Just because you have abandoned the comforts of civilization to spend time in nature camping doesn’t mean you have to go without your morning cup of joe. After all, we’re not barbarians! However, when it comes to camp coffee, there are many different opinions and methods to get the elixir of the gods from those delightful ground beans. Here are seven of the ways you can brew camp coffee, and the material and equipment you need for each.
No matter what method you choose to make your coffee, you will need some basic things to get started. There are some other things you might want to have, although they are not all necessary. Most are readily available, and there are a lot of choices and types.
First of all, you will need a heat source. This can vary, from a camp stove to simply making coffee over the fire. If you are truck or car camping, you can also bring an electric kettle with you, but that feels kinda like cheating.
In reality, you may want to have a camp stove for a number of reasons, but even if you don’t and are just using the fire you built, you will want to have a grate or some method of heating your water over the fire. That means you will need a water-boiling container of some sort.
So you can, at the simplest, heat water in a pan to use for coffee. As you will see below, this will work better for some methods than others, and can make pouring the water a chore.
One thing to keep in mind. You never want to boil your water for camp coffee. Don’t do it! Ideal temperature is just under a boil at 200-205 degrees. So either remove the water from the heat just before the full boil, or remove it, add a little cold water, and let it stand for a minute or two before you make your coffee.
The best water heating device is a kettle of some sort. This makes it easier to pour the water to make the coffee, prevents spills and burns, and just makes for a better coffee experience.
You can grind beans ahead of time and take them camping, but ideally you will grind the beans on the spot. The coffee will be fresher and more robust, and you can tailor the grind to the camp coffee making method you are using. Hand grinders are fine, or you can also find battery-operated models as well.
The one myth about camp coffee is that it really isn’t that good. This doesn’t have to be the case. Before you set out on your adventure, stop and get some good beans. What roast, you ask? Well, it depends on what you want in part, and the method you use for making camp coffee. You’ll see our recommendations in the sections below.
Ideally, you will need some kind of camping mug. It should be something that is durable, can be easily cleaned, and is portable. There are a lot of ceramic camping mug options out there, or you can go all the way up to a fancy insulated tumbler.
Got all of those things gathered? Good! Let’s explore the best ways to make camp coffee, and the pros and cons of each.
While there is some good instant coffee out there, it’s never going to be quite as good as what you make yourself, especially if you follow our recommendation and fresh grind the beans. However, there are many coffee shops that offer “coffee pods” or instant coffee you can simply dissolve in hot water. Just remember, not boiling water, just hot water.
Pros: Fast. This is the fastest, easiest way to make camping coffee with the least amount of cleanup. All you need is your mug, a spoon, and hot water. Since the coffee dissolves in the hot water, there are no filters or other devices to clean up.
Cons: Not as fresh and flavorful as other methods. What you gain in convenience, you sacrifice in taste. Still, if you are not a super picky coffee person, instant coffee can certainly do the trick.
This is another simple way to make coffee in the morning. All you need is your kettle or pan, coffee beans to grind, and water. However, to make it authentic, you may want to add some egg shells for body. Eggshells? Yep. Try it. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Directions: Add cold water to the pan (always start with cold water). Add 1 heaping tablespoon of grounds for every one and a half cups of water. Put your container over your heat source, and remove at the very first sign of boiling. Add a shot of cold water, and let sit while grounds settle. Pour and enjoy.
Pro-tip: Even if you wait for the grounds to settle, you may want to use a filter over your camp mug so you don’t get any grounds with the coffee. While grandpa might have said that’s part of the experience, it’s one you can do without with one small precaution.
Pros: Quick, easy, with little cleanup. Pretty robust flavor (grind those beans).
Cons: About the only con to this one is the possibility of grounds in your coffee as you pour (see pro tip above)
Your grandfather may have had one, or you may have seen one in an antique store. But we all used to make percolator coffee before we had automatic coffee makers and long before Kerug was a thing. This method requires a percolator pot. It consists of a kettle, a lid with a little siphon window, and a grounds basket.
Directions: Essentially you remove the percolator mechanism, fill the kettle with cold water, and fill the grounds basket with coffee. Then you apply heat until you see the first spurt of water in the siphon window. You then want to reduce the heat, and brew for about 10 minutes. Then remove the percolator mechanism from the pot, let any grounds that left the basked settle to the bottom, pour, and enjoy.
Pros: Percolator Coffee is really good coffee provided you chose good beans and ground them properly. It’s a classic brew method, and it’s even made a comeback at some specialty coffee shops.
