Coffee can be the most important building block of any fantastic day off the grid. It can literally make or break a trip. Think of it like the foundation of a house -- everything can come tumbling down if you don’t have a solid foundation. And, much like toppings on a pizza, everybody has their own preference when it comes to coffee. And with so many options available, we thought we’d take a moment to analyze all the different types of backcountry coffee and what it says about you, because nobody likes a foamy latte.
To Grind Or Not To Grind
When talking beans, there are two main mindsets: fresh ground or pre-ground.
The Grinder: You prefer only the quality things in life like fresh towels out of the dryer, cookies right out of the oven and, of course, fresh ground beans in your morning coffee. If this sounds like you, you’re going to want to check out the GSI Javamill asap! It’s light enough to toss in the backpack for multiday trips and once you get that first hit of fresh coffee you’ll never want to go back to pre-grinding your beans again.
The Pre-Grind Planner: You like your sandwiches “grab-n-go”, your salads pre-made and your coffee now. Well, you just might be a pre-grinder. Pre-grinding your beans at home or in the store does offer convenience for when you don’t want to fuss with it out on the trail. You better use those ground beans fast though -- they go stale much faster in the ground state than as whole beans.
Instant vs. Beans
Instant Relief: We’ve all been there - you pick up a nice hot cup of joe, take a sip, and it hits your tastebuds like a kick from a horse. Blah. Instant Coffee! Lucky for you, instant coffee has come a long way in the last decade. With an abundance of solid options for single serve instant coffee available now-a-days, it’s easy to forget what instant coffee used to be like. For ultralight trips, instant coffee has clear advantages. Just empty a packet into your mug, boil up some water, mix and you are good to go!
Truth Seeker: Life is full of imitations. Veganaise. Turkey bacon. Olestra! No thank you! For the true aficionados who demand the real thing, we’ve got your back. We know that no instant coffee can hit the spot like the real thing. And with with tools like the Ultralight Java Drip, you can have an amazing pour over from an ultralight, ultra packable device that fits nearly any mug. Never settle for anything less than the real deal.
Pourover vs. French Press vs. Percolator
There are countless ways to prepare your coffee so we thought we’d deal with three of the most common methods for camp coffee.
Pour-Over Professor: Do you value speed and convenience above all? If this is you, you just might be a Pour-Over Professor. When you need coffee right now (!!!), pour-overs offer unmatched speed and convenience while giving you a fantastic brew. It really couldn’t be more simple. Add fresh ground coffee, pour hot water over the basket or filter, and enjoy! Pour-overs work so well, you don’t even need to limit its use to camping. It works just as great in your kitchen at home or your desk at work, especially when preparing a single cup of coffee. We recommend the Ultralight Java Drip. It’s light, convenience and thanks to the reusable mesh basket, you don’t have to deal with the waste of discarded coffee filters.
Pro Tip: The Ultralight Java Drip nests perfectly into the dome cavity on the bottom of a 230 gram fuel canister.
French Press Fanboy: Are you the type of person who gets your car washed weekly? Does your silverware drawer have two sizes of forks in it? Do you own an iron that’s used for clothes (and not just for skis or snowboards)? If any of these describe you, you just might be a French Press Fanboy (or fangirl :) ).
For those who demand only the best, a french press is the way to go. Sure, it takes a bit longer to prepare than a pourover, but like many finer things in life, true quality is worth the wait. There are a million french presses on the market but we have two current favorites. The Commuter Javapress is perfect for the trip to work or next to a lake in the woods. When preparing for more than one person, the Javapress is perfect. It’s lightweight enough to bring on any camping trip and available in multiple sizes for all types of coffee drinkers.
Pro Tip: If carrying the Javapress into the woods, pack your coffee beans inside of it to conserve space.
The Old Dog, a.k.a. The Percolator: It’s tough to beat a classic. Like that favorite pair of jeans or a solid cast-iron skillet, there’s no match for timeless quality. I still remember enamelware percolator that my grandparents brought on every camping trip when I was a kid. Just set it on the fire for a bit and before you know it, you’ve got a fresh cup of joe.
Percolators definitely work best when you don’t have to carry them into camp in a backpack, so we reserve ours for car camping outings. They also have the advantage of being able to prepare a lot of coffee for a group of people. Our favorite as of late is the Glacier Stainless 14-Cup Percolator. Just the right size for a group of 4-5 people. GSI makes percolators of all sizes and finishes so you’re bound to find one that catches your eye.
Well, there you have it. There are a ton of options out there, but ultimately you have to make a choice and control your own destiny. Because nobody wants to deal with others when they haven’t had their morning coffee.