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How to Make Coffee While Camping: 7 Easy Ways (Plus the Gear to Make it Great)

Coffee. The fuel that runs modern human society. You know you need it while you're camping, right!? In this post you'll learn how to make coffee while camping.

How to make coffee while camping

How to Make Coffee While Camping

My morning coffee is one of my favorite rituals of the day. I have a stovetop espresso maker and I know how to make my coffee just how I like it (strong). I love waking up while most in my world are still sleeping, sitting on my couch watching the sky change colors and sipping on my coffee. That time in the morning when so many still sleep is so peaceful and I always feel so grateful to have that time; before the day gets busy, to sit and be still.

I often do the same when camping. I get up out of my tent, sit back in my camping chair and enjoy the peace of the wilderness.

how to make coffee while camping

So let's take a look at how to make coffee while camping.


7 Ways to Make Coffee While Camping

I've made camp coffee a few ways – primarily stovetop espresso and pour over. After doing some research, I found that there are plenty of options to have morning coffee while camping.

I have listed the various methods of how to make coffee while camping below, with ratings by effort and quality. What you decide to use will depend on your personal coffee tastes, standards, existing equipment, and budget.

Note: These are listed in order from worst to best.

ways to make coffee while camping


1. Instant Coffee

Instant Coffee

  • Effort: Minimal
  • Coffee Quality: Debatable – depending on the brand
  • Equipment needed: Source of heat, vessel to heat water, cup, and coffee granules.

Instant coffee is an obvious choice for camping and is definitely one of the simplest ways, although as a bit of a coffee connoisseur I would argue that there are other equally simple methods that will result in a much better coffee. Ultimately you still have to use a stove and/or campfire for all methods and you are likely to get a better coffee for the same effort using another method.

There are actually many options now for instant coffee and the likes of Trader Joes offer some decent pour over coffee bags for camping situations. A number of coffee manufacturers have also chosen to take more consideration over their instant coffee now and choose high quality beans, so it might be worth trying a few options. Mount Hagen makes a surprisingly well-rated, organic instant coffee – might be worth a look. And I've been impressed with WAKA coffee, the single serving packets are great for camping – tossing  a few in a Ziploc bag can really help when space is limited. Using instant is also a quick way to make iced coffee.

easy camping coffee

Learn to make coffee while camping


2. Cowboy Coffee

Cowboy Coffee

  • Effort: Minimal
  • Coffee Quality: Less than average
  • Equipment needed: Source of heat, vessel to heat water, cup, fine coffee grounds.

This method is overwhelmingly simple and is likely to result in a much better cup of coffee than using instant coffee. There are a variety of ways to make a cup of cowboy coffee.

You will need to heat your water of course. You can then choose to:

Dump and Brew

  • Boil your water.
  • Throw in your coffee grounds and turn down the heat so that it is simmering. Over a few minutes the coffee grounds should sink to the bottom.
  • Then you can pour off the coffee and leave the coffee grounds behind. If the grounds need a bit of help to fall to the bottom you can pour a little cold water over them.

Coffee Sock Coffee

This method is almost the same. Except that instead of dumping the grounds directly into the water, you'll put them into a coffee sock (or bandanna, cheesecloth, whatever works for you) to allow the water to run through the coffee while keeping the grounds contained within it and not escaping into the water.

We commonly saw both of these methods when we lived in Ecuador. And done right, it can produce decent coffee. But this isn't easy. It often results in bitter coffee – the grounds end up being cooked in the water. And the grounds often end up in your cup.

The benefit of this method is that you won’t need to let the coffee grounds settle (or end up with bits of coffee grounds in your teeth!) and the clean up is easy. However if you are a true cowboy and you don’t care about that kind of thing then the next method won't interest you.

how to make awesome coffee while camping


3. Pour Over Coffee

Pour Over Coffee

  • Effort: Requires purchase and packing of coffee specific equipment
  • Coffee Quality: Average
  • Equipment needed: Source of heat, pour over equipment, paper filters (sometimes), cup, fine coffee grounds.

We are now getting into the land of the person who cares about the quality of their coffee. When I started exploring camping coffee, I tried cowboy coffee first to see if this might work for me. It certainly didn't live up to my stovetop espresso machine and so I explored the pour over method.

This is probably the cheapest and simplest method outside of cowboy coffee because it requires the purchase of a simple, small piece of equipment specifically designed for camping.

