Java Dilemma

Here's our cowboy coffeepot aboard the boat.

Cowboy coffeepot aboard the boat.

When we bought s/v Winterlude, the previous owner used a “cowboy coffeepot” for his morning coffee.  He was a singlehander (sailed the boat alone) … not sure if it had anything to do with the coffee.

The boat was not set up for coffee. For us, living somewhere for months at a time, coffee is non-negotiable.  We currently use a Keurig Single Cup Mini Coffeemaker which requires 1425 (YIKES!) watts each and every morning.  Years ago we spent big bucks outfitting the boat with a 1750 watt inverter but we have coffee at the dock or at anchor … even underway.  In an emergency, we could use the cowboy coffeepot, but it hasn’t happened in 14 years.

In another month we’ll pick up our new Lance 1685 – a 21 foot travel trailer for our Arizona and Utah National Park adventures.  The galley is empty, I get to start from scratch!  How fun is that!  And, of course, my first priority is morning coffee.  So I have to figure out how to make coffee without electricity.

Most of the time we hope to be camping in national park campgrounds or BLM/other federal lands — i.e. cheap, isolated and no electricity.  So I have to come up with an alternative for my morning coffee.  Especially since we’re not talking about camping for a week, we’re talking about living in this trailer for a couple of months at a time.

No inverter on the trailer, no way to make coffee except on the propane stove, unless we’re running the Honda 2000 generator which shatters the early morning peace.  So that’s out.  If we’re plugged in somewhere, we’ll have the Keurig Single Cup Coffeemaker.  No 12 volt coffeemaker, I understand they take forever and are unreliable.  If that’s not right, please let me know the brand and where you got it.

AeroPressCoffee I’ve read lots online, but what do others do for good coffee without electricity?   We need 2 cups for me and 2 cups for David each and every morning.  I’d like something that makes at least two cups at a time.  I’ve looked at the AeroPress – advantages are very easy to clean, just rinse the plunger, I don’t have a clue what the disadvantages are … yet.  But I don’t think it makes much at a time, although they claim only 30 seconds a cup, I’m not clear on exactly how it works.

Then there’s this Thermos CoffeePress which sounds perfect, 34 ounces of coffee – made by pouring boiling water (yes, we’ll have a teapot and a 3 burner propane stove) into a traditional style coffee press, but instead of being a glass container which gets cold quickly, the Thermos keeps the coffee hot for up to two hours — plenty long enough.  And 8 ounces times 4 cups is 32 ounces.  Not sure about how difficult it would be to clean or if there are serious grounds in the coffee, not my favorite — anyone use one of these?ThermosCoffeePress

I’ve also looked at other French Presses of all types and while they make great coffee, I’m not really interested since they don’t keep coffee hot (one of David’s primary considerations) and they are so hard to clean – the combination is a killer.

Not thinking we’ll take our cowboy coffee pot from the boat to the travel trailer, but you never know — I could make coffee in a campfire!

OK, I need recommendations — anyone?  HELP!   We’re just not used to making coffee without electricity.  And we’re not buying a super duper inverter for the trailer – there’s not enough battery power.  Please leave a comment and help me figure this out!  THANKS!  Jan

P.S.  Our current plan is to pick up the new travel trailer approx mid-May after returning from the boat to the Midwest.  But, since we’re not going sailing, visiting my Dad regularly, I’m already thinking about outfitting the trailer – along with preparing the boat for being gone for six months.


  1. Grin,
    we make coffee here using hot water and instant coffee grains, with milk and sugar to taste and only real keen people use the plunger or other types of machines.

    But a good inverter for a coffee maker is cheap, around a $1 per watt and that is for a pure sine wave inverter, the others are much cheaper.

    The power usage of 1425 watts is only really for the heating of the water, and if you have a resivour you can poor cold water into, it may even allow you to simply pour in hotish water instead, from the kettle.

    If not, a simple equation for working out power use of rated power divided by 60 minutes will give you the power used each minute.

    So for the 1425 for the cooffe maker, the high power use is only while it boils the water and this would be, for two cups about 5 minutes at most.

    So 1425 / 60 = 23.75 watt / hours per minute and for 5 minutes that is 118 . 75 watts / hours so about the same as a 100 watt light left on for just over an hour.

