How to Make Coffee with the Best RV Coffee Maker

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I love coffee. Since my love affair with coffee makes a regular appearance in our YouTube video series, I receive quite a few questions about how to make the best cup of coffee in an RV, while traveling or just improve your coffee skills at home. In this post, I’m going to help you make the best cup of coffee.

How to Make Coffee in an RV

When you’re making coffee in an RV, having a lightweight, compact and easy to clean coffee maker is essential. More importantly, you want to brew a great cup of coffee. If you’re like me, there’s nothing like that first sip of coffee in the morning to get the day started.

Whether I’m tent camping at Joshua Tree National Park, making my way to Everest Basecamp in Tibet, or living out of our camper van, I can always make a great cup of coffee. Here’s how:

1. Pod Coffee

Nespresso Vertuo RV Coffee Maker

At home, I am a purist when it comes to making coffee using only fresh whole beans that I grind and meticulously brew into the perfect cup of coffee. On the road however, I have found the best RV coffee maker to be a pod coffee.

The pod coffee maker I bought is the Nespresso Vertuo Pop+. My favorite feature of the Vertuo line of pod coffee machines is that they can make five different sizes coffees from an espresso to a 12 ounce cup of coffee.

One of my go to Nespresso coffee pods is the Solelio mild roast 7.77 oz coffee. Kait likes to make a mocha using the Melozio decaf 7.8 oz coffee. Our friends who are dark roast coffee fans prefer the Stormio dark roast 7.77oz coffee. As I mentioned above, there is a wide selection of coffees to choose and we often order a variety to have options when camping with friends. Browse selection of Vertuo coffees and espressos.

Another thing I love about the Nespresso pod coffee is the foam on top of the coffee. It’s a nice treat and friends often look surprised like you just handed them a cup of coffee from a fancy cafe.

We know a lot of people who use a Keurig as their RV coffee maker and while I’m personally not a fan of the coffees, there is a wide selection of Keurig coffee pods to choose from. If I was to get a Keurig for the RV, the single cup K-Compact would be a consideration.

If you’re looking to take the pod coffee experience up a notch, this Nespresso with a steamer/milk frother would be my choice. Friends of ours have one, and we got to spend a few days using it and absolutely loved it. Kait became a barista during the van life gathering, turning out lattes and mochas for everyone there. Just make sure to have some extra room in the RV to accommodate it.

Some of the Pros and Cons of Pod Coffee

Less stuff to bring. When I used to make coffee from scratch on the road, there were a lot of things to bring. I had a large burr grinder, pour over, filters, coffee beans, scale and kettle…and if I forgot any of those things I was in trouble. In a small space like a Class B camper van, making coffee turned into a production because I had to clear the countertop, pull out my coffee making equipment, make the coffee then put everything away. With a pod coffee maker, I just pull out the machine and grab a pod.

Just push a button. Drop a coffee pod in the machine, add water, push start and voila!, you have a hot cup of coffee.

You can make it while driving! It’s almost impossible to make a pour over type coffee while you’re going down the road but quite easy to make a pod coffee. That said, I AM NOT ADVOCATING THAT YOU DO THIS, just that you can.

Many different choices. Would you like an espresso? Coffee? Dark roast? Light Roast? Decaf? There are all different styles and flavors of pods to choose from. Since we bring different types of coffee pods with us, we can make coffee to suit anyone’s taste when camping with friends.

Small enough to fit (almost) anywhere. The machine is small enough for just about any RV. We put ours on the countertop when we’re using it and then back into a storage bag that goes into the “garage” space when the coffee maker is not in use.

What to do with all the pods? Nespresso provides a bag that you can collect your used pods in and mail back at no cost to be recycled. Keurig has been making their pods recyclable since 2020 but you will need to figure out where you can recycle them.

Cost. The Nespresso pods are around $1/cup. Much cheaper than going to a coffee shop but about 3x more expensive than the Keurig pods. Again, I prefer the Nespresso coffees compared to Keurig.

