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Brewing The Best Campfire Coffee With A Percolator


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Abagael Weber



Imagine waking up in the crisp morning air, surrounded by the beauty of nature, and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafting through the campsite. There’s something magical about enjoying a cup of coffee in the great outdoors, especially when it’s made over a campfire.


Campfire coffee is a unique experience that combines the love for the great outdoors with the joy of savoring a delicious cup of coffee. It’s a ritual cherished by outdoor enthusiasts, campers, and hikers alike. And if you want to take your campfire coffee to the next level, using a percolator is the way to go.


Percolators have been a staple in coffee brewing for generations. They are durable, efficient, and can withstand the ruggedness of outdoor cooking. But brewing coffee with a percolator requires a different technique compared to your typical drip or pour-over methods. In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of brewing the best campfire coffee using a percolator.


Whether you’re a seasoned camper or just starting out, this article will equip you with the knowledge and skills to brew a rich and flavorful cup of coffee that will energize your outdoor adventures. So grab your camping gear, gather around the campfire, and get ready to enjoy some delicious campfire coffee.


What is Campfire Coffee?

Campfire coffee, as the name suggests, is coffee that is brewed over an open flame or campfire. It is a traditional and rustic method of brewing coffee that has been enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts for decades. Brewing coffee in this manner imparts a unique and smoky flavor to the brew, adding to the overall camping experience.


The process of making campfire coffee is quite different from brewing coffee using electric coffee makers or other modern methods. It requires a few special equipment and a bit of patience, but the end result is a cup of coffee that is rich, bold, and truly satisfying.


One of the key aspects of campfire coffee is the use of a percolator. A percolator is a type of coffee pot that has a chamber at the bottom for water and a perforated basket for ground coffee on top. As the water in the percolator heats up, it rises through a vertical tube and trickles over the coffee grounds, extracting the flavors and aromas along the way. This process continues until the desired strength of coffee is achieved.


What sets campfire coffee apart is the ambiance and experience it provides. There is something magical about sitting by a crackling fire, surrounded by nature’s beauty, and enjoying a cup of coffee brewed over the flames. It’s a sensory experience that awakens the taste buds and invigorates the soul.


Campfire coffee is not only a delicious way to start your day in the great outdoors, but it also serves as a connection to the rich camping traditions of the past. It’s a reminder of simpler times when people relied on basic equipment and their ingenuity to enjoy a good cup of coffee while exploring the wilderness.


Next, we’ll explore why using a percolator is the best choice for brewing campfire coffee.


Why Use a Percolator?

When it comes to brewing campfire coffee, using a percolator is the preferred method for many outdoor enthusiasts. There are several reasons why a percolator is the ideal choice for brewing coffee over a campfire:

  1. Durability: Percolators are built to withstand the ruggedness of outdoor cooking. They are often made of stainless steel or other sturdy materials, making them perfect for camping and other outdoor adventures. Unlike delicate glass or ceramic coffee brewing equipment, percolators can handle the rough conditions of a campsite.
  2. Efficiency: Percolators are known for their efficiency in extracting flavors from coffee grounds. The brewing process involves recirculating the water over the coffee grounds multiple times, resulting in a robust and bold flavor profile. The continuous boiling and filtering action of the percolator ensures that every cup of campfire coffee is rich and flavorful.
  3. Flavorful Results: The percolation brewing method extracts a stronger and more intense flavor from the coffee grounds compared to other brewing methods. This is particularly desirable when brewing coffee over a campfire, as the smoky and outdoor ambiance can slightly diminish the overall taste. With a percolator, you can achieve a well-rounded and flavorsome cup of coffee that can stand up to the unique campfire environment.
  4. Portability: Percolators are compact and easy to carry, making them a convenient option for camping trips or outdoor adventures. They are lightweight, and many come with a detachable handle or compact design, allowing for easy packing and storage. Whether you’re backpacking or car camping, a percolator can be a dependable companion for your coffee needs.
  5. Traditional Appeal: Using a percolator to brew campfire coffee carries a sense of nostalgia and connection to camping traditions of the past. It harks back to a time when simplicity and resourcefulness were valued, and coffee brewed over a campfire was a cherished ritual. By using a percolator, you can recreate that authentic camping experience and become part of a long-standing tradition.

