Caffeine Benefits for Cyclists (and the Best Outdoor Coffee Makers)
At Cycling Off-Grid, I need my regular caffeine fix so I decided to look into the benefits of caffeine on cyclists and how best to achieve that fix when outdoors touring, camping or backpacking.
Whether you need your java fix every day or not, caffeine for cyclists can have some awesome benefits on the trail–and some of us need our coffee even when we’re camping.
Of course, there are some drawbacks to caffeine in the outdoors as well, and getting that fresh brewed coffee taste in the outdoors can be a challenge. How can you get all the benefits of coffee on the trail while staying safe and saving some cash?
Read on to find out!
What are the Benefits of Caffeine for Cyclists?
Some of us are just used to our coffee every day. Some people love the taste, and others like the extra kick of caffeine to help tackle the trail, especially in the morning.
Caffeine can have a lot of benefits. While the most obvious one is merely waking you up and making you feel more alert, caffeine can help you with the following things too:
- Increasing stamina for better performance: perfect for race day or a tough hill climb on the third day of a trip
- Boosting muscle recovery, especially when mixed with carbs
- Reducing errors and increasing logical reasoning even when your sleep is restricted–which is excellent for any newer campers who aren’t used to sleeping rough yet
There are also a lot of long-term health benefits associated with coffee consumption as well, such as increased memory and a possible reduction in health problems as wide-ranging as cataracts, erectile dysfunction, and Alzheimer’s.
Coffee can also serve as a significant part of the camping experience, though. Taking a moment to have your coffee in the morning and connect with the beauty of the natural world around you can help you feel at peace and ready to start the day–and gathering around the coffee pot can be an essential part of the social aspect of family, couple, and group trips, too.
What are the Negatives of Excessive Caffine?
Let’s be perfectly honest, though–we all know too much of anything isn’t good for us. Just as too many carbs can be a problem even for severe athletes, caffeine has some drawbacks even when you’re cycle touring.
The main one is dehydration. Too much caffeine can result in your body not retaining enough water, which is primarily a problem in the heat or on particularly hard treks. This is easily mitigated by drinking plenty of water, though, especially with your coffee. Watch out if you take caffeine pills, though: this effect can be more pronounced with them than with coffee.
The most common adverse side effect of coffee is the same as its most obvious benefit: staying awake. I bet almost everyone who is reading this article has had too much coffee too late and missed out on a good night’s sleep. Even if you do manage to fall asleep, too much coffee near bedtime can mean you don’t feel as well rested when you wake up.
One of the best ways to avoid this side effect is not to have coffee near your bedtime. You’ll have to find out exactly how your body processes caffeine through experimentation, but many health professionals recommend avoiding coffee anytime within 6 hours of when you plan to go to bed.
One of the most significant drawbacks is the added expense and difficulty of adding coffee supplies to your camping gear. However, with the right know-how or the right amounts, you can offset this too–keeping your pack light, and keeping your wallet from getting too light.
What are the Coffee Alternatives?
At this point in the article, I should say I know that all of you aren’t coffee drinkers. Luckily, there are a lot of alternatives to get the extra boost you need when you’re on the trail.
Tea – What are the Benefits?
Tea is one of the best coffee alternatives. Because of the wide selection of varieties, there’s a taste for just about anyone. Just like with coffee, there’s a whole world to dive into if you want to become an expert on tea, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping it simple, either.
What is Green Tea?
Green tea is excellent for those who want a little caffeine boost, but are worried about overdoing it on the trail. Because it has a little caffeine, but a much lower caffeine content than coffee, it’s perfect for those who worry about dehydration or getting jittery. It also has a milder flavour that’ll please anyone who’s not into the bitterness of coffee.
What is Black Tea?
Black tea is a little bit closer to coffee concerning caffeine content and flavour, but it’s still not quite as strong or as bitter. It can be a suitable replacement for those who have lost the taste for coffee or don’t want to take it on the trail.
Because tea bags and reusable tea strainers are so widely available, tea is an extremely portable option. Many serious coffee drinkers I know switch to tea on the trail, especially for more extended cycle tours where you need every bit of space and weight capacity in your pack.
There are even tea options for those of you who are very caffeine sensitive or want to avoid it altogether on the trail. There’s a broader variety of herbal teas out there than ever before, which don’t contain any caffeine.
Some of them have health benefits, too. For example, chamomile tea can help you sleep–making it an excellent option for anyone who tends to overdo it a bit on the coffee.
Caffeine Pills – What are the Benefits?
When it comes to portability, there’s nothing like caffeine pills. You can fit a bottle of a few hundred in the smallest side pocket on your bag. They also provide the quickest and most important boost, and they go down smoothly if you don’t like the taste of coffee or tea.
That being said, caffeine pills have the most drawbacks to them as well. Because they don’t take as long to take in like a cup of coffee or tea, it’s much easier to overdo your caffeine intake with these. If you plan to take caffeine pills along, don’t overdo your intake, and always drink plenty of water.
