Everything You Need to Know about Camping Coffee: Brewing Methods and Tips

Camping Coffee

It’s hard to feel at home miles away from home without some good coffee. I can forgo most items while packing light but not my camping coffee supplies. 

Camping coffee can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. Your choice of brewing method should depend on factors like the weight of your luggage, availability of fire, and where you stand on a scale of coffee snobbery. 

There are numerous ways to make coffee while camping, hiking, or backpacking, both with and without any equipment. 

In this comprehensive guide, I’m going to highlight the most popular camping coffee drinks to try and the correct way of brewing them. For ease of understanding, I’ve classified the brewing methods according to the difficulty level. 

Let’s get to it- 

Camping Coffee Difficulty Level: Breezy

Getting a caffeine buzz doesn’t necessarily have to be an elaborate affair. While zero-fuss coffees aren’t always the tastiest, it gets the job done when you are freezing deep into the woods at night. 

#1: Instant Coffee

Instant coffee isn’t very highly regarded by coffee connoisseurs. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that instant coffee is supremely convenient. It’s basically just soluble coffee powder that you mix with hot water and slurp. 

Instant Coffee

There’s virtually no clean-up involved. I don’t drink instant coffee unless I’m feeling too lazy to move out of my sleeping bag. So I always make sure to keep a few sachets in my carry-on while traveling. 

If you dig a little deeper, you’ll discover that instant coffee isn’t just about Nescafe anymore. There’s an increasing number of brands that use 100% decent-quality arabica beans instead of robusta.

Who Is It For? 

Groggy-eyed campers who want a quick and fuss-free coffee without any equipment. 

What You’ll Need:

  • Instant coffee, of course. After a series of terrible experiences, I finally chanced upon this. It’s one of those few instant coffees that doesn’t taste like existential angst. Alpine would be a close second.
  • A compact, lightweight yet robust camping kettle
  • A cup and a spoon to stir.

Method: 

  • Tear the sachet and empty it into your cup or mug. 
  • Add hot water taken right off the boil and give it a nice, vigorous stir. 
  • Drink. 

Taste of Instant Coffee

Ordinary instant coffees have only a remote resemblance to coffee. However, 100% arabica instant coffees have a substantially better flavor and a mild but sweet aroma. 

Cleanup

Just dump the packet into the trash can and be on your way. 

#2: Espresso Gel

I only recently came across this espresso-flavored sports drink and didn’t hate the taste. It’s a ready-to-drink caffeinated beverage that contains 40 mg caffeine. It will help you stay at the top of your game while hiking through long-distance trails. 

It’s dairy-free and has a nice chocolaty undertone to it. You should give it a whirl if solely for the caffeine boost during and after intense physical activity. 

Who Is It For? 

Thru-hikers and trekkers and anyone who is expecting intense physical activity on the trip. It gives you a perfect caffeine boost and the espresso flavor is pretty darn strong. 

What You’ll Need: 

  • Nothing except the Espresso Gel itself.

Method:

  • Just tear open the top and empty the entire thing into your mouth. Unfortunately, you can’t save some for later. 

Taste of Espresso Gel 

It tastes fine as far as coffee-flavored energy drinks go. It’s not sickly sweet and has the perfect amount of caffeine to replenish you after a long day of crazy adventures in the woods. It’s like carrying a cup of coffee in your pocket and I’m all in for it. 

Cleanup

Just discard the packet responsibly. That’ll be all. 

#3: Single-serve Pocket Pour-over

Single-serve Pocket Pour-over Coffee

Single-serve pour-over sachets have taken the chore out of brewing fresh coffee while camping. This equipment is carefully designed to enhance the brew with clearly defined flavor notes. 

Who Is It for? 

Anyone who doesn’t want to go full James Hoffmann but doesn’t settle for instant as well. 

What You’ll Need: 

  • One easy-pour coffee pouch. If you like the idea but want to use your own coffee grounds, disposable drip coffee filter bags with ears that anchor to the cup.
  • A kettle to boil and pour water into the filter.

Method:

  • Open the filter bag and fit it on your cup with the help of the side anchors or “ears”. 
  • Boil water in a kettle, ideally to 200-205 degrees and slowly fill the filter with hot water. Once your cup is filled, pause for a few seconds to let all the delicious liquid seep into your cup. 
  • Take the filter out and enjoy the brew. 