Items like the Primula Single Serve Coffee Buddy are a great place to start because they are cheap and don’t require any additional equipment, not even paper filters.

The coffee you will get from this is relatively good so if you are wanting something cheap and simple this is probably your best option.


4. French Press Coffee

French Press

  • Effort: Requires purchase of a French press
  • Coffee Quality: Better than average
  • Equipment needed: Source of heat, French press, cup, coffee grounds

If you’re fancy you can call this a cafetiere. Many swear this is the best way to make coffee whether you are camping or not. It is pretty straight forward and you can get some really hardy camping friendly French presses that you can shove in your bag like this one by Linkyo: French Press with easy clean stainless steel (1 liter). Check current price on Amazon.

They are a bit more expensive but to be honest you'll probably want to use them when you get home because they make good coffee! You can also get an insulated thermos with a built in French press (like this one by Stanley) so you can brew your coffee and go. The coffee will stay warm in your thermos while you drink it at your leisure.

how to make good coffee while camping


5. Aeropress Coffee

Aeropress

  • Effort: Requires purchase and packing of coffee specific equipment
  • Coffee Quality: Very good
  • Equipment needed: Source of heat, Aeropress, cup, fine coffee grounds, metal filter

The Aeropress is a combination between a French press and a pour over. It can make an American style coffee or an espresso shot! This is what gets me excited about the Aeropress.

Bizarrely, the guys who came up with this ingenious machine are the same people who made those amazing unbreakable flying rings that people use like a frisbee! They know how to make a piece of plastic that doesn’t bend or break and is durable, ie. perfect for camping.

Check current Aeropress price.

It is a little bit more money to invest in but the Aeropress is perfect if you are picky about your coffee. It produces incredibly smooth and quality tasting coffee every time. The traditional method of how to make coffee while camping (and at home) is as follows:

  1. Place filter inside filter cap and attach to the brew chamber.
  2. Place brew chamber on top of coffee mug.
  3. Scoop five teaspoons of coffee grounds into brew chamber (they may be pre-ground although it is suggested that you grind them fresh).
  4. Pour a small amount of boiled water into the chamber. This will degas the grounds. Wait for 10 seconds. There should be enough water to just wet the grounds and no more.
  5. Now pour in the rest of the water to nearly fill the brew chamber.
  6. Wait 90 seconds. During this time some water will drip into your cup, this is fine.
  7. After about 60 of the 90 seconds, insert plunger into the chamber and slowly begin to push down. This process should take about 30 seconds.
  8. Remove the Aeropress from the top of your mug. Ta-da! Fresh coffee!

Aeropress has quite a following even in the coffee snob community. It was designed with one method and one recipe – and now has hundreds.

The traditional method will result in some under-brewed coffee escaping in your cup so to avoid that you can learn the inverted method. However if you wish to produce espresso style shots which can then be made into all manner of fancy coffees like cappuccinos and lattes then use the following method:

How To Make Espresso Shots with Aeropress

  1. Place 32 grams of finely ground coffee in the Aeropress.
  2. Add 100 grams of boiled water and agitate for 10 seconds, stirring the entire time.
  3. Plunge for 20 seconds and squeeze out the grounds with the plunger.
six tips for making coffee while camping

Fresh ground coffee is always better 🙂


6. Stovetop Espresso Maker

Stovetop Espresso Maker

  • Effort: Requires purchase and packing of coffee specific equipment
  • Coffee Quality: Very good to excellent (depending on your skills and knowledge of coffee)
  • Equipment needed: Source of heat, espresso maker, cup, fine coffee grounds.

This is how I make coffee at home (usually). Sometimes as cafe americano – sometimes full strength espresso. This is also my favorite way to make coffee when I go camping. It makes consistently good coffee. It is durable and fits well in a pack or car trunk.

Check current price on Amazon.

This is a great option for camping – only if you travel with a gas stove. This is not a good option for cooking over a campfire – it will melt off the handle and ruin the maker. While camping, this should only be used on a gas stove, and even then you need to make sure that the handle isn't over the burner.

If you pick this up for camping, you'll probably start using it at home – works great on gas or electric stoves at home.

Camping coffee stovetop espresso maker

This is my morning setup. Espresso maker and cast iron frying pan (full of frying steak). What's better than this?


7. Hand-Powered Espresso Maker

Hand Powered Espresso Maker

  • Effort: Requires purchase and packing of coffee specific equipment
  • Coffee Quality: Very good to excellent (depending on your skills and knowledge of coffee)
  • Equipment needed: Source of heat, hand powered espresso maker, cup, fine coffee grounds, metal filter.

