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Sep 22, 2016 02:54PM

Camp coffee: Brewing a good cup in the great outdoors

By Todd Welvaert
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Todd Welvaert / Radish
Looking to brew a cup of coffee in the great outdoors? You have plenty of options for what to use.
One of the best things about being outdoors is the great pleasure you get to take in the small things. The once banal routine of a morning cup of coffee becomes an exquisite journey of the senses, the routine becomes a worship.

In our time outside, we've spent a lot of time finding out what works well — and more importantly, what doesn't work at all — and have narrowed the field to three contenders that make a good brew, whether you're car camping, bike touring or backpacking.

No matter how we're camping, two items always come with us: a small, easy-to-operate stove, and a small ceramic burr grinder.

Grinding your own beans is a bit of an extravagance on the trail, but it gives you something to do while the water gets hot. The Hario grinder we use comes from Japan, and if you get past the questionable instructions, it does a great job. You can set the size of the grind by loosening and adjusting a nut on the grinder. It has a glass jar to catch the grind, and runs about $30.

Another grinder that scores high marks comes from Prolex, which has a metal catch and costs about $55, but it packs a little better for those going light on the trail.

We use a small Tangria alcohol stove. These things are about the size of a hockey puck, nestled with their stands. It will burn just about anything from mineral spirits to Isopropol alcohol or white gas. The downside is you don't have much control over temperature, but I find this true of most camp stoves.

I like the Tangria because it is so simple to use. The stove and pan rest will set you back about $20. Add a stainless steel kettle, some clean water, and you are ready to start making coffee.

Aero Press
The Aero Press is a favorite because of the quality of the brew, ease of cleanup, and it packs and travels well. However, it isn't the most portable. It uses two plastic tubes, one with a plunger and the other with a small plastic cap that holds a paper filter. You put coffee in the tube with the filter and cap, fill it with hot water and press the other tube to make a pressed coffee similar to an espresso. I fill the rest of my cup with hot water for something that tastes pretty close to an Americano.

To clean it, all you do is give it a rinse after pushing the coffee puck and filter off the end of the tube.

The Aero Press runs about $30. The one downside is that it only makes one cup of coffee at a time, which could be a drawback if you are not on a solo trip. It does make it fast, however — 30 to 60 seconds of brew time is plenty.

French Press
We bought an older GSI stainless steel French press model that has served us very well in terms of good coffee. It makes about two large cups in one go, and it keeps it hot because the decanter is insulated.

The biggest issue with the French press is the coffee residue that makes it past the filter and screen. Cleanup also is difficult and is easiest with running water.

It makes a great cup of coffee, however, and is often our pick when we are car camping since we aren't concerned with the size of our maker, and we know that we'll have access to running water.

You can pick up a French press for about $30.

Snow Peak Pour Over
The Snow Peak Pour Over maker is a clear winner when it comes to portability, is a cinch to clean up, and a provides a pretty good cup of coffee. It does take a No. 2 sized paper coffee filter, but will make more than one cup at a time, which can be handy.

The filter folds flat, just a little bigger than a deck of cards. It costs about $25, and fits over a camp mug with ease.

Todd Welvaert is a regular Radish contributor.

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