Ever wondered why people love camping? It is the best and the most authentic way to experience the bounties of nature. Simple activities such as sleeping outdoors under a sky resplendent with stars or sitting around a campfire and enjoying with friends are things that get so naturally associated with camping. No wonder people across geographies and cultures have a common love for camping.
To make camping safe and comfortable, a few basic norms should be followed. Traveling light is one of them. Experienced campers and hikers typically carry only the bare necessities and nothing superfluous. But their list of essentials almost certainly includes a liberal amount of coffee to brew up a smoking hot cuppa.
Which camper would say no to a hot cup of coffee on a cold morning or evening while surviving in the wild? Sipping on a delicious cup of campfire coffee has its own charm. Coffee has somehow become the lifeline of not just camping, but virtually any outdoor adventure!
Coffee from a Percolator
It is nearly impossible to resist the bubbling sounds of coffee in a percolator. That is why smart campers usually prefer to carry along their own coffee percolator to brew up a full pot in a few minutes. Besides, seasoned coffee drinkers prefer the taste of a cup brewed in a percolator.
When placed correctly on a campfire, the taste of your cuppa gets enhanced too! If you have not acquired expertise in the art of camp-coffee-making yet, follow these simple tips and become a pro! It is time you mastered the art of some great coffee making while you go camping.
But before you do that, first you should know the basics of a percolator.
How does a Coffee Percolator Work?
To begin with, let us refresh our knowledge about how this super-efficient appliance exactly works. It is a pot used to brew coffee in continuous cycles of boiling. This very practical device is particularly popular among campers and adventurers because it has the ability to brew coffee without electricity. So you could say that it has an old school charm about it, which is anyway so rare these days.
Camping percolators need constant manual intervention and checking to get a perfect brew. Water is poured into the outer shell of the unit and the perforated film with coffee is dipped into the water. Once the water starts boiling, the coffee mix gradually blends into the water to produce a perfect brew in the pot. As most camping coffee percolators have a filter in the baskets to hold the coffee mix in place, they are not much different from regular home electric coffee makers.
Now that you have an idea of how a percolator works, here are some tips on how to brew the finest camping coffee using this simple device:
1. How to control your heat source (or the campfire)
Making coffee over a campfire can be somewhat of a daunting task. The fire can be too hot and hard to handle at times. Ensuring a good cup without a burnt or scorched coffee aftertaste will require some practice. The quick trick to brewing good coffee over a campfire is to keep the heat as low as possible. Control the fire with water or keep removing wood from the fire pit at brief intervals.
In order to percolate your coffee atop a live campfire, simply place your percolator unit on an adjustable campfire grill rack (these are easily available online and in provision stores). Position and adjust the grill rack to its highest setting in order to avoid scorching or causing the water to boil excessively and evaporate completely. Try to set up a small campfire so that you can control it when needed. That way your coffee will percolate perfectly.
Some campers prefer modern heating equipment over a traditional campfire. For instance, battery or fuel powered burners are quite popular these days. Using this equipment to brew your coffee is not a bad idea at all because these devices are pretty easy to control. They generate less heat unlike a big campfire (a large campfire will also mean you need to get more wood and it could also increase the chances of a forest fire popping up). But there is a small catch here. These devices might take a longer time to perfectly brew your coffee (well, you can talk about Transformers or Horrible Bosses or about a stellar book you are reading to soak up the time nicely). Whatever heating source you use, remember to keep the heat under control while you percolate your coffee mix outdoors.
2. Adding the right amount of water to your pot
You should always add just the right amount of water to your percolator for a perfect brew. Most of the standard sized percolators available in the market can hold about 4 to 8 cups of water. Make a note of the fact that 4 cups of coffee is more or less equal to 2 standard sized mugs.
Start by taking a small cup. Fill it and pour the water into the coffee pot according to the number of cups you plan to brew. For instance, if you want to brew coffee for three people, simply add six cups of water. Cook just the right amount to conserve your coffee mix for the rest of the camping trip. That way you will not consume your supplies too fast. If you have a good thermos that can store warm coffee so it lasts most of the day, feel free to brew more.
3. The brand of your coffee matters
Outdoor coffee brewing becomes all the most successful if you use a tremendous brand of coffee mix. Select a strong and flavorful coffee mix to have the best percolator coffee. Go with trusted and slightly exclusive qualities so the taste and aroma stay intact even after brewing.
In case you slightly over-brew, do not worry. It will still taste just fine! High-quality coffee mixtures and grounds come with excellent flavors. They should be used instead of cheaper varieties while percolating coffee. A cheap coffee mixture can get ruined when over boiled, and it might taste all the more unpalatable if it gets scorched.
When it comes to personal choices, all of us have our own favorite brand. Go with the flavor that gives you your personal best cuppa every morning. Your brand will not fail you when you brew a cup on a camp, in your percolator. Exclusive percolator brand coffee mixes are also available. Feel free to try them too for a new experience.
When you are out on a camping trip, you will surely love the morning, when you wake up to brew your hot pot of coffee on an open campfire. The experience itself is far different from a regular instant coffee that you force down on a brutal workday! Do not be skeptical and finicky about your cuppa. Open your senses and let the percolated coffee aroma sink into your soul.
4. The design of a percolator
The material design of your coffee percolator is paramount since it determines how smooth your pot coffee will taste. Common percolators are made of metal, and a majority of them are fairly sturdy and strong. Some of the best percolators are made up of titanium and iron. An alloy of these metals is powerful enough to withstand extreme campfire heat.
Another set of camping percolators is made of aluminum and chrome. These percolators are also highly temperature resistant. Be careful while you select a model and try to stay away from low-quality tin or thin aluminium camping percolators. They might not hold up well under extreme campfire heat.
Choose a design that is made up of durable material and is heavy and solid in build. Only then your coffee brewing pot can sustain extreme heat from below.
5. Cooking time
Most camping coffee percolators come with a booklet of instructions. Each model advises the user to stick to different cooking times. This is a brand-specific detail and might vary from one model to another. However, when a quality and durable camping coffee percolator is used, you can brew your mixture for roughly 15 minutes or until the lid starts to vibrate on a small and controlled campfire. The cooking time may vary from one heat source to another. (Note: Keep a strict watch on your percolator pot to prevent scorching or over boiling right away).
6. Amount of coffee mix or grounds
Do not fill your coffee mixture basket way too high with coffee grounds in your desire for a stronger flavor. That is not the secret to a good brew. Instead, stick to just enough coffee and follow the markers in the basket for a perfectly balanced and well-brewed cum matured taste. For instance, if you want three cups of coffee, add 3 to 6 teaspoonfuls of your coffee ground or mix. This is equivalent to 1 or 2 teaspoonfuls of instant coffee per cup.
7. Use a standard coffee cup
In case your percolator does not come with a measuring cup, use a standard cup to make all water measurements. A regular or standard 6-8 oz. cup works the best. It will never fail you as it will not throw you off your ability to brew a decent cuppa.
In case you have a large mug, you will have to make adjustments to the water and coffee grounds. A larger than life mug might spoil the flavor of your coffee brew. Make a lesser amount of brew if you plan to serve only 3 or 4 people.
8. The size of your percolator
In case you are not the type of a person who enjoys drinking too much coffee, do not go for a very large camping percolator pot. Most regular camping percolator pots can help you brew about 32 ounces of coffee, which is enough for 6 to 8 servings.
If you have a large group or you enjoy sipping on a lot of coffee all through the day, purchase a unit that can make about 64 ounces of coffee. Large sized pots will help you brew a lot more coffee in a similar amount of time for a bigger group of campers.
You can always store away the coffee in good thermos flasks for long hours to keep it warm. Remember, however, that larger pots are generally heavier and tough to manage and lug around while camping. You would also need a bigger campfire or heat source to brew up your mixture.
Some camping percolators have a cylindrical shape, while some others have a round body shape. It is always easier to transport a cylindrical camping percolator, as it is easy to pack and store them away with other equipment and supplies. Round pots occupy more space and are tough to pack in square boxes, particularly if they are large.
9. Removing coffee ground residue
The coffee mix holding basket is placed inside the water broth in your percolator. In some cases, the ground may slip through into your coffee brew. But it is an outdoor coffee after all, and it cannot be perfect, right? Wrong!
Re-strain the coffee with a strainer before serving it. This will filter all residual grounds and mixes. Some percolators come with an extra filter. In case your coffee pot does not have it, you can use a regular filter. You can also scoop out the extra grounds or cover the pot and swirl before you strain the brew. Floating grounds settle down to the bottom just with a swirl or by twirling the pot rapidly.
Gravity alongside the twirling motion will help unwanted residues to naturally settle down. Try to stick to a high-quality basket system and percolator model to avoid this discrepancy. It will save your time and effort too.
10. How strong do you want it?
In most camping coffee percolators, the instructions include coffee strength related details for campers. Most coffee units do not come with coffee grounds. So you are the best judge about the strength of your brew pot. Try to boost the strength of your coffee brew by boiling it a little over 20 minutes, or by boiling most of the water out. Turn off the heat or remove the percolator from the fire at the right moment before you risk ruining the taste of your coffee. Otherwise, it might end up becoming a thick sludge.
You do not want that! This is not oatmeal or clam chowder!
11. Observe the percolation
For a perfect brew, observe your percolator. While your mixture is brewing, remember to turn off the heat of your fresh-perked coffee on time. Only then you will get a smooth, rich, and deeply aromatic coffee. Observe the perking process for exact brew strength control, as per instructions in the model’s manual. If your percolator has a clear glass cover knob, you can easily observe the brew strength from time to time. As it is a non-electric camping model, do not hesitate to hold the insulated handle while observing.
12. Adding exotic condiments
Camping percolators can brew up some really strong coffee. Therefore, they generally do not need condiments. Yet, some people prefer a coffee with milk as they are not accustomed to black coffee. Others add cream, sugar, or other flavor enhancers to their beverage for a special taste. You can also do the same, but add the condiments to your liking in your cup and not directly into the percolator.
You may add flavor enhancers such as chocolate syrup or ready to use coffee liquors. Carry along small sachets or packs of these enhancers to boost your brew at the camp. In case you have refrigeration equipment, you may carry cream and milk too. Instead of milk, you may carry milk powder if you do not have refrigeration device. Milk might get spoiled without refrigeration, or it might spill in your bag.
You do not want that! Messes like spilled milk can attract ants and that is a credible nuisance!
13. Keep practicing!
Brewing coffee itself is an art and brewing it in a percolator is a level above that! But all you need is some practice to master the art of campfire coffee brewing in a metal percolator. Keep practicing your coffee brew recipe until you get it right. Do not agonize over the idea of this unique form of coffee preparation. Buy a new camp percolator instead of using an old one, if you are a first-timer. Practice with it on your grifirst-timerackyard. Once you become skilled at it, your camping group is going to love you for it.
Or they can just drink water! Hopefully, it is not soda – that is terrible for anyone!