At PurelyCoffeeBeans, I’ve answered lots of questions over the years. You’ll find the questions and their answers scattered throughout the site!
I’m always open to more questions, if you’re frustrated or curious, why don’t you drop me a line! This week we welcome … Jeff who has a fairly urgent query: he’s going on a trip in two weeks!
What kind of quality coffee bean should I take?
by Jeff from California
I will be visiting El Salvador in 2 weeks and was wondering if you could give me a recommendation of a quality coffee bean I can purchase to grind and drink daily while I’m on my 1 week vacation? I would only want 1-2 pounds of roasted beans…
Are there any really good coffee houses I should visit?
I hope you have a safe trip to El Salvador. Central America is the proud source for many of our favorite coffee beans. So the question you ask is a real humdinger…
If you are staying in a hotel or guesthouse, then you’ll probably know what hotel coffee is like: only marginally better than airline coffee. It’s really important that you consider both the what and the how of having coffee on a trip.
How you gonna make it?
Typically, in a hotel room, you’ll only have access to a kettle (to boil water) and a tea cup with a saucer. If you’re lucky, you’ll find instant coffee sachets and a couple of cookies! Even the best hotels struggle to make decent coffee, so I’d recommend one of the three solutions:
Aeropress Coffee Maker
1: Take an Aeropress coffee filter unit (click the link to see what I’m talking about). Don’t forget to take a small hand grinder. Although the unit is designed to make espresso, it will turn out decent Americanos as well either by adding extra water to the unit, or adding extra hot water to your cup!
It’s light, easy to wash in the hotel sink, and small enough to pack in your luggage. The Aeropress isn’t the only way to make good espresso on the go, but it’s the most affordable. You can also check out the Handpresso.
2. Get some of the popular coffee sachets with ‘ears’. These are single units of coffee stored in their own self-contained filter units, and then vacuum-packed in foil. You can buy them in a box of ten or twenty. They’re light to carry (though the box is bulkier), easy to dispose of, and can make decent coffee.
3. Take some Starbucks Via with you. I hate to say this, though as I find the Starbucks Via isn’t as good as either of the other two options. It’s great in an ’emergency’… but I can tell the difference if I close my eyes between Via coffee and the real thing.
Do remember when using a hotel kettle: don’t boil the water to 100C. If you do, wait a little (about 1 minute or so) until the temperature cools. Water that is too hot will destroy or distort the delicate flavors of coffee.
What coffee to take? What coffee to buy?
It’s hard to know what coffee to take with you. It really depends on what you like, what you are used to, and how you like to prepare your coffee. I’d prepare for 3 coffees!
#1 For me, I’d take one of my favorite pre-ground coffees suitable for making espresso in an Aeropress, if I could find it. It wouldn’t need ground (always an advantage in a hotel), though generally I prefer to grind my own at home.
#2 For traveling, I’d look out for quality coffee to try; I’d purchase smaller bags, too. I’d pick some Colombian beans for variety, quality & value for money.
Since you’re going to El Salvador, you could try some of the Topeca coffees available from El Salvador. They’re single origin roasts from around El Salvador, and since I like espresso, I’d choose one of their espresso roasts.
Both reviewers of this roast said that they used an Aeropress, but with varying results. One said “…extremely balanced with a medium body”, but the other wrote “…flavor lacks the depth of other brands”. Read the reviews to decide for yourself.
#3 Last, I’d visit as many supermarkets, coffee shops & stores as I could to see what was on offer.
One of my favorite ‘tourist’ activities is to explore supermarkets & traditional markets looking for unusual products and getting ideas about what locals eat and drink (that goes for coffee, too!)!
Hope that helps you choose coffee for your trip! Let me know if you discover any great coffees down in El Salvador. And pay attention to how the locals drink coffee!
[updates by Jeff: he uses a burr coffee grinder and a French press when he travels!]