The Ultimate Guide to Camp Coffee: 13 Ways to Brew Coffee While Camping

This post contains affiliate links.

From cowboy coffee to portable espresso makers, we cover all the different ways to make a great cup of coffee while camping.

The Ultimate Guide to Making Coffee While Camping

Coffee, sweet, sweet coffee, the lifeblood of outdoor adventurers and campers everywhere. While we are willing to forgo a great many things while camping, a good cup of coffee is not one of them. Thankfully, there are countless ways to enjoy a good brew in the wild. Here are some of our favorite ways to make and enjoy our coffee while camping.

This list is ordered from the lightest and simplest methods of brewing coffee to heaviest and most convoluted. We have tried the majority of methods on this list, but not all of them. Where relevant we note our personal experiences with the products we have used as well as those we’ve researched.

Instant Coffee | Cowboy Coffee | Single Serve Pour Overs | Pour Over Stands | Aeropress | Moka Pot | French Press | Cook System with French Press | Percolator | Cold Brew Extract | Bripe | Portable Espresso Maker | OXX CoffeeBoxx

CAMP COFFEE BREW METHODS

1.) Instant Coffee

While instant coffee is lightweight, packable, and otherwise ideally suited for camping, ’t have a great reputation when it comes to taste. However, there has been a lot of innovative advancements in the instant coffee world over the past couple of years. We recently did a review of 10 instant coffees for backpacking to figure out which we liked best, and honestly, some of them weren’t half bad (and one of them we loved).

Ideal Use: Backpacking, bikepacking, and anyone else with an incentive to save space and reduce weight.

Method: While the exact instructions will vary from brand to brand, the general idea is to put the instant coffee grounds into a cup and add boiling water. Wait a few seconds, stir, and drink. The easiest brew method imaginable.


Voila

“An exceptional cup of coffee. Full stop.” This instant coffee completely blows the competition out of the water. We had no idea that instant coffee could ever taste this good. Definitely worth checking out.
Learn More at Voila.Coffee


Mt. Hagan

“Mellow diner-style coffee.” For a freeze-dried instant coffee, this one did a pretty good job of replicating the taste of classic diner coffee.
Check price Amazon


Starbucks Via

“Unequivocally Starbucks.” These Starbucks Via packets successfully capture that signature Starbucks taste we have all come to love/hate.
Check price Amazon

Coffee While Camping - How to Make Cowboy Coffee

2.) Cowboy Coffee

Just add coffee grounds to hot water. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. In terms of equipment needed, cowboy coffee is the simplest way to make coffee while camping. Although, since the grounds don’t dissolve into the water, clean up can be a little messy, making it less ideal for backpacking or anywhere that you’d need to pack out your waste.

Ideal Use: For those who want to look tough. Also those who forgot all their fancy coffee making gear at home. Good for small or large groups, depending on the size of your kettle.

Method: For something as simple putting coffee grounds in hot water, there are a surprising number of ways to brew cowboy coffee. One popular way (at least according to the internet) is to include either broken egg shells or a whole raw egg into the coffee grounds (no joke). With the rampant state of salmonella in this country, we’re just going to go ahead and skip that one entirely. But here are some far less risky ways to brew a perfect cup of cowboy coffee. Fine grounds are recommended.

Clean Cup Method – You’ll need a cloth coffee sock, cheesecloth, or bandana. Boil water. Remove from heat. Place coffee grounds inside the cloth and then place in kettle. Return to low heat to steep.

Sink Down Method – Heat a kettle of water until boiling. Remove from heat and dump coffee grounds in. Return to low heat and simmer. The coffee grounds should start to sink to the bottom after a few minutes. If they don’t, drizzle some cold water on top to help them sink to the bottom.

Scoop Top Method – Heat a kettle of water until boiling. Remove from heat and dump coffee grounds in. Return to low heat and simmer. With a spoon, skim the coffee grounds off the surface.

Libra portable pourover coffee for camping

3.) Single Serving Pour-Overs

The next step up from instant coffee and cowboy coffee (at least in terms of ease of use) are single serving pour-overs. These are a relatively new type of product designed specifically for campers. Since the grounds are kept separate from the water, clean up is a lot easier. While you’ll have to pack out both the paper filter and the wet grounds, you’ll have a cup of coffee that tastes a lot closer to a typical pour-over. For something that comes in a small, lightweight package, single serve pour overs can be a very appealing alternative to instant coffee.

