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How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Coffee With a Campfire Percolator

how to brew coffee with a campfire percolator

Nothing wakes you up better in the morning than the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Whether you are at home or camping in the wilderness, a hot cup of coffee is a great way to start the day.

Although a weekend of camping may mean leaving behind many luxuries, coffee does not have to be one of them. With a campfire percolator, you can quickly and easily make a fresh, strong cup of coffee over the campfire!

Unlike many other camping coffee options, such as instant coffee or pour-over coffee, the campfire percolator guarantees an authentic, strong brew every time.

What Is a Campfire Percolator?

A campfire percolator is a coffee pot that uses the process of heating water to push the water up and through your coffee beans several times, creating the perfect brew. Percolators do not require electricity to function, and as their name suggests, they can be used on a campfire, making them ideal for camping and hiking adventures.

In order to understand how a percolator works, it is essential to know its various components. 

Your campfire percolator has three important parts:

  1. The pot which holds the water and coffee;
  2. The metal tube and a perforated basket where the coffee grounds are placed;
  3. The glass or plastic viewing screen on the lid of the pot, which shows the color of the coffee so that you can tell when it is done. It is important to note that not all percolators have viewing screens. 

When the water in your pot boils, it gets sent up through the metal tube into the perforated basket where it passes through the grinds and out through the perforated holes. The water, now coffee, goes back into the pot and cycles through this process several times resulting in strong, aromatic hot coffee.

Campfire percolators work in a similar fashion to Moka pots, except that Moka pots have separate compartments for the boiling water and the ready coffee, whereas campfire percolators have only one compartment where the boiling water gradually becomes ready coffee.

An advantage to percolators is that they can also be used on stovetops, meaning you can use your campfire percolator at home too! 

Using Your Campfire Percolator Is Very Easy, Simply Follow These Few Steps!

You will need:

  • Campfire percolator made from heat resistant material
  • Coarsely ground coffee beans
  • Heat source: camping stoves are easiest, but if you do not have one your coffee can be made on hot coals or on a metal rack over a burning fire. 

We recommend using a high quality stainless steel percolator like this one by Coletti. It’s made out of stainless steel, is specifically designed for campfire use, and can brew up to 14 cups of coffee.

  1. Prepare your heating source. If you are using a camping stove, set the heat to medium-high. If you are using hot coals, create a flat surface on the coals where you can place your percolator so that it will not tip over. For a burning fire, place a metal grill/rack over the fire such that the flames are coming up right under the rack.  
  2. Remove the metal tube and attached basket from the pot.
  3. Fill the pot with water up until the “fill” line. Make sure to know how many cups capacity your percolator holds so that you can use the appropriate amount of coffee beans.
  4. Place the metal tube and basket into the pot, and fill the basket with your coarse ground coffee beans. Use one heaping tablespoon of coffee for every cup of water. If you prefer stronger coffee, use two tablespoons of coffee per cup of water.
  5. Place the percolator on your camp stove, hot coals, or on the metal rack over your campfire.
  6. Watch your percolator closely. Once you start to see brown liquid splashing in the viewing screen, lower the heat of your camp stove or move the percolator to the outside of your campfire. If your percolator does not have a viewing screen, listen for the sound of boiling water. As soon as you see or hear evidence of boiling, remove the percolator and place it into a lower heat area. Do not overheat your coffee as it will burn, giving it an unpleasant taste! Be careful when removing the percolator as the handle may have heated up and can easily burn you if you are not careful.
  7. Leave the percolator in the low heat for 10 to 15 minutes to continue percolating. During this time your coffee will be circulating through the coffee beans repeatedly, increasing in strength. Observe the change in the coffee’s color through the viewing screen. Once it reaches the desired darkness, remove it from the heat. 
  8. Pour yourself a tasty cup of fresh coffee and enjoy!

Once you’ve finished enjoying your perfectly brewed cup of coffee, clean your percolator by disposing of your coffee beans in the compost, and cleaning the percolator as best as you can. 

