As you may have noticed from your Instagram feeds filled with latte art, today is National Coffee Day. If you’re like me, you rely on coffee to get you through each day without doing or saying things you regret. Whether you only indulge sparingly on early mornings or drink more cups a day than the cast of Friends, you can appreciate the energizing powers of the coffee bean.
One of my favorite things about coffee is its versatility: from drip brews and percolators to the institutional french press, there are countless ways to brew and serve your morning joe. This fact remains true in the backcountry: the options for a campsite brew are endless. In honor of the caffeinated drink on its special day, here are several of my go-to methods for brewing up a perfect cup in the backcountry.
The drip coffee method is my favorite for solo trips. The drip method is easy and foolproof, and it's what I use when all I can think about first thing in the morning is wrapping my hands around a warm mug. First, boil some water in a kettle or pot (I prefer the Halulite Tea Kettle). Drop a heaping scoop of coffee (or two) in a filter and stick it in the drip coffee maker: I use the Collapsible Java Drip that folds completely flat for easy packing or my Ultralight Java Drip that clips onto the top of my mug and folds under any standard fuel cartridge. Slowly pour the hot water over the coffee, in a circular motion if it makes you feel fancy. Take a whiff of that caffeinated goodness while it drips down into your cup.
The French Press
Ooh la la! The french press is my favorite coffee making method if I’m traveling or backpacking with a couple early rising friends. It’s easy, mess-free, and more reliable than most of my hiking partners. My Javapress fits 30 ounces of ground-free goodness and clips onto my backpack with ease. Start with coarsely ground coffee in the bottom of your Javapress. Fill the press with hot water, stirring halfway to break up the grounds if you like. Let the coffee brew before attaching the lid with the plunger fully up. Slowly and softly press down on the plunger, whispering sweet French nothings as the press presses. Voilà! Your coffee is ready to pour and enjoy. For best results, enjoy with a beret on the slopes of Mont Blanc.
Some mornings you just need the strong stuff. My Mini Espresso Maker is surprisingly portable and makes a perfect shot (and the perfect Instagram shot) in just 90 seconds. Don’t freak out, espresso makers are actually easier to use than you think: the trick is having super fine coffee grounds. Just fill the base with water up to the safety valve and fill the filter funnel with fine ground coffee. Put the filter funnel into the base and screw on the top. Place on your stove over low heat and watch the perfect shot appear in minutes. Enjoy your gourmet espresso or add to steamed milk for a fireside latte.
For when you need a little perc in the morning. I use my Glacier Stainless Percolator when camping with a larger group of family or friends, and we want a big batch of coffee brewed up on the stove or campfire. Just fill the percolator with water and put the coffee grounds (a heaping spoonful per person) in the basket. Bring the water to a boil and then take it down to a simmer, keeping a careful eye on the coffee through the PercView window. I let it simmer for 5-10 minutes, watching for the coffee to turn the right color (practice makes the perfect perc!). Once it’s dark (but not black!), I pull the percolator off the flame to cool. Pour a cup for all, and don’t forget to cheers to waking up with the perfect brew.
The way my grandpa always made it. This method takes less focus than percolating, which is handy because focusing before coffee can be difficult. This is a perfect method if you’re a campsite multitasker, packing up the tent while brewing your java. Bring water to a boil in a coffee pot, like this classic Enamelware 3 Cup Coffee Pot. Add your desired amount of coffee and let simmer gently for 5ish minutes while you down your instant oatmeal breakfast. When the coffee's ready or you run out of patience, take it off the heat to cool. The grounds sink to the bottom as the coffee cools, so pour carefully to avoid stirring them back into your cup. Take a sip and pause to enjoy your coffee done the Western way.
Don’t Forget the Grinder!
It’s hard to beat freshly ground coffee in the backcountry! If you’re looking to step up your coffee game, try the Javamill: a portable camp coffee grinder that nests to fit perfectly in your backpack. Trust me, you’ll never go back to stale, week-old coffee grounds again.
Treat yourself to a strong cup or two this National Coffee Day (or any other day you’re awake). No matter what brewing method you choose, coffee is especially delicious when sipped in the great outdoors.