Taste of Pocket Pour-over Coffee

The brightness and clarity of the brew cannot be compared to a traditional pour-over coffee. But it’s still a huge upgrade over instant coffee. 

Cleanup

The easy pour filters are made with biodegradable filters. Therefore, you can safely toss the used filter bags with your wet garbage. 

#4: Brew Bags

Brew Bags Coffee

Works in a fashion similar to tea bags, brew bags are a stupendously easy way to make fresh coffee. It’s an equipment-free process, making it a terrific option for campers, hikers, and backpackers. 

Who Is It For? 

Light packers or simply anyone who wants to ditch all brewing equipment and easy access to freshly brewed coffee. 

What You’ll Need:

  • The brew bags, of course.
  • A kettle or any pot to heat water. 
  • A spoon to stir.

Method:

  • We all are well-familiar with making tea with tea bags. Just duplicate the steps here. Steeping for 3-4 minutes should fetch you a decent cup of Joe. 

I liked the fact that you can tailor the strength of the coffee to your liking by simply tweaking the steeping time. 

Taste of Brew Bag Coffee

One of the best camping coffee I’ve had in my life was made using brew bags. I was skeptical at first but my co-hiker insisted on it and I gave it a try. 

It was a mildly aromatic, light-bodied brew with a lingering sweet aftertaste. It’s definitely worth a try. But was it as good as the more meticulously brewed coffees? Not even by a long shot. 

Cleanup 

The brew bags are biodegradable, so you can discard them without worrying about landfill waste. 

#5: Submersible Coffee Filter

This thing has got itself quite a cult following in the last couple of years. It lets you filter freshly ground coffee without any paper filter or separate equipment. 

Submersible Coffee Filter

This filter fits nearly every standard-sized cup or mug and makes some seriously good coffee. For an even fresher and better taste, grind your own beans. 

I know it’s not very convenient to lug around a coffee grinder while walking through the woods. But a portable grinder like this is worth considering as it won’t take much space in your shoulder bag. Plus, it works for tea as well. 

Who Is It For? 

Those who like to start their mornings without a robust cup of coffee that doesn’t take a degree in Barista-logy to make.

What You’ll Need: 

  • One submersible coffee filter like MSR Mugmate
  • Pre-ground or freshly ground coffee (if you’re carrying a grinder). A coarser grind will be better. 
  • A cup or coffee mug. 
  • A kettle to heat and pour water.
  • Spoon to stir.

Method: 

  • Put the filter in the mug. 
  • Add a spoonful of coffee grounds into the filter.
  • Pour water taken right off the boil slowly into the filter.
  • Let it steep for a minute or two.

And voila!

Taste of Coffee Brewed with Submersible Coffee Filter

It embodies all the great characteristics of a brew bag and pocket pour-overs. The resulting brew is rich, oily, and deeply flavorful. 

The only issue with this filter is the amount of sludge it lets through the mesh. I wish the mesh was finer as I prefer a clean, grit-free cup. 

Cleanup

Dispose of the grounds and wash the filter thoroughly. No biggie!

#6: Handpresso

One of the coolest pieces of tech a coffee lover can own, the Handpresso is designed to function as a miniature espresso machine. It comes with two adapters – one for ESE coffee pods and one for ground coffee. 

Handpresso

It may look like a complex gadget but it’s actually not. On the downside, you can make only a single shot of espresso with it. I hope they introduce a double portafilter basket very soon. 

Granted, it’s not the cheapest way to make camping coffee. But the sheer novelty of the equipment and the quality of the espresso make it worth every penny. 

Who Is It For? 

Anybody who loves espresso loves tech, loves convenience, and is okay with paying the premium for them should not miss out on it. If you want a virtually maintenance-free machine, use the pods. 

Although I’m not a big fan of coffee pods, I like the convenience of it when I’m out and about. 

What You’ll Need: 

  • The Handpresso kit, of course. 
  • An Espresso cup.
  • ESE pods or ground coffee, whichever you prefer. 
  • Kettle to boil water. 

