Your coffee, unplugged – by Marianne Pemberton

It only took Vancouver about three months to catch up with the rest of Canada, but it’s finally summer on the West coast. What does that mean? Camp time!

As anyone who’s done it will tell you, waking up in the great outdoors is made oh-so-much-sweeter when accompanied by a great cup of coffee. For me, this is usually the last step of my outdoor breakfast ritual, allowing me to soak in my surroundings while I savour each sip from my camp thermos.

Thankfully, there are a tonne of options for brewing up your coffee without a plug. Camp stores offer all sorts of coffee related wares, but you shouldn’t need to venture further than your or your neighbor’s kitchen to make some great coffee – unplugged.

Some of these coffee brew options described below may delight coffee geeks (hello, Aeropress!) or horrify (ground coffee in tea bags?) them, but for the rest of us, my hope is this blog may expose you to a new idea for your next foray outdoors.

Grind now, grind later?

Coffee geeks consider yourselves warned: I bring my coffee pre-ground, and I don’t care who knows. I roughly calculate the number of coffees I want for the trip, then grind a bit more than I need for that. I shoot for about 2tbsps (your coffee scoop, camp spork, or eyeball will do just fine) per medium cup of coffee. This might be a higher dose than you’re used to – try it out and see if you prefer the taste!

For those die-hards out there who are looking to grind their beans directly before brewing, this or that grinder may be up your alley.

The Pour Over

You may have a single cup or multi-cup Pour Over for use at home, which can easily be thrown in with your gear or clipped to a backpack for camp coffee. The pour over is great for portability, ease of use, and making a great cup of coffee. Just don’t forget your filters! (If you want to go to town on Pour Over style, have a look at Aaron’s blog from last year.)

Words of warning: You’ll need to find a flat, stable surface for your Pour Over. If you’re working on a busy breakfast picnic bench, it can get knocked over, and if your surface is uneven, adding water can upset your balance. On a cold morning you’ll also lose a fair amount of heat with this method, so this is probably best for summer camping.

The highlights: Pour Overs are small, easy to use, lightweight, and make tasty coffee! The paper filter makes clean-up a cinch: pack out or burn your filter and used grounds, give a quick rinse, and you’re ready for round two! I’ve even heard that some folks make double use of their Pour Overs for rinsing pasta and vegetables. Awesome.

The French Press

A car camping luxury! A French Press makes good coffee, most people are confident using it and know the strength they like, and it can easily make multiple cups for your camp friends and family. French Press is where it’s at for car camping or camping in groups. Dump in some water, wait a hop, skip, and jump, and press away! Great coffee just the way you like it.

Words of warning: Heat and breakability are the big concerns with this one. For the former, you’re losing heat from the transfer from the Press to your cup, and in the Press itself if you’re not serving all cups immediately. To the latter, remember this brewer is glass: not good for backpacks or backcountry when cinching your backpack straps can lead to a bag of broken glass!

The highlights: It’s easy to use, makes great coffee, and as a friend pointed out to me, can also be used to make tea or as a strainer. Dispose of your grounds in the fire and c’est ca – fini!

The Moka Pot/Stove-top Espresso

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the Moka Pot is the most common tool in a campers coffee kit. Enjoyed by many at home and in the great outdoors, Moka Pots are seemingly indestructible, do not require filters, and brew up some serious, piping hot, java. Attention espresso-heads – this one’s for you. And finally, big points for awesome, satisfying brewing sounds.

Words of warning: These little espresso pots themselves can get piping hot, so give time to cool down or dip in a water source before packing up or brewing the next cup. Larger Moka Pots can also add weight to your pack, but it’s pretty minimal overall.

The highlights: Piping hot coffee, no filter (no paper waste), and a great size for a single cup brew. The dosing is already done for you so there’s no need to measure – just fill the coffee casket, add water, and go!

The Aeropress

To be honest, until I started working in coffee and going down the specialty rabbit hole I didn’t know what an Aeropress was. If you haven’t either, all you need to know is that that they make awesome coffee (a claim supported by our Director of Coffee). Despite looking a bit like some sort of astronaut brew device (I may be easily intimidated), they’re super easy to use, make a great cup, and the few bits and pieces they come with pack up inside. If you haven’t tried this and you’re interested in trying something new – at home or in the wilderness – try to get your hands on one of these. It’s a tower of power on your coffee mug!

Words of warning: Coffee and water quantities are pretty important with the Aeropress. Add too much coffee and this cup can knock the hiking boots right off your feet! Just follow the directions: 2 scoops of grounds, and water filled up to the “2” indicator on the Aeropress. Finally, check to make sure the mouth of the Aeropress lines up well with the coffee cup you use as it does brew directly into your cup to avoid spills.

The highlights: Clean up is easy, and I would venture to say it’s fun! Just remove the filter screen with a little half turn and pop the used grounds out into your fire pit or garbage. That’s it! The vacuum seal squeegees out any coffee residue leaving no extra rinsing or cleaning required. No grounds to mess with, a clean cup of coffee, easy to measure, and a damn-fast brew.

And some of the rest…

Finally, I’ll take a brief minute to touch on a couple of other creative, but frequently attempting, camp coffee brew options.

Cowboy coffee: all you need are grounds, water, and a pot. Heat it all up and wait for the grounds to settle, but otherwise no extra equipment needed. If you’re a cowboy or girl who doesn’t mind picking coffee grounds out of your teeth, this may be the technique for you. I’ll simply remind you not to boil your water (and your coffee!); just bring to a simmer and then let it steep. Try it yourself if you’re curious, and let us know how it goes!

And need I spend time on the “coffee-grounds-in-tea-bags” approach? Attempted by a fellow camper on a trip earlier this year, on our third morning she sidled up next to me and asked, “is it true that you’re looking for coffee reviews?” “Absolutely,” I said, “bring it on.”

“Well, I wasn’t sure what to do about coffee this trip so thought that I would just do it up like tea. Y’know, just steep the grounds in water.”

“Oh yeah? How did that go?”

“Not well. Not well at all. Actually, maybe just tell people, ‘don’t do that.’”

And so I am.



That’s all for now, folks. This list isn’t exhaustive, but does cover most of the coffee options found easily in your or your friends cupboards.

In the meantime, I encourage you to share how you do your summer brew, unplugged!








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