Ideal Use: Backpacking, bikepacking, and people who want to save space and reduce weight, but can’t or won’t go full instant coffee.

Method: Single serving pour overs consist of a paper frame and pouch that is filled with coffee grounds. The frame is expanded and placed over the top of your cup. You then pour boiling water through the pouch like pour over. Remove and enjoy.


Libra Coffee Pourtables

Libra Coffee is a mission-based company based out of Oceanside, California. For every premium, small-batch pourtable coffee packet they sell, $1 goes toward a water filter for people living without clean drinking water. Each filter has the power to provide clean drinking water to 100 people for 5 years. We’ve tried their coffee, we love it, and we’ll certainly raise our cup to the good work they’re doing.
Check price: Amazon


Kuju Pocket Pour Over

Another impressive start-up that offers quality coffee in a simple, easy, packable. Founded by two Eagle Scout brothers, for every purchase of a Pocket Pour Over Kuju donates 1% of sales to the National Park Foundation. We have also tried Kuju and loved it as well.
Compare prices REI // Amazon


Overland Coffee Company

We met founder and master roaster Angel Orozco at summer Outdoor Retailer 2017, where he was debuting his new line of adventure inspired coffee. In addition to their other coffee blends, Overland Coffee Company offers vacuum sealed and nitro flushed single serving pour overs designed to start your overland adventure off right.
Learn More at Overland Coffee Comapny

GSI Pourover Camp Coffee Maker

4.) Pour-Over Stand

If “easy of use” is less important than “cost per use” then you can also go with a non-disposable pour over stand. The pour over stands found in coffee shops are often made from ceramic, but there are many lightweight and compact pour over stands designed specifically for campers.

Ideal Use: Serious coffee drinkers (or people who want to be perceived as serious coffee drinkers). Good for groups of about 2-4 people.

Method: Using either a paper or cloth filter, fill with coffee grounds and place over your cup. Heat your water until nearly boiling and then slowly pour into the filter in a circular motion. A kettle that can pour a smooth, steady stream of water without dribbling is critical for pour over. While serious baristas use fancy gooseneck kettles to control the flow of water, we can’t say enough good things about our GSI kettle. Small, compact, and not a single dribble.

Suggestions:


GSI Ultralight Java Drip

We have been really impressed by this lightweight and compact pour over stand. It comes with a nylon reusable filter but is also compatible with paper filters as well.
Compare prices REI // Amazon


GSI Collapsible Java Drip

While slightly heavier than the ultralight stand, this is still a really compact pour over stand.
Check price Amazon


Kalita Wave Dripper

If you want to go full backcountry barista, this metal pour over cup from Japan is known for making an exceptional cup of coffee easy and accessible to anyone.
Check price Amazon

How to Make Camp Coffee with an AeroPress

5.) AeroPress

The one and only. A combination between a pour over, French press, and a pneumatic press, the Aeropress is an innovative brew method that delivers incredibly rich and smooth coffee. It compresses the grounds into a small puck, making cleanup a cinch. During our yearlong road trip, this was how we made coffee every morning.

Ideal Use: Car camping, VanLife, and RVs or backpackers really dedicated to their coffee. Good for groups of 2-4 people.

Method: There are two different ways to use the AeroPress. Either way, you’ll want to use fine espresso grounds.

Top Down – Insert the filter, place base over your cup, dump coffee grounds into the base, drizzle a little bit of hot water to degas the grounds, then fill to the top. Water will start to slowly drip out the bottom into your cup. Wait for about 10-15 seconds, then depress the plunger. This method is similar to a pour over, but with the addition of the plunger as a press.

Inverted – Place plunger on a flat surface facing up. Place the back of the base on top of the plunger and insert slightly. Dump grounds into the base, drizzle hot water to degas, fill compartment, and wait. The Aeropress is now functioning like a French press. Attach the filter to the top and place your cup upside down on top of the filter, and then carefully flip the Aeropress and cup over. Depress plunger.


