If the enamel camping mug is the perfect breakfast aesthetic to complement a forested campground, the drink that fills it should be just as pleasing. Popular choices might include tea or a packet of hot chocolate for the little ones. But for many campers, nothing beats a top-notch, piping hot cup of joe with the morning dew.
So how do you make the perfect cup of coffee when camping? All you need are your favorite coffee beans, a fire, and a camping coffee maker—a percolator. Here are eight simple steps to delicious camp coffee.
Step 1 — Start Your Campfire
Before you begin to prepare the perfect cup of coffee at your campsite with your camping coffee maker, you need to start your campfire. You can set your percolator on top of a fire pit grate, hang it above tall flames, or set it near hot coals. Plan your campfire accordingly.
Step 2 — Fill Your Camping Coffee Maker (Percolator)
As with any brewing method, the first step in brewing coffee with a percolator is to measure the water. Most coffee aficionados will tell you that coffee should always be brewed with filtered water. Use filtered water here if you have it, but consider saving it for your drinking water if it’s limited. Any clean water will do for this purpose.
The Coletti percolator is designed to hold nine cups of water, by coffee maker standards. There’s a mark on the inside of the percolator that will show you how high to fill it, but you can also use the bottom of the spout as your guideline. Any water beyond that spout could cause coffee grinds to escape into the water.
Step 3 — Assemble the Basket
Percolator coffee makers work by sending boiling water up through a long stem into a brew basket that holds the coffee grinds. The water runs through the grinds and recycles through the percolator, resulting in a boiling hot pot of coffee. Before you can add your coffee to the basket, you’ll need to attach the basket to the stem.
Step 4 — Add Coffee
At this point in the process, you have the option of adding a filter to your basket. Filters are unnecessary and might be easier left behind on a camping trip. But, if reducing the amount of oil and cholesterol in your coffee is important, they can be a valuable tool.
Insert the filter first if that’s your preference, and then add the ground coffee on top. A slightly coarser grind works better when brewing with a percolator. You can adjust the ratio of coffee to water as you experiment and find the strength that you like best. A good place to start is one hefty tablespoon of coffee to every cup.
Once you’ve added the coffee to the basket, be sure to give it a few gentle shakes to get rid of any loose grinds that may have fallen into the stem.
Step 5 — Assemble the Percolator
When you’re coffee is all situated in the brew basket, you can carefully place your stem and basket into the percolator pot and close the lid.
Step 6 — Add Fire
By now your campfire should be a’blaze and your belly should be ready for some hot coffee. Don’t worry—you won’t have to wait much longer! Set your percolator above or near the flames so that the water can come to a boil. You’ll be able to tell when the water is boiling by listening and watching for the clear water to rise into the transparent dome on top of the lid.
Step 7 — Let the Coffee Percolate
Once the water has begun to boil, you should move the percolator away from the direct flame to lower the heat. The Coletti percolator is designed with a wooden handle so it easy to grab, but it’s still a good idea to use a towel to protect yourself from the heat.
Once the pot is moved away from direct flames, the coffee will need another five to ten minutes to percolate. You can use the same transparent dome to watch as the coffee darkens, and to find that sweet spot where the coffee has reached the strength you prefer. This is another instance where practice will make perfect. Brew enough coffee at a campsite with your percolator and you’ll know exactly how long to leave the coffee percolating.
Step 8 — Enjoy Your Camp Coffee
When the coffee has percolated to the strength you want, it’s ready to go. You can pour the coffee directly from the percolator coffee maker—just be sure to again use a towel to hold down the lid and protect from steam. When you’ve filled everyone’s camp mug with fresh, hot coffee (they owe you one now, by the way) just dispose of the grounds from the basket and rinse out the percolator so that it’s ready for the next morning.
When you have a camping coffee maker like a percolator on hand, a high-quality cup of coffee is always accessible whether you’re at home or around the fire. What’s your favorite setting for enjoying a fresh cup of percolator coffee? Let us know in the comments. We love the outdoors as much as we love coffee, so we’re always looking to plan our next adventure into the woods.
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.