In the previous post, a critical boat system–coffee making–failed in such dramatic fashion (twice) that, months later, I am still cleaning grounds from between the floor boards. Once home this launched a search for the perfect boat brewer, whose requirements are:

  1. Be easy to use in rough weather.
  2. Keep hot water and grounds captive.
  3. Be a durable design.
  4. Make coffee I like.


One could complain that these posts are much ado about nothing, that instant coffee crystals are the one-and-done solution for adventurers whose galley counters are predictably unstable. Sure. Except for the above point number four.

Consider for a moment the de-gustibus-non-est-disputandum principle. H. W. Tillman states, “comfort cannot be expected by those who go a pleasuring,” yet his small crews always included a cook, and many lines of story were dedicated to this or that exemplary pudding “fit for a glass case.” Willie de Roos might be on watch 48 hours straight during his 1977 transit of the Northwest Passage, yet when finally at anchor, he’d bake a loaf of bread before hitting his bunk. At the other end of the spectrum, Webb Chiles ate his oatmeal raw because the extra mastication this necessitated gave him something to do.

Which is to say that there is just no accounting for taste.

My own taste for coffee has led to two brewing devices that seem to fit the boat bill, the AeroPress and the It’s American Press.

AeroPress is tested here…

How it Works

IMG_9724The AeroPress kit includes eight items: 1) Plunger, 2) Chamber, 3) Filter Cap, 4) Funnel, 5) Filters, 6) Filter Holder, 7) Scoop, 8) Stirrer. Oh, and a carrying case. For those concerned with efficiency, let me say quickly that the stirrer, the scoop, the funnel, and the filter holder can be discarded.

IMG_9726First, insert a paper filter into the filter cap and attach the cap to the bottom of the chamber.

IMG_9727Next, add grounds. The numbers along the side of the chamber indicate hot water fill levels. To make espresso, for example, add one scoop of fine grounds and fill with hot water to level one. Here I am adding two scoops of grounds for a “regular American” coffee.

IMG_9732Place the chamber atop a pre-heated cup and fill with hot water. Here I am filling to level four.

IMG_9734The online tutorial calls for stirring the grounds for 10 seconds. Note that filtered coffee will immediately begin to drain through the paper filter and into the cup, so my preference is to stir only briefly and then…

IMG_9735 (1)…quickly insert the plunger onto the top of the chamber. The rubber stopper on the plunger creates a vacuum in the chamber, which stops filtration and allows the grounds to steep.

IMG_9737 I steep the grounds for at least one minute before pressing the coffee into the cup.

IMG_9748Result: filling to level four produces about 10 ounces of brewed coffee. Top off with hot water if a greater quantity of hot beverage is desired.

IMG_9745Cleanup: grounds are compressed into a hockey puck at the bottom of the chamber for easy ejection.

Extra Credit

One advantage of the AeroPress is the brew flexibility it allows. The quantity of grounds can be varied to taste, meaning the AeroPress can produce anything from espresso to an American coffee with the consistency of tea (or tea, for that matter).

This flexibility has given rise to all kinds of published recipes and brewing competitions. One innovation I found particularly interesting was inverting the device and pouring the water in the chamber before adding the filter cap. This stops pre-steeped coffee from making its way prematurely through the filter. For example

Water filled in AeroPress


Another is the manual lever kit that has some obvious boating applications.

So, how does the AeroPress stack up against our objectives?


  1. The AeroPress technology allows for the full-flavored extraction one expects from a French Press without producing a chewy cup of Joe.
  2. Adding grounds to the chamber and holding them there for steeping gives one the ability to customize density of brew. I find my favorite combination is two to three heaping tablespoons per a 10 to 12-ounce cup of coffee steeped for one minute.
  3. With the plunger in place, both hot water and hot grounds are kept secure.
  4.  The thick plastic design appears to be rugged enough to take the abuse it would get on a blue-water boat.
  5. Clean up is a breeze.


  1. The AeroPress fails the stability test as it is just not optimized (not designed) for sitting on top of a coffee cup while it and cup are at sea. In any kind of weather, it would require three hands, and even then, the hand holding the chamber risks being scalded with boiling water. Adding the above manual lever to one’s kit would ameliorate this, but who has room for such a thing?
  2. The AeroPress also fails the grounds captivity test in steep mode. In this mode the plunger sits lightly at the top of the chamber and is unlikely to hold fast if the press were to take a tumble. This means no steeping at sea–the loss of a major benefit.
  3. Even if the stirrer, the scoop, the funnel and the paper holder are discarded, the device has a lot of moving parts to keep track of.


The AeroPress makes an excellent cup of coffee that’s easily customized to one’s taste, but fails the stability and captivity tests and would be difficult to use as sea.

The AeroPress is available from the usual suppliers and the kit is typically under $30.

11 Comments on “BOAT BREW TRIALS: The AeroPress

  1. Randall, may I suggest a big wall stove for getting the water hot in rough seas. MSR WindBoiler Hanging Kit. Hope that helps and a good stove backup that is lightweight. best, JM

  2. “…ate his oatmeal raw…”

    Just the thought of it dries my mouth out.

  3. Long time (4+ years) Aeropress user here. You can let it steep without the plunger inserted, I do all the time. We have a reusable stainless mesh filter fitted, it flows a bit more than the paper, so with a big mug you end up refilling the top once or twice prior to plunging (not adding more coffee, just water). With the right size mug, the press fits snugly inside the lip and shouldn’t bounce out; a Stanley 1820 (?) insulated travel mug works well for this. I suspect for heavy weather, something more than a press fit might be needed, drill some holes in the flange of the press and add shock cords, or rubber bands.

    As for losing parts? We toss the funnel, measuring spoon, and pack of filters in the drawer and never use them again. Long term you won’t miss them. Get the stainless filter and be done. Also, since coffee making is a daily, if not more regular occurrence, you don’t need to clean the grounds out till you brew the next cup. Just remove the cap, peel the filter, push the plunger all the way through while hovering over the trash/compost, rinse everything and make the next cup. It all stays in one piece except for plunger till you are ready to push on it. Biggest drawback is only making small cups, but if you adjust the ratio and add more water during the “brew” it’s easy.

  4. If you have a place in Moli to mount a Sea Swing one burner stove in gimbals, your spill days for small cook or brew projects will be over. Not made anymore, but they do come up for sale. I’ll send you a pic and further info.

    • Interesting. Same comment as per John above. My issues aren’t with boiling water, but with brewing the coffee. Still, the Sea Swing would make an excellent backup cook system.

  5. Does the AeroPress get points for being invented by (yours truly), a sailor / boat designer (Fast-40, Etosha)?

    Seriously, brew into a broad-bottomed mug on the bottom of your sink. That will keep spills in the sink.


    Alan Adler

    • Indeed it does, Alan. Had a look at Etosha. Sleek and lovely…and aluminum? Thanks for the brewing recommendation.

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