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Hands-on Gear Review
Starbucks VIA Review
Cons: Limited quantity, have to continually re-purchase, more expensive per cup than using other coffee makers.
Bottom line: By far the lightest option. Some people tolerate the taste, others say "No way, Jose."
OK, so this isn't exactly a coffee maker, but if you have read all of the other camping coffee maker reviews, you will have noticed that there are features to each one that we list as "not ideal for backpacking." So what is ideal for a backpacker? The answer is Starbucks VIA. Almost completely weightless while still packed full of coffee flavor, this instant "microgrind" coffee can easily be tossed in a pack and carried for miles without a second thought. For the weekend backpacker, this is an ideal method. For the long-distance hiker on a budget, VIA is not a great solution, primarily due to expense. It averages to almost a whole dollar per cup, which is far greater than making your own coffee in the Melitta Ready Set Joe every morning. For the coffee aficionado, stick to the Aerobie AeroPress, which still has a far better, pure flavor.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
This coffee is instant, but it doesn't taste that way. Well, at least not as bad as typical instant Nescafe. Individual packets carry finely ground coffee that can be dissolved in hot water for an almost fresh brew and no grinds whatsoever to clean up afterwards. One huge plus is that is even works in cold water, so if you don't want to bring a stove or your run out of fuel, your morning cup can still be tasty and satisfying.
Forget nasty instant coffee taste, Starbucks' claims are true that this coffee retains its smooth, quality flavor while not needing to be brewed. The flavor still does not quite compare to fresh brewed coffee with some of the other methods we tested, but the taste-to-weight ratio is excellent.
Ease of Use
It doesn't get any simpler than this: Just add water.
At 0.14 ounces for one packet, which is still less than half an ounce for three servings, the VIA is almost weightless. This factor alone makes it the perfect solution for caffeine addicted backpackers.
It doesn't get much more portable than tiny foil packets. Bring along a whole handful on your overnighter, just to be safe, and you will still have room to pack your orange poop shovel and a teddy bear.
If you are a backpacker who likes to move fast and light, but are still encouraged by caffeine-filled mornings, then this is your method for a brew. Taking up almost no weight or space, it seems as if it was designed with hikers in mind. Car-campers will be better off with a more sustainable coffee brewing method, such as the Hario V60 Plastic Dripper.
Starbucks VIA costs $2.95 for a package of three (98 cents per cup), $9.95 for a pack of 12 (83 cents per cup), and $35.95 for a 50 count (72 cents per cup). This isn't exactly cheap. It is just shy of how much it would cost to buy a brewed cup of coffee at an actual Starbucks. This is more of a luxury item for when you really want to pack light.
Via Caramel Latte
— McKenzie Long
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