As an avid camper, there are many things I’ve learned to forgo in the outdoors: air-conditioning, regular showers, laundry. But there’s one thing I’d rather not do without—my morning coffee. On a camping trip, this ordinary morning ritual somehow feels like an indulgence. Maybe it’s the fresh air or lack of other luxuries, but sitting beside a campfire in the morning chill with a warm mug feels like heaven. A subpar night of sleep and fresh air can make even the weakest instant coffee taste good.
Not that instant coffee is the only option in the outdoors. There are many ways to make camp coffee, from freeze-dried Folgers to the hipster-approved Aeropress. The method you choose depends on your camping style (backpacking, tenting, RVing, glamping) and it depends on how seriously you take your coffee. Read on to learn seven ways to make your own morning brew.
Instant coffee will do in a pinch if you’re short on space and prefer a no-fuss cup of joe. Though it doesn’t have the best flavor reputation, I’ve learned from experience that instant coffee is better than no coffee at all. The Columbian roast from the Starbucks VIA line is my top pick.
- VIA delivers a bold, full-bodied cup of instant coffee anywhere
- 100% Colombian Arabica offers a bold and roast-sweet, Italian Roast flavor
- Mix with hot water, let coffee brew for 10 seconds and stir
- Boil water on a camp stove or over a fire.
- Pour one instant coffee packet (or two, for a stronger brew) into an insulated cup.
- Pour the hot water into the coffee and stir to dissolve.
Pros: Inexpensive and easy to make, no electricity needed
Cons: Taste (depending on the brand)
This hardly qualifies as a method for making “camp coffee” but it’s worth mentioning. If you’re camping with a large group and have access to electricity, sometimes it’s worth simply bringing your automatic drip-brew machine from home. One of my relatives thought to do this on a family camping trip and it was hard to find fault with a method that quickly provides you with 12-cups of hot coffee (that stays hot on the burner). If you go this route, it might be worth bringing a cheaper machine than the one sitting on your kitchen counter. The Mr. Coffee 12-Cup could be a good option.
- On/off indicator light lets you know when your coffee maker is on or off
- Grab-A-Cup Auto Pause stops cycle if you need a cup before brewing is finished
- Dual water window allows visibility as you fill-no more overflows
- Lift and Clean Filter Basket for fast and easy clean up
- Easy cord storage eliminates counter clutter.Watts: 900
- If you’re tent camping, simply set the coffee maker on a level surface and plug it into the electricity post at your campsite. (You may need any extension cord.) If you have a camper or RV, this method is already a no-brainer.
- Make the coffee like you would at home. (Just be sure to pack grounds not whole beans if you don’t have a coffee grinder.)
Pros: An easy way to make hot coffee (that stays hot) for a group
Cons: Needs electricity and isn’t the easiest equipment to pack
After some trial-and-error, this method has become our family’s favorite way to make coffee when camping. We grind the beans at home and pack them in a waterproof container. While at camp, we boil the water on our camp stove and use a sturdy French press that’s made from BPA-free plastic. You can find a similar model here with the Bodum Brazil French Press
- Add Coarsely Grounded Coffee. Add Hot Water. Wait 4 Minutes. Plunge.
- Environmentally friendly: No paper filters or plastic capsules required.
- Base and handle made of BPA-free polypropylene. Carafe made of German Heat-Resistant Borosilicate Glass. Plunger made of Stainless Steel
- 34 Ounce Capacity.
- Dishwasher Safe.
- Boil water using a camp stove or teakettle over a fire.
- Measure coffee grounds into the bottom of the French press carafe. I like strong coffee so I use 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every 8 oz. of water.
- Pour the boiling water over the coffee grounds, filling the carafe. Place the cover on the French press but don’t press down on the plunger yet. Set a timer for 4 minutes.
- After 4 minutes, slowly press the plunger all the way down. Then drink up!
Pros: Fresh taste, easy to pack
Cons: Requires specialty equipment (the press)
Before percolators and presses became standard camping equipment, coffee was often made using this no-nonsense method. The basic process for making “cowboy coffee” involves brewing coffee grounds in hot—nearly boiling—water and then using assorted tricks (eggshells, a stick) to make the grounds sink to the bottom of the kettle. Basically, it’s the French-press method without the strainer. If you like coffee that’s as gritty as the outdoors, this style is for you.
