Really delicious, dark, rich, mellow coffee makes me feel energized, not jittery. It is so essential to starting my day off right that when I’ve travel, I haul a makeshift coffee-making kit with me, along with excellent coffee. It works as both coffee brewer and portable thermos that guarantees delicious coffee that stays hot for the hour or so I will need to sip small cups of it… and get myself going for the day. It is not obsession, but necessity.

So I was intrigued when I saw Boco Design’s BRuX portable pour-over coffee maker designed to brew coffee at home, traveling or camping —pretty much anywhere you have access to boiling water and ground coffee. It has a retractable filter cone that drips coffee into a squat, vacuum-insulated thermos-like bottle big enough to hold in your hand. Cone, filters and coffee fit into the bottle to make it easy to transport.

I wondered how BRuX would measure up to my tried-and-true stainless steel thermos + plastic coffee cone + paper filter rig that I use daily (using Oscarina’s method) and travel with.

I took the BRuX for a test drive. (Video link here.)

The BRuX assumes one load of dry grounds is about 2 tablespoons. I use 8 to 10 tablespoons; my coffee almost fills the small BRuX filter.

Sally Schneider/Improvised Life

I had to pour boiling water onto the coffee in three batches, waiting for the level to go down between each batch, which meant the water would cool down before the coffee was brewed.

Sally Schneider/Improvised Life

As a fix, I tried using a full-size filter in the small BRuX cone.

Sally Schneider/Improvised Life

It worked fine, allowing me to pour all the boiling water over at one time. So BRuX can accommodate a variety of water-to-coffee preferences.

Sally Schneider/Improvised Life

The coffee BRuX made was as good as my pour-over rig. I could drink it right out of the brewing bottle or decant it into a cup. BRuX intends the brewing bottle to act as a “go-cup”.

And that’s where I found a design inconsistency that could be viewed as a flaw or benefit depending on your use.



The plastic lid has a “sip hole”.

For people who like a “go cup/sip cup,” this is great.

For people who like their coffee to stay hot for an hour or two or to carry the thermos in a bag, it’s problematic:

—it obviates being able to take the coffee without it spilling if it tipped over (as you could with a regular thermos). I’d have to carry the bottle in my hand until it was empty.

—it allows the coffee to cool more quickly by allowing steam to escape.

For me, the lid diminishes BRuX’s claim that the “stainless steel vacuum insulated bottle ensures that your coffee stays hot for hours” and “can go with you anywhere”.

The fix would be a silicone plug for when you want to use the BRuX as a thermos. (I used a piece of cork and can imagine making something with Sugru to fashion a custom silicone plug).


Tallying up all the pros and cons of my thermos rig versus the BRux, I’d say they run about neck and neck, and really depend on your end use.  Both weigh about the same, but the BRux has a more compact footprint. I like being able to have my coffee stay hot for a while I slowly “wake”, as possible with my trusty thermos, as is hauling it around on a hike or car ride. But the BRuX is great for people who like “go cups.” And it sure beats the bare bones rig I’ve devised in some hotel rooms, using whatever vessel I found on hand to catch my coffee.

You can buy the $59 BRuX here.


Sally Schneider


*You may wonder why I don’t just use the Mister Coffee and Keurig’s offered in hotel rooms or go out for coffee. The Mister Coffee style coffee makers found in hotel rooms and many homes make, to my taste, really mediocre coffee, I suspect because they never get the water hot enough to extract properly or because the machine has old coffee residue.  I have yet to have a cup of coffee made in a Keurig that I think worth drinking; to me the coffee always tastes unbalanced and/or stale, likely from being ground far in advance.  Both produce coffee that make me feel edgy and off, due to either caffeine content, acidity, or other mysterious factors.

Local espresso stands can sometimes have very good coffee but I don’t want to go out for coffee first thing; I like to drink coffee while I’m getting ready for the day. Although it has the same rich texture, my coffee also seems to have way less caffeine and other edginess-producing compounds than machine-made espresso. If I drank a full cup of espresso — the amount I enjoy of my brew in small cups over about an hour — I would feel shot out of a cannon.

My caveats: my findings are empirical, not scientific.

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3 replies on “Test-Driving Portable Coffee Systems: Brux vs Makeshift Thermos and Cone Rig

  1. Do you know the Contigo line of insulated, truly spill proof go cups? You can make your preferred coffee as you describe, take it with you and it will stay hot all day! And if you are a klutz as I am it’s handy that it doesn’t spill all over you when you knock it over!

  2. Sally, what about one of these reusable steel filters? (Here’s one on Amazon:

    No paper filter needed, just toss the grounds in, pour over the water, rinse, and repeat the next day – no matching vessel needed either, you could put it right on top of your cup, thermos, etc.

    There’s several over varities/brands, but this one seems the sturdiest after a quick search/review perusal…

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