A camping trip is always an experience for even the most seasoned campers, which is why people who start camping early on in their lives always come back to the woods again. Hiking and camping through nature can be rejuvenating for everyone and there is scientific proof that shows even a quick walk through the woods can improve our mental health and wellbeing. While at home you may rely on things like a good bit of music or a cup of coffee to boost your mood, some time away from work and the city can do both the mind and the body a lot of good. But that brings us to the main question: what about making coffee when you’re camping?
Coffee Vs. Camping
Coffee is a necessity for billions of people worldwide to get started with the day and later on, to maintain productive energy throughout the day. While there are several other health benefits to drinking coffee as well, most of us drink the stuff to get a boost in energy and wakefulness. The drink is such an intrinsic part of all our lives that we take it for granted as being something that’s always available within arm’s reach somewhere.
When you are out camping though, it is highly unlikely that you will come across a Starbucks or even a small local café in the middle of the woods, while hiking through a lonely trail! In other words, if you forget to bring your camping percolator, there will be no coffee to go around. Since we are discussing a camping trip, you will certainly need that boost of energy even more than you do on a regular day to maximise daylight. Also, the woods can get unexpectedly cold after sundown, which is when you will come to appreciate your camping coffee percolator once again.
Now that we have established the need to always carry a camping percolator while out hiking and camping, let’s get to know exactly how to use a camping coffee percolator. It’s not a coffee machine after all, which could feel like an alien concept to someone who has never made coffee over a campfire before. So, let’s get started with a basic introduction to the camping percolator coffee pot first.
What is a Camping Percolator?
There are three main types of percolators, which are each categorized and named after the energy source they utilize for making coffee in a percolator. These are:
- Stovetop coffee percolators
- Electric coffee percolators
- Microwave coffee percolators
As you might have guessed already, the camping percolator is a classic, stovetop coffee pot. Instead of the stove though, we will be using real campfires to brew our coffee over. Rocks and trees do not have electrical sockets on them, so you won’t have much use for an electric or microwave percolator while camping.
How to Use a Camping Percolator: Assembly & Disassembly
The first step to learning how to use a camping coffee pot, aka camping coffee percolator is to know how the unit functions. Even after the first-time installation, you will often need to disassemble and reassemble your coffee percolator to keep it clean.
The average camping percolator can be divided into a few main parts.
- A coffee-pot
- A tube with a fixed/detachable stand
- A perforated basket with a fixed/detachable lid
- The filter(s)
If it doesn’t have a filter attached already, you will need to put a filter inside the basket and fit it in properly first. Not all filters can fit in all baskets, so be careful while buying coffee filters for your percolator in the future. After the filter has been installed, attach the stand and the basket to the vertical tube. While making coffee, you will have to add the coffee to the basket first, before closing the lid and placing the entire contraption inside the pot.
The basket must always be fixed on top, and the stand is to be fixed on the other, lower end. Most camping percolators are easy to assemble and disassemble because of the simple twist-in/out mechanism they use. If there are screws, there will also be an instruction sheet inside the box to help you.
How to Make Coffee in a Camping Percolator: Step by Step
After you have attached the stand and the filtered, perforated basket to the tube, don’t put it inside the pot just yet. Follow the steps as suggested next.
Step 1: All modern camping percolators come with a clear marker to help the user know how much water needs to be added. There is no fixed volume to be recommended here, as coffee pots come in a wide range of sizes (6 fl oz - 50 fl oz). Fill the pot up with water as suggested by the marker but keep the level lower than the marker by a centimetre or two, just to eliminate any chances of the water boiling over and out of the pot. You can also make do with adding about two cups of water, in case you don’t want or need a full pot of coffee right then.
Step 2: Measure how much coffee grounds you will need in ratio to the water you just added (12gm – 15gm/6 fl oz cup) to the pot first. Now, put the measured amount of coffee into the basket, close its lid and only then should you put it inside the pot. The general rule is to add 2 tablespoons/15gm of coffee grounds per 6 fl oz cup of water.
This is a variable of course, as it depends entirely on the type and strength of the coffee ground you are using. Nevertheless, anything lower than one and a half tablespoons or 12gm per cup is inadvisable. Some campers suggest that while making coffee in a camping percolator, you need to add an extra 7gm – 8gm of coffee grounds to the basket. If you take that route after adding 15gm/cup already, get ready for some really strong coffee!
Step 3: Hopefully, someone else has already started the campfire already by now. If not, then do start one yourself and ensure that it’s not blazing. Once the fire is ready, all you need to do is place a fire pit grate on top of the fire, set the camping percolator coffee pot on top of the grate and wait.
Step 4: Once the water starts boiling, it will be forced through the thin metallic tube at high pressure and into the coffee basket. Keep an eye on it because you will need to shift the camping percolator from the centre of the pit grate soon after that happens. If the fire is mild, simply shift the pot away but keep it on the grate for 10 minutes. If it is too hot, remove it from the grate and let the boiling water percolate your coffee grounds to (hopefully) fine brewing perfection for about 15 minutes.
That’s it, your fresh new pot of fire-brewed coffee is now ready for energising you and everyone else with you for the day or night. Also, now you know how to use a percolator camping enthusiasts and hikers depend on for their daily cups of caffeine in the woods. You will need to do this a few times to get the hang of it of course, so don’t be disappointed if your first pot made from a camping percolator on top of a campfire isn’t what you expected it to be.
Also, having control over the fire is critical if you are picky about your morning cup. In that case, carrying a camp stove can make a huge difference. Although there is an undeniable sense of adventure in brewing coffee over the campfire, you will want to get a camp stove if possible, after the novelty wears off.
How to Choose a Camping Coffee Percolator
The technology used here is hundreds of years old, so rest assured that not much should go wrong with any decent product. That being said, there are some aspects which you should be aware of, before buying a camping percolator coffee pot.
Stovetop Vs Firetop: Technically, these two should be the same but those marked as campfire coffee percolators specifically should have a much higher fire-resistance than the average stovetops. More important than anything else is the fact that you should never buy a camping percolator coffee pot that has anything plastic on or in it. Metal, silicone and glass are the materials to look for because an open fire will melt the plastic handle of your coffee-pot in minutes.
Size: Other than that, there is of course the size to consider. You can’t go wrong with a bigger coffee pot, even if you don’t need it for every trip into nature. Even if you would prefer to travel light, don’t go for a camping percolator with a capacity below 18 - 20 fl oz, or 3 cups.
By now you have all the theoretical knowledge you need on how to use a percolator camping aficionados swear by, but there’s no better teacher than experience. Put your knowledge to good use by making coffee in a camping percolator the next chance you get.