Introduction: Mobile Coffee Kit

This tutorial will show you how to put together a coffee kit that can be used to make a great cup of coffee whether on the road, camping or just on your back deck. One of the things I cherish is a great cup of coffee, whether it is made from a fancy coffee machine or made from scratch. When mobile (traveling, camping, kids soccer game, etc.) it’s difficult to get a good cup of coffee. I’ve found micro-fine mesh filters leave too much sediment in the bottom of the coffee cup when using fine grind coffee. Coffee presses require you pour off the coffee into another vessel so that the coffee doesn’t become bitter.

In this Instructable, I show the coffee kit I use that will allow almost anyone to make a great cup of coffee each and every time. The coffee kit is shown (on the left) with the fuel (alcohol), water and coffee. In this Instructable I show how you can make your own alcohol stove, however if you're unable to make one yourself there are alcohol stoves available for purchase on the web such as the Blue Torch, Rucas, etc.

Step 1: Tools & Materials

Tools needed to make stove & drill the hole in the ladle:
  • Utility knife
  • #58 and 3/16” drill bits
  • Drill or drill press
  • Metal file
  • Emory cloth or sand paper
  • Cutoff saw or hacksaw or band saw
  • Arbor or bench vise
Materials list:
  • Magnesium fire stick
  • Alcohol stove
  • Melitta Ready Set Joe Single Cup Coffee Brewer
  • Sea To Summit 16oz Delta Mug
  • Plastic cooking ladle
  • Aluminum water bottle (NOT stainless steel)
  • 7”x10” Gear sack
  • 16 oz GSI Bottle Cup or other container to heat water

Step 2: The Basic Kit

The basic kit includes a Sea To Summit 16oz Delta Mug, a 16oz GSI bottle cup with lid, a modified plastic cooking ladle, a Melitta Ready Set Joe Single Cup Coffee Brewer, a DIY alcohol stove and a magnesium fire stick. The alcohol stove was made from an aluminum water bottle. I purchased the ladle and aluminum water bottle for two dollars from a Dollar Tree store. I purchased the Melitta coffee brewer for $2.79 from a local grocery store. The Sea To Summit cup and GSI bottle cup I bought for ten dollars from a local sporting goods store. The magnesium fire stick cost three dollars at Harbor Freight. So the kit total cost was under $18. To fuel the alcohol stove I prefer HEET gas line antifreeze (yellow bottle) since it is inexpensive at $1.58/12oz and is readily available.

Step 3: Filtering the Coffee

To make good coffee requires the filtering process to last 2 ½ to 3 minutes. Less time results in weak, less flavorful coffee; longer times results in the coffee getting bitter due to the longer contact with the grounds. The Melitta coffee brewer has a 1/8 hole to encourage a proper flow rate. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that the water should be poured slowly over the grounds in order for the filtering to work properly.

Pouring water from a large cup of hot water slowly onto the grounds in the filter isn’t easy. The solution I came up with is to pour the hot water into a plastic kitchen ladle (see photo) with a 3/16” hole in the bottom. I shortened the ladle handle so that it would fit into the Delta cup along with the magnesium fire stick and alcohol stove.

You can pour moderate amounts of water from the larger cup into the ladle and the ladle ensures a good flow rate. You should also move the ladle in a circular motion while over the grounds to get the best flavor. I chose to drill a 3/16” hole in the ladle (instead of a 1/8” hole) to keep the coffee grounds semi-suspended to aide in filtering.

The water temperature is also important in making good coffee. Boiling water shouldn’t be poured over the coffee – the result will be bitter. The temperature recommended for pouring over the coffee is from 180-200 degrees. To judge the temperature you could get the water boiling and then set the cup aside for about one minute and then pour over the coffee – this method varies with the temperature around you. Another method is to watch the water until bubbles form on the sides of the cup – when they start to release the water should be ready in about 30 seconds.

This brings us to the final step – a stove to heat the water. You can use any number of stoves to heat your water. Over time I have acquired/made several types of stoves and I still use most of them even today – depending on what I need to heat/cook.  I chose to use an alcohol stove in this case because of the light weight, clean burning, low cost of fuel and how it would integrate with the coffee kit. If you already have a stove, you can skip the last step.

Step 4: DIY Alcohol Stove for Heating the Water

There are lots of videos on how to make various types of alcohol stoves. I initially purchased two different alcohol stoves but was disappointed to find they had the same small base as the DIY Bud Light beverage versions. I found one video that used aluminum water bottles so I decided to make this size for the coffee kit. The photo above compares my aluminum water bottle stove (green) and a Blue Torch alcohol stove with the GSI Bottle Cup I use to heat the water on my stove. The GSI Bottle Cup is not totally flat on the bottom, so balancing it on the smaller diameter Blue Torch stove can be difficult especially when sitting on some surfaces. Scalding hot water and burning alcohol need to be handled safely, so the more stable the base the better!

The aluminum water bottle stove has a much larger support surface (2 7/8th inches x 1 ¾ inches in height) for heating than the Bud Light beverage versions (2 1/8th inches in diameter x 2 1/8th inches in height), a safer lower profile, and heats water faster. The maximum fuel capacity is almost twice as large and the maximum burn time is a minute longer.

To make the stove, first measure the distance from the open end of the bottle to where the bottle stops curving and levels out – then add another ¼”. Place masking tape around the bottle at this point to make it easier to cut later on. In the top left of the 1st photo, the masking tape is set at 1¾”. Place masking tape the same distance on the opposite end of the water bottle and trace a cut off mark at the 1¾” point (top right of the 1st photo). Measure 1” up from the bottom of the water bottle and trace another line where the jet holes will be drilled.

Drill the jet holes 1 cm apart along the line until you have gone completely around the bottle.

File four small notches on the opening rim using a metal file (bottom left of the 1st photo).

Now we are ready to make the two cuts. Although there are several ways to make the cuts, I prefer a cutoff saw. (Note: if you are going to use a hacksaw, then you will need to use a “scoring” technique – look on YouTube for videos on how to use a hacksaw to make a Bud Light alcohol stove.)

After cutting, some rough edges will remain. Take the cutoff end pieces and lightly touch them to the side of the cutoff disc - be very careful!

Remove any remaining burrs using a utility knife (bottom right of the 2nd photo). Use a “cutting” motion rather than a “chiseling” motion.

After burrs have been removed, check the inside of the bottom section where the jet holes were drilled and remove burrs with sand paper or Emory cloth. Check that the holes are still open by testing with a #58 drill (top of the 3rd photo). To assemble the stove, the neck of the bottle will be pressed into the bottom portion. The bottom of the 3rd photo shows the un-assembled bottle sections on the left and the assembled results on the right.

To press the two parts together, use an arbor, a vise, etc. I’ve even seen a video of someone carefully pounding the two together using a hammer and wood to protect the ends of the aluminum. Be sure to stop as soon as you feel the inner core touch the bottom.

If your cuts were a little off and one of the pieces isn’t exactly aligned with the other (bottom right of 4th photo), you can touch up the results using the side of the cutoff disc. Finally, file four small notches on the top edge of the stove. These notches will prevent pressure buildup problems when a container of very cold liquid is used on the stove. Be sure to sand all edges with Emory cloth.

A word of caution. Alcohol stoves can be deceiving. When using alcohol in sunlight, the flame can be difficult to see. In the top of the 5th photo the flames seem small and may give the appearance they aren’t particularly hot. But if you look at the bottom of the 5th photo you’ll see just how hot the flames actually are when viewed under dim light. Be careful!

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