As you can see, using a percolator offers several advantages when it comes to brewing campfire coffee. Its durability, efficiency, flavorful results, portability, and traditional appeal make it the go-to choice for coffee lovers who want to elevate their camping experience.


Now that we understand the benefits of using a percolator, let’s explore the equipment needed for brewing campfire coffee.


Equipment Needed for Brewing Campfire Coffee

Before you embark on brewing the perfect cup of campfire coffee, it’s important to gather all the necessary equipment. Here are the essentials you’ll need to brew coffee over a campfire using a percolator:

  1. Percolator: As mentioned earlier, a percolator is the central piece of equipment for brewing campfire coffee. Look for a percolator that is made of durable materials like stainless steel and has a large capacity to accommodate your desired amount of coffee.
  2. Coffee Beans: Start with high-quality coffee beans of your choice. Opt for whole beans and grind them just before brewing to preserve the freshness and flavors. Choose a roast level that suits your taste preferences, whether it’s light, medium, or dark.
  3. Grinder: A coffee grinder is essential for grinding the beans to the desired coarseness for making campfire coffee. It’s recommended to use a burr grinder for a consistent grind size, as this will ensure even extraction during the brewing process.
  4. Measuring Tools: Precision is key when it comes to the coffee-to-water ratio. Use a kitchen scale or measuring scoops/spoons to accurately measure the right amount of coffee and water. The ideal coffee-to-water ratio for percolator brewing is typically one tablespoon of coffee grounds for every six ounces of water.
  5. Water Kettle: You’ll need a kettle or pot to heat the water. Look for one that is heat-resistant and has a large capacity to accommodate the amount of water needed for the brewing process.
  6. Heat Source: Of course, you’ll need a campfire or a portable stove to provide heat for brewing your coffee. If you’re using a campfire, make sure to have enough firewood and a suitable fire pit or grill grate to safely contain the fire.
  7. Mug or Travel Cup: Finally, don’t forget to bring a mug or travel cup to enjoy your freshly brewed campfire coffee. Look for a sturdy and insulated option that can keep your coffee hot while you savor every sip.

By having these essential pieces of equipment, you’ll be well-prepared to brew delicious campfire coffee wherever your outdoor adventures take you. With the percolator as the star of the show, the right coffee beans, a grinder, measuring tools, a water kettle, a heat source, and a trusty mug, you’re ready to embark on the journey of brewing the best campfire coffee imaginable.


Now that we have our equipment sorted, let’s move on to the next step: choosing the right beans for your campfire coffee.


Step 1: Choosing the Right Beans

The foundation of a great cup of campfire coffee starts with choosing the right beans. With countless options available, it’s important to select coffee beans that align with your flavor preferences and brewing method. Here are some tips for choosing the perfect beans for your campfire coffee:

  1. Freshness: Look for freshly roasted coffee beans. Fresher beans retain more of their natural flavors and aromas, resulting in a better-tasting cup of coffee. Check the roast date on the packaging or buy from local roasters who ensure a fresh supply.
  2. Roast Level: Consider your preference for roast level when selecting beans. Lighter roasts have bright and acidic flavors, while darker roasts have bolder and more robust flavors. For campfire coffee, a medium or medium-dark roast is recommended, as it strikes a balance between brightness and depth of flavor.
  3. Flavor Profile: Think about the flavor notes you enjoy in your coffee. Beans can showcase a range of flavors like chocolate, caramel, fruity, nutty, or floral. Consider whether you prefer a specific flavor profile or a blend of flavors, and choose beans that align with your preferences.
  4. Origin: Coffee beans are grown and harvested in various regions around the world, each with its own distinct characteristics. Explore different origins like Africa, Latin America, or Asia to discover the flavors that appeal to you. Single-origin beans can offer a more unique and nuanced coffee experience.
  5. Sustainability: If sustainability is important to you, opt for beans that are ethically sourced and produced. Look for certifications like Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, or Organic to ensure that the beans are grown and traded responsibly, benefitting both the farmers and the environment.

Remember, brewing coffee over a campfire introduces a smoky element to the process. This can slightly affect the flavor of the coffee, so choosing beans with slightly bolder flavors and a medium to medium-dark roast can help ensure a well-balanced and flavorful cup.


