If I love coffee enough to drink it every day, I certainly love it enough to lug along some extra supplies on a camping trip to enjoy my morning cup.
The best ways to make coffee while camping will vary from person to person, because methods of making coffee have differences in complexity meaning how long it will take, how heavy it is, and if its breakable which are all factors to consider when camping.
Guide to Coffee and Camping
Let’s cover a few questions to help you decide the best camp brewing method for you:
Is packing and weight a concern?
You may want to opt for light, and small brewing methods that can easily fight within your packing budget.
Can you take your time brewing?
Some brewing methods will take longer to prepare, brew, and clean up afterwards – this is something to consider if you have activities planned.
Are you going to bring a grinder?
Being a coffee enthusiast I always want to brew with my coffee immediately after grinding it. That raises the question – will you use the space and spend the time to bring a grinder with you? This would also open you to multiple brew methods and not having to pre-grind your beans before camping.
Are you glam camping or tenting?
This will help you determine if you can bring breakable equipment, use power, and also plays a role on your available space. If you’re in a trailer or have access to power your options are pretty well endless. You can use an electric grinder, and any brew methods that require power – or not!
How many fellow campers are coffee drinkers?
An AeroPress might be suitable if you’re the only drinker, but if you’re preparing for a larger party this will come into effect when selecting your brew method.
How will you boil your water?
Just like you need to base your brewing method on the number of people you’ll serve – you’ll also need to boil an adequate amount of water at the right temperature.
How will you dispose of the waste?
Methods that involve a filter filled with grounds will be the easiest to dispose of and clean up.
Form or function?
In your home you may have access to thermometers, scales, unlimited hot water, and the luxuries of freshly ground beans every time. You’ll need to be selective here and choose if you’re going for a basic cup, or a cup similar to that you would prepare at home – prepare to make some sacrifices depending on your goal here.
Best ways to make coffee while camping
I’m going to get into the list of coffee brewing methods now that I’ve used to success while camping. They may or may not vary much from the methods you would see around the home, but there will be some tweaks and tips along the way. I’ll also categorize every brewing method with information regarding weight, brew simplicity, extra tools required, quality, and also include pros and cons.
Starting it off simple we have instant coffee. If you haven’t tried it before it’s basically micro-ground coffee that dissolves into hot water making the most simple version of coffee. It’s sold in containers, and single serve packages which are pretty handy.
- Extremely lightweight option
- The only waste is the package – if you bring it in a reusable container there is no waste
- There are some tasty selections in the single servings from Starbucks and the like
- Brew time is quick boil your water and put the instant coffee in
- Good for multiple people – just boil more water!
- Coffee fanatics may not be satisfied with the taste
- Cost per serving can be expensive compared to whole beans
Overall, instant coffee is one of the more basic coffee brewing methods that comes with a lot more pros than cons for the average coffee drinker. It may leave something to be desired for coffee enthusiasts but overall it’s a solid option in terms of space and weight, ease of brewing, accessories required, and waste disposal.
Your regular drip coffee machine
If you have power at your camp site or you’re camping in a trailer, RV, truck camper, or have electricity some way then you can plug in any ordinary coffee machine from home – IF you’re willing to lug it the entire way. This will produce the same coffee you make when you’re at home so you won’t be missing out on anything in that regard.
- Make the same great coffee you have at home
- Set and forget brew method
- Brews for multiple people
- Easy to clean, dump out the filter basket and rinse
- One of the largest brew methods
- Requires electricity
- Not one of the favored brew methods of enthusiasts
If you’re bringing your regular home drip coffee maker, you’re pretty well doing luxury camping with power and enough extra space. If this is how you normally prepare coffee then you’ll enjoy the same great coffee you do at home.
French press for camping
French pressing is my favorite brew method, and certainly a great one for camping. At home I use a glass carafe french press but for camping I would always recommend going with stainless steel for the durability factor. When a household uses a drip coffee maker, one of the most common forays into the world of better coffee is a french press. Using a coarse grind, this immersion brew method makes a coffee with strong body in about 5 minutes not including boiling or grinding time.
- Doesn’t take up a lot of space
- Makes a great cup of coffee
- Can serve multiple people
- Can be fairly heavy for backpacking or lightweight camping depending on what size you use
- Proper french pressing requires warm water for full extraction during the brew time
- Disposing of and cleaning french press grounds is not the most convenient
- French pressing takes a coarser grind than pre-ground coffee (Folgers etc.)
French pressing is a step up from drip machines, and certainly instant coffee. It’s a great, reliable, and durable (with a stainless steel press) way to make coffee while camping. French presses are available in a wide variety of sizes so you can have a small one and be lightweight or have a larger one to prepare coffee for a group. If you need help picking one out for camping I’ve written an extensive guide on the best french presses available.
