The Low-Tech Coffee Solution

I’m a technophile, all about the iPod, the digital camera and the associated gadgetry. But when it comes to making coffee on the road – a very serious matter in my tribe – my solution is about as low-tech as you can get. It’s a chorreador de cafe.

A chorreador  is a small cloth bag hanging from a wire loop. You put the coffee in the bag, you pour boiling water through it into some sort of container, even directly into a cup. Voila. Coffee.

I first ran across the chorreador in Costa Rica, where it is still  much used to make coffee. Many Costa Rican homes have a stand or a wall-mounted holder to put the chorreador in, which is easier and safer than holding it while pouring boiling water through it.  (Here’a nice explanation.) I once had such a stand, which I used to make coffee at home. I’ve since gone over to an electric coffeemaker for convenience, but I have used a chorreador more than once when we had a power failure.

A chorreador goes with me on camping trips, where the holder can be improvised with a rock and a picnic table bench. And it’s useful on trips abroad, to places where a coffeemaker is not a standard piece of kitchen equipment. In a rented apartment in Russia, it was our only means of making coffee.

Best of all, it weighs all of half an ounce and takes hardly any room in a suitcase.  It can be used repeatedly – although it will be stained brown –  if you rinse it out and hang it to dry. I keep mine in a little zip-lock bag.

It’s best to use a fine grind of coffee. But it will work with the standard, coarser grind intended for electric drip coffeemakers – you just have to use a little more coffee.

Unfortunately, I can’t find anywhere to buy chorreadores outside Costa Rica, where they are widely available for a few colones in grocery stores. I have a stash of them, and some relatives who are going to Costa Rica this summer can get more. But I guess that doesn’t help you much.

There is another way. I recently ran across a post by a fellow who travels with a little Melitta filter cone. I assume he meant something like this.  It looks a little bulkier than the chorreador, but it works on the same principle and it is still highly portable.

So go forth, my fellow coffee addicts, and fear not. You can make your coffee wherever you can scare up the ground coffee and some boiling water.


3 thoughts on “The Low-Tech Coffee Solution

  1. Tony Gettig

    That looks like an interesting way to make coffee on the road! We recently picked up one of those Melitta single cup cone things for traveling, which makes a good cup. We roast at home and are always looking for different ways to brew. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Marilyn Lake

    We use a small French Press, Sbux carries the metal and plastic ones, as do some stores that sell Bodum products. We took our metal one on our last cruise, Princess Caribbean, Eastern Caribbean cruise, December 06. Since I had my 90 yr old Mom and 19yr old daughter who is an ex Starbux barista, I am surrounded by coffee snobs, and the worst one is me. I took some lovely “Alternative Grounds” fair trade coffee from Toronto with me, and kept some cream in the fridge, or had it over ice. The metal mini-bodums also can be used for drinking as well as making the coffee. I found your website after reading the story about the overboard couple. I guess Darwin’s Law didn
    ‘t apply and they will live to tell the tale.

  3. Jihye Chang

    I love Chorreador as well – fell in love two years ago in San Jose! I only brought two with me, and what a pity that I cannot find it in USA…but I was glad to see someone else enjoyed it and talked about it online. :)


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