Review: Snow Peak Folding Coffee Brewer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As readers may know, I’m a coffee addict and always on the search for the perfect bikecamping coffee contraption. I’ve tried everything from the Aeropress, to mini versions of the CleverDripper and Hario V60, and ultralight contraptions like the GSI Ultralight Java Drip. They all have their pros and cons. For the last few months, I’ve been working the Snow Peak Folding Coffee Brewer a lot into the coffee making rotation (purchased directly from Snow Peak it is quite expensive, but Stumptown usually carries them for much less). We recently took it down to California on our winter break and made coffee while camping, in motels and staying with family. How did it perform? Read on. (As of this writing, the Snow Peak seems to be out of stock in most stores! Grab one if you see one.)

Simply put, this portable brewer is awesome (if you use the RIGHT filters). It folds flat, albeit at a slightly strange footprint roughly the surface area of a small paperback. It would be great if they offered (or if you can find) a semi-rigid slip case for transport. It weighs a scant 4oz (scant for me, but no doubt if you are a gram counter it will be too heavy). When you unfold it, you’ll notice that it has no locking mechanism and it sort of flops around. At first I though that this would be problematic but in actual use have had no issues with this design. The weight of wet grounds and water keep the dripper open without a problem.

One thing I really like about the Snow Peak Folding Coffee Brewer is that it is made of metal. The big turn off for me and other camping brewers is the use of plastic. Something just seems wrong about pouring hot water through plastic then drinking it. I’m pretty fanatical about that. Before settling on the Snow Peak, we had been carrying the 01 size Hario V60 in glass.

So what’s this about using the right filters? The instructions on the sparse packaging show some cryptic folding technique. This is to be used with the common Melitta filters that most supermarkets will carry. The folds essentially reinforce the bottom of the filter cone since it is not supported from the bottom. In theory it should prevent the bottom from blowing out and spilling grounds into your coffee. In practice, using the brown Melitta filters I’ve had experienced filter blow out twice (maybe the white bleached filters are stronger?).

What I’ve discovered is that the best filter are the Hario V60 filters. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense since the Snow Peak is essentially a metal folding V60. Both have a large aperture at the bottom of the brewer and depend on the grind and paper to control the speed of extraction. Granted, the Snow Peak doesn’t have the patented glass swirlydoos the V60 does but they function very similarly. I’ve experimented with placing the folding seam of the V60 filter in a corner or on flat side of the Snow Peak and haven’t noticed any apparent change in extraction speed. I’ve also tried Chemex filters that also work great, but are much larger and bulkier to carry.

Overall, it the Snow Peak makes a great cup. Think of it as a folding V60 and you are good to go. I highly recommend this product if you are a traveling coffee nerd, but be sure to bring a pack of V60 filters with you!