Pour over for camping
Pour over is essentially a more manually controlled drip method. You have a cone shaped filter basket, a filter you fill it up with your ground coffee, and you ‘pour over’ boiling water and let it drip down in the form or coffee. This is going to be the first sign that you’re a coffee nerd if you bring pour over methods camping with you.
- Pour over makes a great tasting cup of coffee
- The devices are fairly small
- Filters are used for easy disposal
- Brew one cup, or many cups
- Some pour over makers are made out of ceramic – avoid them
- Pour over requires more precise control over parameters, you may want to bring a scale, and thermometer
- Pour over takes some preparation time, and can take more than french pressing
If I were to bring pour over for a camping trip I probably wouldn’t want to do it without at least bringing my Hario scale and timer combo. There are other options for measuring your coffee in a simple manner without electronics, like a scoop or small container that houses say exactly 15g increments. Bringing pour over camping is a great idea if you want to enjoy your coffee manually brewed while taking in fresh air and some great scenery. If you enjoy making quality coffee with pour over methods at home, chances are you’ll enjoy it camping as well.
To learn more about pour over and some of the popular methods out there, check out our complete guide to pour over brew methods.
Another super popular immersion coffee brewing method is the AeroPress. In another article I compared the AeroPress to the french press and while they both produce quality coffee, they have their differences. For camping and lightweight backpacking I think the AeroPress certainly has a place in your gear.
- Extremely lightweight
- Durable BPA free plastic construction
- Uses paper filter and is very easy to clean
- Makes a small amount of coffee
AeroPress is in my opinion on of the best ways to make coffee while camping for one person. The only con is the amount of coffee it makes to me. The thing is bombproof, light, and clean up is super easy.
The most simple method that surpasses instant coffee is taking ground coffee and adding it to boiling water. The result is a brew with grounds and sediment settled to the bottom.
- Requires no tools or devices
- Makes no waste – dump the grounds out of your cup
- All you need is ground coffee
- Add it to a mug or your boiling pot
- Not much control over the brew method
- May be strong tasting
- You may swallow some coffee grounds
This is more of a last ditch effort than a brewing method you would plan for but it is an option. In fact when performing taste tests individuals will drink from a brewing method like this one to keep it consistent. This method is probably suited for two scenarios – one where you’re doing regular camping and forgot your brew method, or if you’re doing ultralight hiking and simply want to add coffee to hot water in the mornings without carrying anything extra.
Camp coffee tips & tricks
Now that we’ve gone through the most common and applicable brew methods, there are some other factors to discuss to get you headed in the right direction and brewing good coffee.
Brewing hot coffee requires…you guessed it, boiling water. There are going to be a few different ways to get your boiling water so let’s go over them to ensure you’re prepared.
If you’re using pour over, AeroPress, instant coffee, or a french press you can use water boiled over the campfire, water boiled over a gas stove, or an electric kettle. Try to use the exact amount of water you need to save time and also dial in your water to coffee ratio.
You need to make the decision of whether or not you’re going to grind your coffee before you leave, used pre-ground coffee, or grind while camping. Either way you should always buy fresh beans and grind relatively close to the time you’re going to brew – like right before you leave for your trip.
If you’re going to grind coffee before you leave make sure it’s ground appropriately for the brew method. Fairly fine for AeroPress, drip grind, coarser than drip grind for pour over, and quite coarse for french pressing.
If you want to bring your grinder with you then you’ll be grinding fresh and can choose your grind size before you brew – no worries here.
Measuring and timing – important parameters!
For measuring there are a few options I’ve used.
- Depending on the length of your trip you can measure out your servings before the trip
- Use a scoop or container to measure that you know converts to say 15g so you can add in 15g increments
- Bring your scale! (I’ve only done this once)
- Know how much coffee you need by mark on your device (ex fill to this point on the french press)
Timing is easier, most people will have a smart phone or can even count in their head (wow!).
Sweetening, dairy, and flavoring
I drink my coffee black 99% of the time but I do know that some enjoy sugar, dairy, or both in their coffee. Sugar and other sweetening flavors are easy, bring the amount you’ll need in a plastic bag.
Dairy is a bit more complicated. If your camping trip is short and you have refrigeration or cooling you can bring milk, creamer, or whatever you use. If not you’ll have to resort to powdered or dehydrated dairy products which usually aren’t all that great! Do what you gotta do.
Enjoy camp coffee your way
This was a lengthier article than I planned but the main point is that the best ways to make coffee while camping will vary from camper to camper – it involves coffee, hot water, and controlling as many other parameters as you think you need to (or have room for the tools to). Coffee can be enjoyed with a ton of different parameters so bring an appropriate method that will make coffee you can enjoy.
Happy brewing, and camping!!