The next time you rise and grind to fill your camping mug with a delicious cup of joe, make sure to follow these best coffee making for at camp. That way, your coffee-making game isn’t on the weaker side.
In this guide, we spill the beans on the absolute must-do’s of making coffee outdoors. Plus, we offer several brewing methods for campers looking for compact gear and an easy cleanup.
Tips for Making Coffee at the Campsite
Whether you like brewing it over a campfire or on a propane or liquid fuel stove, most coffee tips for camping come down to two factors: the freshness and quality beans, and their brewing method. Here are the must-do coffee tips for camping.
Buy Quality Beans
High-quality beans can make or break a good cup of coffee. (And, depending on how much you rely on it in the morning, bland coffee could ruin your whole day.)
One nice treat is to hunt down a local roaster along your journey and pick up a fresh bag of whole beans. If you forgot your coffee grinder, have them do the job for you. But, again, whole beans, if you can.
Store Beans in an Airtight Container
Keep those whole coffee beans in an airtight container to maintain their freshness.
However, since campers tend to use coolers as their airtight container, preserving perishables and deterring wildlife, we must point out that coffee is the exception. Storing coffee beans in an ice chest or cooler causes moisture, which can reduce the beans’ shelf life and even cause the beans to spoil. Just don’t do it!
Grind Beans Before Brewing
Always grind coffee beans just before brewing to ensure optimal freshness. Why? Because ground coffee is more exposed to air, which oxidizes and decreases its taste. And… freshly ground coffee beans release oils that give it a more complex, robust flavor profile, making all that brewing effort at the campsite worth it!
Of course, you’ll need to bring a coffee grinder to do the job. Preferably one that is lightweight and compact. Bonus points if it has a coarse adjustment. Here are a few fantastic coffee grinder options:
Heat water in a camping kettle or camping tea pot with a spout that allows for an easy pour. This will help prevent burns or simply wasting good coffee.
For anything other than cowboy coffee kettle or percolator styles, choose a camping kettle or camping tea pot from a reputable brand like MSR, GSI Outdoors, or Snow Peak. These styles are designed to heat quickly and be lightweight.
Whatever you choose, keep the water just under boiling (a temperature of around 200-205 degrees Fahrenheit). Should you reach 212 degrees, you're boiling! In the wilderness without a way to gauge temps, just use your eyes to judge, pulling off the kettle before the water begins to boil.
Whether you prefer the classic enamel camp kettle you can place directly over the fire or a quick on-the-go brew before you pack out, there’s a coffee maker for everyone.
But first, there are a few factors to consider when choosing a coffee maker for camping:
The number of coffee drinkers at the campsite
How much patience/ time you have to make coffee
Your storage capacity or weight limit (car camping vs backpacking)
If you prefer an ease cleanup
Kettle or Percolator
Great for larger crowds like family cookouts, enamel kettles and percolators make plenty to go around.
A large coffee kettle or percolator-style kettle is typically used to makecowboy coffee. Both can sit safely over a fire too, if you want to reduce your coffee-making camp equipment. It's also easier to reheat if it turns cold before others wake.
Here is how to make coffee using a kettle or percolator.
Fill kettle with 6 cups of water (or the bottom of the spout)
Bring to a full boil – cowboy coffee is the only exception! – and remove from heat
Add ½ cup fresh coarse coffee grounds and give it a stir
Cover and steep appx. 3 minutes (longer if you like stronger coffee)
Add a splash of cold water to "settle" floating grounds
Fill the percolator with water
Place a paper filter in the metal basket (recommended, but can make without)
Add grounds and boil appx. 7 minutes
Remove when you see rich brown coffee in the viewing bubble
Many campers love the Aeropress because it’s compact, mess-free and simple to clean up. Designed like a press ad pour over, it combines the best of both worlds for coffee lovers. It brews one cup at a time, so best for a campsite of 2-4 people.
Aeropress has two basic brewing methods; the official regular way, and the other inverted. Some people prefer the inverted way because it offers more control and immerses the grounds longer. Here’s the upside-down inverted method:
Insert the plunger into the Aeropress chamber
Flip it upside down, without placing the cap or adding a filter
Insert the funnel and pour fine coffee grounds inside the chamber
Remove the funnel again and fill the chamber with hot water
Steep grounds for appx 1 - 3 minutes
Now is time to insert a paper filter and screw the camp to the chamber
Quickly flip the Aeropress cap down and place it over your favorite camp mug
Plunge the Aeropress, adding more hot water to dilute as needed
Unlike the full-standing versions you see in coffee shops, pour-overs can be compact, lightweight and durable enough for camping. You can even find collapsible pour-over cones or folding pour-overs. Keep in mind: The larger your cone, the more coffee and people you can serve.
Pop up/assemble the pour over over a camp mug or insulated carafe
Wet a filter and place it inside the cone
Add 1-2 hefty teaspoons of coffee per cup of water
Give it a few taps to level out the coffee ground surface
Pour ¼ cup of hot water at the outer edge of the grounds, slowly spiraling to the center
Rest for 30 seconds (if coffee is fresh enough, it should bloom!)
Pour the remaining water* slowly, spiraling in and out to rotate the grounds
*Pause between each spiral to allow the waterline time to drop just above the grounds
Yep, that’s right – instant coffee has come a loooooong way. And it’s super convenient for camping. Not only are they ideal for solo campers who limit weight or extra equipment, but also campers who simply want to jumpstart their day. And you’d be surprised just how tasty they can be.
Instant coffee and coffee tea bags are especially useful when you need to limit your gear and supplies. Backpackers love instant coffee because it’s quick to make and easy to pack out the trash in the backcountry. Coffee “tea” bags work the same.
Have a favorite coffee blend? You can purchase bags and DIY your own coffee tea bags!
Instant Coffee: Just pour in hot water and stir until dissolved
Coffee Tea Bags: Steep in hot water a few minutes and remove bag