Re-embracing Coffee Outside

I love the concept of Coffee Outside: go somewhere outdoors, preferably by bike (or walking too) and make some coffee. Over the past decade, the concept has taken off, and there are many weekly meet-ups all around the world where people get together to share their Coffee Outside experience.

We’ve had one in Portland for a number of years. I used to participate fairly regularly, when I needed to be up early on Fridays for work. Now I don’t have a regular job. I have never been an early riser, so getting up at 6 or possibly earlier to get to one is tough. Now that we are in pandemic mode, PDX Coffee Outside is still going strong thanks to Zoom. But that still happens at 7 AM. Waking up at 6:50 to stumble out to the back patio is a lot easier than biking somewhere, but early is still early. I hope to participate at some point, but for now, I need something that works on my (non)schedule: Solo Coffee Outside.

And April has turned up to be a nice month, despite the global bleakness of pandemic. It’s been fairly dry and consistently mild, with highs regularly reaching 60F/16C or higher. A nice time to be outside. I’ve pulled out the kit again and taken it with me, finding some out-of-the-way spots to enjoy coffee.

But first, Coffee Outside in the backyard!

I pulled out my little Esbit coffee maker, unused since sometime in 2019. I had some pre-ground coffee I got from Backporch Coffee Roasters in Bend, so I used that.* While I do have a hand-held grinder, I had some extra mini bags of grounds, so why not use it up?

Doing a little Coffee Outside test at home after a long time not doing it is nice. Having a dry run where you have everything at hand jogs your memory of what you need to bring to make it work. With that knowledge in mind, I packed up the coffee kit for the Knapp Falls Ramble on Thursday April 9th. Brookside Park was a great spot to do it, since there was a handy picnic table and hardly anyone around.

It was another week until I did it again, on Friday April 17. This time I pulled out the bigger kit, the Trangia 27 with a “sock” style pourover made by GSI. I love the 27 for its supreme versatility and resilience in crappy conditions (it’s called the Stormcooker for a reason). It’s just a bit too big sometimes for solo bike camping and touring. A solo coffee outside? Perfect.

I aimed north for Cully Park, a great new and wide park in NE which affords impressive views when clear out. It didn’t disappoint today, as I got a great view of Mount Hood and Saint Helens. And while there were people around, the park is so large you don’t even notice. I headed to the highest point in the park, where there’s something resembling a mini Stonehenge going on, and got the kettle going.

During the Salish Ponds Ramble on Monday April 20th I got the Trangia 27 out again, and found a little bit of solitude in Kirk Park in Gresham. It was peaceful, despite the hum of what appeared to be drilling equipment in a corner of the park.

I’ll keep on doing my solo coffee outsides during this nice weather. If anything, it gives me a little taste of camping. I like the actual camping experience that comes with bike camping and touring: the hanging around a campfire, making food, chilling out in nature. I know that some folks who tour look at camping as strictly a means to an end; these are the folks who rarely take a stove, get up at the crack of dawn (or before) pack up camp and ride somewhere to eat. I much prefer a lazy morning in the campsite, unhurried. Time to make a cup of coffee, or maybe two, before the day gets underway. I look forward to this part of the camp/tour experience. It might be a time to listen to the radio, hear the news and weather. Or poring over maps. Or writing postcards.

I know that I’ll be able to go bike camp again, at some point. Until then, I’ll be doing coffee outside.

Coffee Outside, Brookside Park. 9 April 2020.

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