Aeropress

Perhaps our favorite way to make coffee while camping. The Aeropress is the best way to make exceptional tasting coffee with minimal clean up afterwards.
Check price: Amazon


Metal Filters

The Aeropress comes with a million paper filters, but once you’ve gone through all of those, you can pick up these reusable metal filters to reduce waste.
Check price: Amazon

Moka Pot - Camping Stovetop Espresso Maker

6.) Moka Pot

If you like strong Italian style coffee then the Moka Pot might be for you. This stovetop espresso maker produces powerful Italian style coffee, which can be enjoyed on their own or combined with hot water to make an Americano. The Moka pot comes with a built-in metal filter basket, so you’ll never need to worry about buying or throwing away paper filters.

Ideal Use: Any camper who wants to experience the peppy bravado that only a shot of genuine Italian espresso can imbue.

Method: A moka pot consists of three parts: the bottom reservoir, the metal filter in the middle, and the serving carafe at the top. Water is placed in the bottom and the grounds are packed into the middle filter. When placed over a stove, the water boils, steams up through the grounds, and collects in the top carafe.

Suggestions:


Bialetti Moka Pot

The original Moka pot, Bialetti a variety of sizes – ranging from a tiny single cup model to a gigantic 12-cup model. They are made from lightweight aluminum, which is can be plus or a negative for some people.
Check price: Amazon


Cuisinox Roma Stainless Moka Pot

This moka pot is expensive. But a lot of people have switched over from the Bialetti to this Cuisinox citing a desire for a quality stainless steel moka pot. Is it worth it? We have no idea.
Check price: Amazon

GSI java Press Camp Coffee Maker

7.) French Press

While many people enjoy the simplicity of a French press, the typical glass carafe is a not really designed for the rough and tumble life of camping. Thankfully, there a lot of more durable models on the market. French press is great for making a lot of coffee, but it does use a lot more (coarse) grounds than other methods.

Ideal Use: Car campers, Vanlife, RV, and anyone else who enjoys a simple brew method that produces rich tasting coffee.

Method: Dump coarse coffee grounds into the bottom, drizzle a little bit of hot water to degas, fill the container with hot water, stir, wait, and depress the plunger.

Suggestions:


GSI Java Press

We recently picked up this model to test and have really been enjoying it. It’s a plastic shatterproof carafe wrapped in a thermally insulating nylon sheath. Smooth pour, quality metal mesh filter. Overall we are very satisfied.
Compare prices: Amazon // REI


SterlingPro Insulated French Press

We haven’t used this one, but we’re intrigued by the double wall vacuum insulation that would keep our coffee hotter for longer. That, plus everyone loves it on Amazon.
Check price: Amazon

Jetboil Coffee Maker

8.) Cook Systems with French Press Attachments

Many integrated cook systems like Jetboil, MSR, and Biolite now offer French press plungers. These plungers are designed to work with these rapid hot water makers, reducing the amount of gear you need to carry. The only problem is that most of these cook systems are intended for the backcountry, but French press style coffee (which uses a lot of grounds and can be difficult to clean) is better suited for front country use.

Ideal Use: If you already use your integrated cook system in the front country to rapidly make hot water (which we often do). Or you really really like French press style coffee that you don’t mind the extra work of making it in the backcountry.

Suggestions:


Jetboil Flash Cooker

We have a Jetboil cup that connects to our Eureka two burner stove via satellite burner, which makes this a very convenient solution.
Compare prices: Amazon // REI


MSR Windburner

This stove is awesome in windy conditions. We brewed coffee using the Windburner during a hike gone awry in Utah. Despite sleet and wind, this stove had no problems boiling water in just a few minutes.
Compare prices: Amazon // REI


BioLite Coffee Press

While it’s intended for backcountry use, we more frequently use this stove in the front country. The Kettle Pot and Coffee Press attachment have come in handy when making a lot of coffee.
Compare prices: Amazon // Biolite // REI

Camp Percolator by GSI - How to Make Coffee While Camping

Image courtesy of GSI Outdoors

9.) Percolator

The good old fashioned percolator has been a go to for camp coffee drinkers for generations. A metal tube runs up into a metal basket filled with coffee grounds. As the water boils, it percolates up the tube and into the basket. This method is great at making lots of strong coffee over a camp stove or campfire.

