There are many different ways to brew a cup of coffee from the comforts of your own home, but are the French press, pour-over, and percolator off-limits when you want to enjoy a bit of the great outdoors?
Thankfully, it’s possible - and even easy - to brew coffee that suits the grandeur of your surroundings on a camping trip or backpacking trip. Read this guide to find out how to make coffee camping and the best coffee gear to use to do it.
Essential Rules For Making Coffee When Camping
Choose The Best Coffee Beans
Hikers, campers, and backpackers need a robust coffee to match the fresh air and backcountry vistas. But, for an uplifting morning cup of coffee, you need quality beans.
If you’re trying to maximize caffeine content per bean and keep your pack weight down, find a nice robusta. Budget-conscious drinkers typically opt for arabica beans because they’re often less expensive way to make coffee while camping.
Wait Until Brewing To Grind Them
You might shake your head when we suggest bringing a coffee grinder in your pack for - particularly you ultralight backpackers out there. Trust us; it's worth it for the significant flavor boost when you brew camp coffee.
Car campers and others heading to the backcountry with more than 10 pounds on their back should have no issue throwing a small hand coffee grinder in with their other gear for making camp coffee.
Reach The Right Water Temperature
Even when you’re making cowboy coffee, Swedish kokkaffe, or Vietnamese egg coffee, boiling the grounds will scorch them and make them taste bitter. According to the National Coffee Association, boiling water should be between 195° and 205° Farhenheit to fully extract flavor from pre ground coffee beans.
That’s slightly beneath the temperature you boil water at sea level for brewing coffee. If you’re at higher altitudes, the boiling point may be lower. In any case, what you’re aiming for when you boil water is a few bubbles just before boiling rather than an aggressive bubbly boil.
Prepare Everything Before Leaving
Consider where you’ll be making your coffee. Do you need to bring water or a water filter? What about your power source? If you’re using a more labor-intensive brewing process like a pour-over or French press, make it easier on yourself by packing your materials so they’re ready to rock.
Planning will also help you get high-quality ingredients to the trail or your campsite. If you’re pre-grinding beans, you can zip-seal them to preserve the fresh coffee flavor.
Invest In A Water Filter
Lugging tons of water around is a pain. If you want to have cold water to spare for coffee, a filter system can turn most natural water sources into potable drinking water. Don’t rely on boiling water to clean it. Instead, use a filter to be sure harmful metals, pollutants, and bacteria before you boil water, and ensure they aren't in your cup of coffee.
How To Make Coffee When Camping: 8 Different Methods Explained
1. Cowboy Camping Coffee
Easily one of the most (in)famous backcountry brewing methods, some might say you don’t know how to make good coffee camping unless you’ve mastered cowboy coffee. All you need is beans, a grinder, and a fire- or stove-safe pitcher.
Follow these steps to make cowboy coffee that won’t give you heartburn during camping trips:
While there are lots of grounds leftover in the coffee pot after you make cowboy coffee, the pot just needs a quick rinse to get rid of them. Sometimes the dregs of the coffee are enough to rinse the coffee pot out with.
2. Using A Percolator
For those who find cowboy coffee too bitter or messy, the percolator is one of the best camp coffee makers for giving a much more controlled brew and nearly no coffee grounds in your coffee cup.
Get your freshly ground beans, clean drinking water, a campfire or camping stove, and a percolator. Each model may vary slightly, so use the instructions that come with yours to brew the coffee properly. Here's how to use a camping percolator coffee maker generally, so you have some idea how they work:
One thing some campers and hikers don’t like about percolators is that you have to deal with the grounds after making camp coffee. Usually, though, you can just dump them out and rinse the filter basket or wipe out the remaining grounds with a dry paper towel.
3. Instant Camping Coffee
Instant coffee is the easiest way to have a cup of coffee in the wild, but you're probably going to be sacrificing flavor and body. Shop around and try to find your favorite instant coffee brands—ultralight packers like instant coffee sachets for short solo trips.
