Trucking and coffee just go together. But many of us find truckstop coffee totally unacceptable. Weak, low-quality coffee that’s been sitting on a burner for hours just doesn’t do the trick. Lucky for you, I’ve tried just about every way of making coffee in a truck. I’m happy to share what I think are the two absolute best ways of making coffee in a truck.
In this article, we will cover several methods of making your own coffee in the comfort of your truck cab or sleeper. Keep in mind that I’ve tried all of the following:
- Instant Coffee
- French press
- Pour-over coffee
- Stovetop percolator
- Household electric drip coffee maker
- 12-volt drip coffee maker
- Real Trucker Coffee, the one I’ve never tried
- A clear winner – at least for me
Real Trucker Coffee – NO!
Let’s just knock this one off the list now. A quick web search of trucker coffee will lead to a couple articles about eating a spoonful of instant coffee while flying down the freeway. This is just a bad idea, and I’ve never tried it. Really, you don’t need to try something to know how dumb it really is. Needless to say, trucker coffee gets a big NO from this trucking author.
12 Volt, Drip Coffee Maker
I’m sure you’ve seen these 12-volt coffee makers in truck stops and other outdoor stores. I’ve seen them and actually tried 2 different brands. The concept sounds good. Just plug it into your truck’s 12-volt outlet, then wait for your delicious cup of drip coffee.
I found three big downfalls to the 12-volt coffee.
- You don’t get much coffee. You may fill your travel mug, but it will take you a while and several pots to fill that thermos.
- The coffee tastes like plastic. It’s hard to enjoy great coffee it’s masked by the taste of plastic. Just a guess here, but I have to believe this can’t be healthy either.
- Unless you have an APU, you’ll need to idle your truck. It takes about 4 pots of this stuff to fill your thermos and travel mug. Without idling, you could run the risk of not being able to start your truck.
Needless to say, I can’t recommend this style of coffee maker. They’re too much work and cleanup for coffee that tastes like plastic.
To be quite honest, if you only drink one or two cups of coffee a day, this could be your best option. It’s quite simple. Hot water and a spoonful of your favorite brand. You’re sipping coffee. Quick and easy.
Another great benefit of instant coffee is clean-up. Clean the spoon and the cup. Call it done. The same goes for the thermos. Hot water plus instant coffee offers a quick solution.
It’s also easier to have some variety in your coffee with the instant option. You can build in some variety from the cheap brands to single-cup packets of Starbucks. Switching to decaf later in the day is also easy.
After trying the instant option, I abandoned it for two reasons. First, I just don’t enjoy the flavor as much as a freshly brewed pot. Second, instant coffee upsets my stomach. I can’t tell you why, but it does. For that reason alone, I’ve ruled it out.
French Press Coffee For Truckers
The French press method makes great coffee. Starting with a more coarse coffee grind than drip, you put in the grounds and hot water, stir briefly, then let it sit. I generally give it 4 to 5 minutes.
After the allotted time, just push the screen plunger down slowly, trapping the grounds at the bottom of the vessel. The result is seriously good coffee. It’s a great way to make a cup or two at home, and I’ve tried it in the truck several times.
For the road, my press of choice is the Stanley Travel Mug French Press. The one in the picture has been all over the country. I like it because I can drink the coffee from the vessel it was brewed in. The vessel also works as a stand-alone travel mug.
The downside of any french press for trucker coffee is clean-up. You need to dump the grinds and rinse the container after use. And if you put this cleaning off until later in the day, the used coffee grounds tend to dry up in the bottom of the vessel. Now you need a spoon to break it up, then rinse.
Rinsing a french press isn’t a big deal, but it’s not the kind of rinse where you can just pour a little water out. You need enough water to loosen and float the grounds. It takes more water and a place to dispose of the coffee grounds.
You also have to clean the screened plunger after use. This is easily done under running water but can be a pain in the truck.
Pour-over coffee is pretty self-explanatory. You have a coffee pot or vessel with a filtered basket on top. Simply pour the hot water over the fresh coffee grounds. When you’re done, you have delicious coffee.
