I need my daily caffeine fix as much as the next guy; actually, with two kids, I need it much more. So you can imagine my need for a buzz when I trooped into Arizona's Havasu Canyon with my daughter's 50-person school group in May for five days of camping under the stars and rising with the sun. I wanted to be guaranteed that my mornings would all begin with a jolt. Serendipitously, the Press-Botand a pound of French roastarrived at my door just in time.
The beauty of this sleek two-ounce gizmo is twofold: It gives you high-quality French-press coffee anywhere you can boil water, and, because it works with any wide-mouth Nalgene bottle, it doesn't need an external container. In a case of wish-I'd-thought-of-that engineering, the Press-Bot fits into the Nalgene by folding in half, sliding into the neck of the bottle, and easily snapping back into place and locking once it's inside. (Just be sure you put your grounds in the bottle before you do this.)
Next, you hold the Bot to the side while pouring in hot water, then let the coffee (or tea, if you swing for that team) steep for a few minutes before pushing the plunger down. The filter is made of stainless-steel mesh that yields a purer brew than even most stovetop models provide. And remember, it's a Nalgene, so that's up to one Big Gulp quart of real coffee that can be sipped out the top or poured into separate cups.
I had a couple of concerns, but both proved unfounded. Since the plunger lacks a rubber ring on the perimeter, I was afraid some of the grounds would squish back up into the coffee area, but the device is surprisingly watertight. The other obstacle was figuring out how to unscrew the lock and collapse the filter back in half to remove it: Anyone lacking superlong E.T. fingers is likely to fumble around to get a grasp on the mechanism. After a day or two of practice, I was able to figure out the right moves, and, thankfully, the company plans to improve the situation with a self-retracting version of the same device this fall.
Of course, if you're in a backcountry site with limited water supplies for cleanup, you might think twice about having your Nalgene filled with coffee grounds each morning. If washing them out isn't a problem, you'll find that the residual coffee taste is negligible. Ultimately, the only drawback was this: I had the power to create for myself one full quart of strong dark roast. Did I choose to go halfway? Of course not. As a result, 40 or 50 sips later, as the sixth-graders got juiced up on hot chocolate and began prancing around the campsite, I was even more wired than them. But it was summertime, waterfalls were everywhere, and boundless nervous energy turned out to be a pretty good thing. $20; www.press-bot.com