I love coffee. No, strike that. I can’t live without the stuff.
The first thing I do every morning, hands shaking, is make a pot of it. No matter how bad the world is, a cup of java makes it just a little better.
It’s not merely a psychological thing. It’s physical. So much so that squeamish readers may wish to skip the next paragraph.
At my age, a good dump is better than bad sex. And I just can’t get my bowels working in the morning without two cups of the brown motion lotion. There. I said it.
I spent ten days in Japan a few years ago. Green tea at breakfast time is probably very good for you. But it’s no substitute for coffee. By the time I left for home, I had blinding headaches, chronic constipation and an inability to concentrate for more than five minutes at a time.
It has to be the good stuff, mind. Fresh filter or espresso, not instant – or worse – the warm milk with brown spit at the bottom you get in high street coffee joints.
I cannot contemplate airsoft without decent coffee. Least of all a 24 hour game, where I might have to rouse myself from a fitful sleep in order to be alert and ready for another day’s action.
Over time, I’ve experimented with various ways of availing myself of real coffee in the field. These are my findings.
The trusty Thermos
This is, of course, not a method of making coffee, merely a way of transporting it. So it doesn’t really count. Though it works well enough on a Sunday morning, when I just pour the contents of my drip filter machine jug into a pre-warmed thermos flask. Great in the winter.
Cooking with gas
At some point, your trusty thermos flask will become depleted. Which is why you need a means of heating water (not just for coffee, but for preparing food as well. Even washing, if you’re so minded).
A purist may plump for an army-approved Hexy stove or one of the latest-issue alcohol gel-burning Crusader stoves. But you’re not in the army, and this seems a little extreme. Which is why I prefer a lightweight propane burner. It’s fast, light, a little noisy (so less tactical), but very clean and convenient.
Some people recommend the Jetboil system, which integrates a boiling vessel with the burner for less heat wastage. But I’m content with a metal 58-pattern cup as my boiling vessel. The burner and gas canister fit inside it quite neatly for easy carriage.
In the bag
Lyons and other companies market coffee bags. They’re essentially tea bags, but with ground coffee in them. Superficially, this seems an attractive tactical coffee solution. But in practice, the results are dire.
There may be a knack to using coffee bags, but I’ve yet to master it. Put a bag in the cup and leave it alone, and the result will be an anaemic and unsatisfying puddle of brown water. A coffee tribute band, if you will. Agitate and squeeze the bag, and you’ll end up with bitter-tasting, over-brewed death-in-a-cup.
A better solution is those one-cup disposable drip filter things. They tend to produce a uniformly good quality cuppa and are relatively idiot-proof.
However, I worry about the ecological damage done by employing so much disposable plastic in creating just one cup of coffee. Also, they take up an unconscionable amount of space in your daysack and are easily damaged in transit.
Press for action
There are few simpler coffee-making methods than ‘The French Press’. This is not a sexual position, but rather a poncy American term for what we limeys (and frogs) call the cafetiere.
I’ve always lusted after a 100% titanium French press from the niche Japanese outdoor brand Snow Peak. Last year, I finally acquired one, at great expense. It is a beautiful piece of kit, and virtually weightless. It also makes pretty good coffee.
However, as often happens when you meet your heroes, I was disappointed. It’s bulky. You can use it as a boiling vessel in place of the 58-pattern cup, but it won’t accommodate a boil-in-the-bag meal. And it needs a separate cup. Fine for civilian car-based picnic visits to National Trust properties with elderly relations. Less practical for tabbing towards an airsoft battlefield with a day-sack on your back.
A mug’s game
At last we come to what is, for me, the perfect tactical coffee-making solution. It calls itself the Zyliss Cafetiere Hot Mug, and it’s available in a range of colours (including a nice mil-spec dark grey) from Amazon for about £10. (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zyliss-Cafetiere-Hot-Mug-Grey/dp/B00COEXKJI/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1395009228&sr=8-3&keywords=Zyliss+Cafetiere+Hot+Mug.)
As the name suggests, it’s an insulated cup that incorporates a plunger with a permanent filter built in. You put a few spoons of ground coffee in, add hot water, and after a minute or two, gently insert the plunger (ooh, er Missus) and push it v-e-r-y slowly to the bottom.
The result is a deeply satisfying cuppa with a healthy crema on the top that stays warm to the last drop. It rinses out easily with just a drop of water, and it packs away easily, with plenty of room inside for a small container of coffee.
War may be hell, but good coffee is heavenly. Pack a Zyliss Cafetiere Hot Mug and you’ll be able to face every day in the field with alertness, good cheer, and completely evacuated bowels.