This method has some great advantages. First, it’s quite simple. Even cleanup is easy. Just toss the used grounds that are contained in the paper filter, then give the pot a little rinse. It’s also simple to make less than a full pot. If you just want 2 cups, make 2 cups.
One reason I prefer the next two methods over pour-over is time. With pour-over, you wait for the water to be heated, then you’re stuck right there for several minutes as you slowly pour the hot water over the coffee grounds. It’s a good 15 minutes from when you start to when you’re enjoying the coffee.
Another disadvantage of pour-over coffee is the lack of heat retention. By the time you’re finished with the process of pouring the hot water, the pot has cooled down a bit. Keeping the coffee at the desired temperature for my Thermos made it tough.
Kris and I found a great Pyrex coffee percolator at a second-hand store. I think we paid about 3 bucks for the stovetop coffee maker. Using a Burton butane cookstove, I’ve made many a pot of delicious coffee right from the truck.
By using a paper filter in the basket, I made cleanup a snap. Seriously, I only stopped using the percolator because I accidentally tossed the basket, the part you put the fresh coffee grounds into.
This is a bit of a hands-on process. The water needs to be hot enough to percolate but not boil over. In my experience, 8 minutes was the ideal time to “perk” the coffee.
Use With Caution
Needless to say, you need to be vigilant when heating anything over an open flame. I always used a hardwood cutting board under the cooktop. I also ensured a few windows or vents were open a bit to get fresh air circulation.
120v Drip Coffee Maker
This ended up being the way I made my daily coffee. A 12-cup coffee maker made enough to fill my travel mug and thermos. Just set it up the night before, plug it into your AC inverter and turn it on in the morning. Great tasting, hot, and ready to go in minutes.
Cleanup is also a breeze. toss the paper filter with the used grounds, rinse the pot with a small amount of clean water, and you’re done. After all, there’s a reason nearly every coffee drinker makes coffee this way.
The only downside of this method is that it requires an inverter. If your truck isn’t equipped with an APU, you may need to idle your truck while the coffee is being made. In my case, I’d start the truck, then turn the coffee maker on.
I’ve purposely left out a few options: the Keurig coffee maker and cold press coffee. The pictures show that the Castle Curator and I own both, but I wouldn’t consider either truck worthy.
The Keurig is a single cup play. Making enough for a thermos and that morning cup would be a real pain in the butt. Also, I’m just not as happy with the taste of the coffee when compared to other choices.
Cold press coffee is delicious but intended to be served cold. Also, you use twice as many coffee grounds for the same quantity as a drip coffee. Again, I’m a fan of cold brew. Just not for that morning cup or the thermos.
My Absolute Favorite Trucker Coffee
I originally wrote this article in January 2020. Now that I’m back on the road again, I have a new favorite. It’s great coffee, affordable, and easy to make. I also have to add that I’ve cut back on the amount of coffee I drink daily.
My coffee routine for the last decade or so has been a cup in the morning, then a travel mug, and a full Thermos for the rest of the day or night on those overnight runs.
These days I’m down to two cups per day, maybe three. Should I want a hot beverage beyond that, my go-to is green tea.
What kind of coffee does buck use today? I discovered Starbucks Dark Roast Premium Instant Coffee earlier this year and never looked back. It’s quick, easy, and delicious.
I’ve always enjoyed Starbucks instant coffee, but the individual packets were a bit pricey for me. The tin of coffee is certainly more than most instant coffees, but not that much. For me, it’s worth the extra.
I use just a bit over a teaspoon in an 8-ounce cup of hot water and enjoy. I then heat up a second cup of water and use it for my travel mug.
Another thing I like about this coffee is its ability to dissolve in a cold beverage like my protein smoothie. And no, I never drink it dry, right out of the can.
You should know at least as much about trucker coffee as I do by now. I know coffee is a very personal choice, and everyone has their preference. Let’s hear yours. Leave a comment and share your coffee success… or failure. I’d love to hear from you.