Beans Beans, The Magical Fruit...
It's no surprise that great beans make great coffee. What is surprising is how easy it is to grind great beans even in the middle of a wilderness hike. Whatever your roast type (light, medium, dark, etc.) a big key to great beans is how they are ground. Beans that are pre-ground loose their flavor, finer notes, and boldness. In other words, pre-ground beans just don't make good coffee. Pre-ground beans have often been sitting on store shelves for months, and even with the modern vacuum packaging available today, it's just not the same as grinding your own beans. So, if you only do one thing to upgrade your coffee experience during your camping or hiking trip, grind your own beans and grind them immediately before brewing.
There are two main kinds of bean grinders in common use - blade grinders and burr grinders. Some have suspected that burr grinder work best in cold weather camping due to their name (burr, shiver, cold...), but they really do work well in all weather conditions. In fact, burr grinders tend to be superior to blade grinders on a number of levels. A blade grinder simply slices the bean in a very chaotic manner. This causes the bean particles to shatter into many inconsistent sizes. Why does that matter, you ask? Well, the problem tends to be that it is nearly impossible to repeatedly craft a great cup of coffee with grounds that are not of uniform size. On the other hand, the burr coffee bean grinder is designed to crush the beans, a few at a time. This helps the grounds to achieve a very controlled and consistent particle size. Burr grinders typically allow for coffee aficionados to achieve exactly the grind size they are looking for on a very consistent basis. So, whether it's summer or winter, get a burr grinder! You will appreciate it. A camping burr coffee grinder will pay huge dividends for your coffee experience...and you can even use it at home when you aren't camping.
To Drip, or Not to Drip...
There are quite a few ways to get hot (or cold) water to flow through coffee grounds into your coffee mug. Most require gravity to do the work (drip) or some kind of pressure (usually your own elbow grease). There are many opinions on what makes the best cup of joe during a camping trip, so experimentation is highly advised. One suggestion is to consider the Aloc Gooseneck Coffee Percolator. The unique gooseneck design draws from the best of the drip and pressure worlds. Start with water in the bottom of the coffee maker. Then insert the filter and add the grounds on top. Close the lid, and insert the goose neck. Place the entire unit on your camping stove or on the camp fire until it boils. The water pressure will increase, pushing through the grounds above, and then eventually through the gooseneck pipe out into your eagerly awaiting coffee mug. The quantity of coffee that is made with one batch is not much, but unless you like your coffee very strong, you will likely want to add extra hot water. Cleanup of the unit is fairly simple, and it disassembles easily into a compact carrying bag.
Make It Frothy
If you really want to go the extra mile and bring your glamping coffee experience to the next level, consider a manual milk frother. The best cafes frequently make their coffee visually appealing by adding frothy milk designs to the top of the cup. These can range from star shapes to unusual animals. The milk also magnifies the taste of the coffee. You probably won't have access to a fancy electrical milk frothing machine out in the woods, but the good news is a manual frother can do the job just fine. Again, elbow grease is required, but still produces a great end result.
So remember, Burr grinder, reverse percolator, and froth can give you that great cup of joe that you need first thing in the morning on any camping trip. It may take slightly more work to get that great coffee experience than it would at home, but it's worth it. After all, enjoy yourself out in the woods. That's why you are there in the first place.
-- Have other suggestions for a great cup of camping coffee? Leave your comments below.