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.
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.