The smell of fresh air, a cool breeze, and the sound of birdsong: there’s nothing quite like waking up in the great outdoors. What makes it even better, though, is knowing you’ll warm up with a decent cup of coffee and breakfast.
Brewing coffee outdoors will never be as easy as at home. Whether you are camping in a forest or sleeping snug in a caravan, you’ll need to plan ahead and have the right equipment. Yet it’s not as tricky as you might think – and there’s no reason to skimp on quality.
I spoke to Alan Adler, creator of the AeroPress and the AeroPress Go and experienced camper and hiker, to find out how best to brew while hiking, camping, and caravanning. Keep reading to find out his tips.
Lee este artículo en español Cómo Preparar Café Excelente Cuando Vas de Campamento o Caravana
Drinking the first coffee of the day.
Planning Is Key
The difference between a good cup of coffee and a watery, lukewarm mess? Good planning. From choosing your equipment to having water and heat sources, and bringing the right amount of coffee to knowing what to do with your waste grounds, it all comes down to thinking ahead. “All the things that you do outdoors can first be tried in your own kitchen,” Alan tells me.
What to Pack
Traveling light is key for outdoors adventures. While caravanning allows you a few relative luxuries – such as room for more cups – you’re still in a relatively small space. And if you’re camping out of a backpack, you’ll want to cut down on the weight and size of your coffee equipment as much as possible.
Luckily, there’s plenty of coffee gear designed for brewing outdoors. And, with some careful organization, you’ll need a surprisingly small amount of equipment.
Let’s take a look at the essentials:
Think carefully about how long your trip will be and how much coffee you’ll want to drink. You don’t want to get to the last two days of a week-long hike and realize that you’ve run out.
If you choose to bring whole beans, you’ll also need a portable grinder. Brands such as Hario, Comandante, and Rhino have compact ones. Alternatively, you can grind your coffee beforehand. While it will be less fresh, pre-ground coffee can sometimes taste better than poorly ground coffee. Alan tells me, “I personally grind my travel coffee at home.”
You might also like How to Brew Specialty Coffee at Home: A Beginner’s Guide
Grinding coffee with a portable hand grinder. Credit: Fernando Pocasangre
Whether you bring pre-ground or whole bean coffee, you’ll need a way to measure the dose and a waterproof way to store it before brewing.
If you are caravanning or driving to the camping site, you might choose to bring a scale with you. But if you’re backpacking to your campsite, this is one area where you can reduce weight. Measure your coffee at home and place each dose in a small sandwich bag.
Make sure to store your coffee – pre-dosed or not – in an airtight container. This won’t just slow down the rate at which your coffee grows stale, but will also keep it dry in case of heavy rain, a leaking tent, or an accidental slip into a river.
You should always leave your campsite as pristine as you found it. Store used coffee grounds and filters in the same sandwich bags or storage devices that you brought them in so that you can carry them away with you. If you have an AeroPress or AeroPress Go, you can also opt for a metal filter.
Used coffee grounds. Credit: Fernando Pocasangre
A Coffee Maker
Ideally, your coffee maker should be compact, lightweight, and durable. Even if you love your Chemex, a glass brewer is not a good option for the great outdoors.
Look to alternatives such as the AeroPress Go, which is currently available to order. It’s durable, compact, and made of food-safe polypropylene. It also comes with a travel mug, and the entire brewer and its accessories fit inside it.
Alan tells me that it’s designed to be packed together when wet, which is ideal if you’ve just finished washing it or it’s been outside in the rain. Simply place the pieces inside the mug, close the lid, and wipe the outside dry.
Brewing with the AeroPress Go. Credit: Fernando Pocasangre
Bring an extra cup or two, especially if you’re not traveling solo. You don’t want to find your one mug has cracked and can’t drink anything. A thermal cup might be useful, allowing you to save warm coffee for later.
A Heat Source
If you’re caravanning, you’ll probably have a way to heat water, whether it’s a plug-in kettle or a gas-powered oven. If you’re camping, you can opt for a small gas stove. There are many portable options designed for campers.