    So allowing for a sunny 8 hour day and a 100 watt solar panel and say some shading or clouds, so say 50 % output, this is 800 x 50 % = 400 watt hours, and so enough for four lots of two cups of coffee per day. In longer sunny days, maybe as much as 8 lots of two cups per day.

    With a couple of good sized lithium ion batteries and a controller, you could have say another 2 Kw / hr stored for other uses or 3 days odd of 5 sets of two cups per day !

    But seriously, having a solar panel or two on the camper is worthwhile, lighting, DVD, phone charging, coffee and a back up if the car battery goes flat are all good reasons to have them.

    I once even had an unusual problem that was solved by solar.

    I had to make a call by cellular phone but the microphone had become loose inside the phone, this meant I had to use a solar powered bluetooth handsfree kit near the phone.

    Problem was it was nearly dark and the battery on the handsfree kit was flat, I turned on the car highbeam and held the solar handsfree kit near the light and yay, that call worked perfectly. after the call, I went to start the car and because I was on the phone so long and the battery was perhaps a bit needing of replacement, the car would not start.

    I went back to the boat, picked up a spare battery from the boat and started the car, whew. good for the prayer life !.

    But, yep solar is cool and we use the panels at work to run the burgular alarms and power a radio for music.

    Have a Great Easter.

    God Bless,

    • Thanks Michael! We have solar (and wind) on the boat, and we’re considering solar for the trailer, but we want to get the trailer before we decide. It only has 2 group 27 batteries — rated at 85-105 amps each, so conservatively only 170 amp hours. Since we only use half, that would be only 85 amp hours — at least to start. When they need replacing we may opt to get something different. I think I still need an alternate way for morning coffee – and sorry, can’t do instant. I don’t use sweetener or creamer, so the straight flavor is what I get. Happy Easter! Jan

  2. Suzan Christensen says:

    We use the thermos style French Press on our Allied Seawind 2, and it works very well. The coffee stays hot and it is pretty easy to clean up afterwards.

    • Hi Suzan! Can you use a filter with the thermos style French Press? Or do you have to use lots of water to rinse coffee grounds from a metal filter? Happy Easter! Jan

  3. Martin Henry says:


    Aero Press for that one / two cup mornings or French press for four cup mornings!! We use both on Mystique and it’s easier than anything else.

  4. Tom Grover says:

    Hi Jan,

    We use a Melita type coffee dripper on top of a stainless steel thermal coffee carafe to make coffee on Allez Yukon. You can buy the filters at the grocery store and enjoy fresh drip coffee kept warm in the thermal carafe, Just boil the water on your propane stove in a kettle and pour into the dripper. Easy to make and easy to clean. Happy Easter!

  5. Mariann Ball says:

    Hi. On Midori we also use an old Mellita type drip coffee maker over an old Mr. Coffee thermal carafe. Works great! I see Mellita makes a thermal carafe arrangement now. We have a French press too but only use it if we want to make a single cup. Sometimes simple works!

  6. Captmatt says:

    My wife uses a Keurig and I use the Aero Press at home. It does take a little more effort than a traditional French press but the flavor is well worth it, there is no bitter taste at all. Unlike the Keurig which is very portioned controlled you can experiment with the strength in the Aero Press to your liking (I like my coffee strong). Cleanup is really easy and if you buy a reusable filter there is no paper waste.

  7. Keith Davie says:

    I’ve used a standard French press for years, and love it. Easy to clean, no filter to throw away, andmake your coffee just as strong – or weak – as you like it. What’s not to love?

    • Hi Keith! It’s interesting, people either LOVE their french press and say it’s not difficult to clean. Or they HATE it because it’s SO difficult to clean. One comment was that cleaning it is a very inefficient use of water. The trailer will have only 45 gallons of water, versus our 70 plus the watermaker on the boat. So we’re leaning away from any type of french press. The one time I used one, I loved the coffee, but cleaning and disposing of the grounds was a PITA. Thx! Cheers! Jan

  8. Hi Jan,

    We also love our morning routine of couple of cups of good coffee, ideally with the paper, both at home or when cruising. Having investigated many options, we decided on the Espro Press which you should check out online: 32 oz. capacity, insulated stainless carafe, clever stainless double filter so no grounds or grit in your cup, reasonable clean up.

    By the way, we greatly appreciate your blog, website, and very useful and informed discussions about your cruising life. You have been so instructive, helpful, and inspirational – many thanks!

