There are a surprising number of ways to make a tasty cup of coffee in the outdoors. You could brew the perfect mug with a classic percolator, or you could even take the ultralight route and use one of these creative ways to make coffee while backpacking. Another option, one that is particularly appealing during the warmer months, is to prepare cold brew ahead of time. Toss your cold brew or cold brew concentrate in the cooler with the rest of your food and drink, and you’re just a pour away from a mighty fine morning pick-me-up.
There are plenty of ways to go about preparing cold brew coffee as well. We’ve picked out some of our favorites to share with you here, and even included a traditional way of making iced coffee (which, as you will find, is different from cold brew itself). Remember that a good cup of coffee starts with good beans, so be sure to visit your favorite roaster for a fresh bag of your favorite beans before starting. If you want a few pointers on choosing the right coffee, these cold brew FAQ from Stumptown Coffee can provide expert suggestions.
What Exactly Is Cold Brew?
Before we go over any recipes, we ought to explain just what it is we mean when we say cold brew. After all, with so many coffee providers coining their own terms for similar items, things can get confusing.
Technically speaking cold brew and iced coffee are two different things. The thing that’s remarkable about cold brew—and the thing that gives it both its name and its unique taste—is that it never touches a drop of hot water. Iced coffee, on the other hand, typically refers to coffee that is brewed hot and then cooled in the fridge or by pouring over ice.
Since cold brew uses time rather than temperature to brew the coffee, it ends up having lower acidity which might be preferable if you’re planning a day of activities outdoors. Making cold brew takes between 12 and 24 hours, and the result is is a smooth cup of coffee with deep flavor.
Method 1 — Use a French Press
You can prepare cold brew in almost any vessel, but one of the most popular home brew methods is with a classic French press. The idea for any cold brew is to let the coffee—which should be ground coarse just as it would be for a normal French press brew—soak directly in the water and then drain afterwards. If you’re familiar with a French press, then you know that this is an easy tool for such a thing. Once the brew time is up, you simply push down the plunger to strain the grinds and pour the coffee.
To prepare cold brew in a French press, you’ll want to find the coffee to water ratio that suits your taste. This post from Huffington Post suggests using a 1 to 7 ratio. Start there and adjust to your liking as you perfect your method. Grind your coffee beans on a corse setting, then place them in the French press. Add to it your filtered water and give it a stir. Leave the plunger up and let the coffee soak in the French press for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours.
When it’s time, you can press down the plunger and pour yourself a nice homemade cold brew over ice, or place the cold brew in a jar so it’s ready to pack away for your camping trip. Once brewed, cold brew should be stored in the refrigerator—or in the camp cooler with ice—but while it’s brewing it can be left at room temperature if needed.
Method 2 — Do a Post-Brew Strain with Paper Filters
No French press? No problem. As mentioned before, you can prepare cold brew in anything that will hold water as long as you have a way to filter the grounds out afterwards. One good option is to use a mason jar, which you can then reuse to store your cold brew when it’s finished. Brew in the same method as the French press. When the brew time is up, pour the coffee over an type of paper coffee filter (metal filters will work too!) to strain and enjoy.
Method 3 — Prepare Cold Brew Concentrate
Another option for having cold coffee ready for your next camping trip is to prepare cold brew concentrate. This could be a convenient solution if you’re looking have coffee for several people but also want to save some space in the cooler. You’ll end up bringing a smaller batch of concentrate with you, and then preparing it by mixing with water or milk. In addition to the compact nature of the concentrate, there’s also some versatility which is always a crowd pleaser.
To prepare cold brew concentrate, you can use either of the two methods above. The only difference is that you’ll want to increase the coffee to water ratio. Stumptown Coffee recommends using a standard 12 oz bag of coffee with 56 ounces of water.
Method 4 — Iced Coffee Pour Over
This iced coffee pour over won’t be ideal for your camping trips unless your already plan to bring a camp-friendly pour over setup with you. But if you’re planning to dive into the world of chilled coffees, you might as well make a cup of Japanese iced coffee for comparison.
To do so, you’ll need a nice pour over set and filters and coffee ground at a medium setting. The gist of the iced coffee pour over is to brew a pour over as you would normally, but to allow the coffee to drip directly onto ice. This recipe from handground.com provides detailed measurements for ice, water, and coffee.
Now you have the knowledge to get started on your chilled coffee journey which will surely allow you to take your campsite barista skills to the next level. Have you already been making cold coffee drinks with cold brew or other methods on your camping trips? Let us know your favorite way to prepare cold brew, your best tips, and your favorite recipes in the comments!
Katrina Eresman worked for over a decade as a barista in Ohio. Since she left to write full time, she has become a compulsive traveler. If she's not touring with one of her bands, she's scheming her next backpacking trip or a flight to a new part of the country where camping and coffee sipping will both surely occur.