Power. In order to run a pod coffee machine, it takes about 1,000 watts. It’s only running for about a minute so it shouldn’t kill your camper batteries but you will need an inverter or be plug into shore power to run the coffee maker in your RV.

Lack of diversity (Nespresso) and harder to find. It seems just about everyone these days makes a coffee pod that works for Keurig (Costco even has a Kirkland version) but so far I’ve only seen Nespresso pods made by Nespresso. I don’t believe they allow third parties to make pods for their machines. This means your stuck with the selection that Nespresso offers. I’ve also only ever seen their pods for sale online and in their retail stores (which are few and far between). Luckily, you can find a wide selection of Nespresso pods on Amazon and on the Nespresso website.

If you decide to buy a machine through Nespresso.com, use our referral code WX59K4 to receive a $40 discount and a free capsule dispenser.

2. Instant Coffee

How to Make Coffee - Instant Coffee for Camping

When we are traveling around the world and it doesn’t make sense to bring my collapsible pour over, I will bring instant coffee. This is my least favorite way to drink coffee, but it’s very handy when your camping or going places where you can’t walk to a local coffee shop for a cup.

To make an instant coffee, all you need is a cup and a way to get hot water, which is typically fairly easy. If you can’t find hot water, most instant coffees can be made using cold water.

That said, instant coffee has been getting much better over the years and I’ve found that there are now craft instant coffees. I wrote this article on what I think is one of the best craft instant coffees out there.

3. Pour Over

Pour Over Coffee - Best RV Coffee Maker

Before I found pod coffee, I exclusively made pour over coffee. Pour over coffee is the method of having some type of funnel with a filter in it that you put ground coffee in and then pour the water over to brew it. In my opinion, pour over coffee is one of the best ways to make a delicious cup of coffee.

I still make pour overs at home (although I will make a cup of pod coffee if I’m rushing or don’t feel like making a pour over). Despite being a much better cup of coffee, a lot more equipment and time is involved. Depending on your preferences, this could be the best RV coffee maker option or it could be overkill.

Here’s my process on how to make coffee using the pour over method:

Start With Quality Coffee Beans

To make a great cup of coffee, you have to start with great coffee beans. This is true whether you’re out exploring in your RV or hanging out at home.

I prefer light roasts because they have more flavor notes and much higher levels of caffeine. Most people think the darker the roast the “stronger” the coffee but that’s incorrect. The more the beans are roasted, the more caffeine they lose along with all of the nuanced flavors.

My Favorite Coffee Beans

Cafe Demitasse

Based in Los Angeles, California, Cafe Demitasse has a variety of quality coffee beans that change regularly. Since we’re now part time RVers, I have a weekly subscription to their coffee which gives me free shipping and a discount on the beans. Some of my favorites are the Costa Rica and El Salvador beans.

Bobby, the owner of Cafe Demitasse is offering We’re the Russos readers a 10% discount on all coffee bean orders with promo code RUSSOS10.

DOMA Coffee Roasting Company

These coffee beans are roasted and hand packed in Post Falls, Idaho. DOMA’s organic Ethiopia, Summer Lovin’ and Veloce are some of my favorite coffee beans. DOMA also has a line of craft instant coffee packets that are great when I’m pressed for time or don’t have my coffee maker with me.

If you’d like to try their coffee beans or instant craft coffee, use RUSSOS10 to get 10% off your DOMA Coffee order.

Blue Bottle Coffee

I first discovered Blue Bottle Coffee before we decided to quit our jobs to travel full time (more about that in my first book, Take Risks). At the time I was traveling to New York for business and would grab a cup of coffee at one of the many cafes in the city. Blue Bottle has expanded quite a bit but their coffee bean quality has stayed consistent. The Bella Donovan blend offers a nice balance of flavors from several famous coffee regions in the world. This roast is slightly darker than what I typically drink.