Caffeine pills also have the benefit of being one of the cheapest possible options. They require no preparation, and they’re cheap enough that you could probably buy a lifetime supply for the cost of an outdoor coffee maker and a bag of coffee. That being said, taking a pill doesn’t have the same relaxing and contemplative feeling that coffee provides for a lot of people.
Caffeine for Cycle Touring: Making Real Coffee Outdoors
Making real coffee outdoors can be a challenge, especially when you’re backpacking or cycle touring. Luckily, there is a wide variety of techniques and products that can help you have the best coffee experience outdoors. Here are ten of the very best.
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“Cowboy Coffee” – What is it?
One of the oldest methods of brewing coffee outdoors, and is perfect for you hardcore minimalists and traditionalists. It’s also a great way to save space in your pack.
For this method, heat some water in a pot, toss in your grounds, and let it steep to your heart’s content: five minutes will do for most people, but if you want your coffee stronger, let it sit for longer.
You can strain out the grounds if you want a smoother taste, but if you’re going to feel like an old ranch hand (and get an extra boost of fibre), you can even drink it with the grounds in.
Advantages of the “Cowboy Coffee” method:
- Takes up almost no extra space in your pack: besides the coffee itself, there’s no need to bring anything extra.
- One of the fastest methods out there, to get you moving almost as soon as you’re up.
Disadvantages of the “Cowboy Coffee” method:
- Usually produces a powerful, bitter coffee. Though this can be a huge benefit for some people, those of you who like a lighter taste should find another method.
If you want a little more luxury in your morning joe, but don’t want to trade in your mountain bike for an RV to enjoy your coffee more in the morning, try this model that uses the same principles as traditional espresso machines, minus the electricity and the steam.
With your favourite coffee and little hot water, you can use the pressure created by the inner workings of this device to create an exceptionally smooth and flavorful cup of coffee on the trail. It’s great for the office, too, if you’re not lucky enough to go camping every day of your life.
While it takes a bit more time than merely throwing the grounds in a pot, it’s still a reasonably quick experience (though you might want to spend a little more time savouring this smooth coffee).
Advantages of the Oomph Coffee Maker:
- Offers the best combination of luxury and outdoor friendliness, with a coffee shop quality brew in minutes.
- Almost as quick as traditional outdoor brewing methods, with much smoother tasting results if used correctly.
Disadvantages of the Oomph Coffee Maker:
- Costs a bit more–and takes up a lot more room in your pack–than a simple pot. While it’s perfect for shorter trips, you may want a more rugged method for your next weeks-long trek.
If you’re an espresso lover, getting your ideal brew on the trail is even harder than it is for traditional coffee makers. Because espresso is made with extreme pressure only created by steam, it can just be made over a fire directly or with electricity–which, last I checked, is in short supply in the woods.
Luckily, this innovative offering from Cisno packs a rechargeable lithium-ion battery so that you can make espresso virtually anywhere. While it’s a bit more expensive than traditional outdoor coffee methods, it’s the fastest way to get espresso outdoors.
It’s also effortless to use with Nespresso single-serve pods and one button operation. Just don’t forget that you still need to make breakfast, too.
Advantages of the Cisno Electric Portable Espresso Machine:
- One of the easiest and fastest ways to get espresso outdoors, and the only way to do so without a fire or similar heat source.
- Straightforward one-touch operation leaves you free to break camp, make breakfast, and get on with the day’s travels–or take a few extra minutes to sip your espresso and commune with nature.
Disadvantages of the Cisno Electric Portable Espresso Machine:
- Pricier than most outdoor brewing methods, though the cost is worth it for espresso lovers.
Tea Bag Method: What is it?
For those of you who like a slightly smoother taste–and don’t want to drink your grounds as well as your coffee–but still don’t want to mess around with fancy equipment, you can make a “tea bag” from almost any paper coffee filter.
Just measure out your coffee into a filter, tie the top off with some dental floss, and let it soak in warm water for several minutes. It’s almost as fast and straightforward as the “cowboy coffee” method and will be a bit friendlier on the taste buds for those of you who don’t like bitter brews.
To simplify cleanup and add an eco-friendly twist, you can get reusable coffee filters (or use a handkerchief or t-shirt– make sure it’s clean).
Advantages of the “Tea Bag” Method:
- One of the fastest and most straightforward methods for making coffee on the trail.
- Allows for a smoother taste and a bit more variation in strength and flavour than the ultra-minimalist “cowboy coffee” trick.
Disadvantages of the “Tea Bag” Method:
- Can be a bit messy, especially with traditional paper coffee filters.
Percolators: How Do They Work?
Percolators used to be the primary way people made coffee. When electric coffee makers became common, they went out of style in the home, but they’re still a great outdoor method.
They use the pressure created by boiling water to push the water through a supply of coffee located in the bottom, soaking up all the flavour without getting the grounds in your water. In many ways, they work as an electric drip coffee maker in reverse: the coffee starts at the bottom and moves up instead of the other way around.
Excepting improvised methods like cowboy coffee and making coffee filters or t-shirts into “tea bags,” percolators are one of the cheapest ways to make coffee outdoors.
