To a huge number of people, coffee is an important part of life. If you don’t believe me, just have a look at how many coffee shops there are in your local neighbourhood!
Now coffee shops are great, but especially when wild camping, the nearest coffee shop might be quite some distance away. What are your options for enjoying a cup of the good stuff while camping, or cycle touring?
What are your options?
When camping, your options are rather limited, unless you’ll be behaving like a Dr Livingstone and have hundreds of porters lugging everything you need to live in luxury. Instead, you’ll have to find your own balance between the quality of coffee your chosen method can make, the water required (both to make coffee and clean the device) and the size & weight of the device.
Yes, plenty of people drink instant coffee. I’m not here to gatekeep, nor judge. If you are happy with instant coffee, then by all means keep using it, no matter what others may say. Instant coffee has numerous benefits: it’s cheap, weighs nothing and is very quick and easy to use. At the end of an exhausting day, with poor weather on top of everything else, quick and easy can be a game-changer.
If you’re a coffee snob, and used to pulling your nose up at instant, try getting freeze-dried instant coffee, and using two to three teaspoons of instant coffee per mug. Who knows, you might yet change your mind!
V60 Coffee dripper
There are many V60 drippers available, but the name actually only belongs to those made by Hario. The V refers to the shape, and the 60 refers to the sides being 60 degrees. Basically, it’s a funnel into which you place a filter paper, into which you add ground coffee.
Next, you place it on a mug, then pour hot (not boiling!) water over the coffee, and wait for it to drip through into the mug. It works quite well, but certainly isn’t the fastest way of getting your coffee fix. On the other hand, you can leave it to drip through while you’re carrying on with other tasks.
You also get collapsible V60 drippers, and ones that don’t need filter papers, though those tend to require more water to clean, and water can be in short supply when camping.
The AeroPress is a very simple, though ingenious device for making a surprisingly good cup of coffee. It’s my preferred way to make coffee while out camping, and I take my AeroPress along when I go into the office, too.
There’s an old joke: how would you know someone has an AeroPress? They’ll tell you about it! They’re such great bits of kit that I don’t know of a single AeroPresss user who isn’t delighted with it.
Think of it as an oversized syringe. You add a filter paper, add hot (not boiling!) water, and press down on the plunger. Once you pressed the plunger all the way down, the coffee grounds are squeezed into a compressed puck that’s quick and easy to eject.
Obviously, camping should always follow the Leave No Trace principle, so do eject the puck into the rubbish bag you brought along, to take away with you and dispose of properly later.
Those that use moka pots tend to swear by the excellent coffee these produce. However, be warned from the outset that not all moka pots are equal. Do try and stick with ones made by Bialetti – moka pots were invented by Alfonso Bialetti, and Bialetti ones are the best.
A moka pot is the nearest you could possibly get to having espresso like that served in good coffee shops, while out camping. The downside is they’re bulkier than any of the other methods, and far more finicky to clean than an AeroPress.
There are other options available, such as the rather odd brewpipe, and more. However, I wanted to limit this to options that are reasonable and realistic for most people.
The coffee beans
What device you use to make coffee is one part of the equation, The coffee you use is another part. Whole roasted coffee beans will keep fresh for a long time, but as soon as the coffee is ground, the picture changes.
You will undoubtedly have been told the old tale saying you should keep your ground coffee in the fridge. Do not store ground coffee in the fridge! The coffee experts at Lavazza has the following to say about this:
The refrigeration of coffee shouldn’t be contemplated, since at refrigerator temperatures water molecules in the air within the canister condense and permeate the coffee affecting its flavour.
Ground coffee should be kept away from light, and be stored in a way that protects it from air as much as possible. Know what I do? When camping, I keep my coffee in the bag I bought it in, and I use rubber bands to keep the bag sealed and compressed. Obviously, keep the bag somewhere away from light and heat when being stored.
For top marks, get a coffee grinder, and grind your beans immediately before use. I don’t do this, as (especially when camping) a grinder is yet another piece of kit I’d need to take along, but your preferences may differ.
In the morning
When you unzip your tent, start up your gas stove, and brew that all-important first cup of coffee for the day, look around you at the wildness of your camping spot, and know that you’ve made some excellent life choices!