While preparing for a 10-day trek in the Sierra Nevada near Mammoth Lakes, CA, I discovered Kuju Coffee Pour Overs in my search for the elixir from the gods – coffee. This find struck gold. Kuju Coffee has since become a staple in my backpacking kit.
Kuju Pour Over Coffee is a high-quality craft coffee packaged in a disposable pour-over package. – $2.50 at REI.
Or search all merchants for current sales on Kuju Coffee »
Coffee is an intrinsic part of my day in the backcountry. Whether it is a morning cup of Joe while writing and composing and enjoying the sunrise, a celebratory cup on top of a mountain pass, or a cup of coffee as dessert after a long day, I find that it is vital for myself to take the time to make good coffee and start, continue, or end my day on the right note.
I have tried several different kinds of instant coffee over my many years of backpacking. Some instant coffees, like Folgers, I drank once before packing the rest out and never purchasing again due to the acrid and charred taste. Starbucks Via seems tolerable, but often tastes slightly burnt and the bitterness covers the flavor profile. But is “good ‘nuff” sufficient on a 10-day expedition or an overnight backpack? Because of my constant search to find a delicious brew, I often pick something up at local shops before I head to the trailhead. It seems that my personal answer is that coffee should be the highlight of my food intake every day. My personal preference for coffee is that it is rich, complex, smooth, and the flavor profile is distinct instead of muddled.
Kuju Coffee Purchasing Options
Kuju Coffee offers six pour-over coffee roasts: three in their standard coffee line, and three in their premium single-origin line. This review will only cover the three standard pour-over coffee roasts, as I have yet to acquire the premium roasts.
The primary differences between the standard roasts and the premium, single-origin roasts are the following:
- The single-origin pour-overs are $30 per 10-pack, as opposed to $22 per 10-pack for the standard roasts.
- The single-origin pour-overs are certified fair trade organic while the standard roasts are not.
All Kuju Coffee is:
- Ethically Sourced
- Made with Wind Power
- Nitro-Flushed for Freshness
- Supports 1% for the Planet
- The net weight is 0.5 oz (14 g), and they make 8 oz (237 ml ) of brewed coffee.
- Bold Awakening (Dark Roast)
- Basecamp Blend (Medium Roast)
- Angel’s Landing (Light Roast)
Premium, Single Origin Roasts:
- Papua New Guinea
In this remainder of this review, I will discuss the pros and cons of Kuju coffee concerning:
- Ease of Use (Including a brief discussion of making pour-over coffee in the backcountry)
- Ethical Sourcing of Beans
- Environmental Impacts
Kuju coffee is by far the best-tasting camp coffee I have tried on the market, far surpassing instant coffees such as Starbucks Vias without creating brewing hassles such as long preparation, and time-consuming and messy cleanup.
My personal favorites are the light roast (Angel’s Landing) and the dark roast (Bold Awakening). The excellent taste of Angel’s Landing surprised me, as I am generally not a fan of fruity coffees. I found the flavor profile (look at this if you aren’t familiar with coffee tasting terminology) of the medium roast (Basecamp Blend) as indistinct and neutral. Overall, the coffee is smooth, and the flavor profiles are not covered up by bitterness. The body of the three coffees is relatively lighter compared to most medium roasts that I’ve tried (whether brewed at home or in a coffee shop).
In the table below, I will compare the coffees advertised flavor profile with my own tasting notes from trips in the Sierra Nevada (CA; August ‘19), and the Sherman Range (WY; December ‘19).
|Coffee Roast||Flavor Profile from Manufacturer||Personal Flavor Notes|
|Angel’s Landing (Light Roast)||Floral, Nutty and Citrus||Bright, Tangy, Fruity, Sweet (Sherman Range, WY, 8/19)|
|Basecamp Blend||Oak, Chocolate, Honey||Light flavors, woody, muted
(Sierra Nevada 8/19)
Woody, indistinct, neutral
(Sherman Range 12/19)
|Bold Awakening||Earthy, Dark Cocoa, Dried Berry||Full, Rich, Dark, Complex, Lingering (Sierra Nevada 8/19)
Full, Dark, Complex, Slightly Sweet (Sherman Range 12/19)
Ease of Use
It is effortless and straightforward to use the Kuju Coffee Pour-over Pouches in the backcountry. On my trip to the Sierra Nevada, I made them in my MYOG cozy around a Ziploc container and boiled water with a Jetboil Stove. In the Sherman Range, I used a titanium mug with an MSR Windburner.
The single-use pour-over pouch was clean, convenient, and effective. No water escaped through the sides of the mesh fabric and filtered through the ground coffee beans quick enough to maintain a continuous pour without affecting the flavor. After letting the pour-over pouch dry in the sun or freeze in the cold in the winter, I had an easily packable square of trash to put in my backpack.
Step-By-Step Guide to Making A Kuju Coffee Pourover
- Set up your stove, and fill your pot with about 8 oz (237 ml) of water. Hook the pour-over pouch along the rim of your mug to secure it. In wider mugs and bowls, you may need to use your hand to hold it in place.
- Boil Water. Let cool for approximately 1 minute.
- Slowly pour your water through the pour-over pouch at a continuous rate. If you pour too quickly, water will spill out of the top of the pour-pouch, weakening your coffee; too slowly, and you won’t fully gain the flavor profile of the beans and you’ll be more likely to extract bitter oils as a result of the longer contact time.
- Serve and enjoy! Let your pour-over pouch dry in the sun (or freeze in the December cold) to make it easy and clean to pack out in your trash bag.
Ethical Sourcing of Beans
Kuju coffee comes from a coffee farm in Thailand that employs former victims of sex trafficking as part of their workforce. This is part of the Source-to-Soul initiative in which they advocate using moral tastebuds in choosing the coffee we drink. Beyond this, there are no certifications that ensure the ethical sourcing of beans.
One of the things that first caught my attention about Kuju Coffee is that it is produced in 100% wind-powered facilities. Additionally, Kuju Coffee donates 1% of its proceeds to the National Parks Foundation as part of the 1% for the Planet movement.
On the downside, the single-use nature of the product has the potential to create a lot of trash, including its mylar-coated packaging and the paper used in the pour-over pouch itself. Overall, the garbage is not significantly more than what is produced when using a pour-over cone. Still, the nature of single-use items is that they result in substantially more waste, when compared to bulk-packaged coffee.
Overall, Kuju Pourover Coffees have carved out a role in my meal-kit for future trips and expeditions.
Despite creating slightly more waste to pack out in comparison to Starbucks Via, and other similar products, I feel the pros of this product outweigh this only con:
- The taste is superior to any other instant coffee or pre-ground coffee I have ever tried. Coffee should bring joy, and this elixir does just that.
- It is effortless and straightforward to make. It can be easily made during a quick pit stop in the afternoon, as dessert, or as part of an aromatic morning wake-up.
- The idealist in me prefers to support companies that share my values. Kuju coffee is not only aware of the human and environmental impacts of the coffee industry, but it has also taken steps to make their business run in an ethical and environmentally friendly way.
Where to Buy
- Ryan Jordan first reviewed craft coffee packaged in single-use pour-over packs back in 2015 when they first started hitting the market.
- For additional info about pour-over coffee and other coffee-making techniques, read Emelyne’s and Ryan’s article on coffee brewing.
- Listen to the Backcountry Coffee Episode on the Backpacking Light Podcast, where Emylene and Andrew talk ultralight coffee with a craft roaster.
- The author chose Kuju Coffee as one of their Staff Picks this year. See what other gear our staff picked as their favorites.
Updated November 7, 2019
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