Caffeinated climbing - coffee options


Some of us just have to have that coffee jolt in the morning, but what to do on summit day when the team is ready to leave and there’s no time to brew a real cup of coffee?  Here are a few ideas.

1) If you have an espresso maker at home, try this: make a few shots at home, let it cool, then transfer to a small plastic container with a solid lid.  In camp, all you need to do is boil water, pour in the ‘spro, and you have an Americano in a few minutes, without fiddling with grounds, filters, and presses.  If you lack a home brew espresso maker, just stop at a coffee house on the way to your climb and get a few shots to go. (A great tiny plastic container for this is Gerber kiddie juice bottles.)

2) Bring along a few tablets of No-Doz, Vivarin, or other caffeine tablets.  Each tablet typically has 200mg of caffeine, as much as two decent cups of coffee. This might keep your headache away and give you a little giddyup as well.  (Note that caffeine has a few side effects that make it not a good choice when climbing, among them making you urinate more. Use sparingly at altitude.) Another use for the caffeine tablets might be to give a teammate who is really slow a little extra boost, when you really don't have time to sit down and properly brew up coffee.

3) If you do have more time in camp, fire up a pot of “cowboy coffee”.  Leave the frou-frou camping espresso maker at the REI store. To make real camp coffee all you need is good ground beans and a pot.  First, boil some water - a tall and thin pot is best. Once the water reaches boiling, stir in the desired amount of coffee grounds (coarse grind is best), remove from heat and cover. Let the grounds sit for about 3 minutes. Remove the cover and pour a small amount of cold water over the surface of the hot coffee. Immediately give the container a solid whack or two on the side with a spoon. The cold water wants to travel to the bottom of the pot and as it descends, it will take most of the grounds with it.  Take care not to agitate the pot too much as you may re-suspend the coffee grounds.

4) If you can handle instant coffee, Trader Joe’s (and most Asian grocery stores) sell small packets of premixed creamer, sugar, and instant coffee.  This is a very fast and convenient solution, if not the tastiest.

5) For early morning trailhead departures, canned coffee is a good alternative.  Check Trader Joe’s for some well-priced triple espresso lattes, yummy!