My Favorite Morning Tools

After waking up, if at all possible, I like to start my day with a large cup of coffee. Frankly I am not a huge fan of the taste of coffee and use it more as a drug delivery system for caffeine. That being said I do notice the flavor difference between instant (with “flavor crystals”) coffee and other pre-ground coffee when compared to beans freshly ground. Don’t get me wrong, in the right circumstances (backpacking, traveling lightly) I have no problem with pre-ground coffee and using a drip coffee maker or even things like micro ground Starbucks Via where you just pour that “powder” into hot water and stir (although I am not a fan of those single-serving packets). I found and have tried (and like) Starbucks’ Premium Instant Coffee (which must be better than Via since it’s “Premium”). Frankly my unsophisticated palate can’t taste the difference but it’s cheaper than Via ($0.23 vs $1.25 per serving) and skips the packet nonsense.

For regular Tacoma camping duty though I have found that coffee brewed from beans ground fresh every morning gives me the most satisfaction…YMMV. While I have electricity and could bring an electric grinder with me I choose to forgo broadcasting such a loud, raspy sound into the surrounding area, especially early in the morning, by using a hand grinder. On those exceedingly rare occasions when I find myself near neighboring campers I am sure they would thank me.

I read some reviews about 9 years ago and decided on the Porlex Mini Coffee Grinder. Made in Japan it houses ceramic conical burrs inside its stainless steel body and can adjust the grind from powder to French press although my primitive self just sets it to grind “small” (which actually does need to be adjusted between different batches of beans).

The exact count of how many times I have used this grinder is hard to figure but doing the math (~250 days a year out adventuring x 9 years = 2,250 uses) it would not be a ridiculous guess to say more than a couple thousand uses with only two minor issues which I quickly fixed myself.

On average it takes anywhere from 175 to 225 rotations of the handle to grind all of the beans that it can hold in its body. During the grinding process, if you are not paying close attention the handle inevitably works its way up the end of the pentagonal shaft it is connected to and pops off mid-turn. Have that happen more than a few times and the end of the shaft begins to get slightly deformed.

End Of Shaft Showing Deformation
End Of Shaft Showing Deformation

To stop that from happening I drilled a small 2mm hole through the shaft near the end which allows me to insert a 1/16″ diameter mini hitch pin after the handle is attached.

2mm hole drilled through coffee grinder shaft
Hole Drilled Through Shaft

This ended up being an easy way to keep the handle from coming loose.

Coffee grinder with my mini hitch pin fix
Grinder With Mini Hitch Pin Fix

The other small issue is that twice a year, at most, the black plastic end of the handle begins to squeak on each rotation. It’s a small, high-pitched squeak like what you’d imagine a mouse in distress might make and so it is annoying and needed to be fixed. The simple solution is to put one small drop of machine oil into the top indentation in that black plastic handle piece you see in the picture above. This immediately stops the noise and all is well again.

Other than those two minor issues this has been a fantastic tool, so much so that I store it in a protective sleeve (also known as a beer bottle koosie) to protect it when it is bouncing around in my kitchen box.

Grinder in a protective beer koosie
Grinder In Its Protective Beer Koosie

The other main half of my morning coffee ritual is the AeroPress I have had just as long as the grinder. They look a little different now. I have seen others with gold lettering but I am pretty sure mine originally had matte markings on the body. Now the body looks to be made of a darker colored plastic and has red markings neither of which should change how good of a cup of coffee this tool makes.

Old AeroPress all dirty and used
I Could Wash It But “Camp Clean” Is Good Enough

It blew off the Tacoma tailgate in March of 2023, landed on a rock and broke a little piece off the base. Those edges were razor sharp so I took a knife and smoothed the area out. Once I get back home I’ll use my Dremel and do a better job. The markings on the body eventually wore down and became hard to read after years of use so I slapped on two lines of white enamel paint to show me the levels I work with when making a cup. Ugly but effective.

White enamel lines on AeroPress bodyInstead of using the wasteful paper filters that come with the AeroPress I bought one of the stainless steel mesh reusable filters and have been using that since the beginning.

It sits perfectly on top of my old Klean Kanteen Insulated Tumbler which now serves solely as my coffee chalice.

This simple pair of tools work together on an almost daily basis to produce a subjectively great cup of coffee and have been doing so for about 9 years and not in a nice, clean, protective kitchen environment. Another fine example of tools that meet our BIFL (Buy It for Life) guidance for practical, durable and quality made products that are made to last.

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