Thump Coffee

Thump Coffee is based in one of our favorite cities: Bend, Oregon. The Ethiopia washed is incredible with tea like flavors and aromas. It is one of Kait’s favorite coffees because of the Earl Gray and Jasmine tea notes.

Seeds Coffee

This was an unexpected discovery while we were visiting friends at Storyteller Overland in Birmingham, Alabama. Seeds Coffee has a nice Ethiopia Biftu Gudina bean that I really enjoyed.

Tip: Quality coffee roasters will include a roast date on the coffee bag. Try to find coffee beans that have been roasted within in the last week or two.

During the six and a half years that we traveled full time in an RV, I usually ordered coffee from one of the coffee roasters online and had the beans delivered to our next destination.

Choose the Right Grind

Depending on where you buy the coffee beans, they will be sold as whole coffee beans or ground coffee. I only buy whole beans and grind the beans in my conical burr coffee grinder.

The benefit to grinding the coffee beans myself is it allows me to play around with the coarseness of the grind and adjust it accordingly based on the roast and the brew method.

When you love coffee as much as I do, you make room for the right coffee gear. As Kait always jokes, the first thing we have to figure out when we move into a new camper is where I’m going to put all my coffee gear. This coffee grinder has been with me since we lived in a traditional house, when we moved into our first RV, downsized to van life and now it’s in our new home. Despite what I said earlier about the pod coffee maker, if we decide full-time RV again, I would switch back to making pour over coffees since it is that much better.

For those of you wondering, “why don’t you get a hand grinder?” Well, I did buy this hand burr grinder when we first transitioned to van life in 2017. The challenge for me was the amount of time it took to grind the coffee and the grinder did not hold up long term. That said, hand grinders have improved since then and there are some out there with good reviews like this manual coffee grinder.

If you end up grinding your own coffee, my suggestion is to play around with the different settings and find what works for you.

Brew Your Coffee

Now it’s time to make that great cup of coffee. I prefer pour over because the gear is lightweight, compact and easy to clean. All important considerations when you’re living out of a small camper or traveling internationally.

Before you pick a coffee brewing method, I want to point out that water will effect the taste of your coffee. I use purified water from our Berkey which you can read more about in my water filter review.

I started out using this Hario coffee dripper and paper coffee filters. I’ve since switched to the Kalita Wave Dripper using paper filters.

This is one of the best RV coffee maker setups. I like how simple, easy and controllable it is to make coffee in a pour over. You can see exactly how much water is being added and how the grounds are interacting with the water. Once the coffee is brewed, you toss the filter and grinds away and wipe down the cone with a rag or paper towel. No water or washing needed which is helpful when you have a limited amount of water.

My step-by-step guide to pour over coffee
  • I typically heat the water to 203 degrees for a light roast. A medium to dark roast will require a slightly cooler temperature.
  • Once the water reaches the set temperature, I place the filter in the pour over and pour a small amount to wet and rinse the paper filter and dump that water.
  • Then, I coarsely grind 20 grams of coffee, add it to the filter and wet the grinds to allow them to bloom.
  • After about 30 seconds, I begin pouring the water over the grounds in a circular motion without touching the side.
  • I now make coffee using a digital food scale and will use either a 15:1 or 16:1 ratio of water to beans. For example, I will add a total of 320 grams of water for 20 grams of coffee (this includes the water used to bloom).

Tip: to make more than one cup of pour over coffee you can brew it into a small carafe.

When traveling and living out of a backpack or suitcase, I bring my collapsible pour over.

This is perfect because it takes up very little room and can fit in a small suitcase or carry-on bag. I will pre-grind coffee to bring with me, but if I don’t have the room or run out of coffee, I will buy some at a local market.

If you have more room and want to make more than a cup or two at a time, I enjoy using a CHEMEX glass coffee maker. It makes a distinctive cup of coffee and is still relatively easy to clean.

Regardless of which pour over coffee maker you choose, make sure you purchase the correct filters. There are reusable coffee filters, but I have not tried them.