Ideal Use: Car camping, vanlife, RV. Making coffee like your father. Making coffee like your father’s father. Good for small and large groups.

Method: Fill kettle with water, place a paper filter in the basket (our just use the metal filter), fill with grounds, and boil until ready. Most percolators come with a glass/plastic viewing bubble at the top so you can see when the coffee is the correct color.

Suggestions:
The biggest gripe we’ve seen on the internet is that they just don’t make percolators like they use to. But here are few quality options still out there.


Farberware Yosemite Percolator

Rave reviews on Amazon
Check price: Amazon


GSI Glacier Percolator

Another highly rated option.
Check price: Amazon

Caveman Coffee Cold Brew Concentrate

10.) Cold Brew Extract

Summer camping can get pretty hot. And it’s hard to think about drinking a piping cup of coffee when it’s 80+ degrees outside. The answer: cold brew coffee! While carrying a full jug of cold brew out to a campsite might be a little cumbersome, a small bottle of concentrated cold brew will allow you to make plenty for you and your fellow campers.

Ideal Use: Car camping, Vanlifers, RVing, and anybody else who has access to a cooler of ice.

Method: While the instructions may vary based on concentrated strength, the general idea is to add 1 part concentrate to 3 parts water. Thrown in some ice cubes and you’re in business.

Suggestions:


Caveman Cold Brew

We’ve tried Caveman’s cold brew concentrate and it tasted just like a cold brew from a 3rd wave coffee shop. It also comes in a durable aluminum bottle, so it can handle the rough and tumble camp life.
Check price: Caveman Coffee


Bizzy Cold Brew

Need a quick shot of cold brew espresso? Bizzy is USDA Certified Organic cold brew coffee that comes in a 100% recyclable, BPA-free quick shot bottle. It’s about the size and shape of a 5 Hour Energy but tastes like something you’d actually want to drink. (coffee!)
Check price: Amazon


Trader Joe’s Cold Brew

While not as tasty as the more artisanal roasters, Trader Joe’s makes a damn fine cold brew concentrate that’s a bit more economical

The Bripe Coffee Pipe - A Unique way to make espresso while camping or hiking

Image courtesy of Bripe

11.) Bripe

By far the most UNUSUAL way of making coffee – well, a more like a shot of espresso to be more exact. This is a brand new product that we had the opportunity to try out at Winter Outdoor Retailer 2017. It basically functions like a pipe, which brews a small shot of espresso in a compartment at the end. Small, compact, and lightweight, once you get over the how bizarre it looks, it’s actually a pretty smart solution.

Ideal use: Somebody on the go who wants a quick pick-me-up, but who is also willing to answer a lot of questions from everyone around them.

Method: Place the grounds and water into the cup of the pipe, boil the water using a lighter or stove top, then sip through the attached straw when at a safe temperature (thermometer included).


Bripe Coffee Brew Pipe Kit

The Bripe Coffee Brew Pipe Kit has got everything you need to start. Join the Bripe lifestyle.
Check price: Amazon

The Wacaco Minipresso - Compact, handheld espresso maker for camping

Image courtesy of Hugo Cailleton

12). Portable Espresso

Portable hand powered espresso makers are all the rage these days. It unites people’s combined love of coffee, the outdoors, and new fancy gadgets. If you like espresso shots, then this type of coffee maker might be up your alley.

Ideal Use: Car camping, Vanlife, RVs.

Method: While exact instructions vary model to model, the general idea is that fine coffee grounds are packed into one compartment and hot water is added to another compartment. An integrated hand pump is then used to build up pressure, which allows you to “pull a shot”.

Suggestions:


MiniPresso Espresso Maker

We haven’t used this model in particular, but it gets very positive reviews on Amazon. We’ve used another brand, that we won’t name here, but it rhymes with RandPresso….and we weren’t crazy about it. Anyways, we’ve read that a lot of people have switched over from it to the MiniPresso and they been very happy with it.
Check price: Amazon

OXX Coffee Maker

Image courtesy of Oxx

13.) OXX Coffeeboxx

Finally, the most over-the-top option when it comes to camp coffee has to be the OXX Coffeeboxx. It’s basically the industrial hard hat version of a Keurig. Crushproof, spill proof, impact and water resistant, this indestructible coffee maker produces a great cup of coffee at the push of a button.

