Instead of camping over the Easter long weekend as planned, thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown we're writing about camping instead. Such is life!
If you're like most people, a daily coffee is not exactly a matter of life or death - its much more than that. In Australia, we are spoilt with a generally high standard of coffee in comparison to most other countries in the world (prove us wrong?). If we are getting out in the great outdoors, its unlikely you'll have a quality caffeine dealer nearby, so you'll need to invest in your own portable set up. Now just because it's not from a proper machine, doesn't mean it has to lack some sort of cafe quality. From our outdoor adventure experience, we've listed four methods of making that essential morning cup when you're out bush.
The Aeropress Coffee Maker is arguably the most popular choice of modern mobile coffee maker out there. Think of it as a modern French Press, that steps up the game with its user friendly design, faster brewing times and ease of cleaning - all of which are vital features when making camping coffee. They are known for their robust near 'unbreakable' structure, meaning you can potentially get thousands of coffees over multiple years of use.
They do however contain a number of components that are required to make the brew, so it is one of the more bulky options out there. They do also require the use of a paper micro filter for each brew, but you are provided with 350 of them when you purchase the kit. You are also somewhat limited in its 'one cup at a time' capacity, so keep that in mind if you are responsible for making morning brews for the herd.
Cost: One of these will set you back about $50 from Alternative Brewing.
2. Moka Pot Percolator [OUR PICK]
Whilst the coffee percolation concept isn't exactly new (with origins potentially back to 1810), we really feel its the best means of portable coffee making currently in the market. It just ticks all the boxes - good quality coffee, fast brewing, ease of use and ease of cleaning. The key to a good tasting cup of percolated coffee is using the right grind of bean. Some trial and error experiments are necessary here to come up with the winning formula to suit your taste preferences.
Its 'all in one' feature is also attractive, as its not essential to preheat the water in an external reciprocal (i.e. a billy pot) to heat the water. The percolator can simply sits straight onto your source of heat, and immediately get to work.
Cost: You can pick up a 3-Cup Moka Pot Percolator from Myer for $49.95, which matches the price of the Aeropress above.
It is easy to unintentionally create bitter tasting coffee with a percolator, so heres some steps to avoid it:
1. Preheat the water (to just off the boil) before pouring it into the pot section. This will expedite brewing time and leave the coffee less vulnerable to bitterness. Heating cold water in the percolator will also heat the coffee itself, which is a contributor to bitter espresso.
2. Ensure you have the coarseness of the grind right. If you have your own grinder experiment with different levels of grind until you have one that suits your taste. With the Moka Pot brewing, a reasonably course grind is required - not quite as course as what you'd use in a French press, but certainly no where near as fine as an espresso grind.
3. Keep the device as clean as possible. Old residual grinds from previous brews may lead to bitterness.
3. French Press
Yes the classic French Press is still getting a lease of life today. And for good reason, its been providing a solid cups of home-made coffee since the 1800s.
Like the other two methods above, you will require pre-ground coffee that has the right level of course to suit your taste. Again, trial and error with different grinds at home to work this out.
The downside for these contraptions is that they require pretty comprehensive cleaning afterwards, which isn't ideal for the outdoor environment if we're honest.
Cost: You can pick up an Ovela French Press from Kogan for $39.95.
Bonus Tip: Pick a more robust stainless steel unit, as glass will be too fragile for outdoor use.
4. Traditional Instant
We've listed three methods of making coffee above that are far better than the good old Blend 43, but if you insist on going down the lazy-man's path of instant coffee, just make sure you invest in a decent brand. Thats all we ask! If you are an instant coffee snob, some of the packet-latte/cappuccino sticks aren't actually too bad these days - just don't expect that much desired caffeine hit. You will still need a water heating reciprocal for this and obviously a source of heat. There are bonus points here as you will have less to wash up, but we think that cleaning a press or percolator is a small price to pay for a quality brew.
Source of Heat
For that true authentic camping experience, nothing can beat boiling a billy in a fully stoked campfire. But if thats a stretch too far, or if theres a total fire ban, a simple butane hiking stove will do the job nicely to get your water boiling and your morning coffee brewing.
Self explanatory, and a necessary tool for almost all of the methods above. Get one you can use on on a gas stove, but also works safely in a campfire. Something like this from BCF will do the trick nicely.
Pre-Ground Coffee/Portable Grinder
Theres a few different ways to go about getting your grind on. If you don't have your own electronic grinder at home, your only real option is to buy pre-ground beans. You can pick these up from any mainstream supermarket if you have to, however the quality tends to be pretty poor across the board, which is likely down to the short shelf life of the ground beans. You are far better off going straight to the coffee roaster or even a cafe that sells beans direct, both of which can usually grind them for you on the spot, which will maximise the freshness.
If you can, invest in a proper electronic grinder, which gives you full adjustment of the coarseness of the bean. We've been running a basic Sunbeam Burr grinder in the office for the last 4 years, which gives consistent results and wide range of grind settings. This way you'll be able to pre-grind the exact amount of coffee you'll need for your trip just before leaving. An alternative of course is to invest in a portable hand grinder, such as the Burr Grinder from Coffee Culture. They are compact, and will obviously achieve the freshest possible grind. An added bonus is that it can be used for grinding herbs and spices!
Bonus Tip: What brand of coffee beans do we recommend? You can't go wrong with local Brisbane based roast houses such as Neighbourhood, Fonzie Abbott & Wolff. Don't live in Brisbane? No worries, they all sell via online stores.
Psst: There are plenty more ways to make a bush cuppa - pour-over methods, coffee bags, proper percolators - there is a method out there to suit everyones preferences and ambition.
Thanks for reading!