4. Press Coffee

When I want to make more than one cup of coffee at a time, I use this French press from BruTrek. In the past, I’ve advocated against a French press in small campers. The reason is because the French press requires more water to clean after each use and it can be difficult to keep the coffee grounds from going down the camper sink which can cause issues in an RV gray tank. However, the BruTrek solves this problem with a removable bottom which allows you to easily clean it.

For a while, I made coffee in an AeroPress every day. I still enjoy the coffee from an AeroPress but the pour over method and French press have become my preferred way to brew press style coffee.

Coffee Making Gear

RV coffee maker

This is a list of my essential coffee gear for making a great cup of coffee.

1. Burr Grinder

This conical burr grinder has settings that allow me to get the perfect grind for the coffee beans I want to use. Due to it’s size, when I am flying to a destination like Tibet or Barcelona, I will pre-grind the coffee beans and leave the grinder behind.

2. Gooseneck Water Kettle

The electric gooseneck kettle is my preferred water kettle for making coffee because I can set the temperature of the water. Depending on the coffee beans, I will set the temperature as low as 190F or as high as 205F.

Gooseneck Water Kettle (stovetop) – when I don’t have access to electricity, I will use this water kettle. The gooseneck allows me to control the pour when brewing coffee.

3. Digital Scale

I used to eye ball the amount of coffee and water I was using. This resulted in a slightly different cup of coffee every time. With the scale, I can get my cup of coffee to come out the way I like it every time. Using my water to coffee ratio, it also allows me to make more or less coffee depending on what I want.

4. Insulated Coffee Cup

A well insulated cup will keep the brewed coffee hot for a longer period of time compared to a regular coffee mug. Note: I don’t use the lid on these cups because I have found that when I use the lid to keep it hotter, longer, the coffee will begin to get a very bitter taste.

Can I Send You My Favorite Coffee?

People often ask to send me their favorite coffee beans and I really appreciate the thought. However, I have become very particular about my coffee and prefer the ones I listed above.

how to make coffee

Regardless of which coffee making method you choose, as long as you enjoy the cup of coffee that you make, that’s all that matters.

Thanks for making it all the way to the end. I’d love to know how you make coffee when you’re out on the road and beyond.

Leave a Comment

42 thoughts on “How to Make Coffee with the Best RV Coffee Maker”

  1. Thanks for all info. We bought uncle’s 28′ 1990 Comcast in Mayerthorpe AB, CA. Covid kept us from picking up RV. A deal 1990, 15K miles, great shape. Hopefully get it June 2022. Newbies for sure. Always looking for adventure. Glad I found you browsing. We’ll be checking in soon. Good tips on coffee, I’m a coffee snob. Lol

    Reply
  2. This is really great coffee info! As I’m trying to up my coffee skills, I appreciate the advice.

    Quick question about the BruTrek – when making coffee in it, I still use the same water to coffee ratio eventhough some of the water gets trapped at the bottom of the BruTrek with the grinds and discarded? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hey Tim – yes, always use the same ratio. I found with the Brutrek, if you’re getting a lot of water left at the bottom, after you’ve poured the coffee, pull the plunger out about a quarter of the way and while still holding it over the coffee cup, push the plunger back in. I typically have to do this a couple times to get all the coffee out.

      Reply
  3. Hi Joe, Thanks for all you guys do! You’ve been a great help in our decision making process. We will be at the Adventure Van Expo this month in Dillion and I am going to bring you some coffee from a great roaster in Wisconsin. Do you have a favorite region of beans?

    Steve

    Reply
  4. Hey Russo’s! We’re new subscribers! Not new to your YouTube. We have been watching since the Hymer days. love keeping up with you both great stories and content. I’m trying to find a coffee mug like yours that is magnetic for my husband for Fathers Day. I’m having a hard time finding one as awesome as yours! I remember in your video I believe, you said it was a gift from a friend? Anyway was thinking maybe you could lead me in the right direction to purchase one. Thank you both and look forward to your videos! If your ever in Kitsap County we have plenty of space for you to park and check out more of the PNW!

