Coffee has long been a beloved companion of trampers – and we deserve so much better than lukewarm instant.
It may be considered a luxury item, but for many, coffee is an absolute necessity.
But you don’t have to be a coffee connoisseur to enjoy a brew fragrant enough to make every nose in the vicinity twitch in envy, a roast so fine it will rouse a ruru from its morning slumber.
NZMGA-qualified guide Chris Mackie from Alpine Guides says when it comes to mountain coffee, there is no substitute for fresh grounds.
Whether it’s waking at 3am in an alpine hut to French press a brew for clients or carrying a cooker to lofty summits, Mackie says guides can be quite religious about their coffee rituals.
Such is the morale boost a hot cuppa can provide, he is even happy to reduce his food weight to ensure he can carry the means to make a quality brew. “Those little luxuries can make all the difference to somebody in the mountains,” he says.
Mackie’s go-to methods include the classic plunger, cowboy coffee (grounds boiled straight in the pot with an optional filter), and coffee bags. Mackie will fire up the stove almost anywhere – his highest cup to date was atop the Minarets, at more than 3000m.
He says “most guides are black coffee drinkers – they just get used to it, and it’s one less thing to carry”, but milk powder is the way to go if you can’t stomach black coffee. Honey makes a nice sweetener, he says.
Espresso Workshop roastery manager Cristina Fuzaro says regardless of your brewing method, it’s important to ensure you’re working with the right ingredients.
Purchasing fresh beans from your local roastery is a good start, she says, as no brewing equipment can fix a bad batch of beans.
Fuzaro recommends purchasing a lightweight grinder for best results, and figuring out what grind size works best for your chosen brewing method.
As a general rule, filter coffee requires a finer grind than a plunger, which works better with a coarse blend.
“The moment we grind the coffee, it starts to oxidise and begins to lose the properties that give it a good taste,” she says. “But whichever method you use, if you grind your own beans, your coffee will definitely taste much better.”
Temperature is another factor that can make or break your brew. Allow water to come off the boil before adding to your coffee, Fuzaro suggests. Boiling water can burn coffee grounds, making that hard-earned beverage taste bitter.
Four devices to help you get that perfect-tasting coffee in the backcountry.
MSR MugMate $39.99
The 28g MSR MugMate brews coffee and loose leaf tea. Simply spoon your ground coffee into the filter, balance it on the rim of your mug, and pour water over the top.
GSI Ultralight Java Drip $21.90
For filter coffee on the fly, the 11g Java Drip clips onto most mugs for sediment–free, simple coffee. Perfect for weight-conscious coffee enthusiasts.
GSI Outdoors Mini Espresso $93.95
For the coffee connoisseur, this mini percolator fires out a double espresso shot in under 90 seconds. The set weighs 311g, but comes with a sturdy case and double wall stainless steel cup.
Jetboil Coffee Press $24.95
This collapsible 22g press is a lightweight option to turn your Jetboil stove system into a coffee press. Compatible with the Zip, Flash, Flash Lite, MicroMO, PCS Sol and Sol TI. For a bigger brew, upgrade to the Grande version for $29.95, compatible with Jetboil’s larger range.