The only thing better than waking up from a night sleeping in the great outdoors is waking up with a warm cup of coffee.
We have listed 13 different ways to make coffee when camping. From traditional cowboy coffee to state of the art portable espresso machines, these methods ensure that we never have to miss out on our favorite morning routine.
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Whether we are backpacking, camping, or RVing, we always have our coffee. There is nothing like waking up to watch the sunrise with a warm cup of coffee in our hands.
There is something about breaking the silence with the sounds of stoking up the campfire or lighting the camp stove. The sound of the fire going and the water boiling builds anticipation for your first reward of the day.
Maybe you have your own routines and methods of making coffee while camping. Or perhaps you are curious about other ways of brewing your morning chemicals.
Well keep reading because we have listed 13 different ways to make coffee when camping. Try them all out and see which one you prefer.
Table of Contents
The Perfect Cup: The 6 Secrets to Brewing Coffee When Camping
Quality of Coffee
This should go without saying, but you can’t make great coffee with bad coffee beans.
Fortunately good coffee is readily accessible. From your local grocery store to your local coffee house.
Alternatively, you can order from your favorite coffee roaster online. Some even have subscription boxes that are delivered automatically.
Whole Bean or Ground Coffee Beans?
In short: it depends
If you are a distinguished coffee drinker, you would insist on whole beans. Oxygen is the biggest enemy to fresh coffee and when it is ground there is more exposure to air.
However, when camping you may be pressed for space. When packing you have to decide if you have the room for a grinder to go along with the rest of your brewing system.
So if you are a coffee snob or you are car camping, bring whole beans when possible. But if you are backpacking or pressed for space, pack ground coffee. If you are concerned about freshness, grind your beans at home and pack them individually by day so you are not repeatedly exposing them to oxygen.
The Best Grind
The next step if you have chosen whole beans is to choose how fine to grind your coffee. This also depends on how you are brewing.
|Course||Cold Brew, French Press, Aeropress Pour Over|
|Fine||Auto Drip, Moka Pot|
|Extra Fine||Espresso, Turkish Coffee|
For cold brew, French press, Aeropress, or pour over coffee you want a coarse grind. For regular coffee makers and moka pot you will want a fine grind. And for espresso or Turkish coffee go for extra fine grounds
Water temperature is another important factor for getting the best brew. But that can be tricky when brewing over a fire.
The rule of thumb is to bring your water to a boil and take it off of the heat for a couple of minutes.
While the water is cooling to below the boiling point, that’s when I grind my coffee and prepare my French press.
Letting it cool a little will prevent burning your high quality coffee.
Coffee to Water Ratio
This one is simple: 1-2 tablespoons of coffee per 6 oz of water. Try that and adjust according to your taste.
For my French press, I prefer a little more coffee with slightly shorter brewing time.
Speaking of brewing time, how long should you brew coffee?
That depends on the style.
Espresso – 20-30 seconds
French press – 2-4 minutes
Drip coffee – 5 minutes
Cold brew – 12 hours
13 Ways to Brew Coffee When Camping
Cowboy coffee may be the most primitive type of camping coffee. Named for the old west cattle drivers that would pack as frugally as possible. One thing they never went without: coffee.
Here’s how to make coffee without any special equipment. You simply brew in a pot and separate the grinds from the water without a filter.
Pot or brew kettle
How to Brew Cowboy Camping Coffee
Step 1: Boil your water
Bring 8 oz per cup to a boil
Step 2: Pull pot or kettle off of the fire for 30 seconds
This allows the water to cool to a more favorable 200° F, the perfect brewing temperature
Step 3: Add ground coffee to the hot water
At a ratio of 2 tablespoons of ground coffee per 8 oz of hot water
Step 4: Let sit for 2 minutes
Step 5: Stir, Let sit for 2 more minutes
Step 6: Slowly pour 4 oz of cold water over the coffee grounds
The cold water helps to settle the floating grounds to the bottom
(optional) Add a crushed eggshell or pinch of salt to help the grounds settle out
Step 7: Slowly pour your coffee once the grounds have fallen out of suspension
Be careful to pour off the top only as the grounds will find their way in between your teeth
Step 8: Enjoy your robust cup of coffee around the morning campfire
2.) Perk up! Brewing Morning Joe With a Percolator
Campers have been brewing coffee on a percolator for generations. Next to cowboy coffee, it may be the most traditional method of campfire coffee.
