Airport Coffee Hacking Tip

When you travel, one thing you may get tired of is airport coffee. It’s true that most airports these days have Starbucks or Peet’s (or some other large coffee chains) in them, but even if you do like their coffee, you probably don’t like the high prices they charge. Airport cafés have limited competition and they know it, so they charge way more than they would on the street.

There is a way to beat the airport coffee cartels and still have great coffee.

Zachary Gray, owner of Paper Tiger Coffee, gave me some great advice for getting great coffee when you’re traveling, without being treated like an ATM.

Here are the steps:

Step 1-Right before you leave for your trip, grind some coffee beans and put the grounds into a Ziploc bag. It is very important that the beans are ground extra-coarsely—more coarsely than for a French press. Grind out enough coffee so that you have at least two tablespoons of grounds for each six ounces of coffee you are going to want to drink. Put them in the bag and remove as much air as possible. Seal the bag and throw it in something you are going to carry onto the plane.

Step 2-When you get to the airport, look for a Starbucks—not to buy coffee, but to get a cup of hot water. Starbucks has great water. They triple-filter it so there is nothing in it to add or detract from the taste of the coffee. Order the size you want, making sure to match the quantity of water with the quantity of coffee you have.

Step 3-Dump your ground coffee into the cup of hot water. Gently stir the grounds to make sure that they all come into contact with the hot water. Let sit for 3-4 minutes, then pour just  a little cold water over the grounds to help them sink to the bottom. The coffee should be ready to drink.

As you drink the coffee, you have to be gentle with the cup so that the grounds stay at the bottom. If you do this, the grounds are less likely to release some of the bitter compounds they contain (i.e., they won’t over-extract) and you won’t get a mouth full of sediment when you drink it. As long as you’re careful, you will not taste much more sediment than you would with a French press.

It’s not rocket science—high-quality fresh coffee + good water has always been the recipe for great coffee, even if the method is somewhat primitive. In Gray’s experience, this ‘farmer coffee’ (a.k.a. ‘cowboy coffee’) is better than nearly all the coffees you can get at the airport. The fact that you don’t have to spend so much money also makes it taste better. Enjoy!

(Feel free to pass this on to your fellow travelers/coffee lovers)