The Definitive Guide to Making Coffee Outside

Written by: Anne Mercer

The Definitive Guide to Making Coffee Outside

Amelia Earhart once said, “Adventure is worthwhile in itself.”

From traversing mountain peaks to watching the sunrise over the ocean, outdoor adventures connect us to our planet and each other—and are made that much better when experienced with a cup of coffee in hand.

Coffee made outside while camping, hiking, or on a cross-country road trip has garnered a reputation for being subpar and flavorless. Adventurers are led to believe that they have to suffice with stale instant coffees, pre-ground coffee pouches, and other less than desirable brewing options. 

Let us be the ones to shout it from the mountains: you don’t have to sacrifice flavor and quality when making coffee outside!

It’s possible to make delicious coffee in the great outdoors if you know where to start. In this guide, we’ll show you:

  • Everything you’ll need to make coffee outside 
  • Why a manual grinder will take your outdoor coffee brewing experience to the next level
  • 3 different brew methods you can use on your next outdoor adventure

Grab your favorite coffee beans, lace up your boots, and let’s brew some coffee outside!

All the Gear You’ll Need to Brew Coffee Outside

What’s your dream outdoor coffee scenario?

A rustic cabin with picturesque porch views of the mountainside?

Sharing an early morning cup of coffee with friends around a campfire?

Rolling out of bed and making a pot of coffee in your travel RV or van?

No matter what type of outdoor coffee experience you seek, the adventure begins with the right brewing gear.

To make coffee outside, you’ll need:

  • Whole bean coffee. Great coffee outside starts with your favorite whole bean coffee. Opt for a cozy blend with notes of red apple and almond. Or, bring along an adventurous single origin coffee with sharp citrus flavors. The choice is yours!

  • Manual burr grinder. Unless you’re traveling the open road in an RV, chances are you don’t have access to electricity. Relying on an electric grinder is out of the question. With a manual burr grinder, you can freshly grind your whole bean coffee with precision, no matter where you are!

  • Filtered water. Your coffee is only as good as the water you use. If possible, use filtered water. Instead of buying plastic water bottles, fill up a reusable water bottle or two before you embark on your outdoor excursion.

  • Heat source. You can’t brew coffee without hot water. A compact, portable gas stove like a Jet Boil is a common option. And, a roaring campfire will always do the trick.

  • Coffee scoop. Having a coffee scoop on hand will make measuring coffee far easier when you’re outside.

  • Mug. Of course, your favorite travel mug needs to come along for the adventure.

  • Preferred brew method. There are multiple ways to brew coffee outside. We’ll show you our favorites later on.

  • Pro Tip: Know how much coffee your scoop can hold.

    When brewing at home, you have access to a scale. The scale dictates how many beans you need to equal a specific amount of coffee for your recipe. You won’t have this luxury outside.

    To get around this, develop a recipe for your preferred method and learn how much coffee and water you need to bring.

    For reference, a tablespoon equals about 4-7 grams of coffee. Determining how much coffee your scoop holds will come in handy when brewing coffee outside without a scale.

    Manual Coffee Grinders are the Key to Tasty Coffee Outside

    When it comes to making coffee outside, many adventurers end up sacrificing flavor and quality for convenience.

    Rather than grinding coffee beans right before brewing, they’ll measure and pre-grind the coffee, and pack it into small Ziploc bags for the trip. Or worse—grind an entire bag of coffee at once.

    While this practice is certainly convenient, there’s two major problems with it: freshness and flavor.

    Coffee tastes best when ground just before brewing.

    When we grind coffee, the natural compounds (acids, sugars, and oils) responsible for the luscious, sweet flavors we want in our cup are “activated.” However, once these grounds come in contact with oxygen, the compounds begin to break down.

    The longer coffee grounds are in contact with oxygen, the quicker they’ll lose their vibrant flavors.

    Pre-grinding coffee means your outdoor adventures will be filled with bland-tasting coffee.

    That’s why we recommend using a manual burr grinder to brew coffee outside.

    Read: Why Your Grinder is the Most Important Piece of Coffee Gear

    A manual burr grinder allows you to grind coffee beans on the spot no matter where you are. Inside, outside, camping, at a ski resort, in a hotel room—you name it!

