I remember, when I was very young, taking camping trips with my grandparents in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California. And every morning, before daybreak, I remember my grandfather brewing his morning cup in an old enamel percolator over his ancient Coleman gas stove. To this day I can still faintly smell that delicious aroma that permeated the campsite as we’d crawl sleepily out of our tents.
The camping percolator is your grandparents’ camping coffee method. And similar to the times in which they lived, it has the propensity to be somewhat dry and bitter, especially when not executed properly. However, camping percolators can render a very rich hearty camp coffee that one day even your own grandchildren will remember fondly.
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Selecting the Best Coffee Percolator for Camping
There are three main types of coffee percolators for camping:
Enamelware Camping Percolators
When you picture a camping percolator, it’s likely your mind envisions an old speckled blue or red Enamelware pot. Enamelware camping percolators have been around for ages, and infuse that nostalgic ambiance into the daily process of making coffee at camp. However, they’re not as durable as newer stainless steel options – they can stain when making coffee over a campfire and the enamel coating has a tendency to chip easily.
The GSI Outdoors Enamelware Camping Percolator* is our favorite in this category, as it comes in a variety of classic color combinations with an 8 cup capacity that’s plenty for a couple to enjoy while camping.
Aluminum Camping Percolators
Using an aluminum coffee percolator for camping is a bit of a mixed bag; they are generally lighter weight, more budget-friendly, and heat more easily when compared to Enamelware and Stainless Steel options. However their durability falls somewhere in between, and they’re prone to dents.
With that said, if you’re looking for an inexpensive camping percolator this Texport 9 cup aluminum* model will fit the bill.
Stainless Steel Camping Percolators
Stainless coffee percolators are great for camping because they are more robust than Enamelware or aluminum options, and also heat more evenly.
Here are our three favorite stainless steel camping percolators ordered by capacity, so you can select one that’s the right size for the group you’ll be camping with:
The GSI Glacier stainless camping percolator is made of heavy-duty 18/8 stainless steel and features a silicone handle that makes handling it while hot easier than other models.
The Colletti Butte stainless percolator for camping is also made of 18/8 heavy gauge stainless steel and it’s 14 cup capacity is great for big families (or severely caffeine addicted couples). Plus they offer a lifetime replacement guarantee!
If you’re camping with a big group, the 28 cup GSI Glacier stainless camping percolator is one of the best ways to ensure everyone at camp gets a fresh cup of coffee in the morning.
How to Use a Camping Percolator to Make Delicious Camping Coffee
Mastering the art of using a coffee percolator for camping can be done in these few easy steps, just be sure to always use high-quality whole-bean coffee, grind the coffee shortly beforehand, and never boil your coffee:
Your preferred coarse ground coffee – we’ve used the Porlex Mini Grinder* for years to grind our coffee fresh while camping)
A good Camping Coffee Mug
Camping Percolator Disc Filters* (optional)
Heat Source – a campfire’s hot coals can be used to make percolator camping coffee, but we recommend a traditional camping stove (like Grandpa’s old Coleman gas stove*) for heat consistency
How to make Percolator Camping Coffee:
Remove the camping percolator apparatus (consisting of the siphon, grounds basket, and grounds basket lid) and fill with the pot with cold water
Reinsert the percolator apparatus
Optional: You can wet and insert a disc filter into the bottom of the grounds basket at this point if you wish
Fill the grounds basket with coarse ground coffee (we recommend 1 heaping tablespoon per cup of water), install the grounds basket cover, and close the lid – making sure to align the siphon stem with the sight-glass
Apply medium-heat until the first eruption of water through the siphon is visible in the sight-glass (it’s very important not to allow the coffee to boil, which will impart a nasty bitter taste to the coffee)
Decrease heat (or remove from the fire) and let it sputter and brew to your liking – we’ve found that 10 minutes is a good brew time with this method
Once brewed to your liking, open the lid and remove the percolator apparatus CAREFULLY as it will be hot!
Allow a couple minutes for any grounds in the coffee to settle, then pour and enjoy! Best served with a smoldering campfire, bacon, and eggs – just like grandpa and grandma used to make!
How to Clean Your Camping Percolator
Cleaning up is the least fun part of using a coffee percolator for camping, but it’s a small price to pay for that delicious camp coffee – so roll up your sleeves, follow these steps, and you’ll be done in no time.
Dispose of the used coffee grounds (and disc filter if you choose to use one) by dumping the grounds basket into the trash
Disassemble the percolator apparatus (siphon, grounds basket, and basket cover), and wash all parts along with the pot with mild biodegradable camping dish soap* in your camp sink (if you don’t have one, check out our Complete Guide to Portable Camp Sinks for help selecting one that’s right for you)
Allow your camping percolator to fully air dry prior to reassembling and storing it until the next time you need a cup of delicious percolator camping coffee!
Now grab your camping percolator, head for the outdoors, and enjoy a well deserved cup of coffee around the campfire! If you find that using a coffee percolator for camping doesn’t work for you, be sure to check out these 7 Ways To Make Incredible Camping Coffee.
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