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Whether you're getting ready for a routine day at the office or crawling out of your frosty tent in the woods, a piping-hot cup of coffee can make any morning better. We've always made a point to bring coffee on our overnight expeditions, and while the instant variety is better than nothing, it's a far cry from the real deal. Fortunately, there are many ways to brew coffee in the backcountry — check out the Backwoods Brewing poll we published for an analysis of the most popular methods.
We recently came across a portable way to brew coffee that's unlike any other we've seen before. In fact, it's so outlandish that its mere existence caught our attention immediately. But after using this unusual copper device, we found it wasn't as ridiculous as you might think.
Coffee brew pipe — these are three words you don't normally see in succession. As you might have noticed, the name Bripe is a just a portmanteau of brew pipe, and it's the moniker that Tim Panek came up with when he invented this device in 2015. Panek, an avid outdoorsman, thought up the Bripe while considering ways to make high-quality coffee without lugging around devices that were “too complex, too bulky, and weighed too much to fit into a backpack or river kayak.”
Panek made a prototype out of paper, then fabricated a working version from heat-conductive copper. With the aid of his friend Craig Hall of Equator Coffee Roasters, the Bripe prototype was soon patented and developed into the version seen here. Funding from a successful IndieGoGo campaign in 2016 allowed the duo to start manufacturing and distributing the Bripe on a larger scale, but it's still relatively new to the market.
We met Panek and learned about the Bripe after spotting the company's booth at the Outdoor Retailer trade show. A few weeks later, he sent us a sample to try out. We were admittedly skeptical, but figured we'd give it a shot… no pun intended.
It's a coffee pipe, but don't worry — you don't burn dry coffee grounds and inhale the smoke. Yes, that's an actual question we were asked, and no, we never plan to try it. Another onlooker referred to the device as a “coffee bong”. While that's not really accurate either, it's getting closer.
Without further ado, we'll share some photos of the step-by-step process of using the Bripe — or, as the founders call it, briping (bry-ping, not brip-ping).
This kit contains six basic components, pictured above and listed clockwise from left. It retails for about $80, though it's currently on sale for $60 during the holiday season.
The first step to use the Bripe is to insert the filter into the bowl of the pipe, aligning one of the three perforated sections with the hole leading to the stem. This will keep the grounds in the bowl so they don't end up in your mouth. Depending on the grind of your coffee, you can rotate the filter to the finer or coarser perforations.
You'll notice that there's a tab with a hole on the top of this filter. This will be important later.
Next, pour some grounds into the Bripe, filling it up to the top of the mound in the center of the bowl. This will be about 1/3 of the grounds in the included vial.
Here's what it looks like at this stage:
Now we need the second component of our coffee — water. Pour a few fluid ounces of water into the bowl until the level nears the rim.
Now grab the included thermometer and use it to stir together the grounds and water.
Once everything is mixed, insert the thermometer probe down through the hole in the filter tab. This will let you keep an eye on the temperature as you brew.
With one hand, hold the Bripe by the cork section on the stem — this insulates your fingers from the metal, which will be getting very hot in the next steps. With your other hand, hit the button on the quad-jet torch and aim the blue flame at the base of the pipe.
Keep an eye on the thermometer's reading. You're looking for it to display about 185°F (85°C). Stirring occasionally may speed the process.
After 1 to 3 minutes, depending on ambient temperature, you should hit the appropriate reading. Now place the Bripe onto the copper base plate on a flat surface, and let it cool down to around 140°F (60°C). Remember not to touch the copper during these steps. It will still be extremely hot.
Cooling takes a few minutes. During this time, you can prepare other parts of your breakfast or afternoon snack.
When the dial reads 140°F, pick up the Bripe. You can set aside the thermometer at this point.
The instructions say you can add sugar or creamer if desired, but residue in the stem sounds like a hassle to clean. We prefer our coffee black anyway. Also, this ain't Starbucks, so leave the pumpkin spice syrup, whipped cream, and sprinkles at home.
Before drinking, you'll need to blow lightly into the stem to produce bubbles and push any clumps of grounds away from the filter. Then take a sip and enjoy your shot of coffee.
When we first found out about the Bripe, our initial impression was a combination of interest and apprehension. On one hand, it seems like a clever way to make a single-serve shot of real coffee on the trail without carrying a French press, percolator, or stove. On the other hand, it seemed like it might be another silly gimmick targeted at man-bun-clad outdoorsy hipsters. We had to use one to find out.
We really enjoyed some aspects of the Bripe, and weren't so fond of others, so we'll break our thoughts down into some pros and cons below.
Pro: The coffee tastes awesome.
With the first sip through the stem, we were legitimately amazed by how good the coffee tasted. It's a night-and-day difference from instant — that should be obvious — and on par with what you'll get from a nice French press. There's no metallic taste or notable flavor from the hot copper, and the filter does a nice job keeping the grounds in the bowl.
You can even use it to brew tea, if you feel like mixing things up — click here and scroll down for the instructions.
Pro: It's compact and lightweight.
Including butane fuel, coffee grounds, and all six items in the pouch, this kit weighs approximately 12 ounces. It fits nicely into your hand or a side pocket on your backpack, and the soft felt protects the items inside. We also liked the inclusion of a vial to contain your coffee grounds — it's just the right size for the pouch, and the screw-on cap ensures you don't spill grounds in your pack.
Pro: Once you get the hang of it, it's easy to use and clean.
The kit contains everything you need, aside from clean water. The first time we used it, we were a little uncertain, but after that it's simple to recall the steps. It takes just a few minutes to make coffee, less than you'd spend boiling a bigger cup full of water over a camp stove.
Once you're finished using the Bripe on the trail, you can empty the grounds, rinse everything in water, blow through the stem a few times, and let it air-dry. Copper is antimicrobial, so it naturally fends off most surface bacteria. For more thorough cleanings or to restore the shiny exterior finish, just hit it with boiling water, salt, and lemon juice as seen in the video below.
Con: A few sips, and it's empty.
After around 5 minutes of prep time, you're left with roughly a single shot of coffee. As mentioned earlier, it's delicious, but we still found ourselves wishing there was more. If you lean towards drinking an espresso in the morning instead of an extra-large coffee, you won't mind this, but we still prefer a bigger cup to wash down breakfast.
Con: It's not exactly discreet.
There's no getting around it — the Bripe is a conversation-starter. If you're sitting on a park bench and start heating it with the butane torch, you're going to get some strange looks. In some places, you might even wind up with a paraphernalia charge. Caffeine is the world's most popular psychoactive drug, and this pipe may make bystanders uncomfortably aware of that fact.
Even after it's heated up and you're sipping from the stem, it's hard not to look like Popeye gone steampunk. Some people will think it's cool, many others will think you're a weirdo. Either way, you're bound to draw attention to yourself if there's anyone nearby.
Despite our initial skepticism, we actually found ourselves liking the Bripe. It's undeniably unusual, and definitely gives off a hipster vibe that some traditionalists will loathe. But at the end of the day, it does exactly what it's supposed to — it produces a fast and tasty single serving of coffee. And it accomplishes this without adding much weight or bulk to your pack.
Although we're definitely not throwing our French press into the garbage can after writing this article, we do plan to keep using the Bripe on future outdoor excursions. We'll just make an effort to find somewhere secluded before lighting up, so we don't go starting too many conversations before our morning coffee.
For more info on the Bripe coffee brew pipe, go to Briping.com.