Cons: This method takes a lot of time, you have to watch the pot carefully, and you really need a variable heat source. This is a tough one to do over a campfire. It also requires a percolator pot, so you’ll need to purchase one if you don’t have one already. It’s also a bit more intricate to clean up than the simpler methods.
The pour over has been around for a long time as well, and the only equipment you will need is a pour over dripper and a cone filter to go with it. You may also want a long, thin necked kettle if you don’t already have one.
Directions: Place the pour over dripper over your camp coffee mug. Bring the water to a near boil. Place the cone filter in the pour over dripper, and wet it first, then add 1-2 Tbsp grounds per 1 cup of water. Pour hot water all over the grounds and wait about 1 minute to allow the coffee to “bloom.” Add water in a circular pattern from the outside in and reverse the process until your camp mug is full. Remove dripper and enjoy.
Pros: Great coffee and easy cleanup. This is still one of the best ways to make camp coffee, and you can simply throw the filter and grounds in the fire. Just be sure to only use biodegradable pour over filters.
Cons: Time consuming, and you have to watch this method. There is no set it and wait a few moments. If it is really cold, this can be a real drawback. Also, you can only make one cup at a time. If you have more than one person in your camping party, you will need to do this several times or bring more than one pour over coffee dripper.
Another classic is the French press. Of course, you will need to bring a French press with you camping, but you don’t need any filters or anything else besides hot water and coffee.
Directions: Remove the top and the plunger from the French press. Place 1 to 1.5 Tbsp. grounds per cup of coffee in the bottom of the press. Heat water to a near boil, and fill the press with water. Place the plunger over the top of the coffee. Slowly press the coffee down to the bottom, and then pull the plunger up so it sits just under the surface of the hot water. Allow to sit for about 4 minutes. Press the plunger slowly all the way down, pour and enjoy.
Pros: Another great way to make coffee, and pretty easy cleanup too. No filters or other equipment is needed.
Cons: A French Press is often made of glass, not a great idea when camping. Were it to accidentally break, it could be dangerous. Also, if it is really cold, be sure to “warm” the glass with water as it is heating first before filling. The sudden temperature change can cause the glass to shatter.
A device called an espresso pot is often used by backpackers and other campers, as there are compact and foldable versions. It is similar in operation to a percolator pot. It’s a two-part device and a two-step process.
Directions: First, boil water, and then pour hot water into the bottom of the espresso pot. Add grounds to the basket, place it in the bottom chamber, and then screw on the top part of the chamber. Place on low to medium heat (you’ll need some kind of camp stove for this to be most effective) for 6-10 minutes, only heating to the point where the coffee is seeping into the upper chamber, not spurting. When there is enough coffee in the upper chamber and it is a golden honey color, remove from heat and pour cold water over the bottom chamber. Pour and enjoy.
Pros: Great coffee, and there are a number of sizes of this pot available to meet your camping needs, from single cup sizes up to 8 cup sizes.
Cons: A bit tricky at first, and you will need a camp stove or burner for sure. Doing this over a fire is – well, challenging at best.
Another really cool portable device for making camp coffee is an Aeropress. To make this kind of coffee, you will need an Aeropress and specific Aeropress filters. However, it is well worth a purchase if you camp often, and many come with a convenient storage bag for the device and the filters. Here’s how it works.
Directions: Insert a filter into the filter basket and attach it to the brew chamber. Place it on the mug. Put grounds in the brew chamber, about 1-2 Tbsp per one cup of coffee. Fill with hot water, and stir for 10-15 seconds. Allow to settle and drip into your camp coffee cup. Insert the plunger, and press slowly but firmly downward until it bottoms out and you can hear air exiting the brew chamber.
Pros: Another great coffee-making method once mastered, and one that is fast and pretty simple overall.
Cons: The cleanup is, in our experience pretty messy, even though it is touted as easy. You’ll also need to purchase Aeropress-specific items like filters to use this method. An Aeropress also only makes one cup of coffee at a time, so if you have a large party, you may spend significant time doing this.
There are a number of ways to make coffee while out camping. The one that’s right for you will depend on your setup and your group. A larger French press, percolator, or espresso pot can be especially helpful if you are camping with a large group. You can even bring cowboy coffee or instant coffee for everyone.
If you are solo camping or with a small group, a pour over or Aeropress may suit your needs just fine, but you will need to get some custom camping mugs to properly enjoy your coffee. Either way, what’s important is that even though you have left civilization behind doesn’t mean you can’t be civilized with your coffee at least.