Fine-tuning for the perfect cup of coffee may take a few attempts. Depending on how you like your coffee, you may have to adjust the amount of coffee grounds and the time you leave it to percolate. With your campfire percolator, a high-quality cup of coffee is always guaranteed! 

Grinding the Perfect Coffee Beans for Your Campfire Percolator

Another challenge when making coffee in the wilderness is grinding your coffee beans. As most coffee fanatics agree, freshly ground coffee tastes the best. Unfortunately, most coffee grinders require electricity, making grinding of the coffee right before brewing it hard. 

Here are a few options to consider: 

  • Buying pre-ground coffee beans. Although their freshness will not be optimal, this will save you time and effort. Choose a more coarsely ground coffee for optimal results.
  • Pre-grind your favorite coffee beans at home. To avoid losing freshness and flavor, seal your ground coffee in a sealing plastic bag to protect it from moisture and air.   
  • Use a hand grinder with your coffee beans right brewing. This will take more effort and time in the morning of, but will ensure you have the freshest and most flavorful cup of coffee possible!

Note: If you are using finely ground coffee beans, you may find that your coffee grounds are mixing into your brew. This can be very unpleasant and ruin your coffee experience. Luckily, it can be easily fixed by purchasing coffee filters that fit your percolator’s basket. The filter paper will prevent the coffee grounds from escaping through the basket’s perforations and going into your brew. Coffee filters can also help reduce the oil and cholesterol in your brew if this is a concern for you.

Choosing the Right Campfire Percolator for You

Nowadays you can find a wide selection of campfire percolators in stores and on the internet. However, like many other items, not all percolators are created equal. Before purchasing your campfire percolator, consider the following:

  • What is your heat source? If you are cooking on the campfire directly, make sure you purchase a percolator that does not contain plastic, wood, or glass parts. Ideally, your campfire percolator will be made from heat-resistant metal. Aluminum and stainless steel percolators are recommended. If using a camp stove, percolators with plastic and wood parts can be used.
  • How many cups of coffee would you like to make? Coffee percolators come in all sizes, so make sure to purchase the right size for the number of coffee cups you want to make.
  • How important is durability? Aluminum and stainless steel percolators are light and easy to carry, as well as less likely to break, compared to percolators with plastic and glass parts. Specially coated percolators, such as enamel-coated percolators, help protect the steel making them very durable and long-lasting.
  • Does the percolator have a viewing screen? Especially for beginners, or people who have not used a percolator before, purchasing a campfire percolator with a viewing screen can help. The viewing screen allows you to see when the water has started to boil so that you do not overcook and burn your coffee, and it helps you judge when the coffee is ready by easily viewing its color.

Why Is a Campfire Percolator Better Than Other Options?

Of course, the campfire percolator is not the only method for brewing a cup of coffee when camping, although it is one of the best. Other brewing options include:

  • Instant coffee: Although super convenient and easy to make, instant coffee does not have an authentic, fresh taste.
  • Pour-over coffee: As with instant coffee, pour-over coffee is easy to make, but largely lacks in flavor as water is only passed over the coffee grounds once.
  • Moka pot: Providing equally high-quality coffee as the campfire percolator, the Moka pot is great to use, except it cannot be used on an open campfire flame making it much less versatile.
  • French press: Easy to use, the French press is a good option for people who do not want strong coffee. To achieve the same strength of coffee, your French press will need to soak for a very long time, making it less appealing than the campfire percolator.

The campfire percolator truly is the most versatile and easy-to-use method when camping, allowing for strong, fresh coffee to be brewed without difficulty. With its classic rustic look, your campfire percolator will be the perfect addition to your wilderness morning routine.

Final Thoughts

Nothing feels better than starting your morning hike with a refreshing cup of hot coffee.

Brewing the perfect pot of coffee with a percolator can sound like a daunting task at first, but is actually pretty simple once you get the hang of it.

Just because you are camping, does not mean you have to sacrifice the quality and taste of your morning coffee!

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