Boat Coffee: How to Brew Great Coffee on Board (Without Shore Power)

How to Brew Great Coffee on Board

Boat Coffee

​Brewing coffee is an integral part of many people's morning routines on land. However, a surprising amount of boaters ​falls back on instant coffee when they are on the water. But why would you go back to mediocracy during ​holidays at the best place on earth (a.k.a your boat)? We show you how to brew a perfect boat coffee.


​The methods we present ​in this article have one thing in common: They work without shore power and do not require a lot of space in your galley. All you need is a way to make hot water, whether it is with a gas- or kerosene stove.

​Even though you can use ground coffee for all methods presented, your boat coffee tastes much better with freshly ground beans. ​Therefore we also suggest some coffee grinders at the end of the article​. We also show you some ways to foam up milk if you​ want to unfold your barista qualities and give a suggestion for a good thermos to have on board.

​5 Best Ways to Brew Boat Coffee

Here are ways to brew your coffee on the boat without shore power and just a gas- or kerosene stove:

1. Pour Over ​Drip Coffee

Pour over Coffee on a Boat

Pour over coffee on a boat

​The good old drip coffee is back! ​ ​Frowned upon for a long time by people who are serious about their coffee, the pour over / drip coffee found its place again in fancy coffee shops. This is mainly due to improved brewing techniques and supplies, such as the V60 coffee dripper with the spiraling grooves by Hario (also available in stainless steel for usage on boats). If you use the right water temperature and pouring technique, you can get excellent coffee this way.

If you do not want to carry a huge supply of coffee filters on board, you​ should consider a reusable filter.

​2. French Press

French Press for brewing coffee on board

French Press as an alternative to pour over

​The french press is an interesting alternative to pour over coffee: You don't have to keep refilling the filter with fresh water and it still can make a great tasting cup of joe. You have to make sure to use coarsely ground coffee though. Just fill the can with the coffee, pour over water and let it sit for 3-4 minutes (not longer!). Then press down the filter and enjoy your boat coffee. The original french press is produced by Bodum. As it is made of glass it might not be the best option to use on a boat. Luckily, there are alternatives in stainless steel.

Make sure not to let the coffee sit in the french press after ​pushing down the filter. ​Over time, the water will start to dissolve the bitter flavors from the beans. If you want to keep the coffee for longer, use a thermos.

​3. Moka ​Pot (Bialetti)

Bialetti and coffee beans

The moka pot makes great (strong) coffee

​If you like stronger coffee, a moka pot might be the right way to make your coffee on board. Invented by Alfonso Bialetti in the 1930s, the little cans can produce a tasty, very dark type of coffee. The pot comes in a large variety of sizes ranging from a single cup to a dozen cups. If you don't like aluminum, there is also a stainless steel option available. The result should not be confused with "real" espresso though, since a lot less pressure is used. ​The coffee from the moka pot thus lacks the characteristic crema.

A common problem when using the moka pot is that it does not stand very well on gas or kerosene stoves. However, it should be easy to bend some wire to construct an improvised holder for the can.

​4. Aeropress

Pouring water into Aeropress

Hot water gets poured into the Aeropress

A relatively new invention for making very rich and flavorful coffee is the Aeropress. The coffee is filtered under pressure by hand through a special filter paper. As it only produces a rather small amount of coffee, it is probably best suited for small crews or solo sailors.  It has the clear advantage that it is ​probably the lightest and least space consuming coffee maker.

Due to its size it is also ideal for backpacking and hikes on shore.

​5. Manual Espresso Machine

Manual Espresso Maker for on board use

The ROK Presso manual expresso maker

​You really can't live without a real espresso with the proper crema? Don't despair, we have something for you: the ROK Presso manual espresso maker. ​With this machine, you can make a perfect cup of espresso (or cappuccino if you add foamed milk) just as you would get it in a high-class coffee shop. It is completely manually operated and requires some practice but there is probably no ​more elaborate way to make coffee on board.

Grinders ​for Coffee on Board

​Once you have decided ​for a way to brew your coffee, you should ​not sell yourself short on the ingredients. As the ​sole ingredient in coffee are the ground beans, you should make sure to get the best quality available. Once you have​ ground the beans they loose their flavor fairly quickly, so it is best to grind them right before you brew your on-board coffee.

A good grinder produces grounds of a homogeneous size. ​This is especially important when using  a french press. An example for a ​very handy manual grinder is the ​Slim Grinder from Hario​. It takes a bit of time and effort to grind the beans for a whole pot. Yet, the results are quite good for its price. A little faster is the Skerton model which unfortunately has a glass bowl, rendering it not ideal for the use on board.

​Secret tip: If you like old-school hardware and want to have a permanently installed, classic grinder you should check out the models from Sponge. They are not produced anymore but you can sometimes find them on eBay. They work very well and look kind of cool on board.

​Foamed Milk for Your Boat Coffee

​But what if you want to have a cappuccino or a latte macchiato on your boat? If you can't live without milk in your coffee, there are two ways to foam it up easily once it is heated on the stove: You can either use a battery-powered foam maker or a manual milk frother.

​Keeping your Boat Coffee Hot

​Last but not least, if you want to keep your coffee warm during a night watch or when solo sailing: Check out this ​vacuum-flask from Thermos. It held my coffee hot for hours even ​when winter sailing in temperatures below the freezing point.

​How do you make coffee on your boat? Is there any good device that we did not cover in this article? Make sure to leave a comment below!


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