For most of us, coffee is an essential starter in the morning on any camping adventure. Even those who don’t drink coffee usually love its smell wafting across a campsite. Combined with frying bacon and wood smoke, it’s an aroma that can’t be replicated anywhere else.
What’s the best way to make camping coffee? Well, that’s the source of prolonged debate among experienced campers. Everyone has a favorite recipe or technique, but if you have an open mind here are some you might want to try yourself.
- Large coffee pot or kettle
- 2 Tbsp. finely ground coffee per 8 oz. of water
- Water (fresh spring water if you've got it)
- Heat source
- Measure the amount of pure, fresh water you put into the pot. (You’re going to need to know the amount later.) Unfiltered spring water is best. If you’re not sure of your water supply, use the bottled stuff you brought along in your cooler.
- Bring the water to a boil over the campfire or whatever heat source you have available.
- Remove the pot from the heat, and allow it to sit for 30 seconds to a minute to make sure it’s off the boil. The best temperature for making coffee is right at 200 degrees. (Remember if you’re camping at elevation, water boils at lower temps, so to make sure you’re at that temp, let it take on a long, rolling boil before removing it from the heat.)
- Add two tablespoons of finely ground coffee to the pot FOR EACH 8 OUNCES OF WATER.
- Stir the grounds into the water. (Real cowboy chuck wagon cooks kept a separate wooden spoon for this purpose only – and never washed it.)
- Let the pot and contents sit – off the fire – for two minutes.
- Stir again, and let it sit for another two minutes.
- After the four minutes of brewing sprinkle half a cup of cold water on the grounds. Because “heat rises and cold sinks” it pulls the grounds, which are now mostly floating on the surface, down to the bottom of the pot.
- Carefully, gently pour out the coffee so the grounds remain near the bottom of the pot and what you get in your cup is rich, delicious coffee.
- 1 large egg, beaten (reserve eggshell)
- large coffee pot or sauce pan
- 8-9 cups of water, plus ¼ cup water, plus 1 cup cold water
- ¾ cup medium grind coffee (Pre-ground, grocery store coffee works just fine.)
- Crack an egg. Reserve shell. Place yolk and white in bowl. Beat thoroughly.
- Crush the eggshell into small pieces.
- Add the crushed shell, ¼ cup of water and ¾ cup of medium grind coffee to the beaten egg.
- Stir together well. (Yech!)
- Bring 8-9 cups of water to boil in a saucepan or coffee pot.
- Carefully pour/spoon in the slurry and boil gently for three minutes. The grounds and egg will create a mass floating on top of the pot.
- Remove from heat and gently pour in a cup of cold water.
- Let sit for 10 minutes.
- Carefully pour into cups and drink. Chances are it will be lighter color than the coffee you’re used to drinking, but all the rich flavor is there without any bitterness.
- Percolating coffee pot with strainer, stem and bulb.
- Fresh water
- 2 Tbsp. regular grind coffee for each 8 oz. water in the pot
- Fill pot with enough water so it’s just below the level of the bottom of the strainer basket.
- Place the strainer on its stem into the pot.
- Place two heaping tablespoons of regular grind coffee into the strainer basket for each cup of water in the pot.
- Put the top on the strainer basket, and then the lid on the pot.
- Set on the heat and wait for it to boil. Watch and listen carefully, because it can boil over easily.
- When it’s boiling, move the pot to the edge of the fire or turn down the heat to low.
- Allow the coffee to percolate slowly for at least 5-10 minutes. Remember the longer you percolate it, the stronger the coffee will be.
- 1 KUJU Coffee Pourover packet per 8-12 oz. of water
- Water, just below boiling point
- Open the packet and pull the filter out of the pouch. Tear along the perforation at the top of filter.
- With the wings that pull out from the sides of the filter, secure to any size mug.
- Pour water that’s just below a boil into the coffee grounds, allow it to drip into the cup. Repeat until 8 ounces is brewed.
- In smaller mugs, it’s okay if the filter rests in the brewed coffee, and this can actually boost the flavor.
- Remove and dispose of filter/coffee – ENJOY!
- GSI Outdoors 30 oz. JavaPress
- Up to 30 oz. water, just below boiling (200F is perfect)
- 2 Tbsp. of coarsely ground coffee per 6 oz. of water
- Begin by boiling some water in a separate pot.