Here is what you need to make your own version of your grandparent’s classic:
How to Make Percolator Coffee When Camping
Step 1.) Put coffee in the percolator basket
The ratio is about the same as usual: 2 tablespoons per 8 oz of water
Step 2.) Fill the percolator with water
Step 3.) Place the basket in the percolator
There is generally a rod that fits into a shoe in the bottom to keep the basket centered at the top of the kettle
Step 4.) Place the percolator over the heat source until you see bubbles in the glass top
This is the water steaming below. As it splashes up, it mixes and remixes with the grounds. It’s a delicate balance to keep the water from boiling which will make for even more bitter coffee.
Step 5.) Let the water bubble for about 6-8 minutes
Longer for a stronger cup, shorter for a milder cup
Step 6.) Pull off of the fire and let cool for a few minutes.
The water temperature is near boiling and not conducive to healthy taste buds. Generally coffee is best at around 140° F
Step 7.) Pour into your favorite mug and watch the steam rise with the sun.
3.) Campground Cafè: Brewing French press Coffee when camping
This is our preferred method to make coffee when camping. We use the GSI Outdoor Javapress for our everyday coffee. So when camping, we just bring it with us and brew as normal.
Because it is plastic, it’s a lightweight and durable way to have great coffee outdoors.
Pot or kettle to boil with
French press suitable for camping
How to Make Coffe While Camping: French Press
Step 1. Bring water to boil
This can be on a campfire or using any camp stove or backpacking stove. We use the MSR Pocket Rocket. It’s designed for backpacking, so we can take it with us on the trail but versatile enough for camping.
Step 2: Pull the water off of the flame for about 30 seconds to a minute
This is usually enough time to grind your coffee and fill the French press
Step 3: Put about 2 tablespoons of ground coffee per 8 oz of water.
More or less depending on taste
Step 4: Let sit for 3-5 minutes
The longer you let it brew the more robust the coffee
Step 5: Press the plunger and pour your morning java
Bonus: Backpacking Cook Systems with French Press Add-ons
If you want to get a complete system for your backpacking or camping kitchen, here are a few that make a french press attachment
4.) Moka Pot Camp Coffee
A moka pot is another one that has been in camping kitchen arsenals for generations. And no wonder after you have tried this delicious form of percolated coffee.
Here’s what you’ll need
Gloves or hot pad
Your favorite coffee
How to Make Campsite Moka Pot Coffee
Step 1.) Preheat your water to the requisite 200° F and fill the bottom reservoir to the fill line
Step 2.) Add fresh ground coffee to the basket and place over the hot water container
Step 3.) Place the moka pot over medium heat leaving the top lid open
Step 4.) Let the brew stream into the top carafe until the color becomes light (about the color of honey)
Step 5.) Pour yourself a bold cup of moka coffee for a true eye opener
5.) Camping Drip Coffee Maker
Some like to bring the comforts of home with them when they go camping. Generally speaking, this is easy enough for an RV camper. But what about us mortal car campers?
That’s where the portable drip coffee maker comes in. The most basic ones are single serve filters that fit over your favorite coffee mug. The more sophisticated feature propane powered coffee machines.
I’ll assume you know how to make coffee with an automatic machine. So here are the basics for the more portable options like the single serve mug toppers.
The principle is still the same: Fill the filter with coffee, run hot water through the grounds.
Portable drip coffee maker or single serve filter
How to Make Drip Coffee When Camping
Step 1.) Heat up your water on a campfire or other cooking system
Step 2.) Place the portable filter over your favorite mug
Step 3.) Place the ground coffee into the hopper
This is similar to what you do at home, only there is no extra paper filter to throw away
Step 4.) Fill the hopper with water
Step 5.) After the water finishes dripping, take the hopper off and take your first sip of the day
6.) MacGyver Camping Coffee
If you don’t have a specialized pour over travel mug, you can improvise your coffee making – MacGyver style. Named for the clever character from the 80’s tv show, this style of camping coffee requires some ingenuity and improvisation.
