Van life is amazing. You are able to travel the world at your own pace, on a low budget, and literally in the comfort of your own home.
While this idyllic lifestyle is wonderful, it doesn’t come without compromise. Because we need to take everything with us, we need to think carefully about how we use energy.
Solar panels, batteries, LPG, diesel, and gasoline: they are all options for powering our lights and heating our vans, but there is only so much power. Even with a big solar and battery system, your energy usage does have to be considered.
To brew coffee, we need to heat up water, and heat is one of the largest power demands we can have.
Brewing good coffee while traveling does take some careful thought. Once you find the solution that works for you, brewing a great cup of coffee from your camper van is not only possible, but it is also easy.
I’ve reviewed all of the best coffee makers for traveling. Whether you’re going the van life route, RV living, backpacking, or even just on a good old fashioned camping trip; I’ve got you covered.
Check out the summary below for a quick rundown of the best coffee makers for van life, just click the name and you’ll be taken to Amazon where you can get some more info and buy yours.
Top 5 Best Coffee Makers For Van Life
- 1. Best Drip Coffee Maker – Coleman QuikPot Propane Coffee Brewer
- 2. Best Pour Over – Hario V60 Pour Over Starter Set with Glass Carafe
- 3. Best French Press – Bodum Chambord French Press Coffee Maker, Copper
- 4. Best StovetopMoka Pot – Bialetti Kitty Espresso Coffee Maker
- 5. Best PercolatorCoffee Pot – Coleman Stainless Steel Percolator
1. Best Drip Coffee Maker – Coleman QuikPot Propane Coffee Brewer
Brewing Process: Drip
- Propane powered
- Built-in ignition
- Brews just like an ordinary electrical drip machine
- PerfectFlow Technology ensure you get consistently great coffee
- 10-cup glass carafe
The Coleman QuikPot is my first for the best coffee maker for van life.
Are you looking for a coffee maker option with zero compromise on homely creature comforts? This is the no-compromise van life coffee maker for you.
The Coleman QuikPot runs on propane, so you don’t need a big fancy power system in your van, heck, you don’t even need an LPG system. Just connect a small camping gas bottle and you’ve got fresh coffee.
It really couldn’t be simpler than that. It even has an ignition switch, so there’s no need to carry matches.
Once you fire it up, it’ll brew your java just like any ordinary electrically powered drip machine.
As a bonus, the glass carafe and filter basket are dishwasher safe. So if you stop off somewhere with a dishwasher, you can just bung them in there.
It doesn’t just make a great coffee, it consistently makes great coffee. The Coleman QuikPot has a built-in PerfectFlow system which ensures that it will reach the same temperatures and flow rates even in extreme cold and heat.
2. Best Pour Over – Hario V60 Pour Over Starter Set with Glass Carafe
Brewing Process: Pour Over
- Simple and elegant design
- Produces a smooth and bold brew
- Perfect for just one cup, ideal for more
- Small and portable
Pour over coffee gets right back to the basics of what makes a great coffee great. Best of all, it gives you control over the entire brew process.
When it comes to pour over coffee, the Hario V60 is a titan of pour over. It is loved worldwide both for how simple it is and also how brilliant a brew it can make.
Essentially, the V60 is what’s known as a filter cone.
It’s very similar to a drip machine. You sit the V60 on your mug, pop in a paper filter, load your ground coffee beans in, and pour hot water over the grounds. Simple as that.
But what if you want to share? Hario is on the case.
This V60 comes with a glass carafe. Just sit the V60 on top of the carafe and brew as normal. Coffee is made for sharing after all.
One bit of kit I recommend pairing with this is a gooseneck kettle, especially since you’re brewing coffee VanLife-style. It really does make the pouring part much easier than using a regular kettle, and helps to make a better coffee overall. Check out my review below on the Coffee Gator Gooseneck Pour Over Kettle.
3. Best French Press – Bodum Chambord French Press Coffee Maker, Copper
Brewing Process: French Press
- Copper-colored to suit the lastest van life theme, copper
- Available in four sizes from 12 ounces to 51 ounces
- Shatterproof Glass Carafe Option
- Easy to clean
Everyone loves a French Press.
Let me guess, was the first real coffee you brewed yourself in a French Press? Same here.
The best part of the french press is you can use these little coffee cauldrons absolutely anywhere you have hot water. If you can heat up some water in a pan on your van stovetop, then you’re golden.
