How to Use a Camping Percolator

How to Use a Camping Percolator

Camping is one of the most fun outdoor excursions that people can do. One downside to camping is that you cannot bring certain home appliances and objects like that fancy coffee maker that makes your coffee the way you like it.

If you love your coffee, you would still need a great cup of coffee to start your day on the right foot. Although you can’t bring your fancy coffee maker for the camping trip, you can make a great cup of joe with a camping percolator. In this article, I will tell you how to use a camping percolator.

What Is a Camping Coffee Percolator, and How Does It Work?

Using a camping coffee percolator is one of the most common methods people use to make coffee outdoors. A percolator is one of the oldest coffee makers that makes great coffee. There are two types of coffee percolators you can bring to the wild with you, the traditional gravity percolator or the pressure percolator.

How to Use a Camping Percolator

The traditional gravity coffee percolator has two main parts, the outside shell that resembles a regular coffee pot and the coffee basket with a tube in the middle.

It works by repeatedly passing boiled water through coffee grounds to extract the flavor. The way this works is that the water inside the pot is heated and rises through the tube into the coffee basket. The water then pours through the coffee grounds and back into the lower pot, extracting the coffee in the process. This process is repeated over and over, until the desired brew is achieved.

The pressure coffee percolator, on the other hand, works a little bit differently but it is almost the same concept. It has three parts: the water chamber or the pressure chamber, the coffee bed, and the coffee pot. This coffee maker uses pressure to push heated water through the grounds and extract coffee in the process.

How To Make Coffee Using a Camping Percolator

If you want to make a great cup of coffee, you need to know how to use the percolator correctly. Before we look at how to make a great cup of coffee with a percolator, let’s outline the things you will need.

You need a camping coffee percolator. You can find a decent model on the market depending on your preferences.


The other thing you need is a heat source to brew the coffee such as a campfire or a camping stove. You will also need water and coffee grounds. If you want coffee without coffee grounds or sludge at the bottom, you will need some disk coffee filters for the gravity camping coffee percolator.

Once you have all the items in this list, it’s time to get brewing. Here are things to keep in mind if you want to make a great cup of coffee.

Heat Control

Whether you use the pressure coffee percolator or the gravity one, heat control is important if you want to make a great cup that’s not bitter. It’s crucial that you use moderate heat.

Ideally, the heat should be hot enough to percolate the coffee. If it’s too hot, the water will boil too quickly and not much coffee will be extracted.

Reduce the heat to a simmer when the water starts to boil, especially if you are using a gravity percolator.

When you are using a camping stove as opposed to a campfire, it’s fairly easy to control the heat. The problem comes when you are using the open campfire. One way you can solve this issue is by bringing a grill rack with you. You can raise the rack higher over the fire when you want to reduce the heat or lower it to increase the heat.

Boiling the water before adding it to the pot will ensure you don’t end up with bitter coffee. What most people don’t realize is as you are heating the water and bringing it to boil, you are also heating coffee in the percolator in the process.

The probability of scorching the coffee and making the pot of coffee bitter is high.

The Amount of Water to Add to The Percolator

When using a coffee percolator, it’s hard to brew a cup of coffee as the water might not be enough to percolate through the heated coffee.

If you want a good cup of joe, you will likely make two or more cups. Measure water according to the cups of coffee you need for everyone drinking. Remember to leave a little room for the water to boil. If you fill the pot, it is going to boil over and cause a mess.

The Kind of Coffee

If you want to make great coffee outdoors, the quality of the coffee has to be good. You might have good coffee from a particular brand of coffee beans or grounds at home, but it will be hard replicating the same thing in the wild.

Another thing that people forget to consider when making coffee with a camping percolator is the texture of the grind. When you are grinding coffee to be brewed over a percolator, you want it to be coarse.

If you grind your coffee too fine or grind it espresso-style, you will most likely end up with bitter coffee due to over-extraction.

Time to Cook The Coffee

There is no specific time for how long you should brew the coffee or what determines how long you should have the percolator on the fire. If you like your coffee strong, then you should leave it on the fire for longer.

To get this right, watch the percolator until it starts to percolate. If you use pre-boiled water, it would be a shorter time. After this, reduce the heat and let the coffee just simmer.

If you are using the gravity coffee percolator, look out for the color of the coffee. The darker it gets, the stronger it will be. Take the percolator off the fire when the coffee gets to your desired strength level.

