23

I'll be going pretty deep into the woods with some buddies and staying in a cabin; I'll have access to a campfire and a wood stove. Can also bring batteries of any kind with me.

I'd love to bring my favorite coffee (Death Wish!) with me but am looking for a lightweight method of brewing it with minimal equipment. Weight is a key factor since its a solid hike in/out and I'll already be schlepping a fair amount of weight with me.

Any recommended methods/approaches here? Not interested in "just add water" or instant coffee, and also not looking to go super crazy primitive. Just hoping there's a decent off-grid coffee solution out there that will allow me to enjoy my caffeine in peace. Thanks in advance!

  • 2
    Cold brew is light enough outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/20061/… – Charlie Brumbaugh Jun 18 at 20:53
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    Thanks @Charlie Brumbaugh (+1) -- interesting idea, I'm guessing I could then just heat it up over the stove? – hotmeatballsoup Jun 18 at 20:56
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    The Bialetti Moka pot can be found in aluminum, is fairly lightweight, and makes pretty darned good coffee. Or an AeroPress similarly is pretty lightweight and just needs hot water. – Jon Custer Jun 18 at 23:41
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    This doesn't warrant it's own answer I don't think, but check out JetBoil - jetboil.com ... They do a coffee plunger system. I've been using JetBoils for years and years, and work beautifully. I always carry mine in my pack, and have a second one that lives in my car. – Aaron Lavers Jun 19 at 5:54
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    How do you make your coffee at home? Drip filtered? Espresso? Moka pot? Turkish style? IMO is strongly dictates how we proceed with a campfire solution! – josh Jun 19 at 7:45

19 Answers 19

40

As long as you are okay with grinding your beans at home, why not just make cowboy coffee. Basically you

  1. Put your tin cup on the fire/stove and bring the water to a boil
  2. Remove the cup from the heat and let the water cool a bit so you don't burn the grounds
  3. Stir in the grounds and bring the water back to a simmer being careful not to burn the coffee
  4. Remove from the heat again and let it steep for a couple of minutes while stirring occasionally
  5. Let the grounds settle (you can add cold water or hit the side of the pot to help them along)
  6. Drink carefully

As it takes no equipment, you can practice brewing at home and see if you can manage to get a cup of coffee without any/too many grounds.

  • 2
    +1 I really must try this soon. I'm planning on making a tiny spirit stove to heat water directly in a tin mug and this would pair well with it – Chris H Jun 19 at 6:12
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    This actually sounds similar to Greek or Turkish coffee, where you grind the beans to a very thin powder, and not filtered. The beans are left at the bottom of the glass – Davidmh Jun 19 at 6:49
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    I've tried this once, and never again - it's horrible and you always end up with a mouth full of coffee grounds! However I know someone who likes to drink coffee this way at home, so maybe it's an acquired taste :) – Aaron F Jun 19 at 9:52
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    @AaronF it takes some practice and patience to get the grounds to settle, but even when I was making it regularly there were still some grounds. – StrongBad Jun 19 at 13:06
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    @Davidmh It's not much like Greek/Turkish coffee at all, precisely because that requires grinding the beans to a very fine powder, and then making the coffee in a tall, narrow pot which controls how the powder interacts with the water. – David Richerby Jun 19 at 22:44
30

enter image description here

I've used one of these filter holders on top of a thermos, pouring hot water a little at a time. If you don't want to carry a thermos, use a mug.

A largish single-walled mug + one of these and a few filters will probably weigh about as much as the coffee grounds.

  • 7
    +1, this ticks all the boxes: cheap, lightweight, highly reliable, widely available, and makes good coffee. My plastic filter cone weighs 60g, and the paper filters 1.5g each. It's also possible to use a reusable mesh filter instead of the disposable paper filters. – Pont Jun 19 at 11:24
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    I have made good experience with this camping version of a coffee-filter gsioutdoors.com/ultralight-java-drip.html. It is super light, does not need a lot of space (which can be a downside of the standard plastic cone), and does not need paper filters, which means less waste. – Jon Isr Jun 19 at 11:37
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    I take a collapsible silicone one on all my backpacking trips. Normally they run 10 days and I have never had an issue with the coffee. – Reed Jun 19 at 13:34
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    You don't even need to buy one of these. I always have some heavy duty aluminum foil with me, form it into a cone-shaped funnel, poke a hole in the bottom, and put a cone coffee filter in it. Set it over a cup and pour the water in, then let it drip. Toss the grounds/filter, flatten the foil funnel, and save it for the next day. – dwizum Jun 19 at 18:47
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    Very similar but I have always used proudmarycoffee.com.au/products/…. Slightly more expensive but allows you to better control the strength of the coffee by having a valve on the bottom that dosn't activate till you put over a cup. – Shaun Peterson Jun 19 at 22:28
26

The easiest and most reusable method in my opinion is the Moka Pot.

enter image description here

Simply add water and ground beans to the base and heat over a stove or open fire. You end up with espresso in the top compartment. You can now easily regulate strength and temperature by adding hot or cold water. No filters, no bits in the bottom of your cup. Just try not to burn the coffee at the end!

