It’s 5 o’clock on a beautiful Friday afternoon. Time to escape from the concrete jungle, or at least the suburban shrubbery, and into a weekend of hiking, canoeing and brewing a delicious cup in the great outdoors.
Unless you bring your portable generator along, you won’t be finding any electrical outlets for your automated coffee brewer (or espresso machine) in those wilder grounds. Take a look at these six ways to brew coffee wherever you may roam.
STEEP IT LIKE YOU MEAN IT
Instead of buying single serve coffee by the box, fashion your own coffee camping solutions by making your own coffee steeping bags.
Start with a small mound of your favorite ground coffee, a run-of-the-mill paper filter and some twine or fishing line. Bring your pot or pan of water to a boil, and set it aside to cool. Pack the coffee grounds into your coffee filter, then fold the filter and cinch it up, bindle-style, in the middle. Once it’s simmered down to the desired temperature, pour a cup (or three) of water into your mug or insulated tumbler, drop your DIY coffee bag in and let that heat do the rest. You can even ditch your disposable filters and go “green” with a reusable handkerchief or cheesecloth.
A good percolator is like your granddad’s Cadillac DeVille: spacious, durable and classic. Good for sticking over an open fire and for serving lots of thirsty campers, percolators also retain heat exceptionally well and are easy to reheat (although we wouldn’t recommend reheating cold coffee, for various reasons).
Just be careful not to leave Old Metalsides on the burner for too long. Percolators brew via convection, pushing hot water up through your coffee grounds and allowing the brew to settle as it cools. Running already-brewed coffee through those spent grounds over and over will lead to over-extraction and a sad, chalky brew.
POUR IT OVER
Elegant and elemental, with the added perk of caffeination, a full-flavored cup of pour over coffee goes great with long, relaxing talks by the campfire.
You’ll need a digital scale, carafe, paper coffee filter, pour over cone and some semi-fine coffee grounds to get started. Measure out 20 ounces (or 600 grams) of water and three tablespoons (or 30 grams) of ground coffee. Place your coffee filter, wet or dry, in the pour over cone and pack your coffee into a leveled pile in the middle of the cone.
Circle the outer rim, slowly spiraling toward the middle as the coffee grounds “bloom.” Make sure you soak all the grounds, and keep an eye on your digital scale. Stop pouring once you reach 60 grams, and allow 30 seconds for the water to permeate and pass through the coffee grounds.
Then you’re going to walk it back, starting at the center and spiraling all the way to the filter’s edge, and then pour back to the middle. This pour presses the grounds down and invigorates the coffee, allowing for the best possible extraction. Keep pouring until the scale reads 150 grams, take a minute to watch the drip and admire your handiwork, then pour again, in that same pattern, for another 15 to 20 seconds. After one final pour, you’ll be 350 grams of coffee richer.
PUSH IT REAL GOOD (WITH A COFFEE PRESS)
Also known as French presses, coffee presses’ handheld nature and compact design afford campers a robust cup of coffee. Coffee presses are manually operated, durable and relatively lightweight. Just throw your standby in the old hiking bag and you’re off to greener campgrounds.
Coarsely – but evenly – grind your coffee beans until they’re roughly the size of breadcrumbs. Load the brewing chamber with the scrumptious coffee grounds. Bring your water to a boil and let stand for roughly one minute, cooling to 195 degrees (this is crucial for brewing with a French press). Pour the water into your press. Gaze longingly into Nature’s middle distance or beat your dirty shirts on a river rock while your coffee steeps for four to five minutes. Then “press” the plunger into the carafe and filter the spent grounds from your fresh brew.
AIR IT OUT (WITH AN AEROPRESS)
If a typical coffee press just isn’t handy enough for you, give the AeroPress portable coffee brewer a try. AeroPress brewers make a cup of coffee with comparable flavor and fullness to that of a French press without a lot of fuss. The AeroPress is even easier to take apart and clean than other device’s, fits perfectly over most tumblers and mugs, and makes for quite a durable, ideal hiking companion thanks to its all-plastic components.
Although the physics might look similar (“take lever, plunge coffee”), the AeroPress brew method – and even the coffee it makes – differs from French press brewing. It’s less acidic because of the shorter brew time (30 seconds to a minute) and requires a fine grind versus a coarse grind due to the use of paper filters. Brewing is quick and simple: boil your water and let cool for a minute; add two scoops of coffee grounds; add water and stir; let sit for 30 to 60 seconds, and then press the fresh brew into your favorite camping mug.
DRINK IT COWBOY-STYLE
You’re home on the range, but you left your steeping bags, your percolator, your funnel and your coffee press in the kitchen. What’s a cowpoke to do? Brew cowboy coffee, of course!
“Cowboy coffee” is basically a brew of loose coffee grounds, steeped in hot water and poured into your favorite mug or old-timey tin can. This tried-and-true, simple concoction fueled American Western expansion in the 1800s, but cowboy coffee can still bring grounds-soaked smiles to modern folks’ faces.
Bring your pan or pot of water to a rolling boil and remove it from the heat source, presumably a smoldering campfire. Scoop up a heaping spoonful of coffee grounds and toss it right into the simmering water. Let the grounds steep to taste, let the brew cool to a safe, palatable temperature and just go nuts. For added authenticity, take a whole egg, lightly crack it on one side and add it to the boil. The coffee grounds will be drawn to the broken shell, thinning the brew so that it’s easier to drink.
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