If you’re in a dry area and it’s permitted, you could also build a fire. Check the rules first: in national parks and protected areas, live fires may be prohibited or you could need a permit. Remember, too, that if it’s humid or has recently rained, you may struggle to find dry wood.
Should you decide to start a fire, remember to leave the site in the same condition you found it. Consider whether this is an appropriate area for a fire: are there enough trees nearby that you can burn wood without significantly affecting the area? Is there scrubby underbrush or low-hanging foliage that could catch fire? If it is an appropriate area, and there’s a fire ring, use it. If not, make a fire mound.
Keep an eye on the size of your fire to make sure it remains manageable. Don’t forget to triple-check it has fully extinguished before you go to sleep or leave the area. Use water rather than dirt.
And no matter your heating source, make sure to bring matches (and to keep them dry!) or a lighter.
Skip the gooseneck kettle if you’re trying to cut down on space. Opt instead for a pot so it can double-up as a way to cook food. Or if you’re in a hot area with mild nights, ask yourself if you could make do with cold coffee.
“Many would bring a kettle and perhaps a small fueled stove,” Alan tells me. “You’ll probably use that for food preparation, but if brewing coffee is the only reason, I recommend you practice with cold-brewed AeroPress at home.”
You might also like How to Make Cold Brew With an AeroPress in Just 2 Minutes
Campers build a fire. Credit: Gisselle Guerra
A Water Source
If you’re caravanning, you might be able to bring potable water. But if you’re backpacking, water is heavy and takes up space. Plus, bottled water contributes to single-use plastic consumption.
With some careful planning, you should be able to find water in the wilderness. By using creeks, lakes, and rivers, you reduce the weight of your pack and cut down on plastic. Never drink untreated water from a natural source, however. Just because it looks clean doesn’t mean that it won’t contain parasites and bacteria that could leave you with a nasty stomach bug.
First, make sure you only collect moving water or water from the very top of a lake. If you can, collect it from as close to the source as possible. Always go upstream of campsites. Secondly, purify it. There are no treatment methods that can kill 100% of bacteria, but there are several highly effective ones. Here are some common options:
- Portable water filters: A good filter should remove sediment, bacteria, and parasites such as protozoa, and many campers use them on their own. However, to be completely confident in your water quality, you should also disinfect it. Make sure you look after your filter and replace it when required.
- Chemical treatment: This usually refers to the use of iodine or chlorine, which kill harmful microorganisms like bacteria and parasites in water. They affect the taste of the water and using them can be time-consuming (especially if the water is very cold), but this is a relatively cheap and portable option. You can find water purification tablets in most camping and outdoors stores.
However, some chemical treatments should not be used by pregnant women or people with certain medical conditions, nor for prolonged periods. Make sure to consult with your doctor first. Moreover, some studies cast doubt on the efficacy of this process for treating certain types of parasites.
- UV light purifiers: These purifiers sterilize water through ultraviolet light. They need a power source, but there are portable versions designed for camping and hiking that can be charged at home. Bear in mind that this is a purifier and won’t remove sediment; you should use it in combination with a filter.
- Boiling water: One of the world’s oldest ways to heat water, this can be time-consuming but doesn’t require extra equipment or affect the water’s taste. Since it doesn’t remove sediment, you should still filter the water first.
Preparing coffee with the AeroPress Go and filtered and boiled water. Credit: Fernando Pocasangre
One of the best things about going camping and caravanning is giving up the technology and unnecessary luxuries. But one thing you’ll be glad you didn’t give up is your coffee. Prepare right, and you’ll find it doesn’t weigh much, takes up only a small amount of room in your pack, and is surprisingly quick and easy to make in the morning or at the end of a long hike.
So, what are you waiting for? Get the map out, pack your gear, and hit the road!
Enjoyed this? Read How to Brew Specialty Coffee at Home: A Beginner’s Guide
Written by Gisselle Guerra. Feature photo credit: Fernando Pocasangre
Want to read more articles like this? Sign up for our newsletter!