Method: 

  • Pump up the Handpresso to build up the pressure required for making espresso. Keep Pumping until the needle on the small pressure gauge is in the green pumping. 
  • Open the portafilter, add off-the-boil water into the chamber. 
  • Place the ESE pod. Screw the portafilter onto it. 
  • Hold the portafilter side over your cup and slowly press the infusion button. Watch the dark honey-colored goodness topped with crema filling your cup. 

If you are using ground coffee, remove the pod insert, take the ground coffee adapter and add 8 grams of coffee into it. There’s no tamper included. So use your index finger to tamp the grounds down. 

Next up, add the water into the Handpresso chamber and pop the adapter in place. Put the portafilter back on and tighten it down. 

Taste of Handpresso Coffee

The single shot this uber cool gadget makes is substantially better than the espresso shot I’ve had in SadBucks. Build quality-wise, it’s the best portable camping coffee maker made to date, period.

Cleanup

If you are using pods, simply toss them in the trash and give the brew chamber a quick rinse.

If you are using the ground basket instead, a simple rinse will do the trick. Occasionally apply a few drops of cooking oil on the pump shaft to keep it gliding smoothly.

Camping Coffee Difficulty Level: Moderately Difficult, Requires Patience

#1: Cowboy Coffee

Cowboy coffee is an integral part of the open trail life of cowboys. It’s more of a survival guide than a brewing style. Taste the American tradition the next time you hit the trail. 

Cowboy Coffee

Brewing this legendary drink doesn’t require any special equipment. The trick to getting the best cowboy coffee ever is to let the coffee+water decoction come to a rolling boil. 

Proper boiling will take the acidity and bitterness out of the brew, leaving you with a smooth cup. 

Who Is It For? 

Cowboy coffee is a camping tradition and is worth a shot. It’s quite a bold brew, which is exactly how some people like their coffee. It doesn’t need any special apparatus. 

So if weight and space are premium for you, try making coffee the cowboy way. 

What You’ll Need:

  • Coarsely ground coffee.
  • A sturdy coffee pot, preferably enamel or granite.
  • Water.
  • Camping stove.

Method:

  • Fill the pot with water right below the spout 
  • Put it on the stove over high heat.
  • Wait till the water is warm and then add the coffee. 1.5 cups of coffee for 2 gallons of water is what the traditional recipe calls for. This stuff is supposed to be strong enough to give you the buzz of a lifetime. 
  • Let the mixture come to a rolling boil. 
  • Reduce the heat to medium and boil it for 2-3 more minutes. 
  • Take it off the heat and allow the coffee to settle for a minute or two.
  • Pour some cold water (1 to 1.5cups into 2 gallons of coffee). This will push the floating coffee grounds down to the bottom of the pot.
  • Pour and drink away. When brewed properly, there won’t be a trace of sludge in your cup. 

Taste of Cowboy Coffee

Stout, smooth, and not at all acidic- just as how traditional coffee should be. Cowboy coffee with campfire fried eggs with potato and bacon. Imagine, manifest. 

Cleanup

Just dump the coffee grounds in your wet trash. That’s it. No cleanup is necessary. 

#2: Portable Espresso Maker

While I find the Handpresso espresso shot perfectly balanced (as everything should be), some may not find it bold enough. Wacaco Minipresso GR might be a better alternative for them. 

Portable Espresso Maker

It uses a semi-automatic piston pump to build the brew pressure for espresso. The Minipresso NS version is Nespresso pod-compatible for an utterly fuss-free brewing experience. 

One big edge Minipresso has over Handpresso is the larger yield. Minipresso can make up to 100 ml per pull, which is significantly larger than Handpresso’s single shot. 

Who Is It For? 

Hands down the most brilliant designed coffee maker for glampers, leisure campers, and those who spend the majority of their time on RV campsites. 

Things You Need: 

  • Minipresso GR if you want to use ground coffee and Minipresso NS for pods. 
  • Ground coffee (medium-fine for best results) or Nespresso Pods
  • Hot water. 