Speaking of golden, this French Press is particularly suited to Van Life.
Isn’t copper the latest theme for van builds? It most certainly is!
This Bodum French Press is copper too. Could there be a more fitting style of French Press for van living?
It makes a brilliant brew. The plunger forms a perfect seal around the inner edge of the glass. So you get minimal French Press sediment in your mug.
Best of all, there are four different sizes available, from 12 ounce to 51 ounce, so you will always be able to brew the perfect amount of coffee.
It’s also available in a shatterproof glass carafe option. So you have peace of mind you won’t have massive dangerous pieces of glass all over your van.
4. Best Stovetop Moka Pot – Bialetti Kitty Espresso Machine Coffee Maker
Brewing Process: Moka Pot
- Makes a brilliant strong coffee
- Easy to use
- Can be used on any kind of stovetop
If you’re an espresso fan, then surely you’ve heard of a Moka Pot.
Possibly the cheapest and easiest way to make espresso in your van. All you need is a stove to use it. It can be a little gas camping stove, an induction cooktop, or even a little wood burner.
Now, some coffee buffs might stop me there. It’s not real espresso, the pressure isn’t high enough. Yes, I know, but it’s certainly strong like espresso, and delicious to boot.
These little pots make espresso-like coffee super simple.
Just pour some fresh water into the lower chamber, making sure you only fill up to just below the little valve in the sidewall. Pop the little filter basket in, load in some freshly ground beans. Screw the top chamber on tight, and bung the Moka Pot on your stove at full heat.
As soon as you hear your coffee splurt up into the top chamber, quickly take it off the heat and serve.
I particularly like the Kitty Moka Pot from Bialetti. It is stainless steel, so it won’t corrode, it won’t affect the flavor of your coffee, and it can be used on induction hobs.
The Kitty is an improved version of Bialetti’s Venus Moka Pot. The kitty has a much better handle, you can get a real good grip of it. So there’s no risk of fumbling and dropping it; speaking from experience here.
It’s available in five different sizes, so there is definitely a perfect pot for everyone.
5. Best Percolator Coffee Pot – Coleman Stainless Steel Percolator
Brewing Process: Percolator
- Makes some really strong coffee
- Super easy to use
- A two-century-old, tried and tested design
- Works on any stovetop or heat source
A Percolator Pot makes one damn strong coffee. They are pretty similar to Moka Pots, but produce a very different coffee.
Like a Moka pot, the water is in the lower chamber, when it heats up, the water is pushed up into the top chamber. Only, once it gets up to the top, it falls back down into the lower chamber again. So it will keep cycling up and through the coffee until you take it off the heat.
You can make one seriously strong cup of mud with this thing. In fact, if you’re not careful, you can over-extract your coffee. A Percolator isn’t for the forgetful, you need to baby it, but when you get it right the cup of joe is just amazing.
Usually, a percolator pot runs on electricity. This percolator is made by Coleman, the same people who brought you the propane QuikPot drip machine. This percolator only needs heat, so absolutely any stovetop will do the trick; induction, wood stove, or even just a fire.
If you’re prepared to practice your coffee timing, this percolator could be about to become your new best friend.
Coffee Makers For Van Life – A Buyer’s Guide
When you’re living in a small van, even in a big van, every inch matters. There is only so much space and you’ve got to make the most of it.
While I’m not saying that a big coffee machine is can’t go in a van, that’s your choice to make the compromise. Who knows, you might have some funny dead space that a coffee machine could fit right into.
In most cases though, you will want a small coffee machine.
On top of that, if you choose a machine that had to sit on a countertop, like a coffee dripper, then you also want to consider the footprint, because that is how much countertop area you will be dedicating to your brewing contraption.
Isn’t it great when great coffee comes easily?
I know, for me personally, if my coffee maker isn’t easy to use in the morning, it won’t be used. I’ve toppled over my AeroPress once in my fit of grogginess and it’s been pour-over coffee in the mornings ever since.
Keep it simple, and your coffee will be brilliant.
Portable coffee makers, in most cases, are best suited to van life. Whether it’s simply small or cleverly collapsible, portability is usually the make or break factor that makes a coffee maker perfect for van life.
Energy is a cleverly planned out commodity in van life. Many of us are lucky enough to have a built-in solar system, but most people don’t have one large enough to power many heating appliances.