Once you have selected your ideal coffee beans, it’s time to move on to the next step: grinding your coffee for campfire brewing.


Step 2: Grind Your Coffee

Grinding your coffee beans just before brewing is crucial for achieving optimal flavor extraction. The grind size plays a significant role in determining the taste and strength of your campfire coffee. Here’s what you need to know about grinding coffee for campfire brewing:


The ideal grind size for campfire coffee is medium-coarse. This means that the coffee grounds should have a texture similar to coarse sea salt or breadcrumbs. The larger grind size allows for more extraction time, compensating for the slower brewing process over a campfire.


If the coffee is ground too fine, it can result in over-extraction and a bitter taste. On the other hand, if the coffee is ground too coarse, it may lead to under-extraction and a weak, watery cup of coffee.


To achieve the perfect grind size, use a burr grinder rather than a blade grinder. Burr grinders offer more control over the grind size and produce more uniform grounds, resulting in a more consistent extraction. If you don’t have access to a burr grinder, choose pre-ground coffee labeled specifically for a French press, as the coarseness level will be suitable for campfire brewing.


Once you have your preferred grind size, measure out the appropriate amount of coffee for your desired strength. As a general guideline, use approximately 1 tablespoon of coffee grounds for every 6 ounces of water. Adjust the amount according to your taste preferences.


Remember to store your coffee beans or pre-ground coffee in an airtight container in a cool and dark place to maintain freshness and preserve the flavors until you’re ready to brew.


With your freshly ground coffee ready, it’s time to move on to the next step: measuring the coffee and water for campfire brewing.


Step 3: Measure the Coffee and Water

Measuring the coffee and water accurately is essential to achieve the desired strength and flavor in your campfire coffee. Here’s how you can measure both effectively:


First, refer to the coffee-to-water ratio mentioned earlier as a starting point. It is generally recommended to use 1 tablespoon of coffee grounds for every 6 ounces of water. However, feel free to adjust the ratio according to your personal taste preferences.


Using a kitchen scale is the most precise way to measure both the coffee grounds and water. Weigh the desired amount of coffee beans before grinding, and then measure the appropriate amount of water using a liquid measuring cup. This method ensures consistency and accuracy in your measurements.


If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can use measuring scoops or spoons instead. One level tablespoon of coffee grounds is roughly equivalent to 0.33 ounces or 9 grams. Adjust the measurements accordingly based on the coffee-to-water ratio you prefer.


When measuring the water, keep in mind the capacity of your percolator and the number of cups of coffee you intend to brew. It’s best to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to avoid overfilling or underfilling the percolator.


Remember that brewing coffee over a campfire can have slight variations depending on the heat source and conditions, so don’t be afraid to experiment with the coffee-to-water ratio to achieve your desired taste.


With the coffee and water measured, you’re one step closer to enjoying your delectable campfire coffee. In the next step, we’ll guide you through assembling your percolator for campfire brewing.


Step 4: Assemble Your Percolator

Assembling your percolator correctly is crucial for a successful brew. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you assemble your percolator for campfire coffee:

  1. Disassemble and Clean: Before starting, make sure your percolator is disassembled and clean. Remove the basket, stem, and any other removable parts. Wash them with warm, soapy water and rinse thoroughly to remove any residue or impurities.
  2. Add Water: Fill the bottom chamber of your percolator with cold, fresh water. The amount of water you add should correspond to the desired number of cups of coffee you want to brew. Avoid overfilling the percolator, as the water will expand during the brewing process.
  3. Insert the Stem and Basket: Place the stem into the bottom chamber of the percolator. Ensure that it is centered and securely placed. Then, insert the basket on top of the stem. The basket is where you’ll place the coffee grounds, so ensure it fits snugly into the percolator.
  4. Add Coffee Grounds: Measure the appropriate amount of coffee grounds according to your desired strength. Place the measured coffee grounds into the basket, spreading them evenly for optimal extraction. Avoid compacting the grounds, as this can hinder the brewing process.
  5. Assemble the Top Chamber: Take the top chamber of the percolator and align it with the bottom chamber. Ensure that the spout of the top chamber lines up with the stem in the bottom chamber. Carefully twist and lock the top chamber onto the bottom chamber, creating a secure seal.
  6. Check for Proper Assembly: Double-check that all components are correctly assembled, with no loose parts or gaps that could cause leaks or issues during brewing.