Here’s one way to do it:
Non stretchy cloth (bandana, clean sock; anything but a real coffee filter)
Container to brew in (preferably something insulated; if not handle with care)
Container to heat water (probably something metal)
(Optional) rubber band, string, or hair tie
How to make MacGeyver Camping Coffee
Step 1.) Bring your water to a boil; let cool to 185° to 200° F
Step 2.) Place the cloth over your container and let droop in a little
This should form a spot to hold your coffee grinds
Step 3.) (Optional) place a rubber band or tie a string around the cloth to secure to container
Step 4.) Place coffee grinds onto the cloth
Step 5.) Carefully pour the hot water over the bed of coffee
Step 6.) Remove the cloth and coffee grounds, careful not to drop any into the brew
Step 7.) You now have brewed coffee as fresh as the cloth it passed through
7.) Pour-Over Camping Coffee
When it comes to camping coffee, there is a fine line between pour-over and drip coffee. Technically it comes down to the dwell time of the water. Drip coffee simply passes through while pour-over is done in stages.
Here is how to make delicious pour-over coffee while camping.
Portable pour over device
Favorite coffee mug (if not included in the pour-over system)
How to make Pour Over Camping Coffee
Step 1.) Bring water to boil on your cooking system
Step 2.) Pull water off of the heat to cool to around 200° F
Step 3.) While the water is cooling, fill the hopper or filter with fresh ground coffee
Step 4.) After the water has cooled, make your first pour. Starting in the center and spiraling out to the edges. This should take about 20 seconds
Step 5.) Wait about 20 seconds and let the first pour drip into the mug or carafe. You will notice the fresh aroma already.
Step 6.) Make your second pour with the water, this time reversing direction. Start from the outer edges and spiral into the center. Again,for about 15-20 seconds.
Step 7.) Repeat up to 4 times depending on the size of your serving
Step 8.) Remove the pour-over filter and remember why you love waking up outside
An alternative to carrying a camping pour over kit is to bring a single serve packet. Simply open the bag, hang it over the cup, and follow the same instructions as a normal pour-over we describe above.
Always remember with any of the disposable methods when camping or backpacking: Pack it in, pack it out. Always carry your waste back to a proper disposal bin. The last thing we want are wild animals hopped up on coffee grinds!
8.) Instant Camp Coffee
I purposely delayed listing this one because I was afraid you wouldn’t take me seriously. Let me start by saying that I understand. I have had enough instant coffee when visiting grandparents to know what bad coffee tastes like. And traditionally instant coffee was one step below bad coffee and one step above swamp water.
But new innovative companies have sought ways to bring good coffee into the backcountry. The ones that pull it off successfully have found a way to have a great cup of coffee with minimal weight, no waste, and no specialized equipment.
It almost seems condescending to include instructions. But for continuity, here is everything you need to make great instant coffee.
Packets of instant coffee
Your favorite camping mug
How to make Instant Camping Coffee
Step 1.) Heat up your water to 200° F
As usual, you can boil and then let cool for a minute or so
Step 2.) Add contents of instant coffee directly to your mug
Mug as in your coffee mug, not mug as in your face
Step 3.) Add in hot water, stir, and wonder where this simple pleasure has been all your life. And your granparent’s lives.
9.) Camping Coffee in a Bag
If not for the improvements in instant coffee, this one would get the award for simplicity. While instant coffee is probably the easiest, brewing coffee in a bag comes in as a close second.
This is almost exactly like brewing tea. And by almost, I mean exactly.
Thus again it seems patronizing to include instructions. But, here we go
Your favorite coffee mug
How to make Camping Coffee in a Bag
Step 1.) Heat water as normal; 200° F
Step 2.) Add water to your coffee cup and drop in your coffee bag
Step 3.) Stir around and let sit for 4-5 minutes
Step 4.) Pull out the coffee bag and marvel at how simple life can be with a fresh cup of coffee and the quiet of the sunrise.
