Making The Perfect Camp Coffee

A great cup of coffee is something we really look forward to in the morning, whether we’re at home or bike touring.

Sadly, most of our attempts at making great coffee while camping haven’t been that successful.

We’ve had a lot of watery coffee, and we’ve had great coffee, but from coffee makers that were either too heavy and bulky (like the stove-top version in the photo) or too expensive to consider taking on tour.

Our best results up until now were with the coffee sock we picked up in Thailand. This cloth filter held around a metal ring made reasonable coffee, although it took quite a bit of water to clean the filter properly, and then we had to find a place to put the wet sock to dry.

So, when we recently read about Stephen Lord’s coffee-making technique without any gadgets – just a pot – we had to try it. The technique is really simple, and is a variation on the classic “cowboy coffee” that has been popular with campers and outdoor people for decades.

Start by putting the ground coffee in a pot (we use one heaping spoonful for each cup of coffee, plus 1 extra).


Next you pour the cold water in the pot.


And stir…


Put the coffee on the stove and bring it almost to a boil. At this stage, the coffee is at the top and forms a sort of skin over the water. It looks more like chocolate cake batter than coffee. Just as the coffee is coming to a boil (you see the bubbles coming through the coffee), take the pot off the stove.

Stir it and watch the coffee clarify.


Now, put the coffee back on the stove and bring it almost to a boil. Stir again.


Once you’ve stirred the coffee 3 times, it’s ready! There’s nothing more to it than that. You can see in this picture, how clear the coffee is.


And that’s it: perfect camp coffee, without any fuss or muss. At the very bottom of the pot, there are some grounds. This means you can’t drink the last few spoonfuls of the coffee, but you can drink very nearly to the bottom.



  1. Jason Koning
    4th August 2010 at 6:57 am #

    Interesting idea, I’ve often wondered what kind of coffee these produced:
    Personally I’d have a REALLY hard time not taking a small stove-top 😉

    • friedel
      4th August 2010 at 7:03 am #

      Jason, I have friends who have used the handpresso and they say it’s good. I prefer a couple big cups of coffee in the morning, but if you’re more of an espresso person, and don’t mind carrying another thing in your bags, it might be worth trying.

  2. Becky
    5th August 2010 at 6:38 pm #

    I discovered Coghlin’s one cup coffee filters ( and never had to have a bad cup of coffee again. The nice part is that the grounds are nicely kept within the filter, so cleanup is easy. The cost is about $2 for 40 filters – so pretty reasonable.
    You could probably do this pretty easily with any cone shaped filter and a stick.

  3. Marija
    9th August 2010 at 10:22 pm #

    This is the way they cook coffee in Turkey, Georgia, etc… just using a bit smaller pots.:) On Balkan (ex. Yugoslavia), first we boiled water and add coffee to “boil” together for short time…when it start “raising up” it is done…. Enjoy.

  4. Rick
    17th August 2010 at 3:38 am #

    Your method, of something like it, is called “Cowboy Coffee” among some that I have camped with. Makes a pretty good cuppa.

    My favorite method uses one small piece of gear but creates an incredible espresso or Americano and cleans up with a quick wipe. It’s called an Aeropress and when I bought one for touring, it became my go-to way to make coffee at home as well.

    • John
      16th September 2010 at 11:54 am #

      Second that. I have an aerobie and it’s the only way I make coffee now at home or away.

      • friedel
        16th September 2010 at 12:40 pm #

        I have seen these in our local coffee shop. They look intriguing, though I thought a bit bulky for bike touring, but probably pretty light? I’ll lift one up next time I’m in the shop and see how heavy they are.

  5. Doug W
    17th August 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    We have a very lightweight, plastic french press that really isn’t much bigger than the bag a pound of ground coffee comes in. We stuff the bag of coffee into the press when traveling and we’re not really taking up more room than normal and it protects the panniers in case of a tear or spill.

  6. Graeme Willgress
    18th September 2010 at 12:17 pm #

    I use a cafetiere/push down type jobby. It’s my one luxury and it’s made of acrylic so it’s not heavy. In the Uk, these are available in a variety of sizes and colours. Ace piece of kit, never leave home without it.

  7. Peter Jordan
    28th September 2010 at 5:55 pm #

    That’s the way they make it in Greece. I bought a purpose make pot which is small and light back from there recently. It taste the same as in the cafes. Don’t need the small pot though.

  8. David
    16th June 2011 at 1:53 am #

    I do it very similar. I add the water to the pot first, then add the coffee on top without stirring. that way the coffee stays on top and is caught up in the bubbles etc when it boils. I’ll boil it, take it off, etc 3 times, still without stirring, and then before pouring into the cups add a tiny (1 or 2 tablespoons) of cold water. the cold water sinks to the bottom taking any coffee grounds with it so no need for a filter!

    I think of it half way between Turkish and cowboy coffee

  9. Will Hawkins
    7th July 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    Maybe it’s just me, but Cowboy Coffee tastes better than filter coffee at home. Perhaps, it’s the fresh air when wild camping?

  10. Onur
    27th June 2012 at 10:40 pm #

    That’s Turkish coffee right there :))

  11. Jannekeq
    13th July 2012 at 11:17 pm #

    Has anyone tried using Senseo coffee pads (or any other brand) + boiling water? I iamgine it would taste as good as regular filter coffee. And there should be so little clean up you might say there is none.

  12. Giovanni
    27th June 2014 at 10:53 pm #

    Google “caffettiera napoletana”, it’s the traditional coffee maker used in the south of Italy since 1800. It’s made by aluminium, superlight and makes an excellent coffee. By the way the coffee making technique you described with the poctures is the traditional Turkish Coffee still made in Turkey and former Jugoslavian Republics

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