How to Use a Camping Percolator

camping Percolator

A coffee percolator is a pot used for making coffee by allowing the boiling, or almost boiling, brew to cycle continually until it reaches the preferred color or taste. You may have seen one before, but do you know how to use a camping percolator? 

What They Look Like

To learn how to use a camping percolator, you first need to understand what it is. A coffee percolator is a pot with two partitions. The lower partition sits over the fire.

A vertical tube connects this partition with the top of the percolator. Below the upper end of the tube is a punctured partition that holds the ground coffee.

camping Percolator

image source: via Kyle Peyton

Camping and Coffee

Brewing over a campfire is not like brewing over a stove. Even though making coffee outdoors can be a challenge, though, it is not an impossibility.

There is nothing more enjoyable for a camping vacation than a mug of piping hot coffee. All of a sudden, life on the tracks becomes easier, and the stimulus you receive from the caffeine gives you the energy to start your day. 

woman drinking coffee

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However, there is no way you can enjoy your coffee on the trails if you don't know how to use a percolator in the camp. There are many quick tips on how you can use a coffee percolator to prepare a tasty cup of coffee while outdoorsn.

Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Use a Camping Percolator

In our introduction, we mentioned the parts of a camp percolator. In the following section, we shall discuss how they operate:

Controlling Your Heat Source

A campfire is usually very hot, and trying to make a good cup of coffee over without causing scorching is very challenging. The secret to blending good coffee over a campfire is to know how to use a camping percolator over a small amount of heat. When you want to brew coffee over a campfire, you can place the camp coffee percolator on an adjustable grill rack.

Be sure to place it on the highest point to avoid burning the coffee or making the water evaporate too fast. You can also make a small campfire for blending your coffee.

The other option for brewing a good cup of coffee is to make a campfire and let the wood burn until it breaks up into coals. Prepare a coal bed and dig a small hole about 6 inches (15 cm) deep and 12 inches (30 cm) across by the fire. Using a shovel, move the hot burning coals to the hole.

Some people use modern heating equipment such as batteries or burners that are fuel-powered. This is recommended, as they will generate controlled heat as compared to campfires. But, the most important thing to remember is to control any fire when brewing coffee in the wild.

coffee percolator, mug and cellphone on a table

Image via Pixnio

Adding Water to your Unit

For you to brew enough coffee, you need to understand how to use a camping percolator to measure the right amount of water. Some coffee percolators have their own measurements to guide you on the water level, while others will require pre-measuring.

Around 6 oz (180 ml) of water should be adequate to prepare one cup of coffee. Just put as much water as you need depending on how many cups you plan on drinking.

Your Coffee Brand Matters

If you desire a good cup of coffee at your campsite, choose a good brand of coffee. Selecting a high quality coffee flavor is beneficial when camping because it will be harder to ruin the taste if your preparation is off. There are even certain brands that have been made only for use with a camping coffee percolator.

Percolator Material

A percolator will work faster or slower depending on the material it is made from. Most percolators are made of metal. The better percolators are made from titanium and iron, as these two metals cope well in extreme heat.

The average ones are made of aluminum and chrome and can survive high temperatures. Lower quality percolators do not survive high temperatures for long and should be avoided. You should avoid tin percolators, as they often do not give the right results.

Cooking Time

Different brands of camping coffee percolator have different instructions for cooking times. In order to make a good cup of coffee using a camping coffee percolator, a person must brew their coffee for around 15 minutes or until the lid starts to percolate.

It's important to remember that the actual cooking time may vary due to differences in temperature and percolator design. Watch your coffee and check it when the color starts to look right. You'll quickly get a feel for how long your percolator needs.

coffee mugs and percolator on a camp

Photo by Kevin Schmid on Unsplash

Watch for the Percolation

While the instruction manual can give you tips on how to use the camping coffee percolator by indicating the percolating time, the best way to know the time to percolate is by watching the pot.

Once you see the bubbling indicating percolation, you know your coffee is ready to drink. Some people prefer to turn the heat down and leave it to continue simmering for another 10-15 minutes.

Coffee Ground Volume

This is a matter of taste, but it can be anywhere from around two teaspoonfuls of ground coffee per cup or one teaspoonful per two cups of coffee. Add an extra tablespoon for the pot. 

Use a Standard Coffee Cup

When using a camping coffee percolator, a standard coffee cup (6-8 oz), comes in handy. A bigger sized cup will force you to change the amount of water and coffee grounds. This will probably ruin the taste of the coffee or produce fewer cups if there are over four people relying on the same pot.

The Size of Your Percolator

If you prefer drinking a lot of coffee, buy a large camping coffee percolator. Many camping percolator pots prepare around 32 ounces of coffee, but you can also get units that will make as much as 64 ounces. Larger sized pots cater to larger group of campers, but they will be heavier to carry around and take up valuable space for other gear. 

The design of a coffee percolator further influences its size. Cylinder shaped camping coffee percolators can be transported easily since they can be packed with other equipment and supplies; the rounder ones are harder to pack based on their size.

Adding Condiments to your Brew

Many people dislike drinking black coffee. Therefore, they add milk, creamer, sugar, or flavoring to the beverage.

Adding condiments to your coffee to enhance the flavor to your liking adds a great twist to the drinking experience. You can also add flavoring like chocolate syrup or coffee liquors. Just remember that anything you take to the camp site is another thing to carry; and liquids may spill.

Practice Makes Perfect

To learn how to use the camping coffee percolator, you must practice with it until you get it right. You can try making coffee outdoors on your grill or on a fire pit if you have one in your backyard. If you can master how to prepare coffee with your pot, you will be the most popular person on your camping trips.

Choosing the Best Coffee Percolator Pot

Shopping for a camping coffee percolator is a daunting task because there are many brand names with each one of them claiming to be the best. Here's how to find the one that's right for you:

  • Read a lot of reviews as you seek to learn everything pertaining to the usage of a percolator
  • Determine the features you want to help find the percolator that will best suit your situation
  • Consider the number of people that will regularly use the coffee percolator
  • Decide how long you want the percolator to keep your coffee hot once it's off the fire

How to Clean and Maintain Your Camping Percolator

The longevity of camp coffee percolator depends on its care and maintenance.  Here are some tips:

  • Once you are done cooking, disassemble your coffee maker and clean every part thoroughly
  • Dry all the pieces on a drying rack till they are absolutely moisture free
  • Pack your percolator as you do when you go camping
  • Cleaning it once a month with a water-vinegar solution will help to remove the coffee stains
  • Store the coffee percolator in its box to keep it safe
camping Percolator

image source: via Gabe Hyde


camping percolators  on a camp site

Image source: via Clem Onojeghuo

The traditional camp coffee percolator is the best for camping in the wild where there is no source of power. However, in different settings, other varieties of coffee makers can be used. 

To make camping fun, it's best to learn how to use the traditional camping coffee percolator, because knowing how to use a camping percolator adds a unique touch to the whole experience and is quite different from the typical electric coffee brewer experience.

Featured Image: Photo by Kevin Schmid on Unsplash


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