As Michael notes in the comments they are rather lightweight (200g), being made from aluminium and come in a variety of sizes, from 50 ml to 600 ml. A 50 ml can be as small as 10 cm x 6 cm (3" x 2") so is extremely portable.

They can cost as little as £5 online for a small "travel" sized one. For whole beans, buy a hand crank coffee grinder, also cheap at £5! Ahhhh.

  • 1
    They are usually surprisingly light because they are made out of aluminium. – Michael Jun 19 at 8:50
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    The output of a mocha pot is similar to espresso, but they are different. Espresso is higher pressure and faster than these. As far as I can tell, no Italien leaves Italy without one. – Martin Bonner Jun 19 at 9:10
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    I am a huge fan of these pots. You can combine the larger ones with a MYOG alcohol stove that can be stored inside the bottom part of the pot. With a small bottle of fuel (enough for one or two servings of coffee), all your coffee gear can fit into the Bialetti for transport. However, if weight is important, I go with StrongBad's solution (cowboy coffee). – anderas Jun 19 at 9:14
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    I like Mokas and have brewed much Moka coffee over an alcohol stove, but there are a few minuses: (1) I really can't agree with "very lightweight": even the tiny 1-cup version is 240g, far more than most of the other suggestions here. (2) The smaller versions can be tricky if you don't have a correspondingly tiny stove/burner. The smallest is only 7cm across, which usually means most of the heat going up the sides and is too small for some pot-rests. (3) The handle isn't fully heatproof so can char and detach if it sits over the heat source -- hard to avoid when cooking on a campfire. – Pont Jun 19 at 19:24
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    I agree with @Pont, the minuses are adding up. Two more details to consider: who will drink the coffee? If for all of the camping buddies, the Moka pot will take forever for everyone, I think it's really a single-person pot - even the bigger pots. Also, cleanup. You'll need to soap the exterior before use, and the handle is not fire proof. Fine for a wood stove, but cumbersome for campfire. Nevertheless, I swear by my moka pot, but I use a backpacking stove, and it's just for me - weight be damned. – Andrew Jennings Jun 21 at 15:27
14

I just ran the experiment of making hot coffee with a cotton coffee sock instead of doing my usual cold brew and it works fine.

It's almost the same as cowboy coffee but has the advantage of seperating the grounds from the coffee.

  • Place the coffee sock with grounds inside in water that was boiling for a couple of minutes to steep.
  • Remove sock and drink coffee.

It's also possible to make cowboy coffee and then use the cotton sock to filter out the grounds, just stretch it over the mouth of a nalgene and pour the coffee in.

The other option would be to use it to make cold brew coffee overnight and then warm it in the morning. Simply put the required amount of grounds into a nalgene of cold water overnight.

12

My solution is the same arrangement I use at home. I use a Porlex hand grinder to grind the beans, and an Aeropress to do the extraction.

The Porlex mini grinder (https://www.porlexgrinders.com/collections/frontpage/products/porlex-mini-grinder) is perfect for a single dose of grounds, and is very compact; although it doesn't have a convenient way of containing the handle. The Porlex grinders are high quality - i.e. ceramic conical burr grinder, and with good fresh roasted beans provide a great result.

The Aeropress (https://aeropress.com/) is also quite compact, and I can, in fact, fit the mini grinder inside the inner plunger of the Aeropress for transport. The only things I can't fit in this package are the grinding handle for the mini grinder and the paper filters for the Aeropress, but these are both small and can fit wherever you have a slot of space. The Aeropress comes with a scoop, funnel and stirring paddle; none of which are necessary for its use, so these things don't need to take up any of your packing space.

I am very lazy, but I am also not a savage, and this equipment gives me the ability to produce a wonderful cup of proper coffee with a minimum of fuss or hassle, and it just happens to have the side-effect of being a physically compact kit.

All you need apart from these items (and your beans) is a cup and hot water.

I have used this paraphernalia when camping myself, and I found it to be a very effective solution.

