Java in the Wild: The Best Way to Make Coffee While Camping

the best way to make coffee while camping

There are some things that just don’t seem like they should be difficult to do. Making coffee is one of them. But if you’re camping (okay, maybe it’s not actually ‘the wild’ but it sure is different than standing in your kitchen at home), all bets are off. It can be hard to find the right water temperature, it’s not always easy to know how long it will take for your ground coffee to steep and brew, and then there’s figuring out a way that works for everyone in camp who wants their morning cup of coffee (or afternoon or evening). 

The good news is that we’ve done all the work so you don’t have to! We’ve compiled this list of eight best ways to make coffee while camping so you can choose which suits your needs, preferences, and materials available, heat source, and location.

Some of these methods to brew coffee are very simple; others require just a little bit of coffee gear. And, some work better on a camping stove than over an open campfire. To make it easier for you we’ve grouped these best ways to make coffee while camping into seriously simple categories:

  • Simple & Easy
  • Rustic
  • Like Coffee at Home

Our goal is to make sure your camping trips are successful in the ways of brewing coffee. We can’t control the weather, the environment, or your camping neighbors, but all of those potentially frustrating variables can be more palatable, maybe enjoyable, with a hot, fresh cup of coffee in your hand!

By the way, if you click on a link and then decide to make a purchase, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Camping Tips for Success

Let’s go over some quick but essential tips for making coffee in the natural environment, away from electricity (that would be WAY to easy!) and all of the other comforts of your home kitchen. Some planning ahead will save you frustration and headaches when you just want a cup of great coffee.

8 ways to make coffee at the campsite

Coffee grounds – how fresh do you want them to be? If you’re accustomed to freshly ground coffee beans and this camping experience is going to more than a day or two, consider bringing along a manual burr coffee grinder. This will give you more options for grind size as well as the fresh, robust taste that you expect from a cup of coffee.

If that’s not an option, you can grind your whole coffee beans prior to the camping trip and store them in an airtight container. When choosing this option, consider what type of grind you’ll need for your coffee brewing method.

For example, if you want to make some percolator coffee, use a moka pot, and a French press, you’ll want to have some fine ground coffee, and some coarse ground coffee.

Water temperature – at home, you may be accustomed to an electric kettle with temperature settings. Nice, easy peasy. You can’t get the water too hot or too cold. It’s not quite that simple when your water is heating over the fire, or on the gas grill.

We know that the best temperature for just about every brewing method is 195 degrees to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. The ‘best guess’ method, and it really does work, is to let the water come to a boil, then remove it from the heat source and let it sit for 30 to 45 seconds. That will give you a water temperature in the range that you need.

NOTE: when we talk about ‘heating the water to the appropriate temperature’ in the coffee brewing methods that follow, we will always be referring to this tip!

The water itself – coffee lovers know that any old water just won’t do for making great coffee, and when you make camp coffee it’s no different. Plan ahead and make sure you have plenty of filtered water with you, so you’re not left with the undesirable option of making coffee on the last day of the camping trip with water that will ruin the taste.

Okay, on to determining the best way to get your caffeine fix while at the campsite!

Simple and Easy Camping Coffee Brewing Methods

simple and easy camping coffee brewing methods

So, let’s say that your need for caffeine outweighs all else, including the time it may take to brew the java using methods that require a little bit of coffee gear. No worries, my anxious friend. Here are three very simple ways to make coffee while camping that won’t tax you too hard, and are pretty doggone quick, too.

Instant Coffee

The simplest of methods, and you don’t need any special coffee brewing equipment. It may not be the tastiest, richest brew you’ve ever had, but it’s coffee. You might want to try several different brands before the camping trip so you’ll have an idea of what to expect.

What you’ll need:

  • instant coffee
  • a pan or kettle
  • filtered water

Heat the water until it reaches the proper temperature. Put the amount of instant coffee desired into your mug and add the heated water. Stir and enjoy.

Use coffee bags to brew your coffee

This is a simple way to brew coffee that isn’t so much about brewing as it is about steeping. The idea of using a coffee bag, similar to a tea bag, making steeped coffee has provided new options for us that combine convenience with a good brewed coffee taste.