10.) AeroPress Camping Coffee
Aeropress coffee needs no introduction. Now a staple in the backpacking coffee aficionado’s arsenal, Aeropress revolutionized portable espresso.
The concept is simple enough. Yet it can be a little tricky getting it just right. But once you have it down, you’ll feel like you’re enjoying a fresh espresso in the most authentic atmosphere.
Here’s what you need:
Aeropress coffee maker
Paper filter for Aeropress or
Your preferred coffee cup
How to make Aeropress Camping Coffee
Step 1.) Heat water to 200° F
Step 2.) Add about 8 oz of ground coffee
Make sure not to grind it too fine. You’ll want it to be about the consistency of table salt
Step 3.) Add the filter to the cap
Step 4.) Carefully pour a little of the water over the cap to preheat and adhere the filter
Step 5.) Pour just enough hot water over the coffee to saturate
Step 6.) Wait about 30 seconds and add the rest of the water and let rest for another minute
Step 7.) Stir the coffee and water
Step 8.) Press the plunger until all of the coffee is in your cup
11.) Camping Espresso
Naturally to get outdoors it takes some sacrifice. Like not being able to bring your industrial Nuova Simonelli espresso machine.
But that doesn’t mean you have to do without your daily dose of this style of caffeine delivery.
Here are some ways to make espresso while camping:
Espresso maker like the GSI Espresso Maker
Your favorite coffee mug (if not included with espresso system)
How to Make Camping Espresso
Step 1.) Fill the bottom cup with cold water
Step 2.) Drop in the filter funnel and fill with fine ground coffee
Step 3.) Attach the top and place on heat
Step 4.) Place your coffee cup under the spout and wait a couple of minutes
Step 5.) As the water boils it will percolate out of the spout
Step 6.) When it starts to flow out of the spout, remove from heat and let it finish running as it cools
Step 7.) Enjoy your fresh espresso or add some hot water for an Americano
12.) Camping Coffee With K-cups
Some coffee drinkers like the convenience of K-cups. While there is a downside to the amount of waste made by disposable coffee pods, most of the modern coffee makers have reusable pods so you don’t have to throw them away or carry your empties until you can recycle them.
That said, there is now a convenient way to bring this style of brewing to your campsite. Whether you are RV camping, car camping, or even backpacking (and you don’t mind a little extra weight) there is a portable camping coffee maker for you.
Here’s how they work:
Portable K-cup brewing device
Your favorite K-cup coffee
Your preferred travel mug
How to Make Camping Coffee With K-cups
Step 1.) Heat water to desired 200°F or so
Step 2.) Add your k-cup or reusable coffee pod filled with your favorite coffee
Step 3.) Add the hot water to the reservoir
Step 4.) Press water through the coffee into your cup
Some of the models have a plunger you press from the top, some on the side, while others are battery operated to make presses much easier
Step 5.) Enjoy your coffee just like at home
13.) Camping Coffee With Nespresso Pods
This is similar to how you can brew K-cups, except Nespresso pods are a slightly different size.
The Nanopresso can be used with your own ground coffee, or with Nespresso NS capsules using a special adapter.
Portable Nespresso device
Nespresso pods or reusable nespresso pods
How to Make Camping Coffee With Nespresso Pods
Step 1.) Heat water to desired 200°F or so
Step 2.) (Optional) Add your favorite ground coffee to the included reusable capsule
Step 3.) (The other option) Add your NS adapter to the Nespresso
Step 4.) Add the hot water to the reservoir
Step 5.) Prump the water through the coffee into your cup
Step 5.) Enjoy a fresh espresso in the fresh morning air
Conclusion for Making the Best Coffee When Camping
So there you have it. 13 ways to enjoy coffee while camping. There are some outliers that I didn’t cover like bripe coffee….just look it up and you’ll see why.
Anyway, what is your favorite style? Are there any twists that you like for the ones included here?
If so, leave a comment below. I respond to each one.
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