Coffee is a staple drink on any of my camping trips and can be connected to many great camp stories. Living nomadically, finding a coffee shop used to be my normal routine but I’ve since moved over to making it myself. With coffee being so important to us as a culture, multiple methods have been created to enjoy it almost everywhere, even in the remote backcountry. Hundreds of products flood the market with different innovations and styles for brewing your favourite caffeinated drink. There are, however, some tried and tested coffee types that hold up well in the backcountry. Let’s look at some of the various forms of coffee you can use to get your morning started.
I’ve always flopped between grinding my own coffee beans, using the pre-ground coffee like Haymaker’s Middleweight medium roast coffee, or just simply drinking instant coffee. There are advantages and tradeoffs for each of them but they are all a viable solution out in the bush. Let’s take a look at each style of coffee.
Whole bean coffee that’s freshly ground can be an invigorating experience first thing in the morning. It has something that gently wakes up all the senses: the soft crunch of beans being ground, the wafting aroma of earthy tones sifting into your noise, and that delicate brown crumble that is gently steeped in hot water. Part of the charm about whole bean coffee is that the whole process is designed to wake you up. During the winter months the aroma of crushing whole bean coffee feels like it instantly warms whatever shelter or space you’re in.
There are some things to consider when deciding if this is the type of coffee you want to bring on your trip. Whole bean coffee takes up a lot of space compared to its ground counterparts. To grind your coffee you will need some form of tool whether that be a manual coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle which can be bulky and heavy. Additionally, you will need a vessel to hold the coffee ground for water to pass through, something like coffee filters or some of the DIY methods like coffee bags or cowboy coffee. I only use whole bean coffee if it is a special local blend where I want to craft the coffee experience from start to finish, generally for a special experience if I’m taking people out for a camping trip.
When I meet other campers or nomadic folk and join them for a coffee this is primarily what most people use. I find that pre-ground coffee opens up a lot of potential for customizing what you want in a coffee.
Pre-ground coffee usually comes in three varieties:
Haymaker’s Middleweight Roast is a pre-ground medium roast that gives a nice balanced kick for your day and is a standout flavour amongst ground beans. Generally, ground coffee will go stale if left out to the air, rather quickly if the air is dry. In the past coffee packaging was great for preserving the product until it was opened and then the clock started ticking on the freshness factor. Ground coffee packaging like that used to hold Haymaker Coffee has evolved to the point where resealing the bag keeps enough of the air and humidity out that it lasts a lot longer. This is important if you are packing it into the backcountry as the coffee packaging needs to withstand temperature and humidity changes depending on the season you’re in.
Instant coffee is my personal favorite and my goto on most days. This kind of coffee has a reputation of being poor quality or a really distinct taste. I’ve had many varieties from different companies and while I find that the company making the instant coffee really matters, for the most part, I’ve never had bad instant coffee. I find this kind of coffee the lightest and easiest to pack in for camping.
Ensuring that the storage container is airtight will help keep the freshness for the duration of your trip. As instant coffee is devoid of any moisture it will readily absorb condensation or water of any form. This can cause loss of taste and clumping which, while still usable, makes for a poor coffee experience.
You don’t necessarily need to bring a carton of cream or a container of sugar out with you, although that is entirely an option. Powdered milk and powdered coconut milk make for excellent creamy additions that happen to be lightweight and pack nicely. If you like your coffee sweet, choosing honey is a shelf stable and natural alternative that can be used in multiple applications. Maple syrup pairs nice with Haymaker’s Middleweight medium roast coffee as the maple flavour uplifts the bold taste you find in their blend. Depending on what the weather is doing outside you might just keep your coffee black to prepare you mentally against any bitter precipitation. My lifestyle demands that I go with what I have access to and that kind of makes the coffee experience adventurous and not a monotonous routine as I get to cycle between whatever I feel like drinking.
Those are the three main coffee selections that I use or have come across being used by other camping enthusiasts. The one you choose is personal preference which is extended to what works best in your current situation. Each selection has its own place whether you need the convenience and ease of instant coffee for a quick drink or a drawn out experience with grinding your own beans and doing a slow brew while chatting with your campmates.