Ideal Use: RVers, EarthRoamers, Tailgates, the craft service table on a Ford F-150 commercial, or anywhere else you have access to a 120v wall power outlet.

Method: Fill up the water tank. Put a K-cup in in the slot (They even sell reusable pods so you don’t have to use actual K-cups). Push button. Coffee.


OXX Coffeebox

While the OXX Coffeebox is a little excessive for most recreational weekend campers, if we were building out a Sprinter van we’re not saying we wouldn’t take a look at it.
Check price: Amazon

What’s your go-to method for making coffee in the great outdoors? Let us know about it in the comments!

Fresh Off the Grid

Fresh Off the Grid is a culinary resource for the outdoor community. We offer a collection of recipes, how-to guides, and camp cooking gear to help elevate your outdoor experience through food and drink!

25 Comments

  1. Why in the world would you want to trek your used coffee grounds out of the wild? Coffee grounds are not trash or anything foreign to the wilderness, forest or grassy fields. Coffee is a natural mix for soil. In the home front many use to airate and fertilize their special plants. This is one item that does not need to return to the source unless you are dumping the grounds on top of a picnic table or a parking lot. Just about any ground will surfice for mixing with your grounds.

    • Milo, we totally get it that coffee grounds are compostable and can easily be re-integrated into the soil. If we were making coffee in our backyard, the grounds would go in the hedges. But there are a few reasons why we'd suggest packing out while backpacking. 1.) In a lot of the designated wilderness areas in the western US, it's required you pack out all waste. 2.) Not all environments are equally suited for soil compositing: fragile alpine meadows, arid deserts, rocky summits. 3.) The strong smell of coffee can attract animals, which trains them to check backpackers sites for food. So while soil composting might works in some circumstances, we tend to err on the side of caution.

  2. Haha this is great! I loved the little bripe! We mostly use a French press in our Skoolie. But in the woods I think instant is the way to go. If you live out there long enough it starts to taste like real coffee.

  3. Good article, so far I've just used the coffee press with my JetBoil Zip and a No4 coffee from Aldi and it was very easy to make and tasted good

  4. Where is the original travel espresso maker Handpresso?

    • We had one of their models a couple of years back, and we weren't super crazy about it. Perhaps they've made some improvements since. We'll have to try them again.

  5. You can cold brew your own if you think to start it the day before. So good and smooth!

  6. Starbucks instant packets work just fine for this simple family! Sipping while looking at the lake! Camping is an escape for us.

  7. We use a Dripolator. Best coffee we ever had

  8. I love this post! I had no idea about all of these methods to make coffee and it's ceirtainly interesting! I was wondering which one of them did you like the most? I can think of a few method for different occasions but I think I will always prefer the pour over stand for camping (seriously coffee drinker and all that).

  9. Vavv. İts a great article. Thanks a lot.

  10. Really nice! Enjoyed reading with a feeling of flavor and aroma of the coffee.

  11. Amazing article especially for those who can't spend a single day without coffee.Lots of ways to brew coffee.Choose one which best suits you.Thank you for providing us with such information.

  12. Great article! Can't wait to try this!

  13. Amazing article indeed. I am a huge coffee lover and I also have a barista experience in the past. I have to say it is quite hard to spend a full day with no coffee. And that doesn't happen in the Netherlands. As Portuguese I though it was on my blood, but Dutch are impressive with coffee!

  14. What a wonderful share! One thing I dread when I go camping is not being able to have a good cup of coffee. Don't get me wrong, it is incredible to wake up to the great outdoors and the sounds of nature, but even better to wake up and have a warm coffee on campsite in that setting. The OXX box is SO COOL, but I've gotta say the classic Cowboy style is my fave. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Great post! Have nice day ! :) immrl

  16. Ooof, I can almost smell the coffee from the photos!

  17. Great article on the different types of coffee that could be brewed. I read this article because I have a similar one about Cowboy Coffee and wanted to see if I left out anything important but you covered most of the base that I had with some additions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *