Camp Coffee Connoisseur


September 29 is National Coffee Day!

When you’re camping, there is nothing quite like the smell of freshly brewed coffee in the morning. It’s one of the top reasons why campers crawl out of their sleeping bags in the morning. It ranks right up there with the warmth of a crackling campfire and the smell of bacon frying!

For coffee lovers, enjoying a good cup of coffee can make or break a weekend camping trip. However, between the single cup brewers for home and office, and having a Starbucks on every corner, many people don’t “make” coffee anymore. Then, when they go camping, and those luxuries are not available, they either go without (and we have to put up with their grumpiness) or they “settle” for instant coffee or a coffee tea bag.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to settle. You can brew a great cup of java in your camp kitchen. Here’s how to do it.

For equipment, you’ll need a camp stove and a coffee percolator. For the percolator, you’ll want one with a clear-glass percolator knob so you can see the coffee as it brews. Being able to see the coffee will help you decide when it is done. Your percolator will also include a metal basket with a spreader plate that sits on a metal straw (I’m not sure if it has an official name).

The basket for the grounds is not really a filter and you may occasionally get a few grounds in your coffee, but that doesn’t bother me. But if you’re bugged about those things, you could use separate disc-style filters or strain your coffee when you pour it.

How the percolator works is by forcing water up through the straw where it spurts out over the spreader plate and seeps through the coffee grounds. (see diagram)

Coffee_Percolator_Cutaway_DiagramNow for the ingredients. You’ll want to start with good beans, medium ground. Either purchase your favorite coffee beans already ground or buy them whole and grind them yourself at home. Either way, store the ground coffee in an airtight container and bring more than you expect to consume because coffee always tastes better in the great outdoors.

Fill the coffee pot with water. It is important that the water level is below the bottom of the basket.

Before loading your coffee into the basket, wet the inside of the basket to help prevent grounds from going through the holes. Scoop the coffee into the basket (do not pack it in), set the plate on the basket, and insert the entire assembly into the coffee pot. Put the lid on the coffee pot and set it to flame.

Once it starts to boil, turn the heat down. Brewed coffee left on high heat for too long will acquire a bitter taste. Keep an eye on the coffee bubbling up into the clear-glass percolator knob. Coffee is ready when it’s a nice rich brown to your liking.


My red coffee pot (pictured below) holds 48 ounces or 6 cups of water (pot filled to the bottom of the bottom hole of the pour spout). To the basket, I add ¾ cup coffee grounds (6 scoops). This makes 8 (6 ounce) cups.


And don’t forget to pack the coffee extras like sugar and creamer for those of us who prefer our coffee on the blonder side. I love all the flavored creamers available today. My favorite is Hershey’s Chocolate Caramel by International Delight. Last summer, on our 50-mile bike trip, a friend of mine brought a chocolate chip cookie dough flavored creamer and it was yummy. If you don’t want to keep it refrigerated, there are many tasty flavored coffee creamers in powdered form.

In addition to coffee fixin’s, remember to pack a good supply of hot chocolate, apple cider, tang, and a variety of teas for the non-coffee drinkers. For a great Russian tea recipe, see my blog post “Russian Tea is a Tangy Beverage Hot or Cold.”

Now you have a reason to crawl out of that sleeping bag in the morning. And the rule in camp is: First one up starts the coffee.

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Russian Tea is a Tangy Beverage Hot or Cold

russian_teaWhen I was growing up, my mother drank a lot of Russian tea. She had her own recipe that, over the years, she had tweaked to her liking. I remember the kitchen always having that spicy citrus smell.

Russian tea combines tea, lemonade, orange drink mix, sugar, cinnamon and cloves for a tangy beverage that can be drank hot or iced. It makes a great morning get-you-up-and-moving hot beverage or ice it for an afternoon pick-me-up. Kids like it also.

I mix my own and keep a container of the mix in my camp pantry food tote along with coffee makings, tea, hot cocoa, apple cider, tang and lemonade mix. Here’s the recipe:

1 cup instant tea powder

2 cups powdered orange-flavored drink mix (Tang)

3 ounces powdered lemonade mix

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cloves

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix thoroughly. The powders have slightly different “weights” so some want to settle near the top and others want to settle near the bottom. Also, you need to mix carefully. With all the powders, it wants to cloud up and before you know it your kitchen will be covered in a fine Russian tea dust. After an initial stirring, I move the mix into a large container and start shaking. I found that holding the container on its side and giving it a rolling shake (like the motion of your clothes dryer) works really well.

Store your mix in an airtight container. This mix will make about 40 servings.

To use, mix 3 to 4 tablespoons of mix with 1 cup hot or cold water.

This is a great addition to your camp pantry.

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15 Ways to Spice or Spike Your Hot Cocoa

hot-chocolate-chaiToday, December 12, is National Cocoa Day and we couldn’t go camping without a supply of hot cocoa in our food tote. Not much beats it on a crisp spring morning or a chilly fall evening. Even in the middle of July, the kids love to start the day with a cup of hot cocoa. I usually throw a shot of coffee in mine and a little hazelnut creamer or—wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

How do you like to spice up your hot cocoa? Below is a list of all the possibilities we could think of (some for everyone and some just for adults).

Marshmallows have to top the list, but did you know they make flavored marshmallows? We’ve seen chocolate and strawberry flavored, but there may be others.

Melt a Candy Cane or an Andes Mint in your hot cocoa for a minty twist.

Stir in some Caramel sauce.

Add a dash of Cinnamon.

Add some Almond Extract or Vanilla Extract.

Mash up a bit of Banana. It might make for some chunks and floaties but you can spoon those out and eat them!

How about using Coconut Milk?

Melt some Peanut Butter in your hot cocoa.

Add a flavored creamer, like Hazelnut or melt some Nutella in your hot cocoa.

Melt in some White Chocolate or, if you make your hot cocoa from scratch, use white chocolate instead of regular chocolate.

And, hot chocolate isn’t just for kids. For the adults in the crowd, try adding a shot of Amaretto or Bailey’s Irish Cream or Kahlua to your hot cocoa. Makes a perfect nite cap at the evening campfire.

We hope you’ll give some of these a try and have some fun experimenting (says my inner evil mad scientist). And, feel free to mix and match. For example, add coconut milk and almond extract and you’ll have Almond Joy Cocoa! My sister likes to make her cocoa using white chocolate and amaretto.

So did we miss anything? Celebrate National Cocoa Day and please share your own crazy concoctions in the Comments.

Categories: Beverages, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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