Advantages of using a Percolator:
- Incredibly cheap and straightforward, but they also manage to produce fresh tasting coffee just like you expect from your countertop drip maker at home.
- One of the best methods for making a full pot of coffee, making percolators perfect for group camping.
Disadvantages of using a Percolator:
- Require a bit more space in your pack.
- Only work with a constant flame to keep the water boiling.
Stovetop Outdoor Espresso Review (with the Bialetti Moka Express)
If you like the idea of a percolator but prefer espresso to regular coffee, this stovetop espresso maker might be the best option for you. Best of all, it works just as well at home as it does in the field.
With the use of a patented internal pressure valve, it combines the technology that makes percolators and espresso makers possible. While it does require constant boiling, it offers a straightforward method to create smooth, dark espresso anywhere you’d like.
Advantages of Stovetop Outdoor Espresso:
- Available in a vast variety of sizes, meaning you can get a tiny single cup model to save pack space and weight on long solo trips, or opt for a much larger scale to share with family and friends.
- One of the only ways to get the taste and smoothness of traditional espresso over a flame.
Disadvantages of Stovetop Outdoor Espresso:
- Like traditional percolators, this model requires a bit more pack space and needs a constant flame to maintain the water’s boiling. However, its variety of size options can offset the space disadvantage.
Instant Coffee: The Easiest Way
The ideal choice for running late for the office is also a perfect way to make coffee outdoors, and maybe the best way to save the most possible space in your pack and still have a cup of java every single morning of your journey.
Also, as coffee has become more and more popular in recent years, instant coffee has flourished, too–meaning there is a much larger variety of roasts available for different tastes, including pre-sweetened packets for those of you who want a carb boost with your caffeine.
This may also be the simplest way to make coffee outdoors. All you need is hot water and a cup!
Advantages of Instant Coffee:
- Quite possibly the most straightforward method for making coffee outdoors, and depending on the brand and storage you choose can take up almost no room in your pack.
- This is also one of the fastest ways to make coffee outdoors.
Disadvantages of Instant Coffee:
- Although there are more varieties around than ever before, instant coffee doesn’t allow you as much control over your flavour.
The “Pour Over” Method
Pour over coffee makers have regained popularity in the home among serious coffee enthusiasts, but they also adapt exceptionally well to the outdoors. A wide variety of pour over coffee makers is available for camping, such as the Mountain Mojo Collapsible Coffee Dripper.
With just a filter, some coffee and hot water, and your cup of choice, you can make a great cup of joe virtually anywhere in the world. For added ecological and ease of use benefits, combine the Mountain Mojo pour over coffee maker with a reusable filter.
Its an effortless operation and small size make it ideal for longer journeys, and many coffee connoisseurs swear by the smooth and complex flavours that pour over coffee makers offer.
Advantages of the “Pour Over” Method:
- A straightforward way to make coffee virtually anywhere.
- Collapsible design means it takes up the minimum space in your pack, and it’s incredibly lightweight to boot.
- Many serious coffee drinkers think to pour over flavours are the best around, and they’re also some of the easiest to make outdoors.
Disadvantages of the “Pour Over” Method:
- Only makes a single cup at a time, meaning you’ll need multiple pours over devices for group camping or those mornings when you need a second cup.
A lot of coffee lovers prefer the French press method for making coffee in the home, and it’s also a lot more portable than traditional drip coffee makers. While the French press technique requires a little more finesse, it can make almost any coffee taste smoother.
Nowadays there are a lot more portable French press models on the market as well, including some specially designed for camping.
That being said, a French Press does offer some drawbacks as well. While most traditional French Press devices for home use are made of glass, it’s best to get a model made of a more robust material for anything but car camping.
Advantages of using a French Press:
- Extraordinarily smooth and complex flavours are available from French presses, making them the ideal choice for coffee drinkers with discriminating tastes.
- French presses are designed for coarser grinds of coffee, meaning that you can take your coffee along in whole bean form for freshness and merely grind what you need by hand.
Disadvantages of using a French Press:
- Many French presses aren’t as durable as other outdoor coffee makers, though models designed with backpacking and cycle touring in mind do exist.
- French presses can be a bit harder to clean in the field than some other outdoor coffee makers.
This rugged offering from Coleman may be one of the most familiar for most campers to operate. Other than its simple propane hookup, it works in almost the same way as most drip coffee makers you’ll find in your home or office.
On the other hand, it boasts extraordinary durability with a stainless steel carafe and is also an excellent method for making more significant amounts of coffee, for serious coffee drinkers or group camping experiences.
Advantages of the Coleman Portable Propane Coffee Maker:
- This may be the simplest way to make great tasting coffee just like what you enjoy at home.
- Larger size makes it perfect for group camping or those of you who like to enjoy several cups of coffee throughout the day.
- Extremely durable stainless steel construction designed to be hardy in even the harshest environments.
Disadvantages of the Coleman Portable Propane Coffee Maker:
- Requires a bit more setup and time than other outdoor coffee methods.
- Relies on a propane tank for use and involves a bit more space and weight than other methods.
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