Once your percolator is assembled, it’s time to move on to the exciting part of preparing the campfire for brewing your delicious cup of coffee. In the next step, we’ll guide you through setting up and preparing the campfire.


Step 5: Preparing the Campfire

Preparing the campfire properly is essential for a successful brewing process. Follow these steps to ensure you have a well-prepared campfire for brewing your flavorful campfire coffee:

  1. Choose a Safe Location: Select a safe and designated area for your campfire. Clear away any flammable materials, such as dry leaves or branches, and ensure that the area is away from overhanging trees or other potential hazards.
  2. Set up Fire Pit or Fire Ring: If your campsite doesn’t already have a designated fire pit or fire ring, create one with rocks or bricks. This will help contain the fire and prevent it from spreading.
  3. Gather Firewood: Collect enough firewood to sustain the fire and provide a consistent source of heat. Use dry, seasoned wood for optimal fire performance.
  4. Stack the Firewood: Arrange the firewood in a teepee or log cabin structure to allow for proper airflow and easy lighting. Make sure the structure is stable and won’t collapse during the brewing process.
  5. Start the Fire: Use kindling and a fire starter to ignite the firewood. Gradually add more firewood as the flames grow, ensuring a steady and well-established fire.
  6. Allow the Fire to Burn Down: Allow the fire to burn down until you have a bed of hot coals. This will provide consistent heat for brewing your coffee. Use a poker or tongs to rearrange the wood and create an even layer of glowing embers.
  7. Place the Percolator: Position the assembled percolator on a stable surface, such as a grill grate or a heat-resistant part of the fire pit. Ensure that it is stable and won’t tip over during the brewing process.

By properly preparing the campfire, you create a safe and controlled environment for brewing your campfire coffee. The glowing embers will provide a steady source of heat, allowing for a slow and even brewing process. Take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the crackling fire and the anticipation of the delicious coffee that awaits.


In the next step, we’ll guide you through the process of actually starting the brewing process with your percolator.


Step 6: Start Brewing

Now that your campfire is prepared and the percolator is in place, it’s time to start the brewing process. Follow these steps to brew your delicious campfire coffee:

  1. Add Water to the Percolator: Carefully pour cold water into the bottom chamber of the percolator, ensuring that you do not overfill it. Use the measurements and ratios determined earlier to achieve the desired strength.
  2. Place the Percolator on the Fire: Position the percolator on the hot coals of the campfire. Ensure that the percolator handle is facing away from direct heat to prevent it from becoming too hot to handle.
  3. Watch for Boiling: As the water heats, it will begin to boil and rise through the stem of the percolator. Keep a close eye on the percolator to monitor the boiling process.
  4. Adjust Heat if Necessary: If the water is boiling too vigorously, adjust the heat by reducing the intensity of the campfire. Controlling the heat will help maintain a steady and optimal brewing temperature.
  5. Grasp the Percolator Handle: After a few minutes of boiling, carefully grasp the handle of the percolator with a heat-resistant glove or towel. This allows you to lift the percolator slightly and interrupt the boiling process for a moment.
  6. Count the Brew Cycles: Each brew cycle refers to the water percolating up through the coffee grounds and then returning back down. Count the number of brew cycles you desire for your preferred strength of coffee. Typically, 3-4 brew cycles produce a medium-strength cup.
  7. Maintain the Brew: Continuously monitor the percolator as it brews your coffee. Adjust the heat, if necessary, to keep the water at the right temperature. Avoid prolonged boiling, as it can lead to over-extraction and a bitter taste.
  8. Remove from Heat: Once you’ve achieved the desired number of brew cycles, carefully remove the percolator from the heat source. Use caution as the percolator will be hot.

With these steps, you are well on your way to brewing a delightful cup of campfire coffee. The percolator’s brewing process extracts the flavors from the coffee grounds, resulting in a robust and flavorful cup of coffee that will invigorate your senses and energize you for your outdoor adventures.


Next, we’ll guide you through monitoring the brewing process and ensuring the optimal extraction of flavors.


