Do you know why everyone loves going on portaging trips with me? The exotic locations? Good looks? Charming personality? Funny stories? Gratuitous nudity? Sadly, no. You know what it really is? I make good, good coffee. I mentioned in a previous review the first half of my secret, but the second is by using a french press, and the one I’ve been using lately is the GSI Outdoors Java Press.
Also, I’m kidding about the nudity.
Why a press?
I like my coffee, and I like it good. Having good coffee at the campfire is no exception. In fact, one of my favourite parts of portaging is sitting back, reflecting on the day with a nice warm coffee. It’s a nice moment. So you can imagine those moments are better with a quality cup of coffee, and over the years I’ve tried many different ways to brew a cup. I’ve filtered, dripped and used instant (bleh!) and I’ve even tried Cowboy Coffee, where coffee grinds are thrown into hot water, leaving the grinds to settle on their own. The latter is actually the better of those options, but much more messy, and more often than not leaves you spitting out grinds. Filters are okay, but paper seems wasteful and take away a lot of the oils that really make the coffee taste best. Permanent filters tend to have expanding or clogged pores after a while, and I haven’t found one that isn’t unnecessarily bulky or just breaks. I’ve concluded through a lot of trial and error that the French Press is the way to make the best cup of coffee.
What I like about it
I’ve tried several coffee (french) presses over the years, and most of them are big, bulky, heavy, leak, fragile or some combination thereof. Once I bought the GSI Java Press, I haven’t bought another one since. First off, it’s well made. The fact that I still have my original one says that on it’s own, considering how much abuse and negligence my gear gets. I first bought the 20 oz Personal java press (239 g). It comes with a coffee mug with lid (84 g) and the carafe, each having an insulated sleeve to keep the coffee nice and warm, and more importantly, you from burning your fingers. The press mechanism detaches so you can store the whole system inside the carafe. It also has a lip for easier pouring, and a lid that when turned closes the opening to avoid spills and keep the heat in. The filter of the press is also very good, something I’ve found lacking in other presses. One reason for this is rubber edges that create a water tight seal when the filter is being push down.
This is the perfect system for your personal use, but I graduated to the 30 oz version (297 g) soon after, finding it a little cumbersome making everyone coffee 20 oz at a time. This one has a soft nylon handle for easier pouring, but doesn’t come with a cup. I like the one from the 20 oz version, and if I pack it right it can sit in the 30 oz version. I’ve since discovered a 50 oz version. However, it has a plastic handle that won’t fold down like the nylon, which I would think lends itself to breaking or at least awkward packing. Each version has the same features, only the size is different. Depending on how much your friends like their coffee, I find the 30 oz makes ample coffee for four to five people in two brews.
How it works
To assemble the press, you just pull the pieces out, push the plunger through the lid and screw it into the filter. To make the coffee you dump the grinds in the carafe, pour in hot water and wait a few minutes. It’s best to put the lid on, with the plunger up, This will keep the coffee hot, and little floaties out (learn from my fail). Just like tea, the stronger you want it, the longer you should wait. I like to give it a little swirl to make sure the flavours are mixing in the water properly, but do so very gently, and make sure the lid is turned so that the spout is closed (again, learned this the hard way). When it’s ready – a couple of minutes usually – gently push down on the plunger Make sure not to fill it too full though, or push the plunger to quickly. Otherwise it might spill a little (yeah, I’ve done that too). When you’re done, simply wash out the carafe, dumping out the grinds and give the filter a little run through the water. I like to make sure to swish it in the water back and forth to get all the little coffee bits out on each side of the filter.
To pack it back up, put the cup in first, then the plunger – handle down – and put the cup’s lid on. Then put the filter in and close the top. Any other order and the carafe’s lid won’t close properly. For the 30 oz version, filter first, then cup, aligning the plunger so that it just slightly sticks out of the spout.
What I don’t like
Okay, I’m going to split some hairs here, as all the complaints I have about the Java Press are hardly worth not having one. First, the cup’s lid is a little tight, and can be difficult to get off sometimes. The cup also gets stuck in the carafe if you put it inside wet. This can be a little problematic after washing and packing them without letting them dry, which takes a bit longer because of the insulation. They’re also much more bulky than some drip or filtered options out there, so you may think this as an unnecessary luxury on long portages or backpacking. I’d still bring it myself though. I do like my coffee, and I like it good.
So there. Now you know my two secrets to great coffee. If you get yourself a good French Press and grinder, you won’t need me at all. Huh… maybe I’ll have to rethink the nudity.
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