Method: 

  • Take the cap off and use it as your espresso cup. 
  • Then unscrew the portafilter underneath. 
  • You will find the filter basket inside it. Take it out and fill it with coffee grounds using the included scoo. 
  • Tamp lightly using the back of the scoop. 
  • Put the filter basket back into the equipment and screw on the portafilter. 
  • Next, remove the bottom chamber/water tank, fill it with hot water up to the line. 
  • Re-attach it to the Minipresso. 
  • Release the piston by twisting it counter-clockwise. 
  • Hold the portafilter side over your cup and start pumping till to get all the foamy, syrupy goodness out. 

Taste of Minipresso Coffee

It’s definitely a stronger shot than what you’ll get from Handpresso. Most serious espresso drinkers will approve of its likeness to a real, high-quality espresso. 

Cleanup

Disassemble all the parts and rinse with water. It also includes a small cleaning brush to help you with it. When you are trekking or camping on a challenging trail, removing and cleaning so many small parts might be difficult. 

#3: French Press

For those who are interested in a more refined brew that doesn’t demand mad barista skill, consider a French Press. You can easily make 3-6 cups at a time with it. 

Adding Water to French Press

It’s nothing but a glass or stainless steel carafe with a super-fine mesh screen and a plunger. 

There’s essentially no fuss in the method except for patiently waiting for 3-4 minutes.

Who Is It For? 

The extra depth and weight of flavors in French Press brew make it best suited for dark roasts. If you don’t mind a little sediment in the cup in exchange for exceptionally stout, rich coffee, French Press is for you. 

What You’ll Need:

  • Hot water.
  • Medium coarse coffee.
  • Spoon to stir.

Solely for outdoor travel, I would highly recommend GSI Commuter Java Press. It’s a three-part unit with a removable glass mug nested within a stainless steel outer chamber. It’s well-insulated and doubles 

up as a travel mug too. 

Method:

  • Dump coffee grounds, hot water into the carafe.
  • Stir and put the lid on. Make sure the plunger is all the way up.
  • Let it sit for 3-4 minutes, press the plunger all the way down.
  • Pour the coffee into the cup.

I’d advise you to empty the carafe immediately. Otherwise, the grounds will continue to cook and make your brew rancid. 

That won’t be an issue with Commuter Java Press due to its unique design that aids a good separation between the grounds and coffee. 

Taste of French Press Camping Coffee

As a dark roast person, I’m a huge advocate of French Press coffee. It’s a robust brew with an amazing depth of flavor, low acidity, and a pleasant aroma. 

Cleanup

The only thing I don’t like about French Press is the cleanup. You’ll have to thoroughly wash the mesh screen fitting to take all the grounds out. 

#4: Percolator

Percolator

Percolator is the forefather of modern-day electric drip coffee machines. The former uses the same gravity-based mechanism to brew coffee. You can easily make 8-12 cups of coffee with it, making it well-suited for a large group of campers. 

In this simple carafe resides a heating tube and a filter basket. You can monitor the brewing process by looking through its glass cover knob. 

To oversimplify, this equipment cycles the water through the tube repeatedly until the desired strength is reached. It might sound complex but it’s not. 

Who Is It For? 

Percolated coffee is the closest thing you’ll get to drip pour. If you’re used to starting your day with a simple, light brew, you’ll get a lot of utility out of a Percolator. 

What You’ll Need: 

Method: 

  • Take the filter basket out and fill the carafe with room temperature water. 
  • Put the basket back into the carafe. 
  • Fill the filter basket with one heaping tablespoon of coffee per cup of water. Put the cover on the basket and close the lid of the carafe. 
  • Turn the stove on and let the water boil over medium heat. 
  • Wait till you see one bubble through the glass top. 
  • As soon as the water starts boiling, reduce the flame all the way and let the decoction simmer for 7-10 minutes. The longer it simmers, the stronger the coffee. 
  • Now, turn off the flame, carefully take the filter out (it will be super hot, mind you!).
  • Pour the coffee into the cups and serve. 

Taste of Percolated Camping Coffee

Percolated coffee is more on the milder side. If you prefer a lighter brew over strong camping coffee, give it a whirl. 

Cleanup

Cleanup is somewhat time-consuming. You will have to remove the percolator apparatus which comprises A tube, a coffee filter basket, and basket cover. 

Disassemble all the components, rinse them out thoroughly, and put them back. 

Camping Coffee Difficulty Level: Labor-intensive but Worth It!