  • Surprised to have gotten this far down the page without seeing an Aeropress mentioned! – dwizum Jun 19 at 18:44
  • You can also get reusable filters for the aeropress. It's a matter of taste whether you prefer that over the paper ones though. – Sobrique Jun 20 at 10:57
  • Yeah I haven't tried the reusable filters yet. Not because I have a preference for the paper filters. It's just that I'm still getting through the pack of filters that came with the Aeropress :) – Mike Williams Jun 20 at 11:05
  • +1 For the first correct answer, AeroPress :) – trognanders Jun 21 at 6:56
8

If you're an espresso purist you could try a minipresso. They're a hand powered esspresso machine. I was introduced to them by a climbing guide who actually climbed with one and brewed up on top of a pitch.

enter image description here

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    I have one of these and it's does make good espresso. It is pretty heavy though compare to the others (360g apparently) – matt freake Jun 19 at 10:00
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    I don't know if you could convince me to take this backpacking over instant coffee but dangit I want one anyway – plast1k Jun 19 at 18:42
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    Hashtag #priorities—I'd be leaving my tent and sleeping bag behind if it came to a choice between them and my coffee brewing gear. – stib Jun 20 at 1:55
8

I have used a travel coffee plunger with pre-ground coffee. It worked well (I actually prefer plunger coffee to espresso) but after a couple of trips I decided that the extra bulk wasn't worth it for the nice coffee in the morning. Coffee bags are fine for me.

enter image description here I have seen people in huts use travel espresso kits similar to this one from GSI. They all raved about them but I did notice the pots took a while to cool down after use, so you couldn't make coffee and leave the hut straight away.

  • Works great. I don't actually use a travel-specific one. I pack the cheap one from Ikea I use at home too with a cloth cover around it. – Cyonis Jun 21 at 8:37
7

Another alternative, similar to cowboy coffee, but a bit more refined is a Turkish style cezve (AKA ibrik). These are usually made of super thin copper and are light enough to pack. enter image description here

For these you use very finely ground coffee, and boil it very gently until it starts to foam. Then you carefully pour off the coffee from the grounds. Turkish coffee is a great heartstarter of a morning, it's particularly good with a cardamom pod added to the brew and some lokum (turkish delight)

  • 1
    perfect for use with hot coals on a campfire! – josh Jun 19 at 8:59
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    The only similarity between this and cowboy coffee is that both are made by heating the water and coffee in some sort of pan. This really is a completely different drink. And "very finely ground coffee" means "VERY finely ground". Think, fine like flour. – David Richerby Jun 19 at 22:49
  • The Israeli parallel of that is called "Turkish coffee" and use what is called a Finjan (probably wrongfully) and looks like that – Rsf Jun 20 at 9:22
  • The mental picture of hot coals on a campfire and a steaming cup of Turkish coffee is making me feel super bad that I'm stuck in the office. – stib Jun 24 at 1:13
5

As long as you can pre-grind the beans, why not make a kind of tea bag with a coffee filter? Measure the appropriate amount of coffee and fold/staple the filter closed around it. Steep for an appropriate amount of time in hot (or cold) water and then burn the waste. It would add negligible weight to your pack and give you pre-measured portions. Cleaner cowboy coffee!

  • Bought coffee bags are more porous than coffee filters, and still make a rather weak cup of coffee (even using 2 is only of limited benefit). Have you tested this and found a way to improve on that? – Chris H Jun 19 at 15:12
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    @ChrisH I haven't had problems with achieving the right strength, but I like "medium" coffee. I agree that the bags are weak, but I don't think the porosity is the problem. I think they just don't use enough coffee. Plus with this method, the OP can use their choice of coffee. – Anger Density Jun 19 at 15:49
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    I like the idea, you could put the bag in the pot and boil for a bit if you wanted it stronger, maybe (at the risk of bitterness). Super fine Turkish ground coffee might work too, though it might just clog up the filter so I'd test first. – stib Jun 20 at 1:57
4

Similar to @JollyJoker, I tend to make single-cup pour over coffee when backpacking. While I normally buy disposable (read: burnable) single use packs, you can also buy camping specific re-usable pour over contraptions:

Any of these options are nice, because they are very light weight, and all they require besides the filter is hot water and any container you already have. With the reusable filters, you'll just have to remember to grind the beans in advanced.

4

As Anger Density recommended I would recommend making a coffee teabag with some coffee filters and floss. This can be done is a couple easy steps:

  • Grind beans
  • Put serving size in coffee filter (enough for a mug or a whole pot)
  • Tie coffee filter at top with floss, put it in a ziploc bag for safekeeping
  • Boil water with camp stove and steep teabag for a couple minutes, enjoy!

As a bonus you can use the leftover floss after you make your coffee to clean your teeth. Simple and effective!

  • +1 for using floss to get more use out of it! – Anger Density Jun 21 at 11:58
2

I have an Oomph coffee press. It works very well, and produces very good coffee if you only want one cup at a time. Allegedly it can also be used for drinking out of like a travel mug, but personally I find it leaks a little if I do that, so I just pour it into a regular mug.

