Drink Coffee in Your Car? Now You Can Brew It There Too

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The Handpresso at work. Yes, it's coffee in the car, just the way you like it. (Photo: Handpresso).

This morning I brewed some coffee, poured it into a travel mug, and headed down to the railroad station with it snugly ensconced in my Volkswagen Turbo Bug's cupholder. So far, so normal, right? But suppose I was running late and didn’t have time to make that coffee — suppose I made the coffee while I was driving?

That’s the idea behind a sudden rash of coffee-in-the-car inventions. The most intriguing of these is the Handpresso. Yes, it makes espresso, and the makers caution you to pull over while brewing. But they also tell you not to use your smartphone to text, right?

Like all portable coffee makers, the French-made Handpresso ($200) plugs into your 12-volt cigarette lighter. Then you pour in water, add one of the special coffee pods, and press the button. This is espresso, so the unit (which has a built-in temperature gauge) operates at 16 bars of pressure, necessary to produce that layer of crema on top. As Gajtz.com pointed out, it “seems like a great idea and a terrible idea at the same time.”

Is brewing coffee in the car a good idea? The Lavazza is in some Fiats

Since 2013, buyers of the stretched Fiat 500L (at least those outside the U.S.) are able to order the “Coffee Experience” kit as original equipment. It’s an Italian car, right? The espresso unit, which fits between the front seats, is made by Italy’s Lavazza, and it includes cups, a sugar dispenser and a spoon holder, all for around $300.

That reminds me: At an electric car show in Spain recently, I saw an EV charging station with a coffee maker built in. Those Europeans can’t do without their cafe!

There’s a whole range of 12-volt traveling coffee makers out there, with truckers being a major customer base. The Rally unit is described as “ideal for cars, trucks, SUVs, RVs and boats.” If they’d said motorcycles, too, I’d know they were nuts. Road Trucker likes pots from Power Hunt and Koolatron. Some work on USB power, and others even have glass carafes. I’d probably avoid that choice — except maybe in those big RVs.

Remember the lawsuits over people being scalded over hot McDonald’s coffee? I imagine that’s why the “Coffee Experience” is unlikely to make it over here. But they should check out the new “No-Hot” temp-sensitive cup from a group of Chinese researchers. In the center of the cap is a disc that gets bigger in the presence of hot liquid (176 Fahrenheit). Try to drink from it, and the disc blocks your way. At 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the disc goes away.

Finally, while we’re talking about coffee, how about a car that runs on it? Researchers at the University of Bath in England are working on converting coffee grounds to biodiesel. The brilliant thing is that used grounds — which normally end up in landfills or, at best, compost piles — work almost as well as fresh ones do. The oil content varies from 7 to 15 percent.

Here's a closer look at Handpresso on video. Remember, stop before brewing!