When it comes to making coffee while camping this is the most impressive. I couldn’t believe it when I first found out that this sort of thing exists – it's definitely on my wish list. There is something empowering about the idea that I can leave my espresso machine at home and make brilliant coffee with my own hands!

Check current price on Amazon.

It’s a pretty straightforward process, but here are some tips to produce a great espresso from this device:

5 Tips for Making Coffee With a Handheld Espresso Maker

  1. Leave the water boiling for about 30 seconds before pouring over to ensure it is hot. This will maximize the extraction from the coffee
  2. Use fine ground espresso coffee, and if grinding yourself – make sure you set it to the fine grind.
  3. When you pour the coffee in, it should have enough to leave a rounded scoop. According to the manufacturers there is no need to tamp down the coffee because the lid will do this for you if the right amount of coffee is in there. But you can tamp it if you wish though. The compactness of the coffee will make a huge difference to the taste… if it is loosely compacted the water will run through too quickly and result in weak coffee. If it is too tight then the water will hang about and burn the coffee so it’s a bit of a fine art and depends on air humidity, temperature… ok don’t worry too much you’ll get the hang of it!
  4. If the piston is really hard to press after your first six pressurisation pumps, then wait. Timing is key! Give the water a little bit of time to move through the coffee and then start pumping again, but keep it slow, aim for one pump a second. You should notice the coffee starts to come out now.
  5. A sure sign of a decent coffee is the crema on the top, which is the rich browny, creamy layer on top of the coffee. This means your extraction is good. If the crema is non-existent there is an issue with the grind and possibly the tamping, whereas if it is white, it means that the extraction was not great, so work on water temperature or taking more time over the pumping. If the puck (the used coffee) is nice and compact and dry this is also a good sign, however if it is soggy and wet, you need to revisit your technique.

tips for making coffee while camping

Need a gift for a coffee lover? Check out these gifts for coffee snobs – you're sure to find something they'll love.

Got Milk? 

Finally, if you’re like many coffee drinkers, you’ll need some warm, frothy milk to pour over your espresso to make it in to a latte, cappuccino, or whatever your liking is.

You have various options, and ultimately, it’s down to you how much effort you put into this. At the very least, if you hate black coffee, you can use, ugh… powdered milk. I know, it’s awful, but it’s an option. You can also use longlife milk as well which is a slightly better option. There’s also the option of just popping in some coconut oil. It’s not the same as milk but it will make the coffee that bit creamier and take the edge off.

If you have a way of storing and carrying fresh milk, then this improves things considerably. Then you have a couple of different options. You can use a handheld milk frother which is lightweight and easy, but you’d need to also heat the milk before this as well. A milk frother like the one below is cheap and battery operated.

You can also spend a bit more (ok a lot more) and get a stovetop cappuccino steamer. This will froth your milk on your camp stove! It’s expensive but it heats and froths and produces fantastically tasty cappuccinos. A little tip, if you want a latte, you just pour off a bit of the froth from the top so it’s not so much froth.

six ways to make coffee while camping

How Will You Make Coffee While Camping?

How will you make your coffee in the great outdoors? Or, perhaps you've been making it, and are looking for something better.

There are so many options for learning how to make coffee while camping, from basic instant to a full blown cappuccino. Only you know where you are on the coffee snob scale.

For me, I'm happy with my stovetop espresso maker (when I can bring my gas stove). And the pour over technique works great when I'm further off-trail. Coffee is my morning ritual and to be able to enjoy it out in the wilderness is absolute heaven.

Whatever you choose, it is reassuring to know when you are crawling out of your tent in the morning with a dead leg and a back ache, that your caffeine fix is only minutes away.

learn how to make coffee while camping

We would love to hear your tips about how to make coffee while camping. Please let us know by commenting on this post.

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines

Bryan Haines is co-editor of EnjoyJava! - and is working to make it the best coffee blog in the world. Ambitious, right? He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of GudGear (an outdoor adventure blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with Bryan and Dena.

3 comments… add one
  • Jim Mar 9, 2018, 7:33 pm

    Well this was awesome. A few new idea’s for me. Now I’m really looking forward to summer camping.

    • Dena Haines Nov 6, 2018, 11:50 am

      Hi Jim,

      It’s hard to beat a good cup of coffee when you’re camping!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article and got some new ideas. Thanks for commenting 🙂

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