For example, electric kettles use a considerably large amount of power.
Heating up your coffee, in most cases, is going to have to happen by good old fashioned combustion. Things like gas (propane, butane, or both), paraffin, or even just wood, are some of the best ways to produce heat for your cup of joe.
Noone wants shards of glass all over their van.
I seriously recommend opting for a coffee maker that is pretty hard wearing. If not unbreakable, then at least shatterproof.
- Regular glass is risky, shatterproof is much safer.
- Plastic is unlikely to shatter, but can crack and leak when it gets older. It can also have a tendency to leech some flavors into your brew.
- Ceramic can shatter like glass.
- Metals, such as stainless steel, are not going to shatter. Really, you have to try to break these things. Even if you do, you’ll probably just bend the metal.
Who wants a pretty coffee maker? That’s right, everybody.
Especially if you’re going to be keeping your coffee maker out on display, you want it to look nice.
While some of the more utilitarian people might not be too fussed about how their coffee maker looks, I find there is a certain extra appreciation for the coffee ritual when it looks awesome.
Other Coffee Machines For Van Life Reviewed
CopperBull Engraved Copper Turkish Greek Coffee Pot Stovetop Coffee Maker Cezve Ibrik Briki with Brass Handle (24 Oz)
Brewing Process: Boiled
- One of the oldest coffee brewing methods
- Makes a unique and delicious coffee
- Beautiful copper design
- Perfect for people who love a coffee ritual
Do you like strong coffee? You don’t get much stronger than this.
This is a Turkish Pot. It’s a quirky brew method, that gets back to coffee-basics, and of course, matches with the copper van life theme.
Turkish pots are one of the oldest methods of brewing coffee.
These little pots are known by a few names, but it’s usually called a Cezve. This is how coffee has been brewed throughout the Middle East long before coffee ever found its way to Europe.
It’s a fun, but easy, little brewing ritual.
Start with just fresh water, and a couple of teaspoons of sugar, in the Cezve and bring it to a boil. Once it’s boiling, add coffee that has been ground as finely as possible. You could also mix in some spices such as cinnamon or anise.
Once you’ve got the coffee in it, you bring it to a boil again twice. After each boil, give it a stir an remove the bubbles; it gets rid of bitterness.
After the second boil, take it off the heat, let the grounds settle, and gently pour out into cups
Primula Burke Deluxe Cold Brew Iced Coffee Maker
Brewing Process: Cold Brew
- Easy to use
- Quick clean up
- No heating needed, it’s cold brew
- You can use it to make tea too
When living the van life, sometimes one thing leads to another and you just can’t heat up your water.
Well, you don’t always need hot water to make coffee. We always have cold brew to save the day.
The Primula Burke makes making cold brew super easy.
Just load your coffee grounds into the little infusion basket, fill the jug with water, and leave it to brew overnight. Yes, it does take a bit of thinking ahead, but when you’re going to bed, you do know you’ll be wanting coffee when you wake up. Your kitchen is right beside your bed after all.
You don’t even need to leave it in a cold place overnight. It’ll be perfectly brewed all the same from just sitting on the kitchen counter. Albeit lukewarm.
For best results, if you’re grinding your beans yourself, I recommend using a particularly coarse grind. I also recommend chilling it.
AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker with Tote Bag
Brewing Process: Immersion & Filter
- Excellent travel option
- Consistently makes a great coffee
- Loved by coffee enthusiasts worldwide
The AeroPress is a new gadget in the world of coffee. Honestly, I think it looks like a thick syringe. But damn does it make great coffee.
It brews in a funny fusion of French Press and filter coffee. You let the grounds steep in hot water in the cylinder for a few minutes, before screwing on the cap with a coffee filter paper in it, sitting the AeroPress on your mug, and pressing down the plunger.
The brew is strong and bold like French Press coffee, but it’s also smooth and grit-free like drip or pour over coffee. Really, it’s a unique cup of joe. Brilliant.
It’s even called an espresso maker because when you push that plunger down, you’re building up a little bit of pressure. It’s not a huge amount of pressure, but it’s pretty similar to the amount of pressure that a Moka Pot can build up, and that’s called an espresso maker too.
The only downside to an AeroPress is that it will make you one big single cup of coffee. That’s it. There are no large AeroPresses, which is a real bummer.
