There's nothing quite like slowly sipping a hot cup of joe as you watch the sunrise on a camping trip. While it can be challenging to make a quality cup of coffee without your home setup, it's possible to enjoy a solid brew no matter where you are. When choosing your camp coffee making method, you have several options, but you should keep a few factors in mind:
- Weight: Depending on how far you need to transport your coffee supplies, you may not want to pack a pot, press, or grinder. Consider your camping style before committing to a bunch of pricey, heavy, hard-to-carry materials.
- Water: Will you have access to clean water? If not, can you bring extra water with you, strictly for coffee? How about a way to heat your water? Are you allowed to build a fire in the area you're camping, or will you have to come up with another way to warm your water?
- Waste: While coffee grounds often make their way into your compost bin at home, most campsites and wilderness areas require you pack out everything you bring in, including used coffee grounds. Plan for packing out all your coffee waste or opt for an alternative.
If you don't want to haul in coffee making gear or carry out a bunch of old grounds, consider one of these alternatives to conventional coffee made with a drip machine or percolator that require only hot water -- and some options will even work with cold water for an iced coffee effect.
Brewed Coffee Alternatives
Pour these quick-dissolve grounds into a cup of warm water, and you're ready to sip your morning pick-me-up within a minute. Although it's not quite the same as the smell and taste of a freshly brewed pot, it's fast, easy, and nearly waste-free.
With dozens of camping friendly options, instant coffee is available in single serve packets or larger containers with quality ranging from cheap diner-caliber coffee to high-end fair-trade roasts. These are some of the best rated instant coffees for camping:
- Black Rifle Coffee Company Instant Coffee: Featuring a blend of medium-dark roast Colombian coffee, these sticks work in six to eight ounces of hot or cold water at $24.99 for a pack of 32.
- Mount Hagen Instant Coffee: Available in jars or single serve sticks in both decaf and regular varieties, this freeze dried instant coffee is organic and fair trade. A 25-pack of sticks costs $10.99, while a 3.53-ounce jar rings in it $12.99.
Functioning just like tea bags, coffee bags steep in hot water for a few minutes until they achieve your desired level of strength. Since the grounds don't dissolve and stay secured inside the mesh bag, this option can taste closer to the real thing than instant coffee, but you will be stuck with the soggy bag to discard afterwards. These are some popular coffee bag choices:
- Counter Culture Coffee Single Serve: Available in two caffeinated blends and a decaf variety, these coffee pouches are 100% biodegradable. They're available as a single sample for $2.25 or in 10-packs for $10.50.
- Steeped Coffee Bags: Locally roasted in small batches, Steeped coffee is available in several different varieties in 10-packs for $19.95 or 30-packs for $59.95.
If you don't want to worry about brewing or steeping when you wake up in the woods, you can begin a batch of cold brew before you leave for your camping trip, and it will be ready to drink the next morning.
If those cold coffee or instant options just won't do, you can brew a hot batch a few different ways.
Options for Brewing Coffee at the Campsite
The simplest way to make a pot of joe for your camping crew is the cowboy coffee method. With just a pot or kettle and a heat source, you can quickly brew this style of coffee.
Mix one heaping tablespoon of coarse ground coffee for every 1.5 cups of water you add to your kettle or pot, and place it over your heat source. Once the mixture reaches about 200 degrees -- and before it comes to a boil -- remove it from the heat and drizzle some cold water over the top to help the grounds settle to the bottom. When the grounds reach the bottom after a few minutes, you're ready to pour your coffee carefully from the top while keeping the grounds (or at least most of them) in the kettle. Be warned: a beginner may need some times and attempts to get good at making cowboy coffee. There's a decent chance you'll end up with some coffee grounds in your mouth at first.
French Press Coffee
You can pack your home French press or pick a compact, lightweight model meant for the outdoors to brew this type of camp coffee. Again, you'll need a heat source as well as a pot to heat the water. You'll also need some medium ground coffee, which seem s to be best for French presses..
While you bring the water to a near boiling temperature in your pot, add 1.5 tablespoons of coffee grounds per cup of water to the brew chamber of your french press. When water is hot, add the desired amount to and gently stir it for a few seconds then let it brew for about 4 minutes before slowly pushing down the plunger. Then you're ready to pour!
Pour Over Coffee
For this relatively simple method, you'll need a heat source, pot to boil water, fine ground coffee, likely a filter, and a pour over coffee dripper of your choice. There are lots of camping-friendly models that are lightweight and foldable or you can bring one from home.
Place your dripper device over your carafe or mug while you begin heating water to just below a boil. Wet the filter and place it in the dripper, then add one to two heaping tablespoons of coffee per cup of water and level the grounds flat. When the water is ready, begin pouring it over the outside edge of the grounds and spiraling inwards. Start with about a quarter cup. Wait 30 seconds then pour another quarter cup beginning at the center and moving outwards. Repeat this alternating process until you've used all the water.
You can also purchase specialized equipment such as an Aeropress, a percolator, or an espresso pot if you're super particular about your coffee or you'll be spending a lot of time in campgrounds.
Whichever method you choose, follow these rules for the best camp coffee:
- Bring quality coffee. Your morning cup should taste great, even when you're camping. If you opt for tough-to-choke down swill, you're not going to end up with a pleasant experience. Choosing a high-quality roast is important, especially if you drink it black.
- Don't skimp on the grounds. The only thing worse than no coffee is weak, watered-down coffee. A good, strong cup of coffee is the perfect morning pick-up you need for a fun day of fishing, hiking, and whatever else you do while camping.
- Stick to hot -- not boiling -- water. If your water is too hot, it will leave your coffee with a burnt taste and defeat the purpose of picking a quality roast.
- Remember your mug. A tin mug or double-wall, insulated cup work best and are much more fun (and eco-friendly) to sip from than styrofoam, paper, or plastic throw-away cups.
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