If you are not a coffee person, then you should not be reading this. But if you are a coffee lover who just cannot start their day without their morning java even when out in the woods, continue reading. Making coffee is pretty easy when you have the right tools around. At a camp, you are unlikely to take your coffee maker with you. This means preparing coffee while camping could be beyond tricky – if you allow it to.
Coffee is a highly complex and fragile commodity. Its flavor easily gets affected by different variables. Therefore, concocting it carefully is crucial. Making coffee on a campfire is certainly possible, but you just need to put in a bit more effort and focus. You ask how? We’ll tell you how.
Campers of today are not at the mercy of wood fire anymore to make coffee or even cook food. The majority can carry with them a liquid fuel/propane stove – which is no doubt a lot more efficient, reliable, and clean-burning than wood fire. The stove also lets you regulate the heat.
There are different ways to make coffee at a camp. However, the foundation for it is laid with the beans – their roast and grind. Therefore, it all starts with the beans.
Getting the Beans Ready
Freshly grounded beans release oils that are at the core of a coffee’s complex, exquisite flavor. The beans can be bought at grocery stores. The roasts may vary – some fancy a darker roast that results in a richer taste, which isn’t necessarily very strong and gives the coffee a darker hue.
At a camping site, you’ll have to grind the beans with a manual coffee grinder since there won’t be any power to plug in your electric grinder. You can determine how finely the beans get ground. The finer you grind the beans, the greater would be the oil release, making your coffee a lot more intense. However, if you go too fine, you might end up with a bitter brew.
If you don’t have the grinder on you, you can crush the beans by putting them in a piece of cloth and pulverizing them using a rock.
Build the Right Fire
Building a suitable fire is imperative for proper coffee-making. The fire should ideally be hot and small. Once the fire is set up, let the wood burn for some minutes. Do not throw in more wood so that you end up with a small, hot coal bed. Try to bring the glowing coals closer together so that the heat is concentrated and directly rises to the pot that’ll hang above.
The Different Tools/Methods
Once you have the coffee ground and fire ready, you can choose to make your coffee in different methods or using different equipment.
A camping percolator has been around since the 1880s. It’s basically a self-contained utensil. The percolator portion inside is removable. If you remove it, the coffee pot can be used as a water kettle. You can use a butane stove, a camp burner, or a wood stove to fire up a percolator. You just need to hang it over the fire.
Compared to drip coffee pots, a percolator can make much better coffee. Thanks to advancements in coffee tech and camping requirements, these coffee pots are now available in different sizes and styles. If there are more than a couple of coffee addicts in your camping cohort, make sure the pot’s size is adequate.
Cowboy coffee is another method to make coffee around a campfire. Unfortunately, the coffee has received a pretty bad rep over the years. Ironically, the reason for the bad press isn’t the actual process but the people who failed to do it right. If you have the right tools and basic knowledge about coffee brewing, your cowboy coffee will come out just fine.
The process entails the decoction extraction technique. During the brewing, coffee is blended with boiling water. When done, let the grounds settle down at the bottom of the pot so that when you pour the concoction in the coffee cup, the grounds don’t spoil the fun. This coffee-making method is ideal if there are multiple people to serve. It’s also pretty fun and nostalgic.
Though the cowboy coffee technique is primitive, you still need certain things beforehand to roll with the process. You would need:
- Freshly ground coffee
- Small pot
- Small measuring cup
Procuring these essentials should not be difficult since you might already have them in your house. Make sure the pot you use can withstand fire. Also, use drinking water – filtered water would be even better. Regardless, refrain from using lake or stream water because the water would not just make your coffee taste bad, but the brew may also become hazardous for consumption, thanks to the pollutants in the water.
Perhaps, the biggest issue people have with cowboy coffee is the bitter taste. If you like your coffee strong, this should be a non-issue. But if you don’t want your coffee to be overpowering, you may add some eggshells to the mix. Coffee is acidic in nature. And when it’s brewed the cowboy way, its acidic traits become even more prominent. Eggshells are alkaline in nature and help mellow down the acidic attributes of the brew. The shells also help keep the coffee grounds at the base of the pot so that they stay out of your mug.
Instant coffee is another option, but it should be your last resort. Compared to regular or “real” coffee, instant coffee usually tastes bland and has a weak flavor. Though instant coffee has traveled a fair distance over the years, it still doesn’t compare to ground coffee. In other words, instant coffee is fast food and freshly ground coffee is your homecooked meal. However, when you have no option whatsoever, instant coffee is more than just serviceable.
Not everything is bad with instant coffee. For starters, the coffee is travel-friendly and does not take much space in your luggage. And as the name suggests, you can make the coffee “instantly”. It should not take more than a minute. You just need to add some hot water to the coffee and you’re good to go. Also, as alluded to before, instant coffee manufacturing has evolved over the years. Most companies have started to use the micro-ground technique that incorporates high-quality coffee ground to an extremely fine consistency. If you just cannot stand strong, bitter coffee, instant coffee is a convenient alternative.
French Press is another method to make coffee while camping. You would need more material and equipment for the method than you would need to make instant coffee. However, the making process is easier compared to cowboy coffee. You would need a French Press cylinder. The cylinder is usually made of glass. But since you’ll be camping, look for a stainless steel one or a BPA-free plastic container.
To get started, you’ll need some ground coffee and boiling water. Put the two in the cylinder and allow them to seep inside for three to four minutes. Once done, press the plunger down, which would bring a metal, flat disc to the fore. The disc should help separate the water from the grounds. You can now tilt the container for the coffee to pour into your mug.
The technique is pretty simple. However, you might need some practice initially. Once you get a hang of things, which should not take more than a couple of tries, you’ll truly enjoy the process. Even if you mess things up initially, the coffee wouldn’t taste as bad as a messed-up cowboy coffee.
- The coffee beans should be stored in an airtight bag; do not keep them in a cooler. It’s all about keeping the moisture intact.
- Before you could hang the coffee pot over the fire, place it on the hot coal circle so that the water in there reaches the boiling state.
- Once the water starts to boil, take the pot away from the fire so that the boiling stops. Add your grounds only after the boiling water has been reduced to a sputter.
- The amount of ground you put into the water would depend on how strong/bitter you want your coffee. A solid thumb rule is a tablespoon of coffee ground for six ounces of water.
- Besides using the eggshells, there is another way to make sure little or no coffee grounds enter your mouth. Use some fairly large spoons to skim the coffee’s surface once it has finished steeping. You should also be able to eliminate the reddish, oily, bitter froth sitting at the surface with the spoon technique.
- Adding some cold water to the pot can also push the grounds to the pot’s base. Simply add the water to the pot and let it do its thing for 30 seconds. Once done, you would notice the grounds would have happily settled down.
Brewing coffee while camping doesn’t mean you have to settle for subpar coffee or a concoction that tastes and looks like tar. Just ensure you have the right tools with you and the coffee ground is fresh. Also, pay close attention to the coffee and water ratios. If you have these things taken care of, your coffee should come out pretty good.