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Camp Coffee 101: How to Make Bold Brews in the Backcounty

When you’re practicing leave no trace backcountry camping, what you pack matters. Loaded up on your back, every ounce counts. Each item’s size, weight and function is examined with forensic concentration. You'll have to make decisons about comfort, hygeine and contingency items, but when it comes to coffee, an unwillingness to compromise might be as strong as a triple-shot Americano. Here are five ways to get your caffeine fix in the backcountry that will satisfy even the most discerning coffee drinker.

A special word about disposing of coffee grounds: Coffee grinds may be biodegradable, but proper leave no trace disposal still means you should still pack them out with you.

For the purist: camp coffee

True camp coffeesometimes called cowboy coffeeis nothing but real grounds-and-water-in-the-pot coffee.

Brewing instructions: Bring water to a rolling boil and then remove it from the heat source. Add one generous tablespoon of coffee grounds into each cup of water. Let it steep (covered) for approximately 5 to 10 minutes. To settle the grounds, tap a spoon on the side of the pot three to five times.

The most crucial element of making “true grit” is to never let brewed coffee boil. Old-timers used to say that boiled coffee tastes like rotten shoe leather, and they’re right. The reason for the poor taste of boiled coffee is in thanks to bitter tannic acid and the flavoured oils. The tasty oils are released at 86°Cjust below boiling point. The bitter acids are released right at, or just above, the boiling point.

Side note: Another important factor is how to settle the grounds before serving the coffee. Some people add a few pieces of eggshell or toss in a few round pebbles. We’ve even witnessed campers take hold of the wire handle on the pot, swing it with the speed of an aircraft propeller, and have complete faith in centrifugal force. This action will pull the grounds to the bottom of the pot, guaranteed.

For the connoisseur: a portable French press

If your thirst for a cup of good coffee doesn’t exceed 275 grams, an Avventura Outdoors French Press Coffee Mug brings complex brews right to your campfire.

Why does French press coffee taste so good? Traditional drip coffee makers use a paper filter, through which water percolates. During this process, the grinds’ oils are absorbed by the filter. In a French press, a steel plunger forces water through the loose grinds, trapping them at the bottom and producing a much richer, bolder brew.

Brewing instructions: Add ground coffee to the vessel and pour hot water into the vessel. Let the mixture sit for 2 minutes before gently pushing the plunger through the blend. Enjoy.

For the DIY-er

Much the same as tea, coffee grinds can be steeped in hot water using a tea bag. Skip the pre-made versions which can go stale on the shelf and DIY it yourself using chlorine-free, biodegradable tea bags.

Brewing instructions: Boil water in a pot and transfer to a cup. Steep the coffee bag for 1 to 3 minutes depending on your preferred strength.

For the compromiser: single cup filter cone

We totally get it. You want a proper cup of full-strength coffee using real beans, without the hassle of fishing out the grinds, and you’re willing to carry a bit of weight. A single cup, reusable filter cone might be the compromise you can live with. Plastic versions are lightweight (about 50 grams) and hardy enough to be packed inside a compact backpack. However, it will still require a paper filter. And while the stainless-steel version doesn’t need a filter, you’ll be left wondering how to pack out the grinds without the mess.

Brewing instructions: Affix the cone atop a cup and insert the filter. Add a tablespoon of ground coffee and slowly pour over with boiling water.

Instant coffee: for the unfussy and unabashed

At home in regular life, we’re of the mind that instant coffee is imposter coffee. But out on the trail, exceptions can be madeand the instant beverage industry has evolved light-years beyond its 1990s reputation. From flavoured cappuccinos to Colombian dark roast, we can’t deny the no-mess ease and lightweight benefits of instant coffee. It also might be a more palatable option for those who don’t like black coffeeor those who aren’t willing to pack in sweeteners and milk substitutes. 

Fun fact: In 1771, Britain issued a patent for instant coffee and variations of the beverage can be traced back to the American Civil War.  

Brewing instructions: Dissolve the pre-packaged contents into a cup of hot water (much as you would with hot chocolate). Stir thoroughly before enjoying. Pro tip: aggressively mix the dry powder into 1/3 cup of hot water with a spoon for two minutes, then add the balance of the hot water.