Camping used to be about doing things simply. All you have to do is pitch a tent, cook over an open fire and enjoy the scenery. Now there are so many specialized camping gizmos available that camping has become a lot more complicated than it needs to be.
Backyard camping has become a big part of our family life this summer. With a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old running about, camping about 100 feet from the house is far enough. Most nights once the baby goes to bed, we’re out enjoying a bit of peace and serenity right in our own slice of heaven.
I’ve only recently started opening up camp early in the morning. A baby that goes to bed early wakes up ready to party at ungodly times in the morning. With a one-room cabin, someone has to volunteer to take the little guy outside so that everyone else can sleep. Just one problem…coffee.
We plan to replace our kitchen stove with a wood cook stove, which will mean a lot of outdoor cooking in the summer months, coffee included. While I could whip out the butane and cook over a camp stove, it seems silly to trade indoor fossil fuel cooking for an outdoor version. There are plenty of ways to make coffee over an open fire, no dead dinosaurs required.
Using a Percolator Over an Open Fire
A percolator is a totally self-contained way to make a great cup of coffee over an open fire. No separate filters, and still a quality cup.
It is a gizmo still, but I can use it both indoors and outdoors equally well. The inside “percolator” portion is removable, and then it’s just a stand-alone water kettle too. Instead of being powered by butane, this coffee pot works on whatever heat source you have handy. Stove, wood stove, camp burner, bbq or hanging right over the open fire.
Using a percolator to make coffee brings back memories of watching I love Lucy at my grandmother’s house as a child. Watching that little thing bubble into the top knob, I can hear Ricky hollering “Is coffee percolated yet!?!?” That’s old-timey but in a very different way. Add in an open fire, and the trip’s gone back in time an extra 50-100 years.
A percolator makes a great cup of coffee, far better than a drip coffee pot in my opinion.
Cowboy Coffee Over an Open Fire
Cowboy coffee, on the other hand, is a compromise. On actual camping trips, I’ve made pots of cowboy coffee, putting the ground right into the water and letting it boil for a few minutes. Carefully pouring the bitter brew into mugs, there’s always plenty of grounds mixed in.
I’ve seen some recipes for cowboy coffee that have you crack an egg into the mixture, on the theory that the egg will bind the grounds. First, that’s just nasty. Second, if you have an egg on hand, you’re not exactly int he backwoods or hurting for supplies. Couldn’t you just filter the coffee through a piece of cloth? I don’t get it.
Cone Filters and Coffee Bags
A simple all-metal teapot will make a good cup of cowboy coffee, or better yet, can be used with a cone filter to make a high quality (and clean) cup of coffee. For car camping, the same pour over filter cone you’d use at home works just as well. If you’re out in the bush and need to save on space, there are collapsible cone filters that fit right into a backpack.
Much like a cone filter, but without the cleanup, single serving pour over bags make a quality cup of coffee. The filter and grounds are compostable, and they lift right out of the cup once the coffee’s ready.
Old school coffee tea bags are an option too, but they tend to taste like cardboard. There’s a reason Folgers is the main manufacturer of these….quality isn’t the first priority.
Instant Coffee For Camping
One last option…instant coffee. I feel dirty even mentioning it, but instant coffee has come a long way in the past decade. Supposedly Starbucks instant coffee tastes exactly like a cup you’d buy in a store. I’m not a fan of Starbucks, but they do make a dependable cup of coffee for traveling. Out in the backwoods, I’d be more than happy with that same cup.
Have you made coffee over an open fire? How’d you do it? Leave a note in the comments below.