    On top of offering superior grinding precision without the need for electricity, manual grinders are:

    • Portable 
    • Lightweight
    • Durable

    AKA, everything you want from a travel coffee grinder!

    If making coffee outside is on your bucket list, do yourself a favor and invest in a manual coffee grinder.

    3 Different Ways to Brew Coffee Outside

    When people think about making coffee outside, brew methods like cowboy coffee, instant coffee, and even sock brewing methods come to mind.

    Forget all of that.

    There are much better ways to brew coffee outdoors.

    1. AeroPress

    Let’s start with our preferred outdoor brew method: The AeroPress.

    The AeroPress is a small, portable brewer made up of three parts:

    • Filter cap
    • Brewing chamber
    • Plunger

    Made almost entirely of polypropylene, this brew method is ideal for any type of outdoor adventure. From hiking up the side of a mountain for coffee with a view to fueling up on the beach before a snorkeling excursion, the AeroPress is designed to withstand any adventure. 

    Read: Take Your AeroPress Camping for Easy Outdoor Coffee

    At first glance, you may not believe this tiny brewer weighing ~7 ounces can brew an award-winning cup of coffee. Think again.

    The AeroPress provides outdoor adventurers with versatility—a necessity when brewing outside.

    Regular or Inverted Brew Method

    There are two ways to brew an AeroPress.

    • The Regular Method places the filter cap and brewing chamber on top of the mug. Coffee grounds and water are added and when ready, the plunger directs the brewed coffee down into the mug. Although easy, many customers weren’t thrilled with the process. So, the Inverted Method was created.
    • The Inverted Method starts with the AeroPress flipped upside down, with the plunger top being on the bottom. Coffee and water are once again added to the chamber (albeit, upside down.) Once the coffee has steeped for the desired amount of time, screw the filter cap on, gently flip onto the mug, and plunge. 

    Paper or Metal Filter

    Do you prefer coffee with crisp flavors and a clean finish? Or, do you enjoy coffees with a heavier body and greater aromatic intensity?

    With the AeroPress, you can have either! 

    Paper filters achieve a clean-tasting cup by soaking up the natural oils from the coffee. In comparison, stainless steel filters produce a flavorful, full-bodied coffee by letting partial amounts of oils into the final cup. 

    There’s no right option, so try both filters and discover which filter you prefer!

    Endless Recipes

    There are so many AeroPress recipes to explore. From pseudo espresso shots to experimental coffee recipes, you’ll find the AeroPress to be a powerful little brew method for all types of coffee outdoors.

    Try our recipes for:

    Or, develop a recipe that works best for your next outdoor excursion.

    Read: 5 Things Every AeroPress User Should Know

    2. French Press

    Some outdoor enthusiasts prefer to make coffee with a French Press for its simplicity and rich flavors imparted from the brewing process.

    This classic brew method comes with either a glass or metal brewing chamber, making it better for car camping, RV travels, and sharing a cup on the porch with friends and family. 

    Additionally, a French Press is capable of brewing more coffee than an AeroPress. If you’re brewing coffee for a group of people outside, opt for the French Press!

    Use our Ultimate Guide to French Press Coffee before embarking on your next outdoor coffee adventure.

    3. Pour Over Coffee

    Wait. Pour over coffee? Outside? How is that possible?

    With a few adjustments to your typical coffee routine, you can brew a pour over outside!

    Now, we’re not suggesting you bring a Chemex on the trail with you. Opt for a durable, versatile brewer like this pour over coffee dripper

    Instead of trying to replicate a complicated home pour over set up, all you need is:

    • Coffee beans
    • Manual grinder
    • Pour over dripper
    • Heat source
    • Water
    • Travel mug

    You’ll skip the paper filters, scales, and messy clean-up!

    Pour over coffees are best for outdoor activities that don’t require you to pack up and trek out, like a backcountry camping excursion. Make a pour over at your campsite, by the beach, or while enjoying a sunrise in a wide-open field. 

    But, if you’re a die-hard pour over fan who wants coffee while on the trail, this small set-up can easily be packed into a hiking backpack.

    Prepare for Your Next Outdoor Coffee Adventure

    Making coffee outside is simple when you’ve got the right gear and coffee beans.

    With our specialty-grade whole bean coffee and manual grinder in hand, you’ll be fully prepared for a caffeinated and delicious outdoor adventure!