It’s summertime. For many of us, it’s time to head to the beach, the woods, or the lake. As coffee drinkers know, nothing tastes better after a night spent in a sleeping bag than a hot, tasty mug of camping coffee.
The convenience of instant coffee can be hard to resist when traveling. But being away from home doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy your coffee.
Can backpack baristas really brew great coffee off the grid? Here are some of our favorite ways to make delicious camping coffee in an RV, a campground, or deep in the backcountry.
Grinding on the go?
One secret to getting great coffee flavor is to grind just before brewing. But what to do when there’s nowhere to plug in your grinder?
Dilworth Coffee’s Director of Coffee Brad Kirby knows that hand-crank grinders can make excellent traveling companions. “When I’m hiking at lower elevations and not really worried about pack weight, I’ll bring along a half pound bag of coffee beans and a grinder. The Porlex grinder even fits inside the plunger of my Aeropress, which saves space.” Brad knows that hand grinding takes work, but you’ll be rewarded with a much tastier cup.
Don’t want to lug that extra weight up the trail? It’s ok to grind the coffee for your trip right before you leave, weighing out and sealing individual portions into snack-sized zip-top bags. You’ll lose some flavor and aroma, but it’ll still be better than instant.
Heading into the woods? Dilworth Coffee’s Lead Trainer Brady Butler reminds us that “coffee is a smell-able item, so make sure you always store your coffee safely, along with the rest of your food.” He added that “coffee aromas will seep through most zip-top bags, so unless you want coffee-infused trail mix, put your coffee inside a re-sealable Food Saver bag or lightweight plastic container.”
Just like at home, good camping coffee starts with water heated to the right temperature – 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit or 92-96 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, this means that trouble is brewing for one popular camping coffee option: the percolator.
That’s because while the nostalgia-value of percolators is high, so is the brewing temperature. Unless you’re high in the mountains, percolators boil your coffee at overly-high temperatures, yielding a harsh and bitter brew. Don’t throw out your classic percolator, though. With the stem and basket removed, they make great camp stove kettles.
Any stove and cooking vessels that can boil water can be used to make camping coffee, but pots or kettles with a pouring spout are safest and easiest to use. Backpacking kettles are great lighter option. With some practice, even the drink-through lid on a cooking system works well.
Portable pour over perfection
Whether brewing for one in the backcountry or a crowd in the campground, the quality and speed of a pour over dripper is hard to beat.
When camping with a larger group, Brady always packs his #6 drip cone. Used with a kettle full of water just off the boil and a thermal carafe, this helps him make enough coffee to wake up a camp full of Scout leaders. He recommends using about 120 grams of our Craggy Gardens blend, ground medium-coarse, with 2 liters of water, following these directions for brewing a Chemex.
When weight and space matter, Brady packs an ultra-light folding dripper. “This is my favorite backcountry brewer. It makes one or two mugs of great coffee and only weighs 10 grams. The legs fold down too, so it fits easily into a bear bag. It weighs even less than the ground coffee you put into it.” He suggests using 24 grams of coffee, ground medium-fine, with about 400 grams of water, following these directions for a manual dripper.
Taking it easy
Even the most coffee-obsessed campers plan their outdoor adventures around activities other than brewing coffee. That’s one reason Dilworth Coffee’s Head Roaster Chris Bennett likes to keep his camping coffee brewing easy. “I’m a fan of the Aeropress. It’s easy to use and easy to clean up. For a bigger group, though, I like to use a French Press. It’s even easier to use and clean-up just requires a quick rinse.” For French Press, Chris recommends using about 50 grams of coarsely-ground coffee with 750 mL of water, following this process.
There are many travel-friendly styles of French Press which trade fragile glass carafes for durable plastic or double-walled insulated stainless ones. Backpackers have several lighter-weight options too, including plunger inserts which turn several popular cooking systems into coffee-brewing multitaskers.
Easy cleanup is one reason an Aeropress is also in Brad Kirby’s backpack. “It’s a versatile brewer that can accommodate many different ratios and grind settings. It may be a bit bulky, but it doesn’t use much water to brew or to clean up. That’s important when you’re hiking along a ridgeline and only have the water you’re carrying.”
Testing all of your gear before you leave home is essential, and Brad knows that this applies to coffee brewing too. “A little prep beforehand will pay off with the perfect cup. It’s hard to measure with precision in the woods, so mark the approximate fill levels on your Aeropress before leaving home.” His Aeropress is marked for about 15 grams of coffee and 250 grams of water. We recommend a medium grind and this process.
Enjoy those sunrise views even more
Brewing in the backcountry may be a bit more challenging than at home, but with proper preparation and the right gear, backpack baristas can enjoy great camping coffee anywhere. For more tips on brewing, check out our Brewing Essentials article. Or call Dilworth Coffee at 866 849 1682.