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Brewing in the Great Outdoors

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When you wake up earlier than Mother Nature herself, you may have difficulty facing your day without a hot cup of something. Tea and hot chocolate are fairly easy to manage when out in the wilderness, but coffee can be more of a challenge. Don't let yourself be intimidated! There are several different ways to brew coffee when camping:

Traditional Campfire Coffee
There are numerous instructions and recipes for making coffee in a plain pot over a campfire. You may have to try a few varieties to see what suits you best.

1. Bring two quarts of water to a good, rolling boil. Take it from the fire and add 2 handfuls of ground coffee (fine grind). Since 'handful' is hardly a precise measurement, whoever makes the coffee will alter the results. Steep for 4 minutes. Add a few tablespoons of cold water to settle the grounds and then serve.

2. Add 6 teaspoons of ground coffee into the pot, and pour 3 pints of cold water over the grounds. Put the pot on the fire and bring to a boil. Take it off the heat and let steep for 3 minutes. Again, add a bit of cold water to settle the grounds. This makes 6 mugs of coffee.

3. This is the 'Canadian' version. In this recipe, you are supposed to use coarse ground coffee rather than fine. Use as much water as you want coffee, and use 2 heaping tablespoons of coffee for each cup. Add an extra cup of water, and an extra couple spoons of coffee 'for the pot'. (I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean). Sit this pot on hot coals, not open flame. Bring it slowly to a boil. When it boils, remove from the heat and let steep for 5 minutes. Add cold water to settle the grounds and serve.

Using a Campfire Percolator
This is likely the most common method, even though it requires extra equipment. You'll need coarsely ground coffee when using a percolator. If you still end up with grounds in your coffee, you should get a regular coffee filter, poke a hole in it and put it in the perk basket. Use 1 or 1½ tablespoons of coffee for each 6 oz of water. How long to perk depends on how strong you like your coffee.

Using a French Press
The French Press, (or plunger pot) is a quick method for brewing small amounts of coffee. When using one, you'll also need to pack a pot to boil the water in. Your coffee should be medium ground, and you'll need 2 tbsp for every 6 ounces of water. Put the coffee in the pitcher and set aside. Boil your water and remove from the fire. Pour the water into the French Press. Put the plunger at the top but do not depress yet. Wait for one minute, and then remove the top to stir the grounds a bit. Wait for another 1 or 2 minutes. Slowly depress the plunger to the bottom of the pot. Serve.

Campfire Espresso!
These days of necessary luxuries, you can even buy espresso makers for the campfire. You should follow the directions that come with your particular model of pot. This is a great idea for those die-hard espresso drinkers who can't stand to be without their coffee. It won't be as strong as a commercially made cup, but still stronger than conventional coffee.

Other Tips

  • Good water. It's hard enough to make good coffee while in the great outdoors without having to deal with unpleasant lake, well or tap water. Bring some with you.
  • Keep it fresh. If you are going to be away from civilization for awhile, ground coffee won't last. So pack whole beans and bring a grinder. You can get small portable grinders that are light and easy to carry.

To appease the camping tea-drinkers, I'm going to mention one traditional campfire tea technique, Billy Tea. For authentic billy tea, you shouldn't use a pot, but a tin can. Boil water in the can over your open fire and toss in your tea (loose). Then swing the can around at arm's length in circles about 5 times. This will settle the tea leaves to the bottom.

More on Camping Coffee Equipment.

Happy Camping!

Related Video
How to Use a French Press

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