If you want to see a real cowboy show you how it’s done, check out Cowboy Kent below:
Pros: No special equipment needed
Cons: High potential for coffee grounds in your teeth
Before automatic drip-brew coffee makers became standard (about 40 years ago), the percolator was the most popular way to brew coffee at home. Today you can buy new camp-style percolators that serve the same purpose. (Checkout this very popular Granite Ware percolator) A percolator is a lidded pot with two chambers, one for water and one for coffee grounds. As the water is boiled on a stove or fire, it’s drawn up through a thin tube and repeatedly filters through the grounds.
- ABSORBS HEAT QUICKLY - The Granite Ware Boiler absorbs heat quickly, reducing your cooking time and getting you your morning coffee quicker. The product's smooth glass like surface allows for easy cleaning and easy handling. (Dishwasher and metal tool safe)
- ENERGY EFFICIENT - The inner carbon steel core allows heat to be distributed evenly, so liquid boils at a constant rate.
- NO CHANGE IN TASTE - The pure surface will not alter any taste of your beverage so you can enjoy your coffee, tea, and hot chocolate without worry of change in flavor.
- TAKE IT ANYWHERE- Whether you're going camping or staying at home, the Granite Ware Boiler provides you with hot coffee, tea, or water quickly. All you need is a source of heat.
- LONG-LASTING - The porcelain coffee boiler is made from durable materials so you can take on your family camping trips for years to come.
- Pour water into a percolator to its fill line.
- If your percolator requires it (check the instructions), place a filter in the filter basket. Then add the coffee grounds, about 1-2 tablespoons per 8 oz. of water.
- Place the basket assembly back inside the percolator pot and replace lid. Place it on a camp stove or fire and watch it boil. (Many camp-style percolators have a clear cap on top where you can see the water bubbling when it starts to boil.)
- Once the water is boiling, you’ll notice that it darkens as the coffee starts to brew. At this point, remove the percolator from the heat source and let it continue to simmer for about 5 minutes. After that, it’s ready to go.
Pros: Fresh taste
Cons: The learning curve
If prefer to make coffee one cup at a time, pour-over might be the method for you. To make it, you’ll need a pour-over dripper and cone-shaped filters. (You can also buy large pour-over drippers that brew more than one cup at a time.)
- Boil water on a camp stove or fire. (Boil twice as much water as you’ll need. If you’re making a single cup of coffee, boil 3 cups of water.)
- While the water is boiling, place a filter in the pour-over dripper and set it on top of a mug or carafe. If you’re making a single cup of coffee, pour 2-3 tablespoons of coffee grounds into the pour-over dripper. It should be the consistency of coarse sugar.
- Once your water is boiling, remove it from the heat source and let it sit for about 30-60 seconds. Set a timer for 2 minutes and hit start. Pour a little hot water over the coffee grounds until they’re completely soaked.
- Wait 30 seconds. Then continue to pour hot water over the grounds, keeping an eye on your timer. You should be able to keep pouring until about the 2-minute mark. At that point, stop pouring and let the coffee drip for another 30 seconds before drinking.
Cons: It takes practice and patience
The last option on our list is for people who like their coffee one potent shot at a time. Espresso typically uses steam pressure which is why it requires a special (and often large) machine. Amazingly, there are now handheld espresso makers on the market like the Wacaco Minipresso portable espresso machine.
- COMPACT & FEATHERWEIGHT - Whether you're going away for few hours or few weeks, space and weight are major factors when selecting your travel equipment. Minipresso has been designed to be the smallest, lightest and most versatile handheld espresso machine.
- INNOVATIVE & POWERFUL - Minipresso's ease of use is derived from it's innovative design. With the help of the semi-automatic piston, small quantities of water are injected into the coffee adapter. After a few pushes, the optimal extraction pressure is achieved and a rich and bold espresso is extracted
- CONVENIENT & EVOLUTIVE - Minipresso doesn't require compressed air, N2O cartridges or electricity for its operation. Hand operated, you are free to prepare coffee drinks that you love. Water tanks of different capacities are available so you can enjoy multiple espresso types, ranging from ristretto to caffè lungo
- EFFICIENT & EASY TO USE - Besides being aesthetically pleasant with its modern and slick design, Minipresso contains an ingenious core, the semi-automatic piston. Unlock it from its carrying position and press it at will to control the amount of extracted coffee
- ACCESSORIES - Enhance your Minipresso GR to get the most from it. Enjoy longer espresso, up to 100ml, and protect it from scratches.
Method: For this method, it’s best to follow the instructions for your specific machine.
Pros: Coffeehouse style espresso