How to make the best coffee at a campsite

How to make the best coffee at a campsite

kettle over campfire

Photo: Arterra/Universal Images Group (Getty Images)

I’m not that big of a camper, but I do imagine that one of the best parts of a trip to the middle of nowhere is getting up in the morning and taking in the fresh air and a hot sip of freshly brewed coffee. But not having access to your usual array of countertop devices probably makes for a cup that isn’t nearly as good as one you can make at home. Outside talked to a barista, Wes Fowler, and a campsite cookbook author, Anna Brones, to gain insight on how to fix common problems with your outdoor coffee. Here’s what they had to say.

AeroPress brews

An AeroPress makes a great cup of coffee (which I can confirm from personal use at home), and it’s plenty portable enough to bring on a trip. The issues you might encounter involve the grind texture, which ranges from too fine to too coarse. The experts recommend a grind size similar to the consistency of table salt, with a steep time in hot water for two minutes, then flip the device and plunge for 30 seconds. Brones suggests you figure out the coffee to water ratio you prefer at home, then write it down on paper and pack it in with your kit.

Cowboy coffee

Cowboy coffee is simple and the least complicated version: All you do is heat up coarse grinds in water, then pour the coffee into a cup once the grinds have steeped and settled. As you can imagine, you can get coffee grit in your cup if the grinds haven’t settled. You can bring a coffee filter with you to make things easier, or even use a bandana to filter them out. Fowler recommends splashing in a touch of cold water to help speed up the settling process.

Pour-over

By now if you’re already familiar with your preferred pour-over technique at home, the most important part when making it at the camp is to measure your water before you heat it up, but with a little extra liquid to account for steam loss. To get the most flavor out of your coffee, Fowler says to preheat your filter by rinsing it with hot water, so that it later when you’re doing your pour-over, the water won’t cool down instantly as it hits the surface of the metal or plastic.

French press

A typical serving of French press coffee sits out for four to eight minutes, depending on grind size (coarser grinds stay in for longer). While your coffee is steeping, the press is rapidly losing heat since you’re outside in variable temperatures, so you can either use an insulated press or wrap your press snugly with a cozy (like one for beer, but press-sized).

When it’s done, you’ll want to make sure you pour the whole batch of coffee out at once and not in stages, because any coffee you leave in the press continues to brew and can get bitter. Either make what you’re planning on drinking all at once, or you can use a Thermos to hold it at temp.

More ways to make the best camp coffee

  • The experts suggest you bring a small silicone spatula to clean out a French press (easier to scrape).
  • Have a specific coffee cup. If you’re using an all-purpose cup, you’ll be getting any smells from food or drink that was previously in it in your morning coffee.
  • If you’re pre-grinding coffee to pack for your trip, start from fresh beans, as they start to lose flavor two weeks after roasting. Weigh portions beforehand to ensure proper ratios.
  • Going with whole beans? Don’t forget you can buy a hand grinder. An even grind is a good way to get the best flavor out of your coffee, no matter where you make it.
  • Read the whole feature on Outside to get even more great information.

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