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How to Make a Great Cup of Coffee in the Backcountry

Coffee in the Backcountry

Overview

When I wake up in the morning, I like to jumpstart my day with a delicious cup of coffee. For me, it is a satisfying ritual on many levels. I love everything about coffee, from the aroma to the flavor, and perhaps best of all, the focused and energetic feeling of a good caffeine buzz.

At home, I have tried a variety of brewing methods and as of late, my favorite way is to grind superior quality beans and pour hot water (about 205°F) over the grounds, using a BOCHA Tea Kettle with a gooseneck spout and a Hario V60 Coffee Dripper. The combo is easy to use and even easier to clean.

In the backcountry, your coffee resources are limited to what you carry on your back. As a result, many people skimp on their coffee experience and take Starbucks VIA packets or Nescafe. To be fair, you can’t beat the convenience of instant coffee, but is it worth sacrificing the deliciousness of a gourmet cup of fresh coffee? In my opinion, the answer is a resounding no.

As a wilderness backpacker, you make the extra effort to go further and see the best that nature has to offer. When you get up early to watch the sunrise light up that spectacular alpine cirque, you deserve a cup of coffee fit for kings. In this post, I will share my favorite method and the gear you need to make a great cup of coffee in the backcountry.

Tip: If you must drink instant coffee in the backcountry, consider Medaglia d’Oro for its superior flavor.

Coffee in the Backcountry - Graphic

Preparation

In order to make next level coffee, you need to source high quality, whole beans and grind them as close to the time of consumption as possible. To find premium coffee beans, try a Google Search for “coffee roaster [your town]”.

The goal is to find sustainably sourced, fresh beans that were roasted on a recent date. In my experience, locally owned and operated coffee roasters give you the best chance of finding that. They also tend to have knowledgeable baristas that can make great suggestions based on your taste preferences.

If you live in a small town or rural area, you probably don’t have access to a place like this. In addition, coffee beans purchased from a local roaster can be somewhat costly. In this case, I recommend ordering a bag from Real Good Coffee Co, roasted fresh in Seattle.

Personally, I like to grind my beans and pack them in a Ziploc bag before setting out on a backpacking trip. I do this to save weight on the trail, but if you prefer to take one, try the GSI Outdoors Java Mill. It weighs only 9.3 oz.

Brewing

In the backcountry, there are numerous ways to boil water. For many years, I have used an MSR Pocket Rocket stove, fuel canister, and TOAKS Titanium Pot. The whole package weighs 15 oz and boils 1 liter of water in 3.5 minutes.

Recently, I was gifted the GSI Outdoors Ultralight Java Drip, a reusable coffee filter that weighs 0.4 oz and fits snugly underneath a standard fuel canister. This is the best tool I have found for brewing coffee in the backcountry. Why? Because it weighs next to nothing, clips onto just about any cup or mug, and allows you to make great pour over coffee in the middle of nowhere.

From my experimentation, I have found it works best with finely ground coffee, to keep the water from flowing through too fast. I like to use just enough water to cover the grounds at first, wait 15 seconds (to let the coffee bloom), then continue to replenish it to keep the beans saturated.

I understand that other backpackers use the AeroPress and lightweight French press coffeemakers to brew coffee in the backcountry. I can’t argue that those products make a solid cup of joe, but none of them are as light and compact as the Ultralight Java Drip, so it is the best solution in my book.

GSI Outdoors Ultralight Java Drip

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