What you’ll need:

  • a pan or kettle
  • filtered water
  • coffee bags

Heat the filtered water to the proper temperature (195 to 205 degrees). Open up a coffee bag and place it in your mug. Fill the mug with the heated water, and let the coffee steep for about 4 minutes; longer if you like stronger coffee.

Discard the coffee bag and enjoy!

Pour Over Travel Mug

If I were on a camping adventure I’d want to give a great big hug and kiss to the inventor of the pour over travel mug. I really would, because pour over coffee is, to me, the best way to enjoy a cup of joe.

And you can enjoy that fresh, crisp, clean brew, too, with this handy travel pour over brewer. In general, these handy single cup travel pour over brewers are made from stainless steel with a paperless mesh filter and a thermal cup, the perfect combination for pour over coffee in the wild!

What you’ll need:

  • a single serve pour over travel cup
  • ground coffee – medium
  • a pan or kettle to heat the water

How to make your pour over brew:

  1. Heat your water to the proper temperature
  2. Fill the travel mug with hot water, then discard
  3. Add your ground coffee to the filter (about 2 tablespoons for each 6 ounces of water is a good place to start)
  4. Slowly pour the heated water over the grounds, pausing after the first pour to let the coffee bloom for about 30 seconds.
  5. Remove the filter and enjoy your pour over coffee!

Rustic Coffee Brewing Methods at the Campsite

rustic coffee brewing methods at the campsite

If you want to get a true feel for the natural, more rustic side of brewing the java at the campsite, here are a couple of methods that will get you into the spirit very quickly!

Make some Cowboy Coffee

All you need is a pan, water, and coarsely ground coffee.

Mountain men used to boil water in their shells over the fire and toss in some beans for flavor. That’s what we’re talking about here, friends.

What you’ll need:

  • about 5 to 6 tablespoons of coarsely ground coffee depending on the strength of the brew you want
  • 2 cups of water, preferably filtered
  • a stainless steel kettle or pan with lid

How to make your cowboy coffee:

  1. First, bring the water to a rolling boil. Remove it from the heat source (campfire or gas stove) and let it cool for 30 to 60 seconds. Don’t skip this part because if you do, the coffee could turn out bitter. You want the water temperature between 195 and 205 degrees.
  2. Stir in the coffee grounds and return the kettle or pan to the heat. Continue stirring for about 15 seconds to make sure the grounds are saturated.
  3. Bring the brew to a simmer, not a boil. It is simmering when bubbles are just breaking the surface of the water.
  4. Remove from the heat source, cover, and let the coffee steep for about 2 minutes. Then, stir the coffee and steep for another 2 minutes. Repeat again.
  5. After another minute or two, remove the lid to allow air to enter. This will help the grounds settle to the bottom of the pan. This is an important step. If you’re in a hurry, you can add a couple of tablespoons of cold water to the pan. This will help the grounds to sink quicker. Just don’t add toO much cold water or you’ll cool off the coffee more than you probably would like.
  6. Now, s-l-o-w-l-y pour your cowboy coffee in your mug, leaving the last little bit in the pan along with the grounds. If you are going to drink traditional cowboy coffee you won’t do any straining of the grounds!

Percolator camping coffee

Here’s a simple method that’s been enjoyed for years by many camping enthusiasts.

What you’ll need:

  1. a percolator
  2. coffee, preferably freshly ground to medium-course
  3. a pan and filtered water to heat for the coffee

How to make the percolator coffee:

  1. Fill the percolator reservoir with cold water and add coffee grounds to desired strength. Keep in mind that percolator coffee naturally brews it strong. And, you don’t want to overfill the coffee basket.
  2. Put the lid on, put the pot over medium-high heat on your camp stove or fire ring. Keep an eye on the percolator, particularly the glass or plastic know at the top. When the water is hot enough you’ll see it bubble up into the knob.
  3. You want the bubbles to come up into the top a few seconds apart for best results. If you see too many bubbles that means the water is boiling hard, and there is too much heat. If the bubbles are few an far between, the water isn’t hot enough. It’s not an exact science, so that’s why you shouldn’t put the percolator on the heat source and walk away.
  4. You’ll notice that the bubbles turn from clear water to coffee colored. You’re getting close!
  5. Set a timer or watch for about 8 to 10 minutes for this bubbling/percolating process. Be sure to watch the heat and adjust if needed.
  6. Once the time is up, remove the percolator from the heat source, then carefully remove the filter basket before you pour a cup of coffee.
  7. Now…pour yourself a cup of fresh, hot percolated coffee!