- Pour a couple of ounces into the JavaPress cylinder and swirl to warm the container. Return water to boiling pot.
- Measure 2 tablespoons of coarsely ground coffer per six ounces of water into the cylinder. If you’re making the full 30-ounce capacity of the JavaPress, that would be 10 tablespoons.
- Add water that’s cooled just below boiling to the cylinder.
- Place the lid/press in position on top of the cylinder and make sure it’s seated well.
- Allow coffee to steep for 4-5 minutes.
- Slowly press down plunger to the bottom of the pot.
- Turn the arrow on the lid to align with the pour spout and pour the coffee into your waiting mug.
- Dental floss or cotton twine
- #4 paper coffee filters
- 4 Tbsp. of drip ground coffee for each bag you want to make up for a 16 oz. cup of coffee
- Cut some 8-inch lengths of cotton twine or dental floss. You’ll need one for each bag you’re going to make.
- Flatten out a drip coffee filter on the table in front of you.
- Scoop 2 tablespoons of coffee into the center of the filter for each 8-ounces you want the back to brew. We like to make 16-ounce batches, so that’s 4 heaping tablespoons of fine ground coffee.
- Carefully gather up the sides of the filter and pull them together to form a pouch.
- Give this top a good twist so the packet resembles an onion just pulled from the ground.
- Use the pre-cut string to tightly tie off the top of the pouch.
- When it’s time to make coffee, heat water to boiling, then remove from the heat for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Pour into the cup and plop in a pre-tied bag.
- Wait about five minutes, jostling the cup occasionally.
- Remove the coffee bag and enjoy.
Tips for Making “Perfect” Camp Coffee
The only method in which you’ll actually boil the coffee in the water for any length of time is percolating. That’s why the resulting coffee is stronger and called “bitter” by some compared to the other methods. The coffee is briefly boiled in the egg coffee method, but the time is short and part of the purpose of adding the egg is to eliminate bitterness. The optimal temperature at which to brew coffee by all the other methods is 200 F. Since water boils at 212 F at sea level, taking a kettle of boiling water off the heat for 30 seconds to a minute, brings the temp down to exactly the right point. However, remember that as you go up in elevation water begins boiling at lower temperatures. So if you’re in a high elevation mountain camp, continue heating your water well above the boiling point to get the water to 200 degrees for the “perfect” cup of coffee.
Coffee to Water Ratio & Brewing Time
The strength of coffee is determined by two factors – the amount of coffee grounds to which the water is exposed and the length of time which it is exposed. How strong and dark you like your coffee is a matter of personal taste, so the “perfect” cup of coffee is highly subjective. A good starting point for most brewing methods is 2 tablespoons of ground coffee per 6-8 ounces of water. Experimentation and lots of tasting are really the only way to develop the skills to brew the perfect cup.
The Right Grind
Consistency of the grind is important, too. The finer the grind the more surface area of the grounds is exposed to the water to make the coffee stronger and darker. However, if you use too fine a grind in some methods, coffee grounds could escape into the water. Few things are as “imperfect” as taking a swig of coffee and ending up with a mouth full of grounds! Yech! Basically, you can go with finer grinds for methods that use a paper filter or collect them like egg coffee. Coarser grounds work better in systems that use strainers or mechanical devices like percolating or French Pressing.
Fresh Ground vs. Preground
If you’re really a coffee snob, you’ll want fresh ground beans even when camping and several companies make battery-operated grinders that make this perfectly doable. However, grinding your beans at home and bringing them to camp – or buying pre-ground coffee at the grocery store or campground convenience store is what most people do for camping. It will be just fine, and if you try egg coffee, it will be downright delicious!
Brand/Type of Coffee
Again, this is totally subjective and entirely up to you. Buy and use whatever you like and whatever your budget will bear. However, if you want to try something special and truly authentic when it comes to brewing Cowboy Coffee, go online and splurge on a pound of Arbuckles’ Ariosa Coffee. They lay claim to being the “Coffee That Won The West.” Just after the Civil War the Arbuckle brothers came up with the idea of selling pre-roasted coffee beans in 1 –pound packages. Before then, the only way to get coffee was green which required roasting in a skillet over a fire or woodstove – which made things horribly inconsistent. Arbuckles’ Ariosa Blend became so popular in the Old West, most cowboys didn’t even know there was anything else.