#1: Moka Pot

Some coffee junkies would go to great lengths to get that perfect cup, no matter where they are. I am that junkie. A Moka Pot can take your humble camping coffee to the next level. 

Moka Pot

What it creates is quite close to espresso, hence Moka Pot coffee is also known as a stovetop espresso maker. 

The 6-cup models can make enough for three people at a time (espresso cups are tiny). Consider this 10-cup variant for a group of 5 people. 

Who Is It For? 

Can’t live without espresso? While Moka Pot coffee isn’t a real espresso, it’s pretty close. Brewing in a Moka Pot is moderately fussy but the cleanup is effortless. This coffee is ideal for mixing with milk and other additives. 

What You’ll Need: 

  • A stainless steel Bialetti Moka Pot. 
  • Stove or induction cooktop. 
  • For coffee, use medium-fine grind. A super-fine grind can clog the filter or safety valve. 

Method:

  • Start by filling the bottom chamber with hot water. Using cold water will lengthen the brewing time which may cause over-extraction. 
  • Fill the ground basket with coffee. Do NOT tamp it. Just lightly level it out with your finger. Place it onto the bottom chamber. 
  • Place the top chamber on and tighten firmly. 
  • Put the Moka pot on medium-low flame and keep the lid open.
  • Wait until the thick, dark brown, delicious coffee comes oozing into the top chamber. The flow should be slow and smooth. If it’s spurting, the heat is way too high. 
  • When the oozing almost stops, take it off the burner. 
  • Pour and serve.

Pro Tip for Cutting Down the Bitterness: If you have a wet cloth or towel handy, dab it onto the bottom chamber at this point. It will stop the cooking process and prevent your coffee from turning bitter. 

Taste of Moka Pot Camping Coffee: 

A highly concentrated coffee bursting with flavors. I like to add a splash of milk to cut down the acidity. Diluting it half a cup of hot water would get you something very close to an authentic Americano. 

Cleanup

You’ll have to disassemble all the parts and dump the coffee grounds. Then wash the top chamber with soap, and rinse. Re-assemble all the components and done!

#2: Pour-over

The classic pour-over is more like a ritual for coffee geeks. It’s a slow infusion method that helps to extract maximum soluble compounds from the coffee grounds. 

Pour-over Coffee

The pour-over dripper itself is lightweight and easy to carry around. This is perhaps the most elaborate way of making camping coffee. But if you like yourself a crisp, delicate brew, the extra work is worth it. 

There are many compact versions of pour-over drippers created especially for backpackers and campers. Made of silicone, these drippers collapse into a small disc. You can make enough coffee for 1-2 campers at a time with these. 

Who Is It For? 

Those who enjoy the brewing ritual and use gourmet blends sourced from the high elevation coffee estates. The small volume of controlled pours and long infusion helps to extract the more nuanced taste notes of the beans. 

What You’ll Need:

  • Don’t forget the paper filters if your pour-over brewer requires them. 
  • If you want to get pour-over coffee right, choose a gooseneck kettle. It will allow you to control the flow of the water which is the key to good pour-over coffee. But if you’re too groggy in the morning to care enough about the water flow, choose any kettle with a small spout. 
  • A standard coffee mug or carafe. 

Method: 

  • Place the pour-over dripper onto the cup or mug you’re using. Insert the filter.
  • Start boiling the water. When it starts heating, wet the filter 2-3 times by lightly drizzling some hot water on it. This will prevent your coffee from tasting like paper. 
  • Add the coffee into the filter and tap gently to level the grounds. Medium coarse grind works best for pour-over. 
  • Take the water off the boil, let it rest for about half a minute, and start pouring it over the coffee grounds. 

Pouring the water takes some skill and practice. Don’t worry if your coffee doesn’t taste like heaven for the first few times. Here’s how you need to do it: 

  • Slowly pour just enough water to wet all the grounds, starting from the outer edge spiraling towards the center.
  • Pause for 30 seconds and repeat this process by swirling it around, moving from the center to the outer edge. 
  • Repeated this process two more times to finish pouring the rest of the water. Pause for 30 sec between each pour. Small quantities of concentric pours at a controlled speed from a controlled height are what you need to slay your pour-over technique. 
  • Remove the dripper and enjoy your coffee. 

