Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tricks of the trade: Caffeine On The Go

I know a lot of cyclists will berate me for this one, but every time I mention my portable French Press that fits in a bottle cage, it seems to drum up a bit of attention. Caffeine is hands-down the most popular drug in America.

It's been said that caffeine is a way to steal time from your older self. Caffeine users surpass smokers and alcoholics by a significant margin. Some people think Caffeine is evil. Others love it. I don't care where you stand on this argument, but I'll just tell you I'm on the "love it" side of the fence.

With that, my favorite way to enjoy coffee is via French Press. For the un-initiated, there are several ways to enjoy coffee. I'll outline 4 of the most popular ways:

  • Drip Brew. A filter full of coffee grounds sits in a basket. Water is heated from a resevoir and as it boils, it is forced up a tube and drips through the grounds. The filter keeps the coffee grounds from getting mixed in with the coffee you drink. The decanter below catches the coffee and is usually heated from below to keep it hot. This is probably how you get your coffee.
  • Percolator. Coffee grounds are located above a vat of heated water. The heater is located below a tube, forcing water up and onto the coffee grounds. The liquid works its way through the coffee grounds. This coffee-water gets recycled and run through the coffee over and over again until it is sufficiently strong. This is how small stove-top coffee kettles and large coffee urns work.
  • Espresso. Very fine coffee grounds have high-pressure steam forced through them, quickly extracting the flavor and caffeine from the coffee grounds. This is very strong and can be drank as-is, but is most often put in popular espresso-based drinks such as Mocha, Latte and Cappuccino.
  • French Press. Near-boiling water and coffee grounds are stirred together in a container and allowed to steep for a period of time (usually 3-5 minutes depending on desired taste, type of coffee bean, and coarseness of the grounds). After that time has elapsed, a plunger is pressed down, which forces a screen filter through the coffee. This pushes the coffee grounds to the bottom and separates them from the coffee beverage. At this point, you may drink the coffee. In a large French Press, it's often poured into a suitable drinking mug. On a small travel press, you can drink straight from the container if you wish. The coffee grounds will not brew any further once pressed to the bottom.

French Presses come in many different styles, but my favorite one for use on the bike is the Bodum Travel Press. It's made in stainless steel as well as insulated plastic. I opt for the Stainless since it should be more durable. It's also vacuum insulated and keeps coffee warm for a long time even in the single digit temperatures I have to endure on occasion.

I bought mine on eKitchenGadgets, which was iKitchen.com once upon a time. Here's a direct link:


Also, Steven M. Scharf's Bicycle Coffee Systems website has a bunch of coffee/bicycle related information, including a bunch of links to special bottle cages and bicycle cup-holders for odd-sized travel mugs and regular travel mugs that happen to fit nicely in standard bottle cages. It's certainly worth a look.


Chris said...

While I don't regularly drink hot beverages I do appreciate the kick of some good caffeine especially during a nice hot ride versus a nice hot beverage during an unpleasant cold ride! I think that is what Jack Daniel's is for... ;)

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that the french press makes the best coffe. I have one similar to yours with the only problem is quantity. I usually stick to the good ole drip coffee maker for the mornings and the french press at night when I just want a single serving.

Keep up the work on the site. I am still trying to work out my own bike route to work from one side of Austin to the other. Reading your blog keeps me on track to reaching my goal.


Jon said...


I am firmly on the "love it" side, myself, when it comes to caffeine. That's one reason that my friends and I often do "coffee shop rides", looping around Denver, from coffee shop to coffee shop for 30 or 40 miles worth of riding/caffeination.


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