a multi-day tour it is unacceptable to grind a large quantity of beans and carry the ground coffee with you; you have to grind it just before use. Of course now that most supermarkets sell coffee beans and have grinders on-site, the need for carrying a grinder has lessened.

Hand Coffee Mills
Campmor sells small hand coffee mills (left) for on-bicycle grinding. A large size is also available from REI. The ultimate in hand mills is the Zassenhaus 175M. These are all burr grinders. I'll warn you that grinding coffee with one of these hand mills is like a career. What is needed is some sort of grinder or mill that can be driven from your wheel like the old generators.

Small Grinder
Large Grinder
Zassenhaus Brass Grinder


12 Volt Grinders (see Brewing in the Car--Best Grinder)

12 Volt blade grinder hooked to my lighting system battery. Cigarette lighter jack can also be used for a cell phone charger. I'm not sure if this product is still available.


Billy Crystal causing a stampede with his battery powered coffee grinder in the movie City Slickers
(as far as I know there is no such grinder available)
Click Picture for YouTube Video

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7. Creamer on the Road

"Nido," Nestle dry whole milk, is available at Mexican and Chinese grocery stores. This is a much better option than a disgusting non-dairy creamer such as CoffeeMate or Creamora (which consist mainly of corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and various artificial flavors and preservatives). You cannot buy Nido at regular supermarkets. It's actually more expensive than fresh whole milk (a $5 can makes 3 liters of milk), but is useful for traveling where you do not have refrigeration. I bought it at the store on the corner of Middlefield Road and Rengstorff Avenue in Mountain View, California, and I've bought it at a Chinese market on Irving Street in San Francisco, and have seen it at Tin-Tin Chinese market in Cupertino. You can order it on-line as well, see: Nido is not a sweetener like the non-dairy creamers, so you'll have to also carry some cane sugar if you want to sweeten your coffee. Nido is also useful if you want to make up your own hot chocolate mix with dry whole milk, cocoa, and cane sugar. I also use it in my bread machine, as many recipes call for dry milk.

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8. Small Electric Coffee Makers and Grinders for Touring (where electricity is available)
"The Compact, Portable, Auto- Drip Coffee Maker That Brews For you! Now you can have a delicious cup of hot coffee, fresh brewed, just for you. Brisk Brew is their personal coffeemaker that's ready to go when you are. It sets up easily and brews an 8oz. Cup in minutes. A unique brewing system with permanent mesh filter assures full flavor and aroma anytime, anywhere! Designed for worldwide travel, Brisk Brew has dual voltage, and its smooth, compact, rectangular shape packs." (6.25" high x 3.25" wide x 2.5" deep). $30 from

Zelco BriskBrew

Another method is to bring a Melitta cone filter or a travel press, and an immersion heater. Immersion heaters are great! I brought one to Alaska on vacation. Besides heating water for beverages you can use it for stuff like making hard boiled eggs. Very cheap. In the Silicon Valley area, check Action Surplus. Or buy from Amazon for $8 (click link below).

Immersion Heater

Small Electric Grinder
There are no really small electric grinders. The Deni Blend-n-GrindTM is about the best you'll find. Deni 4200 (white) or Deni 4201 (black). $19.

Deni Blend-n-GrindTM

Use "USPS" as a promotion code to obtain free shipping

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9. Brewing at Home--Best Drip Coffee Makers
Before you head out on your bike, you need to brew coffee to fill your coffee bottle. There are a lot of drip coffee makers on the market, some great, some not so great, and the greatness does not track with the price. Here are some good choices:

Zojirushi EC-BD15BA Stainless Steel Coffee Maker with Thermal Carafe

This machine sells for $67 at The thermal carafe is more better than the glass carafe used on the Cuisinart. My wife broke the carafe on the DCC-1200, and it's $26 for a replacement, so I may buy the Zojirushi as a replacment.

Capresso Coffee Team Plus 452

Capresso CoffeeTeam Luxe Coffee Maker

This combination burr grinder/drip brewer costs $150 at It's big, complicated to use, and does not offer as much control over the grinding or brewing as separate appliances. But it's the best all-in-one machine; far superior to the $70 Cuisinart Grind and Brew.

10. Brewing at Home--Best Grinder
The Bodum Antigua is the best home burr grinder I've found for grinding beans for making regular coffee (not espresso). $60-80 at Many of the more expensive burr grinders are able to grind finer for espresso, but if you're not interested in Espresso then you're better off with the Bodum, especially if you grind the oilier roasts such as French Roast.

White ($60) Black ($60) Chrome ($80)
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While I prefer to not put my bike on the car and drive to a ride, sometimes it's unavoidable. Long, early morning, drives to century ride starting points may require in-car coffee grinding and brewing. Also, when on long car trips unrelated to bicycling, these devices will come in handy. Be sure to limit 12 volt appliances to 10 amps of current draw if plugged into a cigarette lighter.

11. Brewing in the Car--Best Drip Coffee Maker
If you are going to brew drip coffee in your car, forget about the 12 volt coffee makers with carafes; trying to pour coffee in a moving car is sure to result in a mess. There is one model that brews directly into a travel mug, which is the best idea. It is the
RoadPro RPSL-530, $30. 10 amp power consumption (120 watts). Find a way to keep the coffee maker from falling over while driving.

Use "USPS" as a promotion code to obtain free shipping

If you just want to boil water in the car, in order to use a French press, then you can purchase the Max Burton Hot Drinks to Go. This unit is basically a 12 volt immersion heater inside a plastic container. It will take about 20 minutes for the water to boil, since it draws only 90 watts (about 8 amps) from the cigarette lighter (a 110V immersion heater is about 200 watts). $18.50.


Running 12VDC Heating Elements from 110VAC
You could run the above two appliances off of 110VAC if you build an adapter with a cigarette lighter socket (not plug) to an AC plug with a suitable power resistor in series (10 ohm 120 watt for the RPSL-530, 12 ohm, 100 watt for the Hot Drinks to Go). But this would cost you at least $10, so it's probably not worth it as you can buy a 110V version of these appliances for about that much. Beware that this sort of circuit is a shock hazard because the full 110V is present at the cigarette lighter outlet until the heating element is connected. I have not tried this circuit. Not for motorized 12 volt appliances.


12. Brewing in the Car--Best Grinder
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a battery powered coffee grinder, despite the appearance of one in the movie City Slickers (where Billy Crystal started a stampede when he used it).

The closest you'll find to a battery powered grinder is a 12 volt grinder/blender from Athena, under the Max Burton brand. It costs $35. The description: "This 12-volt blender/grinder will grind spices and fresh coffee beans, or make delicious fruit smoothies, milkshakes, sauces, frozen drinks, and a variety of other blended drinks." This is a good grinder if you need to grind in the car on the way to an early morning ride (where you don't have time to make coffee at home).

This unit uses 96 watts (8 amps at 12 volts). You could probably run it for a short time off of two sets of ten 2000mAH AA cells (in parallel), but this would cost you at least $20, and you'll still need a way to recharge the batteries. A 12V 5AH rechargeable lead acid battery could probably power it for the short time it would take to grind your coffee. You could beg the use of a 12 volt lighter outlet from a motorist, but you're just as likely to be able to find a 110V outlet somewhere. Even for car-camping, it makes more sense to just use an inverter with a regular 110V grinder. Still, I had to get one of these.

I'm not sure if this product is still available.

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