Best Ways To Make Coffee Outdoors

Seven methods to help you make the “perfect” cup of coffee outdoors.

Cook
By Justin Brouillard, & Jimmy Kennedy
Cook Ambassadors

Whether it’s making it at home first thing in the morning or buying a cup at the local store on the way to work or play, coffee is a ritual that most Americans enjoy at least a few times a week, and for many of us, it’s a very essential part of our day.

I have a deep appreciation for coffee to say the least, and we have several different methods of making it at home, but there’s just something a little more special about coffee time outdoors. I usually make the coffee at home and fill my old green thermos to bring along with me, but I’ve also collected several different items, products and methods over the years to make a great cup of coffee while camping, backpacking or on the road.

1

Cowboy Coffee

This is probably the easiest way to make coffee outdoors, especially around a campfire. Nothing fancy here, just boil water in a pot or kettle, dump in coarse ground coffee and let steep for a few minutes. The grounds will sink to the bottom and you can carefully pour or dip coffee into your cup. You can also strain the coffee into your cup using a small, clean towel, cheesecloth or a bandana. Another method using the towel, cheesecloth or bandana is to place the coffee grounds in the cloth of your choice and steep the coffee in the kettle or pot, like a tea bag, after it has boiled. Cowboy coffee definitely works but can be a little messy and gritty if you’re not careful. Still, it works and has a cool name. Cowboy Coffee needs:
  • Kettle or Pot
  • Mug
  • Coarse ground coffee
  • Small towel, cheesecloth or bandana
  • Spoon
2

AeroPress

The AeroPress is relatively new to the world of coffee making and is somewhat of a cross between a French press and pour over. The AeroPress has quickly gained many devoted fans within the coffee community and makes a very rich and smooth cup of coffee. With the AeroPress, you can make traditional American coffee, espresso-style coffee or cold brew in just a matter of minutes, and cleanup is a breeze. Its compact size makes it a great option for any camping or road trip and it could easily find a place at home as well. AeroPress also offers an AeroPress Go. The Go works the same as the original AeroPress but is built with traveling and camping in mind. The Go mug doubles as a carrying case, and all of the accessories you need fit right in the mug. AeroPress needs:
  • Kettle or pot, for hot coffee
  • Fine ground coffee
  • Spoon
  • Mug
3

Pour Over

Of all the methods, I use this one the most outdoors. It’s been a backup at home during power losses, worked for me in motel rooms, and while camping and ice fishing for many years now. Coffee purists will cringe when I say that it’s simply just pouring hot water over grounds that’s filtered directly into a thermos or large mug. It’s true that pour overs can be much more complicated and scientific than my quick method. Baristas and specialty coffee shops use special kettles with gooseneck spouts for better control and use terms such as bloom and agitation. However, for our outdoor needs, it doesn’t have to be that complicated and you’ll still be more than happy with the results. The important piece of gear is the pour-over device. I’ve used a plastic cone that was made for a carafe for many years now. The carafe is long gone, but the cone is perfect for cone-shaped filters and fits over my thermos or mug perfectly. You will have no problem finding pour-over gear. There are more options available than you could imagine from high-end models to collapsible for backpacking. Pour Over Needs:
  • Kettle or pot
  • Pour-over device
  • Filter
  • Fine ground coffee
  • Thermos or mug
4

Percolator

Old-school and still popular, especially around a campfire. Seeing and hearing coffee percolating in that glass bubble brings back childhood memories of church suppers and potluck dinners where there always seemed to be a percolator as big as a barrel plugged up and perched on a folding table. Percolators of all sizes have been around forever and for good reason. Perked coffee is strong and it’s easy to make enough for a large family reunion. The simple process is that as the water boils in the bottom of the kettle, it flows up a metal tube and into a metal basket filled with coffee grounds. That reminiscent glass bubble on top is there so you can see the color of the coffee and know when it’s done. For camping purposes, most percolators are six- to 12-cuppers, and all you really need is water, coffee and a mug and you’re good to go. Percolator Needs:
  • Percolator
  • Ground Coffee
  • Mug
5

Moka Pot

6

French Press

This method is a little more obscure, but somewhere along the line, I obtained a Moka Pot and have enjoyed some of the best espresso-style coffee I’ve ever had. The Moka Pot is known for making Italian-style coffee, which is strong and flavorful. It somewhat resembles a percolator, but there’s no glass bubble. Also, the coffee grounds are placed in a metal filter in the middle of the pot, and when the water in the bottom boils, it steams through the grounds and is collected at the top which is also where the coffee is stored and poured. You don’t need many extras with Moka Pots, and they travel well. Moka Pot Needs:
  • Moka Pot
  • Fine-ground Coffee
  • Mug
A French press makes a great cup of coffee and is the preferred method of many all over the world. The press consists of two simple parts– a cylinder, which is typically glass, and a plunger that has a filter/screen attached at the bottom. The plunger also acts as the top of the carafe. It’s as simple as placing the grounds in the bottom of the carafe, pouring hot water over and stirring. Insert the plunger and press it down until you reach the top of the water, wait a few minutes and then slowly press the plunger all the way down. While the glass carafe is not exactly outdoor friendly, I’ve carried mine on some short camping trips without incident. However, there are many companies that are making French presses made specifically for the outdoor lifestyle. French Press Needs:
  • French press
  • Kettle or pot
  • Medium-ground coffee
  • Spoon
  • Mug
 
7

Just Add Water

The last one is a group of options that only require hot water and a mug. First is instant coffee, which hasn’t always been the best-tasting option for a cup of coffee, is the easiest. Thankfully, it has improved over the past few years and there are several brands and options. Just boil some water, pour in the coffee and stir. If you tried the internet whipped coffee craze of 2020, dalgona coffee, you might have an instant coffee packet lying around. Another option is a single-serve, pour-over coffee packet. Simply take the coffee filter from the packet, open the top and hang the pour-over filter on the rim of your mug, then slowly pour water over the grounds. The last one in this group is a steeping solution. It’s basically coffee in tea bag form. Pour hot water over the bag, dunk the bag a few times and let it steep.

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