  9. Bari Spesard says:

    My all-stainless french press is easy to rinse and dry. I have used it for years and love it. The screened plunger swished in just a few ounces of the water you would use for other dishes -or by itself – keeps it fresh. Grounds can be discarded judiciously where compost would be used, if necessary.
    Honestly, it really is easy.

  10. Bari Spesard says:

    I guess I should have mentioned that I once bought those coffee packs (like those used in motels) and used those in the press on the boat, hoping to contain the grounds, making it an easier cleanup….It sufficed, but I had really no choice of types of coffees.


  11. My wife and I use an insulated French press made by Bodum, and my grown son swears by the Aeropress for one cup or two at a time. Those are probably your two best options, unless there’s something new I haven’t heard of. The French press is probably a better choice if you want to make a pot. They make an 8-cup and 12-cup size which we have (4oz. Cups).

    The press isn’t difficult to clean. On our boat I add about 1/4 pot full of sea water to swish and dump the grounds overboard, then rinse a bit more and dry. If you’re careful you can probably wash with about 1/2 to 3/4 pot of water, total. Maybe more if the water is hard or you used a lot of suds.

  12. On “Raise a Little Hull” (no electricity just a one burner propane Stove) Jim and I both have individual insulated french press mugs with foam on the bottom. Cool but fussy if adding cream and sugar – which we do. In Georgian Bay, I just rinse all in fresh Water. Now I think I may use a percolator for greater volume and use the mugs without their presses (still have lids with drinking hole.) But I think for you two, the Melita system would work fine as long as it’s into a carafe to stay hot. Just toss grounds out with filter – biodegradable I think.
    Say, can you put the Y on top of the trailer? It would be great at regattas. 😀
    Btw, Young couple who bought our previous tri just got a copy of the Boat Galley Cookbook as they are going to sail Tri-oomph south from MA this spring. Super Cool.
    If you take a wrong turn and end up in southern Ontario, look us up! Happy trailering!

    • Hi Carleen & Jim! No Y on top of the trailer – interesting you ask because that was one of my first questions – I’d love to take the trailer & the Y Flyer to race Internationals at Saratoga in July – camping near the Adirondack Mountains is on our bucket list. We don’t have 2 tow vehicles to tow both, and Saratoga is a 900+ mile drive — not feasible to take one and then return home for the other as we’re doing for Y Nationals in June. And David flat refuses to borrow a boat so we can tow the trailer. Oh well — are you & Jim going to Internationals this summer? Cheers! J

  13. We love using simple filter cones at home and on the boat. Boil water, put filter and coffee in the cone, set on top of cup, pour water over the coffee. Very forgiving, no moving parts, almost no cleanup (just throw the filter out).

    If you want to make more and keep it hot you can drip the coffee into your thermos.

  14. I am not sure why you are against the old style percolator, I use one every weekend morning and love the smell and sound of the coffe percolating. There is very little cleanup, no filters to buy and once perked, the grounds are out of the coffe so it can sit in the pot and not get bitter or change flavor like in an insulated press. If you want you could pour into a carafe or just turn the stove on again and warm up the coffee. I also have very little to no grounds in my cup.

    We also used instant on the boat, I did some research and found Cafe Bustello to be a good instant espresso that made good coffee. I also disolves in cold water so it is a very easy way to make an iced coffee for those hot afternoons.

    • My cowboy coffeepot takes gallons of fresh water to clean the grounds out of the innards. Since we have limited water, we’ve never used it except in a pinch. Cheers! Jan

  15. My co-cap/husband and I are in the midst of our circumnavigation. We love and must have good coffee every morning in copious quantities In the last three years of sailing every morning we use our AeroPress to make our Americanos. It takes very little water and cleaning is a snap (you end up with a nice little “hockey puck” of grinds and you just pop it out into the ocean). The coffee is delicious and as the ads say it does take only 30 secs per cup. This product certainly gets my vote… Highly Recommend!

  16. Jill B G says:

    Love, love, love our AeroPress, but Jessica at says it the best:
    (We don’t have a JavaJug but it’s going on our Christmas/bday wish list!)

  17. Couple years after your original question, but I’ll chime in. Coleman makes a normal drip coffee maker that sits on a gas/propane stove. The flame heats a plate that then heats the water and pot the same as an element in an electric drip one. A tiny bit larger than a normal maker, but simply works and makes a full carafe. Just google “Coleman Camping Coffeemaker”

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