A Nomad's Coffee

With the global coffee consumption having surpassed the 10 Mill. Kilograms mark it is considered one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, right after tea and water. With Starbucks and similar companies serving coffee even in the most remote areas, I believe that availability comes at the cost of quality and overall taste. This is why I stopped relying on served coffee and assembled my very own set of tools for brewing the type of coffee that I like, no matter the environment I'm currently in: A nomad's coffee, no electricity required.

A Nomad's Coffee

Last updated: 30.10.2020

Over the past couple of years, coffee has grown to be a more than a quick caffeine fix in the morning. I started seeing coffee as less of a consumption good and began enjoying it more consciously, informing myself about its cultivation, the origin of the beans, the roast and of course the brewing processes. I’ve tried many different variants and tools, from pour-overs using paper filters as well as re-usable ones, over Moka pots and the famous Aeropress up to the supreme discipline of pulling shots on a portafilter machine.

Drip coffee using a Chemex, an Able Kone and a Hario Buono

While I enjoyed these different hand-brewing variants over extensive periods of time and dialled different knobs – like the bean origin and the roast – to vary the cups of coffee I was getting out of these preparation methods, at the end of the day I kept coming back for a good espresso from my Rancilio Silvia.

I loved the Silvia for being a very compact yet powerful espresso machine. Even though it had its shortcomings, like the lack of a pressure gauge or its unstable brewing temperature, I managed to get some very decent cups of coffee out of it. The Macap M2D I had standing next to it did a good job at grinding the freshly roasted espresso beans consistently enough so that the Silvia would not only work with the coffee grounds but also produce some very thick and stable crema along the way.

Unfortunately a full-size espresso machine is not exactly cabin luggage, so I had to give it away when I got rid of my apartment. Forced to find an alternative, I tested a few options and eventually ended up with what’s now part of my essential travel equipments list: The Aram Espresso Maker.

Espresso using the Aram Espresso Maker

Beautiful Espresso, No Electricity Required

The Aram Espresso Maker (or Coffee Maker, how it was still called when I got mine) is a minimalistic and very high quality tool for extracting genuine espresso using a fully manual process. To do so, ground coffee and some boiling water is required.

Step 1: Grind coffee beans

The first thing you’ll need to get a good cup of espresso from the Aram is obviously a handful of good quality roasted beans of your liking and a good grinder. To make it clear upfront: The Aram won’t work with most pre-ground coffee (e.g. from supermarkets or maybe even from your local coffee shop) as it’s quite pretentious in terms of grind coarseness. You will definitely need a decent grinder that will allow you to fine-tune the grind level, otherwise you won’t be getting anything close to a good espresso out of it.

I use a Comandante C40 hand grinder. I tried cheaper hand grinders (like the Hario Mini Slim) with the Aram but couldn’t get a satisfiable result with those grinds. Even with the Comandante it took me a few cups until I got the flavour on point.

As for the amount, I would suggest going with approximately 19g. I used to use a scale for getting the right amount, but eventually I got the feeling for it and could spare an expensive scale. I found that as soon as I dialled the grinder to a good setting, small variations in the amount are totally okay and in fact produce very interesting taste profiles.

Step 2: Boil water and preheat

Preheating is key to success with the Aram. It’s a chunk of 304 stainless steel that absorbs an incredible amount of heat, hence it requires a few rounds of how water running through it before the actual brew can happen. I usually boil the water, pour it into the Aram (with its valve fully closed) and let it sit for two to three minutes, while I keep the rest of the hot water at a near-boiling temperature. Then I turn the crank to open the valve and let the water run back into the pot/boiler/kettle, where I make it boil just to pour it back into the Aram and let it stay for a bit again.

I repeat this two to three times, until I can feel that the Aram’s exterior got close to being uncomfortably warm. You could stick a thin thermometer through the holes on the top to measure how the water temperature changes, but, duh, nerd.

Hint: Don’t use tap water unless you know the mineral content of it. As I’ve detailed previously (search for TDS), not all water is the same, hence the resulting cup of coffee will taste differently depending on the water that you use. I usually prefer bottled water for which I can look up its mineral content, to make sure it is in the acceptable range for espresso.

Step 3: Pull the shot

As soon as I drained the chamber, I use a cloth to dry the bottom part and attach the filter containing the tampered coffee and connect the glass underneath. Then I pour the boiling water into it and turn the crank as quickly as possible until the screw thread reached its upper end. After that I quickly turn the crank the other way around until I can feel the pressure building up, which is when I start slowing down. At that point the espresso starts flowing and becomes brighter and brighter with every turn.

I usually stop the extraction as soon as I got the desired amount of coffee in the cup. This is done by spinning the crank back up until you hear a slurping sound, which is when the negative pressure kicks in, stopping the coffee from flowing. The glass can then be removed safely and the rest of the water inside the chamber can be drained afterwards.

Coffee beans

In addition to the tools that I use and the actual espresso brewing process, I’m also beginning to maintain this list of some of the coffee beans that I’ve had so far. This list will grow over time and I will try to look up older roasts and add them as well.

These are all espresso roasts. The rating is my very personal rating for the individual roasts. Keep in mind that coffee is seasonal and hence not constant in availability nor flavour.

RoasterNameOriginAltitudeFlavoursInfoDateRating
Five ElephantLa Dulce MemoriaGuatemala1800mNougat, chocolateFinca La Dulce Memoria28.11.16✪✪
TODO2017
TODO2018
TODO2019
Roeststaette BerlinSinfoniaBrazil, Peru1100m, ####mMilkchocolate, hazelnutPart from Farm Fazenda Santiago in Patos de Minas; Part from Cedros Cafe Cooperative in Cajamarca07.08.20
The BarnBosques de San FranciscoGuatemala1600mChocolate, AlmondFinca Filadelfia in Antigua, varietal: Caturra, Bourbon07.08.20
Square MileTodos SantosGuatemala1750mCherry, dark chocolate, blueberryA washed process Caturra variety produced by various smallholders in the Huehuetenango region01.10.20
Square MileLa CuestaCosta Rica1750mDried fig, chocolate, hazelnutA white honey processed mix of Caturra & Catuai varieties produced by Marco Tulio Naranjo in Tarrazú region02.10.20✪✪
Combi CoffeeCombi Blend50% Brazil, 30% Colombia, 20% Guatemala####m, ####m, ####mCaramel, chocolate, vanillaVarious farms in Brazil, Colombia & Guatemala28.10.20✪✪✪
Combi CoffeeIndonesia Mandheling Sumatra Triple Picked G1Indonesia1300mBlack currant, black tea, blueberry, lemonVarious farms in Mandheling, wet hulled, varietal: Catimor, Kent, S79528.10.20TBD
Bag of coffee beans from Combi Coffee in Porto, Portugal