Planning a trip this year, but no longer willing to leave home without the comforts of a top-class coffee routine? You'll want to pack a portable coffee grinder for your journey, and one option new to the market in the past year is the VSSL Java coffee grinder.

We hear not infrequently at Sprudge about innovations in non-electric, portable coffee grinders, which may or may not come as a surprise to those of you who've never tried one. The hand grinders of the past, however, have moved from slow-going spice mills and hard-to-hold cylinders to a sleeker, more appealing gear category. From the Japanese innovations of Hario and Porlex to new inventions on European and North American shores, the hand-grinder market is no longer strictly the territory of those for whom a plug-in coffee grinder sounds “too expensive.” Indeed, you'll find grinders like the VSSL Java ($145) or the Comandante ($270) priced at or above many countertop coffee grinders.

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We first heard about VSSL's Java grinder during the product's Kickstarter campaign, and as with many Kickstarters, we were a bit wary. The company, headquartered in outdoorsy British Columbia, Canada, is a gear company first, and a coffee grinder company second. The conceit of their product line is tube-shaped utilities‚ and includes cylindrical supply kits, lights, drink vessels, and a pretty sweet-looking first aid tube. Tossing a coffee grinder into the mix seems both random and like it makes perfect sense. And to keep up to the high design and durability standards of the rest of their offerings, the VSSL Java was necessarily going to have to impress both campers and coffee connoisseurs. Turns out, it does—or at least, it seems impressive to me, someone who went car camping in 2013.

Here's what the VSSL Java has going for it: a 50-position stainless burr set with radial ball bearings that work together for consistency. And they make it fast and smooth—grinding a similar amount of coffee in a Hario Ceramic Slim or a Porlex just takes longer. We tested grinding 20g of coarse-ground coffee in each grinder: the VSSL Java took only 22 seconds, followed by the Hario Ceramic Slim's fancy-burr-but-large-profile at 29 seconds, and the Porlex at a glacial 70 seconds. (The grinder can hold a little more than 20 grams of ground coffee at a time.)

If you're roughing it, or making children grind your coffee, time may not be of the essence—but if you're like me and wanting to knock out a cup of decaf STAT before the next late-afternoon Zoom call, well, you'll appreciate the VSSL Java's efficiency. Trust me.

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The design is durable, made of “aircraft-grade aluminum” with a matte black finish, copper trim, and a satisfying heft. Feel too hefty? That's okay, the extendable folding arm—which is a bit wonky to get used to at first—doubles as a carabiner, so you can just clip it to your gear, or your kid's backpack, or whatever. The only real complaint I've heard about this grinder is it doesn't fit nicely inside an AeroPress like the Porlex does. But, hey, not everyone is brewing in an AeroPress—or even leaving the house—which makes the VSSL Java a fine option for a great many of us who are looking for a precise, powerful hand grinder for the countertop or the campfire.

VSSL Java Grinder
MSRP $145
Rating: 4.5/5 Buzzys

Liz Clayton is the associate editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Liz Clayton on Sprudge