Amount of Coffee To Put in The Percolator

This will depend on the amount of coffee you want to make and the strength of the coffee you want. It can be anywhere from 1 teaspoon for every cup to two teaspoons per cup, depending on how strong you like your coffee.

Size of Percolator

When you are buying a camping percolator, think of the amount of coffee you will need to make when you are outdoors and buy one suitable for the amount of people drinking. The size is determined by the group you go camping with.

The standard size of coffee percolators is 32 ounces of coffee, but you can get one with a capacity of up to 64 ounces.


Making coffee in the wild may not produce the same results as when you are using your advanced coffee maker back home. This is why you go a little further and bring some light condiments to improve the coffee flavor.

You can add sugar, cream, milk, honey, or anything else you like with your coffee.

How to Use a Gravity Percolator

With all these things considered, here are the steps you should follow to make coffee at the camping site using a gravity percolator.

How to Use a Camping Percolator

Step 1: Boil enough water for the amount of coffee you need

As I explained earlier, having boiled water ready when you add the coffee grounds in the percolator reduces the chances of scorching the coffee. Measure the right amount of water for everyone and bring it to a boil. You can still use the percolator, a pan, or a kettle to do this.

Step 2: Pour the water into the percolator and add coffee

After the water is boiled, pour it into the percolator and be careful not to burn yourself with the hot water.

If you want smooth coffee without grounds in it, pass it through a disk coffee filter to filter the coffee as it percolates into the water chamber. If you don’t have one, you can still pour the grounds in the coffee basket without it. Your coffee may not be so smooth, but it will still taste great.

Pour coffee grounds into the basket, depending on the amount of coffee you need. If you like your coffee strong, pour two tablespoons of coffee grounds per one cup of coffee. If you want it mild, one tablespoon per cup should be enough. Lower the coffee basket into the percolator and cover.

Step 3: Place The Percolator on Top of The Fire and Let The coffee Brew

When the water is hot, the coffee will start percolating from 5 minutes to 10 minutes, depending on how strong you want your coffee.

Remember that if you over brew the coffee, you will end up with a bitter pot. Instead of cooking the coffee for a long time and risking over-extraction, consider adding more coffee instead.

Step 4: Pour Yourself a Cup and Enjoy

You can add sweeteners like sugar, cream, or honey to enhance the flavor.

The first batch of coffee made with a camping percolator will likely not be your best cup, but this should not discourage you. You might need a bit of practice to get everything just right, and you have to be patient in the process. Keep practicing!

How to Make Coffee Using The Pressure Percolator or The Moka Pot

To make coffee using this kind of percolator, start by boiling water just like in the gravity percolator.

  1. Add the hot water to the water chamber. Remember to hold the chamber with a towel because it will be hot
  2. Add coffee to the coffee bed, and don’t press it. Put it in the water chamber
  3. Screw the coffee pot in place and put the percolator on the heat source to let your coffee percolate thoroughly
  4. When you start to hear a gurgling sound, your pot of coffee is ready.
  5. Remove the pot from the fire, and run water over the water chamber to cool the water and stop the brewing process.
  6. Pour yourself a cup and enjoy

This is how to make delicious coffee in the wild with a camping percolator. What if you don’t have a coffee percolator, and it’s time for you to pack for the trip anyway? What other alternatives do you have? Below are additional ways you can make great coffee in the wild.

Alternative Methods to Make Coffee in The Wild Without a Camping Percolator

The Cowboy Coffee

The cowboy coffee brewing method is another way you can enjoy coffee in the wild. It’s camping friendly because you don’t need to bring any special coffee-making equipment and make your luggage unnecessarily bulky. You will only need a pot, coffee grounds, and water.

To make the coffee, heat up water in a pot until it’s about to boil.

Add your coffee grounds into the pot, depending on the amount of coffee you want to make. A spoonful of coffee grounds for each cup is a good ratio.

Bring the mixture to a boil and let it continue boiling for about 5 minutes to extract the coffee and bring out its flavor.

Turn down the heat, and let the coffee grounds settle to the bottom of the pot to serve.

It’s as easy as that.

Instant coffee

Most people don’t like the idea of instant coffee at all. I’m one of those people, but if I’m faced with going through my day without coffee or using instant coffee, I would have instant coffee.

