If you’re one of the millions who just can’t get going in the morning without a cup of coffee or some other caffeine source, you might want to learn how to make coffee while camping. Fortunately, coffee isn’t difficult to make, even when you have fairly primitive supplies.
But you might not have to rely on old-fashioned methods, because there are a number of inventions for making coffee, including solar-powered coffee makers.
Most coffee making methods require hot water. You can boil water by using a camping tea kettle, canned heat, a portable propane burner, a charcoal burner, a campfire, a solar oven or using electricity generated by a solar generator, wind turbine or gas generator.
Campfire Cooking over Real Wood
Cooking over a campfire begins with the campfire and campfire safety.
These are the steps recommended by Girl Scouts of America in one of their older handbooks:
- Clear a ten-foot circle of all leaves and debris.
- In the center of the circle, dig out a slight depression, and place a ring of stone or bricks around it.
- Place one or two five-gallon buckets of water near the fire-pit.
- Gather dry tinder, small dry twigs and larger pieces of dry wood. If you’re in a no-cut area, stick to material that has fallen on the forest floor, or that you have brought with you.
- Make a small teepee of three or four dry twigs. Place your tinder under that. Have several slightly larger, very dry, well-seasoned pieces of wood ready to use.
- Light the tinder. You can use a match, a fire starter, a flint striker or charcoal lighter. Keep your starter flame beneath the tinder. Don’t use kerosene or any other flammable liquid when starting a campfire!
- Slowly add slightly larger pieces of wood until your fire is burning steadily. You don’t need a large fire for cooking, but do add one or two solid pieces of wood to make coals.
- Allow at least part of the fire to burn down into coals. Use a green twig or camp shovel to move these coals into mound or level heap so you can place a pan on them. You can keep them going by periodically pulling a few more over from the main fire.
- Place the container in which you plan to heat water on the coals, and bring it to a boil.
- Use the boiling water for camp chores, making coffee, or other cooking.
How to Make Coffee While Camping
Here are the main methods:
The Quick and Easy Instant Method
You will need hot water, a cup, and a container of instant coffee. Pour hot water into a cup, stir in your favorite dehydrated coffee crystals, and enjoy.
Camp Coffee without a Percolator
Follow these steps:
- Place the appropriate amount of coffee grounds for the cups desired into a saucepan.
- Add enough water for the cups desired, plus about ¼ cup more per four cups.
- Place the pan on a heat source, bring the water to a hard boil.
- Remove the water from the heat, set it aside and let it steep for about four minutes.
- Scoop out the coffee with a ladle, being careful not to disturb the grounds.
Filtered Coffee Drip Coffee
Before there were electric drip coffee makers, there was filtered coffee. In any pot that’s available, bring water to a boil.
While it’s starting to boil, line a sieve with a coffee filter or a clean, cloth handkerchief. Place the coffee grounds on the cloth and the cloth over a cup or a bowl. Pour the boiling water over the grounds slowly.
Making coffee with a percolator that has a bubble lid, method 1:
Put water in the camping coffee percolator, up to the fill line. Set it on the heat source, and bring the water to a boil. Meanwhile, place the coffee basket over the stem of the percolating assembly, and add the desired amount of coffee grounds.
When the water boils, remove the lid of the percolator, place the stem and basket assembly into the pot carefully so as not to burn fingers or spill the coffee. Return to moderate heat, and watch the water bubble up through the coffee into the glass dome on the lid.
When the coffee is the color you like, it’s done.
Take it off the heat, remove the assembly, and pour out your cup of refreshment.
Making coffee with a percolator that has a bubble lid, method 2:
Put water in the percolator up to the fill line. Place the coffee basket assembly in the percolator. Add the desired amount of coffee to the percolator. Place it on the heat, and bring the pot to a boil.
Reduce heat, either by turning down the flame under the pot or by pulling it away from the main heat source. The water should bubble up through the clean dome steadily, but not continuously. When it reaches the desired color, it’s done and you can pour it in a camping tin coffee mug.
Making coffee in a percolator that doesn’t have a bubble lid:
Add the water and the percolator assembly to the coffee pot. Add the desired amount of coffee to the percolator basket. Put the lid on the pot.
Heat until you hear the water bubbling inside the pot. Wait about three minutes or long enough to sing three verses of “Barbara Ellen” at ballad tempo. Pour a little coffee into a cup, and examine the color. If it’s the color you like, it’s ready to drink.
How to Make Coffee Camping in a Solar Oven
Place a container of water in the solar oven, and let it heat up. Solar ovens heat slowly, so you will probably get your coffee to drink with your lunch.
Meanwhile, spoon coffee grounds into a reusable tea bag.
When the thermometer on the oven indicates that the water has reached boiling, drop the bag of coffee grounds into the water. Wait for about four minutes, or long enough to sing four verses of Barbara Ellen. Your coffee should be ready to drink.
Portable Solar Coffee Maker and Cooker
There are several brands of these, but they work on the same general principle. The water or food is placed into a tube. The tube is placed within a clamshell of reflective material. The reflective material is oriented toward the sun, soaking in passive solar heat.
Most of these small cookers will warm up within 20 minutes when placed in full sun. You could use the tea bag brewing method with this or you could use it to make hot water for instant coffee.
French Press Coffee Method
Place the desired amount of ground bean in the coffee press container. Heat water to boiling, using any desired method. Pour the boiling water over the coffee grounds. Wait about five minutes, or for about five verses of Barbara Ellen, sung at ballad speed. (Don’t jazz it up – your coffee won’t be done.)
Insert the press into the container and slowly push down. This extracts the coffee and keeps the grounds from floating up. Pour your cup, and begin your day!
Photovoltaic Solar Power for Cooking After Dark
You can use a solar array to charge batteries that can then have an inverter plugged into them. The inverter will convert the electrical charge from DC to AC current, which will let you plug a coffee pot or similar small appliance into the power source.
If you’re dry camping, rather than backpacking and Yurt camping, you can enjoy making coffee with your familiar drip maker.
Be sure to check the wattage of your coffee pot so you can plan the correct number of solar panels and batteries to keep up with your after-dark power needs.
Photovoltaic solar power is nice to have when dry camping. You can use it to top up your vehicle battery, charge your cell phone or perhaps even a portable game or two. Best of all, it can be used to power your coffee maker or a small refrigerator for a slightly more civilized lifestyle.
Why Should I Use a Song to Track My Coffee’s Brewing Time?
There are many ways you could keep track of your brewing time even in the absence of electricity. You could use a wind-up watch, a sundial, an egg timer or a small hourglass. But you might not have any of those things with you when you’re brewing your coffee.
Barbara Allen is a well-known folk song that uses four-line quatrains as verses. It’s sung in ¾ time (waltz time), preferably with many wailing notes and in a lugubrious tone. It works very well as a lullaby, or for timing processes.
You don’t have to use Barbara Allen as your timing song, however. Any long song with a lot of verses will do the job. Just time it out for yourself before using it. Singing is a good way to raise your spirits, express yourself, and to time your coffee brewing – all at one go.