Taste of Pour-over Camping Coffee: 

The longer contact time with water allows the grounds to release all the goodness into your cup. When done correctly, it produces a vibrant, clean, aromatic cup. 

In my opinion, no other brewing method comes close to this for high-quality blonde to medium roast coffee beans. 

Cleanup

Just carefully take the filter out and toss it in the trash. It’s biodegradable, so don’t sweat it. Wash the dripper with dish soap, rinse with water, and dry. 

P.S: Although coffee filters are fully compostable, they do add to the volume waste. If you want to ditch paper filters, choose something like this. It comes with a reusable filter and takes very little space. 

#3: AeroPress

AeroPress is a coffee snob-approved method of making camping coffee. This equipment is light as a feather. And it harnesses the divine powers of air pressure to make espresso-like coffee with a thick layer of crema. 

Make Delicious Coffee with an AeroPress

It can make up to 3 servings in one go, making it perfect for a small group. 

Who Is It For?

Mind you that AeroPress has lots of removable parts, therefore, is a more feasible option for car camping and RV camping. 

Make sure this is something to deal with. I like to call it a lovechild of a French Press and Pour-over as it embodies the finest qualities of both. 

What You’ll Need: 

  • The AeroPress kit with bag. The bag will help keep all the parts together. 
  • Ground coffee, ideally medium-fine grind. 
  • AeroPress paddle to stir.
  • Kettle for boiling water. 
  • Mug or cup. 
  • Source of heat. 

Method:

  • Place the filter into the filter holder/cap, screw it onto the brewing chamber.
  • Fit this setup onto your cup. 
  • Pass some hot water through the filter to remove the weird taste of paper. 
  • Add the coffee and add a splash of water taken right off the boil. Allow the grounds to bloom for 10 seconds (skip this step if you are using pre-ground coffee)
  • Then add the rest of the water. Now, give it a nice and slow stir with the paddle for 10-15 seconds to agitate the grounds. 
  • Place the plunger and wait for a minute or a minute and a half.
  • Gently push the plunger down by applying a small amount of downward pressure. Press all the way to drip all the water out. 
  • Take the equipment off the cup and take a swig of the delicious brew. 

Taste of AeroPress Coffee

When brewed correctly, the resulting brew will be highly concentrated with a rich, velvety layer of crema on top. The paper filter stops the coffee oils and grounds from getting into your cup, aiding a very clean cup profile with well-defined flavor notes. 

Cleanup

Carefully invert the AeroPress, remove the cap, dump the grounds into the trash and wash the chamber, plunger, and cap with liquid dishwashing soap. 

FAQs

1. What is cowboy coffee? 

cowboy coffee FAQ

Ans. Popularized by cowboys, it’s their go-to method for brewing coffee on the trail. It’s an equipment-free, one-step process. Add ground coffee in the water and boil till it comes to a rolling boil. 

Splash some cold water in the coffee to push the grounds to the bottom. In the olden days, cowboys added crushed eggshells from the breakfast into the boiling water. 

This apparently got the floating grounds to stick to the eggless, making the resulting brew smooth and sediment-free. 

2. What is the best coffee maker for camping? 

Ans. If we are strictly talking convenience, the Handpresso, Minipresso, or a French Press would be at the top of my list. And if you prioritize taste above all else, a pour-over or Moka Pot would be your best option. French Press gives you the best of both worlds. 

3. How do you make coffee without a camping fire? 

Ans. Camping without campfire coffee is just meh. But sometimes, you have to do without it. Thankfully, you don’t necessarily need an open flame for most brewing methods.
 
All you need is a way to boil water and an electric kettle can do that job just fine. A Solar stove or water heater will also serve the purpose. 

Summing up the Camping Coffee Saga

Camping without great coffee is just a sad story. But thankfully, preparing gourmet coffee while camping is not rocket science. As you can already see, there are plenty of methods for every skill level and budget. 

Pick any brewing method you feel comfortable with and take your campfire coffee up a notch. 

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Luke

Hi! My name is Luke. I’m a huge espresso fan, a dad, and a caffeine junkie (which helps a lot in being a dad to an early bird ;) ). Welcome to my blog, I hope you will enjoy every single second of being here

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