    Reply
  5. I enjoy all the coffee discussion but what about heating the water? We have a 1000 watt pure sign inverter. Since we have solar I’d prefer to use battery rather than propane. Any thoughts on a electric tea kettle than uses less than 1000 Watts?

    Reply
  6. Thanks for the AeroPress review! My favorite coffee is La Minita–from a Costa Rican plantation of the same name. For the last 11 years, I’ve gotten it from Addison Roasters, Addison, TX.

    Reply
    • Hey Jack,

      I believe that I’ve had La Minta before…in Costa Rica. I bought a few pounds to bring home and, yes, one of my favorite all time coffees. I love the chocolatey flavor of those beans!

      Reply
        • Hey Steve – While they weren’t popular I missed them too so I started doing something similar on Instagram. If you use it, I try to do one every Sunday morning live so I can take questions – typically around 9-10am PT.

          Reply
  7. In and around Ithaca NY we have oodles of fantastic roasters. Gimme coffee, 40 weignt, Iron horse to name a few. Feel spoiled

    Reply
  8. If y’all are ever in the Austin, TX area, try some beans from Anderson’s Coffee. https://andersonscoffee.com Great coffee, nice folks, and they always have some freshly made for $1.00/cup.

    Good tea selection, too – if you or Kait are in to that…

    Reply
  9. Hey Joe, I’ve had an aeropress for a couple of years and I’m a big fan. I usually pre-wet the filter, but I honestly don’t know if it makes any difference. Demitasse And Blue Bottle are great. My favorite coffee of all time is probably Intelligentsia https://www.intelligentsiacoffee.com/ Its HQ is in Chicago, but they have some locations in the LA area (Pasadena, Venice, Silver Lake), and at least some of the LA area Whole Foods carry it. Give it a try sometime.

    Reply
    • Hey Matthew!

      We’ve been to Intelligentcia in two of the locations they have in LA and have enjoyed it but the Costa Rican they have at Demitasse takes the cake for me 🙂

      Thanks!
      Joe

      Reply
  10. AeroPress is even better with a stainless steel filter. I use it every morning and then take my old one when camping.

    Reply
  11. I’ve seen the aero press mentioned a lot. I have a Keurig in the Rv for guests. I’ve really made life simple, since I’m the only one who drinks coffee. I purchased a GSI outdoor travel Javadrip. It is a collapasable coffee cone you put a filter in, coffee grinds and hot water. Useful if you backpack and travel.

    Reply
    • Hey Kimmie!

      I’ve seen those Javadrips and really enjoy pour over coffee. I have a Hario V60 that I used for a while but opted to bring the AeroPress with us. I may have to look into getting a collapsable pour over so I have another option when making coffee.

      Reply
  12. As a full-timer myself, I really enjoy sampling roasters local to the places we visit.

    For years I used the same grinder, but a few months ago upgraded to the Baratza Virtuoso (electric) grinder and have not looked back. Oh, and I think you are not giving the pour-over brewers (I prefer Chemex or V60) their proper due! 😉

    Btw, if you have the space and inclination, and have yet done so, you should begin experimenting with cold brewing … the perfect summertime treat. I have the Hario Mizudashi (600ml) and love its small footprint and ease of clean-up.

    Reply
    • Ha! Well, I love the V60 and the Chemex but I could only bring one with us in the van and at the end of the day, I like the AeroPress better than the V60 and just couldn’t fit the Chemex in the van 🙁 I miss having options but I can aways grab a pour over at those local places! We’ve done some cold brewing using the Primula. Really enjoy it and it also makes some great cold brewed teas.

      Reply
    • Hey Devon, thanks for the reco. I’ve had Stumptown in SoCal but would rather get it from the source…but completely forgot that they are in OR! Will definitely also add Barismo to the list.

      Reply

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