If you want to make more AeroPress coffee at the same time, you need more AeroPresses.
GSI Outdoors, 30 Fl Oz JavaPress, French Press Coffee Mug
- Make coffee and drink it all in one
When you’re van living, it pays to make your things as multipurpose as possible.
So does it not make sense to simply drink your coffee from the thing you’ve brewed it in?
GSI is on the case. They are pros at making camping coffee makers.
Nothing fancy, just a French Press that also doubles as a travel mug. How cool is that?!
The Javapress is both shatterproof and insulated. So while it is tough and can take a beating, it will also keep your brew warm too.
It’s 30 oz. So you have the option of either having a massive brew to yourself, or you’ll have plenty to share.
Keurig K-Mini K-Cup Pod Single Serve Coffee Maker, 6 to 12 Oz. Brew Sizes, Black
Brewing Process: Pod
- Tiny form factor
- Makes consistently good coffee
- Super easy to use
When living in a van, you don’t have huge amounts of space. So you need to make use of absolutely every inch you have.
The Keurig K-Mini is only 5 inches wide. That’s it.
While narrow, you can still fit medium-sized travel mugs under it, up to 7 inches tall.
One of the biggest draws to the K-Cup is being able to brew your favorite coffee, absolutely anywhere in your van, instantly.
Is a caramel macchiato your Starbuck go-to? Maybe it’s just a simple latte or cappuccino? Well, you can have it in your van. Hassle-free.
Just because it’s brewed from a pod doesn’t mean you’re compromising on good coffee. Pod coffee can very reliably brew a high quality coffee in just over a minute.
One downside is that it has a small water tank. You will find yourself topping up the water reservoir after each brew.
Other Essential Coffee Kit For Van Life
Coffee Gator Gooseneck Pour Over Kettle
Brand: Coffee Gator
- Gooseneck spout gives superior control over your pour
- Can boil water from any heat source
- Stainless steel, won’t corrode or affect the water flavor
- Built-in thermometer gauge
When brewing coffee, particularly pour-over brewing, it can make a world of difference to be able to control just how you pour hot water over your ground coffee beans. This is exactly what gooseneck kettles are for.
The only thing is, there are not many of us who can simply rely on a classic electric kettle to boil water when living in a van. Running an electric kettle has a high electrical demand. Heat usually has to come from some form of good old fashioned combustion.
This particular gooseneck kettle is perfect for the job. It heats up on your stovetop just like any ordinary saucepan.
It even has a built-in thermometer gauge on top, so you can see that you’ve got your water at the perfect temperature for coffee, which is between 195°F and 205°F.
For those of you running a large solar and battery system in your van who cook on an induction hob, not to worry, this kettle works just as well on an induction hob.
It is made of stainless steel, so it will not corrode or affect the flavor of your water. Just make sure you use freshly filtered water.
JavaPresse Manual Coffee Grinder with Adjustable Setting – Conical Burr Mill & Brushed Stainless Steel
- Adjustable grind size
- Made of stainless steel, it should last longer than your van
There’s nothing better than freshly brewed coffee.
Well, I suppose there is one thing better. That’s freshly brewed coffee, made from freshly ground beans.
Grinding coffee beans when you live in a van doesn’t have to be hard at all. Because electricity can be a limited resource, I recommend opting for a manual coffee grinder. There is no better manual coffee grinder than the JavaPresse Burr Grinder.
It’s super simple to use, just load the beans you want to grind into the top, choose your grind setting, wind the handle, and you’ve got freshly ground coffee in the bottom. It is, essentially, a big peppercorn mill made for coffee beans.
Upping your coffee game is as simple as cranking this handle.
So that’s my reviews of the best coffee makers for van life. I hope you’ve got a better idea of the kind of gadgets that’ll work particularly well when living on the road.
I feel some of the biggest considerations you have to make are:
- You need to be savvy over how you heat it up. Electricity isn’t an option for most. If you have a stove, you’re golden, or in this case, caffeinated.
- It cannot get in the way. You don’t have loads of space.
- It’s got to be easy to use and easy to clean up.
Now the only thing to think about is where you’re going to keep milk cool for your brew. I’ll leave you to figure out your fridge arrangements, I tend to just drink black coffee after all.
If you have any questions or feel there is something I’ve missed out, leave a comment below. I’d love to hear what you think.