It's plastic so I'd be worried about its survivability for serious hiking, but if you're just lugging stuff to a cabin then you should be OK.

Cafetiere-style single-cup coffee presses do exist. I've tried a couple (including Bodum), but they all seem to be made cheaply when it comes to the press and the seal round the edge of the mesh, which means you end up with gritty coffee full of grounds.

The Oomph does only make one mug at a time though. If you're brewing coffee for your whole group, consider just getting a stainless steel cafetiere. They don't weigh very much.

2

Indonesian "mud" coffee works fine.

If coffee beans are ground sufficiently fine, you can just put some together with near-boiling water, stir a bit, wait 3-5 minutes and all of the grounds will sink to the bottom.

They really do, if the coffee is ground sufficiently fine.

You just need a cup and the hot water to pour into it. I do this every morning, no need for any equipment beyond your coffee cup and whatever you boil water in.

There will be "mud" at the bottom; either skip the the last few sips if you are squeamish, or when you are at the last quarter of the cup just be aware when you notice a little graininess.

See WikiHow's How to Make Indonesian Kopi Tobruk

Kopi tobruk is coffee prepared in utter simplicity. Indonesian supermarkets sell a wide selection of pre-ground specialty coffees, but your preferred brand of regular grind will do just as well. Sometimes referred to as “mud coffee,” it is one of the most common forms of coffee available in Indonesia. When in Indonesia, knowing how to make your own coffee kopi tobruk is the better alternative to drinking the local instant 3-1 coffees which are sweet or too sweet, or to buying expensive coffee at the fancy coffee shops. Also, it is not uncommon to find a container of ground coffee at the breakfast table of your Indonesian hostel or resort. That's for making kopi tobruk and not for making instant coffee.

Where I live I can buy the finely ground Kapal Api at any Indonesian grocery store. If there's not one around you, just experiment with grinding enough beans for your trip finely and bringing in a plastic bag.

How fine? Very fine. Google "kopi bubuk".

enter image description here Source

2

I recently improvised this pour over solution while traveling and it's so simple, light, delicious, compostable and cheap, I've been taking it camping.

Bring paper filters and ground coffee, and use a fork, spork or cut a forked twig (which works even better) to keep the filter from collapsing into the cup.

Here I doubled the paper filter to make it stronger, but I've had success with a single filter too (be gentle). You could string it above the cup somehow so you don't have to hold it up and wait at the end of the pour.

paper filters + fork

Next level on quality: use a hand grinder to grind whole beans just before brewing.

Third level: if you'll be out more than a couple weeks, roast green beans in a dry frying pan or pot.

2

There are some collapsible coffee drippers you can get. Don't take so much space, and kind of light-weight. Your milleage may vary.

Ready to be used

Collapsed to be transported

  • +1, looks as though it would be a similar weight to a plastic cone, but more compact, recyclable, and less likely to end up as harmful waste. – Pont Jun 22 at 14:04
2

There is a traditional way of doing it here in the south of Brazil, called "café tropeiro".

You heat the water until it boils, then add coffee powder and mix it. The secret is to put some pieces of the burning coal from the fire in the coffee pot, this makes the powder go to the bottom of the pot faster(don't ask me why, but it works), so you can drink the coffee while it is still hot and without powder.

1

I recommend either making camp coffee (or cowboy coffee I see it referred to) or bringing an aeropress. They are light, probably around 200 grams and easy to clean and operate. Grind the coffee in advance and store in single serve zip lock bags.

1

What I like to do is essentially make little tea bags but with coffee filled with coffee grounds. You take the filters you would normally filter your coffee through, put a little coffee in it and tie it off with a rubber band. When the time comes for them to be used, you warm up some water, and throw it in, then take it out whenever you desire.

1

I make camp coffee as follows:

I use large tin cans as pots. They can be gotten at any restaurant, cafeteria and hold about 3 quarts. It's quick work to add a wire bail to them.

Morning coffee for two:

Put about 4 mugs of water into the pot. Sprinkle about 6 tablespoons of coffee grounds on the water. Do NOT stir. Ideally you have a small mountain of grounds floating on the middle of the pot. (I use nabob -- any decent drip grind will work) Put on the fire. Bring to a boil. Boiling is abrupt. You will see a corner of bubbles on the edge of the mound. It can go from bubbling lightly to boiling over in a few seconds.

Remove from heat immediately.

Set on ground, and dribble about a quarter cup of cold water into the pot. This will settle most of the grounds.

Pour into cups and enjoy.

Don't drink the last swallow in the cup.

Park the can near the fire, but not in it. It's ok if the side toward the fire very gently boils.


Advantages: No additional gear.

Downsides: If you do this on a stove, prepare to clean coffee grounds out of your stove.

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