Ensure any residual water is poured out before packing your percolator away in its carrying case.

Like Coffee at Home (Almost)

Sometimes you just want to keep some of those comforts from home with you at the campsite. Well, almost like home. But that’s why you’re out becoming one with nature, right?

Here are a few brewing methods that can serve up a very tasty cup of coffee while you’re breathing in the fresh air. Yes, the best way to make coffee while camping that (almost) tastes like home.

French press coffee

This handy brewing carafe is simple to use and doesn’t beg for anything else beside the coffee. It’s great for camping, and the result is rich, opulent French press!

What you’ll need:

  • a travel-friendly French press (made from unbreakable material)
  • coarse ground coffee
  • a pan to heat the water
  • filtered water
  • a timer (hint: use your smart phone)

How to make French press coffee

  1. Place the ground coffee in the French press
  2. Pour in enough of the heated water to cover the grounds; stir and let it bloom for about 30 seconds
  3. Pour in the rest of the hot water and put the plunger in, but don’t press down yet
  4. Set a timer for 4 minutes
  5. Plunge all the way down slowly
  6. Pour your French press and enjoy!

Note: cleaning a French press carafe can be a bit messy at the campground, so be sure to rinse it well after discarding the used grounds. You can use a mild soap if desired. Rinse well and dry.

Moka pot coffee

If you’re a lover of espresso, a Moka pot can give you a very close result, so your camping experience can be (almost) as good as your espresso machine.

What you’ll need:

  • a Moka pot
  • finely ground coffee
  • an even heat source, such as a gas camping stove

How to brew with a Moka pot:

  1. Put cold filtered water into the lower chamber, keeping it below the pressure release valve.
  2. Place the filter basket funnel into the pot and put your finely ground coffee into it. Do not tamp the coffee down. Clean any excess coffee off of the edge of the funnel.
  3. Screw the upper chamber of the Moka pot onto the base. Make sure it’s tight.
  4. Place the Moka pot on the gas stove, making sure that the flame is not larger than the bottom of the Moka pot. Use a medium-low heat and wait patiently.
  5. In about 5 to 10 minutes the water will begin to boil. You’ll hear a gurgling sound and the water will come up and out of the center post.
  6. When you start to see a hazel-brown foam appear at the spout, remove the Moka pot from the heat. Stir the brewed coffee a little bit if desired.
  7. Enjoy your espresso-like coffee!

Pour Over Coffee

The pour over method, as we discovered earlier, can be a very satisfying way to make coffee at the campground. If you prefer to use your favorite coffee mug, here is a nifty way to brew a very tasty cup of joe that’s doggone close to what you’d make at home!

The secret is a collapsible, reusable, silicone coffee dripper filter cone. Most of them will make 1 to 2 cups of pour over coffee.

What you’ll need:

  • a portable, collapsible pour over dripper filter
  • coffee ground medium to medium-fine
  • filtered water
  • a pan or kettle for heating

How to brew pour over coffee:

  1. Place the pour over dripper on your coffee mug.
  2. Put the ground coffee (about 2 tablespoons for 6 ounces of water) in the filter
  3. Pour a small amount of the hot water over the grounds and wait for about 30 seconds for the coffee to bloom; then slowly pour in the remaining water, allowing it to slowly drip through the filter. It will take about 3 minutes in total.
  4. Enjoy your fresh pour over coffee!
  5. Clean the filter right away to remove all of the used coffee grounds.
the coffee files

Sum It Up

Whether you are a serious camper or just like to experience nature for a day, having coffee while camping is an experience not be missed. There are many ways that you can make your campfire brew and we’ve outlined some of our favorites here. We hope this helps with planning your next outdoor adventure! Which method will you try first?