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Perfect Your Brew: The Best Coffee Tips When Camping

6 min read 0 Comments

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

enamel coffee kettle over camp fire

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:

Mind Your Heat Source & Avoid Boiling the Water

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.

Learn more tips on choosing the best camping kettle for you.

The Best Camp Coffee Brew Methods

making coffee at a campsite

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 make cowboy 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.

Directions

Cowboy Coffee:

  1. Fill kettle with 6 cups of water (or the bottom of the spout)
  2. Bring to a full boil – cowboy coffee is the only exception! – and remove from heat
  3. Add ½ cup fresh coarse coffee grounds and give it a stir
  4. Cover and steep appx. 3 minutes (longer if you like stronger coffee)
  5. Add a splash of cold water to "settle" floating grounds

Percolator:

  1. Fill the percolator with water
  2. Place a paper filter in the metal basket (recommended, but can make without)
  3. Add grounds and boil appx. 7 minutes
  4. Remove when you see rich brown coffee in the viewing bubble

Kettle and Percolator Models

Espresso Pot

The espresso pot, aka Moka Pot, is a handy coffee maker for camping, and especially great for 1 - 2 campers who need stronger shots. Plus, you can simply add hot water to craft an Americano coffee.

Much like a percolator, a Moka Pot design features a bottom reservoir and a built-in metal filter basket, reducing the need for paper filters.

Directions

  1. Fill the water inside the bottom reservoir
  2. Pack finer coffee grounds in the middle filter
  3. Reach a boil, allowing steam through the grounds
  4. Collect coffee in the top carafe portion until done and pour

Espresso Pot Models

Aeropress

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:

Directions

  1. Insert the plunger into the Aeropress chamber
  2. Flip it upside down, without placing the cap or adding a filter
  3. Insert the funnel and pour fine coffee grounds inside the chamber
  4. Remove the funnel again and fill the chamber with hot water
  5. Steep grounds for appx 1 - 3 minutes
  6. Now is time to insert a paper filter and screw the camp to the chamber
  7. Quickly flip the Aeropress cap down and place it over your favorite camp mug
  8. Plunge the Aeropress, adding more hot water to dilute as needed

Aeropress Models

French Press

french press coffee maker pouring coffee camping

The French Press is a smart option for brewing coffee grounds overnight (looking at you, cold brew fans). After all, cold brew coffee is a nice refreshment in the hotter months.

Skip the breakable glass and aim for a stainless steel French Press or a French Press-style coffee mug.

Directions

  1. Add coarse grinds into the press (see model for the correct amount)
  2. Pour in water and stir grounds to ensure they soak
  3. Place the plunger on top of the press, but don’t press yet
  4. Give it appx. 4 minutes to brew
  5. Push down the plunger and pour coffee into camp mugs

French Press Models

Pour Over

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.

Directions

  1. Pop up/assemble the pour over over a camp mug or insulated carafe
  2. Wet a filter and place it inside the cone
  3. Add 1-2 hefty teaspoons of coffee per cup of water
  4. Give it a few taps to level out the coffee ground surface
  5. Pour ¼ cup of hot water at the outer edge of the grounds, slowly spiraling to the center
  6. Rest for 30 seconds (if coffee is fresh enough, it should bloom!)
  7. Pour the remaining water* slowly, spiraling in and out to rotate the grounds
  8. *Pause between each spiral to allow the waterline time to drop just above the grounds

Pour Over Models

Instant Coffee & Coffee Bags

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!

Directions

  1. Instant Coffee: Just pour in hot water and stir until dissolved
  2. Coffee Tea Bags: Steep in hot water a few minutes and remove bag

Instant Coffee Brands

Share Your Own Coffee Tips for Camping

Do you have any special brewing techniques you use while camping? We love to know what other campers are doing to start their morning off right.

Let us know in the comments below!


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Brette DeVore
Brette DeVore

As a former hospitality interior designer with an adventurous spirit and love for travel, I now help interior designers and tourism-related businesses in creating online content and media.



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