The steps to brew instant coffee are easy. All you need is a pot, water, instant coffee, and a coffee mug.
If you can find a tasty instant coffee, more power to you. Although many manufacturers have made progress getting good flavor into their instant coffee, there’s still something lacking - plus, many instant coffees have additives and additional sugar that you might prefer to avoid in your camp coffee.
They frequently have less caffeine and markedly reduced flavor profile compared with freshly-ground coffee. The tradeoff is there’s no clean-up except for washing your mug.
4. Coffee Bags
Coffee bags work the same way as a tea bags do and can be useful for coffee drinkers. Some manufacturers make eco-friendly, perishable, and/or recycled coffee and tea bag options.
You can also make your own DIY coffee bags. Here’s how to make coffee brew bags for camping trips without creating too much waste:
Keep this in a Ziploc bag and take it out when you want to have coffee. Steep it in hot water, and you'll have a camp coffee in just a few minutes.
5. Using An Espresso Pot (Moka Pot)
Espresso pots are as easy as percolators, and most models are easier to deal with. As with most other brewing devices that require equipment, a Moka pot isn’t ideal for lightweight backpackers, but it is perfect for single or small group car camping trips.
You need coffee, water, a heat source, and an espresso pot. It works in a similar way to drip coffee, and produces steeped coffee that's rough and strong.
Here’s how to make drip coffee at camp with a Moka pot or portable espresso maker:
The biggest advantage to the Moka or espresso pot is that it’s about as close as you can get to the strength and flavor of espresso at your campsite. You can run water through it without grounds if you want to let it clean itself.
6. Pour-Over Camping Coffee
You don’t have to lug a ceramic pour-over filter to make great coffee in the backcountry. Most ultralight backpackers go with foldable, single serving pour overs that allow you to do the pour-over method on the go. This gives high-quality pour over coffee without the extra weight of a Moka pot or percolator.
If you don’t mind a few grounds possibly entering your coffee, then you can use these pour-over models without a paper filter.
Here’s how to use the pour-over method for coffee outdoor while on a camping trip:
7. Using A French Press
A traditional French press is probably only viable for car camping and people who don’t mind the extra weight. Glass ones are potentially too fragile for use in the backcountry.
Luckily, there are mugs and other vessels with a French press built-in. Here’s how to use one:
8. Using An Aeropress
The Aeropress is undoubtedly one of the most popular ways to brew high-quality coffee at a campsite or at home. There are tons of resources to find out how you can manipulate the variables (water temperature, ground consistency, steep time, agitation, etc.) to make the coffee you like best.
Here’s how to make coffee at camp with an Aeropress:
Clean-up is easy with an Aeropress, especially if you have a reusable filter. Simply pop out the filter, rinse everything or remove grounds with a paper towel, and you’re ready to brew again.
How To Use A Coleman Camping Coffee Maker
The Coleman camping coffee maker looks like a regular countertop coffee maker.
The difference is the bottom is made to conduct heat from a camping stove rather than an electric energy source. You need a camping stove that runs at less than 15,000 BTUs.
Put a filter in the upper basket, fill it with grounds, pour water in the rear reservoir, and put the container in place with the handle lined up in the center.
Turn the heat on, and the machine will brew your coffee for you. It’s too cumbersome for backpacking, but for car campers, it might be the best way to brew coffee for multiple people.
Things To Consider Before Going Camping
Coffee While Camping FAQs
Can you make coffee and let it sit overnight?
You can let black coffee with no added milk sit for 24 hours, and it's still likely safe to drink. Keep in mind that its flavor will be far from ideal unless you convert it to iced coffee.
Is day-old coffee OK to drink?
Coffee is fine to drink for 24 hours even if left at room temperature, but its taste won’t be very pleasant if you leave it sitting around that long.
Now that you know how to make coffee while camping, you can enjoy a hearty morning boost even when you’re far from home. Use the tips in this guide to make sure your campsite coffee is as tasty as possible.