Time to camp. For me spring turkey hunting and fishing are the excuses I have given already this year for spending time around the campfire with friends and family at some of our state parks and recreation areas. During these early season trips the aromas of camp are a simple pleasure that add to the experience. The smell of a warm campfire at night, the bouquet of hearty meals being cooked and the deep nasal therapy of camp coffee brewing on a chilly morning.
Camp coffee is an interesting paradox. Even among stout coffee-converts the liquid of camp life can be both revered and reviled. The reasons for this are varied, but it all percolates down to preparation. This beverage of the wild must be handled properly. Do it correctly and you are rewarded with something that gives life new meaning. Cheat it and you will end up with a foul something that requires chewing, spitting and sometimes even bad language.
As with any good food item you must start with the proper tools and ingredients. The equipment I rely heavily on is the standard camp stove and a good camp percolator, the kind with the basket-filter innards. My suggestion is to avoid coffee pots whose parts rattle loosely around inside as well as those that do not have a clear dome (knob) on top that allow you to see how things are progressing. As for ingredients remember that good coffee can only come from good ingredients. Clean water and fresh, coarsely ground coffee are the ticket. I prefer to grind my own coffee which allows me to keep the grounds large enough not to slip through the holes in the pot’s metal basket. Oftentimes I will use the in-store, adjustable grinders several area grocers have available. Be aware that most of the pre-ground coffee you buy at the store are made for drip-style coffee makers that use paper filters and are ground too finely for camp percolators. Unless you like to chew your coffee I would avoid them here.
Now to the fun part. Grab the coffee pot, take the innards out, fill pot with the desired amount of water – avoid overfilling – place on stove and light the fire. While you wait for the water to boil place your fresh ground coffee into the basket – the amount depends how strong you like your coffee. I usually just dump some in. I have read elsewhere to use anywhere from 1-2 tablespoons per cup, which you can adjust to your liking on future brews. For a better perc make sure the grounds are rather evenly distributed in the basket.
Once the water is boiling, reduce heat to a healthy simmer and carefully place all innards back where they belong. The percolating should start darn near immediately and you will be able to watch the progress as the clear liquid begins to darken. The length of time you allow to percolate is again dependent on the strength of coffee you are trying to achieve. However, I have found no reason to leave my 6-cup pot on the stove much past the 8 minute mark. I have heard it suggested that you let the pot sit for about a minute prior to pouring to make sure the coffee is done brewing. However, I have consistently violated this guideline.
Now take hold of your favorite camp mug and carefully pour some of the beautifully, aromatic dark liquid from the very hot pot. I avoid pouring too deeply as any grounds that slipped through will be resting at the bottom. Now, sit back and watch that steam roll off this nectar you have created before enjoying your first sip. Aaaaahhh…
If you find your coffee is too strong, reduce the amount of coffee used or the length of percolation in future endeavors. If too weak, do the reverse. Bitter coffee is usually a sign of percolating too fast – reducing the heat is often the cure, though letting the pot sit too long over heat will cause the same result.
It’s just that simple. And in camping simple usually means more fun and extended opportunity to hunt, fish, relax…whatever…