It is also pretty convenient for when camping outdoors as all you need to do is pack enough sachets for everyone, and you won’t have to bring other coffee-making accessories. When you are backpacking and every ounce of weight you pack matters, instant coffee is not such a bad idea.

To make the coffee, boil some water, put in a cup, and then add the instant coffee. This simple method allows you to have a cup of coffee to start your day.

The Drip Cone

The drip cone is one of the oldest methods of making coffee. If you are going car camping, this is a perfect alternative to pack to a coffee percolator because it’s easier to make coffee this way.

You will only need coffee filters and a cone to prepare a cup of coffee.

You make the coffee by first boiling water, add a paper coffee filter in the drip cone, and set a cup under it to collect the coffee. Pour coffee grounds into the coffee filter over the hot water, and let gravity do the rest of the work. In 1 to 3 minutes, your coffee will be ready, and you can go ahead and enjoy your cup.

The one downside to using a drip cone in the wild is that it’s not suitable for a group of people. You will need a lot of time to make a large amount of coffee as it can only brew one cup at a time. It’s also a lot of work changing the filter every time you make a fresh cup of coffee. If you are making coffee for two people, this method would work just fine.

French Press

When going car camping, a french press is another coffee maker that does not take up much space and will give you delicious coffee.

Ideal for a group camping trip, it’s the simplest way to make a large amount of coffee.

All you need to bring is ground coffee, the french press, and a pot to boil water for the coffee.

Making coffee with a French press is simple too. Measure a good amount of coffee based on the number of people you are serving. Usually, one spoon of coffee grounds per cup is enough unless you want it stronger.

Add boiling water to the French press and give it about 5 minutes to brew and extract flavor from the grounds. The coffee grounds will be steeped by then. Press the plunger down to filter out any grounds that are still floating around and serve.

When you are grinding coffee beans for a French press, remember to keep the grind coarse. If the grounds steep well, you will end up with smooth coffee.

How to Use a Camping Percolator

Did you know you can froth milk using a French press too? This is a trick that allows you to enjoy a latte in the wild without fancy appliances.

Start by heating milk from 100 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit and pour the milk into the french press. Ideally, not more than a third of the french press.

Put the plunger back into the french press, and pump the plunger up and down repeatedly and quickly for about 30 seconds. Your milk will almost triple in volume, pour some in your cup of coffee and enjoy it.

Coffee Bags

For most of us, the idea of tea in a bag is pretty common, but we are just not used to coffee bags. It is an idea that is catching on, and you can find a couple of brands selling coffee this way.

If you don’t want to have instant coffee when you are camping or if you don’t want to bring bulky coffee appliances, coffee in a bag is a good middle ground. It’s also ideal if you are going backpacking and don’t have much space for a percolator.

The best way to brew coffee in a bag is pretty much like how you brew a cup of tea with a tea bag. Pour hot water in a cup, add the coffee, let it brew to your desired strength, and enjoy.

Single Serve Pour Over Coffee

Like the coffee in a bag, the single serve pour over coffee idea is gaining traction. This is coffee grounds in small pouches that pack easily, just like coffee bags.

The difference is, rather than steeping them, these pouches open to some kind of coffee filter and you can brew your coffee using the drip method.

You brew coffee by opening up the pouch to form some sort of a filter and then hooking it up to the sides of your mug. Pour boiled water into the coffee by starting at the middle outwards, just like how you brew coffee using the filter in the drip method.

Pour the water in small amounts to extract the most flavor from the coffee. Remove the pocket and enjoy your cup of coffee.

Portable Espressos

Coffee lovers will go a long way to find new and innovative ways to enjoy their coffee anywhere. This is great because that is how we end up with wonderful inventions like portable espresso coffee makers. If you love espresso shots and would want to enjoy one in the wild, you can get yourself one of these devices online.

Depending on your preferences, you can get a manual one or one that requires some sort of power, and you can enjoy your espresso anywhere you are.


Outdoor adventures are always a fun way to take a break from your regular routine and reset yourselves. A big downside to spending time in the wild is that you cannot bring everything you need with you. The best you can do is pack simple items that replicate the comfort of your home as closely as possible without creating logistical problems.

If you want to have the best coffee that replicates a cup of homemade coffee, a camping coffee percolator is the closest option. If you can’t find one, any of the alternatives will do just fine. Just pick one that is most suitable for your situation.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *