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The 5 Best Ways to Brew Coffee Outdoors – How to Make Camp Coffee

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If you’ve been following Terradrift for any length of time, you know how we feel about coffee. (We really, really love it.) And while we have our preferred methods of making it at home, the best ways to brew coffee outdoors sometimes look a little different. Mostly because we don’t have access to things like electricity, induction cooktops and a ton of space in our backpacks. But fear not! There are still many ways to prepare a stellar cup of coffee when you’re camping or backpacking. Watch the video to get the full run-down, then read on for a breakdown of weight and ease-of-use. Drink up!

Brew Coffee Outdoors - How to Make Camp Coffee biolite kettlepot
BioLite Kettlepot

5 Ways to Brew Coffee Outdoors

  • Biolite Kettlepot with Coffee Press: We like a good French press–it lets us really taste the oils and depth of flavors in the coffee. This one’s best for camping with a group of people, though. It’s a bit large and heavy for backpacking. But the CampStove it integrates with is super awesome (read our Sustainability Spotlight with this eco-conscious company here).
  • Sea 2 Summit X-Brew Coffee Dripper: Use this collapsible pour-over device with or without a paper filter. There’s a little metal mesh screen in there, but we recommend a paper filter for a stronger cuppa and easy cleanup.
  • Aeropress Go: For a stronger, more espresso-like cup, the Aeropress Go makes up to three shots at a time, to which you can add water for an Americano-style serving if you so desire. It handily packs up in an easy-to-go package.
  • GSI Mini Espresso: For the strongest coffee we’ve ever enjoyed outdoors, the GSI Mini Espresso maker is available in 1-cup and 4-cup varieties and very closely resembles A Bialetti Moka pot espresso maker in form and function, but is lighter and built for the outdoors.
  • Summit Coffee Instant Single-Origin Coffee: Instant is rarely palatable (you may know this if you saw our review of storebought instant coffees), but a staple of ultralight backpackers. So if you’re gonna drink instant, upgrade to a better formula. This one from the East Coast tastes waaay better than the stuff from the coffee aisle at Kroger.
Brew Coffee Outdoors - How to Make Camp Coffee GSI mini espresso maker
GSI Mini Espresso

Our Favorite Coffee to Brew Outdoors, Ranked

  1. GSI Mini Espresso: We like our coffee dark and this is as dark and espresso-like as it gets. So it receives top honors in our book.
  2. Aeropress Go: The second darkest cup goes to the Aeropress, which makes it our second fave, cause we like it strong.
  3. Biolite CampStove 2 Bundle with French Press: Rich in flavor and best for a group of friends, this was a solid contender.
  4. Summit Coffee Instant Single-Origin Coffee: So much better than Starbucks instant (and makes an ounce more, too).
  5. Sea 2 Summit X-Brew Coffee Dripper: Yeah, this one came in last, but only because we like our coffee a little stronger. It’s still a quality option for a more traditional cup.
Brew Coffee Outdoors - How to Make Camp Coffee summit instant coffee
Summit Coffee Co. Instant Coffee

The Lightest Coffee Making Methods for Backpacking, Ranked

  1. Summit Coffee Instant Single-Origin Coffee: It’s instant. That means it weighs virtually nothing (about .35 oz per tube)
  2. Sea 2 Summit X-Brew Coffee Dripper: The collapsible filter weighs in at just 2.9 oz without a paper filter.
  3. Aeropress Go: At 5.5 oz (pared down to only the essentials) weight isn’t too big of an issue with this one.
  4. GSI Mini Espresso: Getting heavy! Without the protective case, this device is 10 oz.
  5. Biolite CampStove 2 Bundle with French Press: Heavy. Don’t take this backpacking (it’s best for car camping). But if you love French press coffee, there’s always the GSI Personal Java Press, which still weighs 10.7 oz.
aeropress go camp coffee
Aeropress Go

Post-Coffee Cleanup, Ranked

  1. Summit Coffee Instant Single-Origin Coffee: It’s instant. No cleanup required.
  2. Aeropress Go: Literally just pop out the puck and you’re done. And the round filter is tiny. Too easy.
  3. GSI Mini Espresso: Let it cool for a few minutes, then disassemble and dump out the puck. It’ll take a little rinsing, but not much.
  4. Sea 2 Summit X-Brew Coffee Dripper: It’ll take some rinsing if you forgo a paper filter. But easy cleanup if you do use one!
  5. Biolite CampStove 2 Bundle with French Press: This one takes a lot of rinsing, another reason it’s best for car-camping where there’s running water nearby.
sea to summit x-brew camp coffee
Sea 2 Summit X-Brew

Leave No Trace (Pack it In, Pack it Out)

But what are you supposed to do with coffee grounds after you’ve imbibed your fill from your favorite coffee-making device? That depends. If car camping, there are likely trashcans nearby. Toss your grounds and filters in there and rinse your device in a utility sink if it’s available (or under a spigot–that’s usually fine). If, however, you’re backpacking or camping in the backcountry with no garbage bags or running water, disposing of coffee waste can be a little trickier.

If you’re packin’ instant, congratulations: All you have to do is pack out the trash. For any other methods, disposal will depend on your surroundings. If you’re in a forested area or wilderness where you can easily dig a cat hole (a 6″-8″ hole usually used for toileting purposes…) then the general consensus is that it’s OK to dump your coffee grounds in that. You should, however, pack out any paper filters used as they will take a while to break down, especially if an animal digs it up after you vacate the premises.

Another disposal option that’s generally viewed as acceptable is to scatter your grounds over a large area. This is best done in a forested setting where clumps of coffee grounds won’t be visible to other people on the trail (after all, we all want to feel like the only person who’s walked the trail that day). Grounds scattered over rock or desert are not only an eyesore but attract animals. If you are in rocky or deserty terrain, dump your grounds into a plastic bag (leave it open for a while to give them a chance to dry out if you can) and pack them out. In fact, packing out your grounds is never a bad idea and suggested by many outdoor pros.

Remember, the general rule of thumb is to leave no trace that you were ever there to begin with.

The 5 Best Ways to Brew Coffee Outdoors: Bottom Line

Sure, we can share our favorite ways to brew coffee outdoors while camping or backpacking, but it really comes down to taste, doesn’t it? Everyone has their own preference when it comes to our beloved caffeine bean, but we hope we offered a few ideas, a few new methods to try, and some guidance to help you make your perfect cup. And if we missed your favorite (don’t say it’s cowboy coffee…) let us know in the comments below! So drink up. And wander on.

Want more coffee-related ideas? Watch us make a full-blown cappuccino at the campground in this video, check out our review of the Pact Coffee portable coffee kit, and see our comparison of two portable espresso makers.

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