Step 7: Monitoring the Brewing Process

Monitoring the brewing process is key to achieving the perfect cup of campfire coffee. Follow these steps to ensure the optimal extraction of flavors:

  1. Observe the Percolator: As the percolator brews your coffee, observe the flow of water through the stem and the coffee grounds in the basket. This will help you gauge the progress of the brewing process.
  2. Listen for the Percolation Sound: The percolator will produce a distinct sound as water bubbles and percolates through the coffee grounds. It can resemble a gentle gurgling or bubbling noise. This sound indicates that the brewing process is happening and that flavors are being extracted.
  3. Time the Brew Cycles: Keep track of the time it takes for each brew cycle. This will help you monitor the strength of the coffee and adjust the brewing time for future brews. Typically, each brew cycle lasts around 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Visual Inspection: Lift the percolator slightly to visually inspect the color of the coffee. The coffee should gradually darken as the brewing process progresses. Adjust the brewing time based on the desired strength and color of the coffee.
  5. Control the Heat: Throughout the brewing process, maintain control over the heat source. Adjust the intensity of the campfire to ensure the water remains at the right temperature for optimal extraction. Consistent heat is essential for a well-brewed cup of campfire coffee.
  6. Do a Taste Test: If you’re unsure about the strength of the coffee, use a spoon to taste a small amount. This will give you an idea of the flavor and whether it meets your preferences. Adjust the brewing time or the coffee-to-water ratio for subsequent brews, if needed.

By carefully monitoring the brewing process, you can fine-tune the strength and flavor of your campfire coffee. The percolator’s design allows you to control the variables and make adjustments according to your preferences and the specific conditions of your campfire.


With the brewing process complete, it’s time to move on to the final step: finishing and serving your delightful campfire coffee.


Step 8: Finishing and Serving Your Campfire Coffee

After the brewing process, it’s time to finish and serve your delicious cup of campfire coffee. Follow these steps to ensure a satisfying coffee-drinking experience:

  1. Remove the Percolator from the Heat: Carefully lift the percolator off the heat source, using a heat-resistant glove or towel to protect your hands from the hot surface. Set the percolator on a stable surface away from the campfire.
  2. Allow the Percolator to Settle: Let the percolator sit for a minute or two to allow the coffee grounds to settle at the bottom of the basket. This will help minimize any grounds in the brewed coffee.
  3. Decant the Coffee: Slowly pour the brewed coffee from the percolator into your mug or travel cup. Tilt the percolator slightly to avoid pouring the grounds at the bottom. If some grounds do end up in the cup, you can strain them out using a fine mesh sieve or coffee filter.
  4. Add Sweetener or Cream (Optional): If desired, add your preferred sweetener and cream to enhance the taste of your coffee. The natural flavors and richness of campfire coffee often shine without any additives, but feel free to customize it to your liking.
  5. Sip and Savor: Take a moment to appreciate the aroma and flavor of your campfire coffee. Sip it slowly, allowing the robust flavors to envelop your taste buds and transport you to the outdoors.
  6. Enjoy the Coffee and the Experience: As you indulge in your cup of campfire coffee, relish the unique experience it offers. The combination of the smoky ambiance, fresh air, and the satisfaction of brewing your own coffee over a campfire creates a memorable and enjoyable moment.

Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Savor the rich flavors and appreciate the art of brewing coffee in the midst of nature. Let the warmth of the campfire and the aroma of the coffee envelop you, creating a truly magical outdoor coffee experience.


Campfire coffee brewed with a percolator is a delicious and rewarding way to start your day in the great outdoors. It allows you to connect with nature, embrace the timeless tradition of campfire brewing, and indulge in a flavorful cup of coffee that fuels your adventures.


Congratulations! You’ve mastered the art of brewing campfire coffee with a percolator. Happy brewing and happy camping!


Tips and Tricks for the Best Campfire Coffee

Brewing campfire coffee with a percolator is an art that can be perfected with a few tips and tricks. Here are some valuable insights to help you achieve the best possible cup of campfire coffee:

  1. Use Fresh and Quality Beans: Start with high-quality, freshly roasted coffee beans. The freshness of the beans plays a significant role in the taste of your coffee. Consider buying beans from local roasters who focus on quality and sustainability.
  2. Experiment with Different Roasts: Try different roast levels to discover your preference for campfire coffee. Lighter roasts offer a bright and acidic flavor profile, while darker roasts provide a bold and robust taste. Find the roast that suits your preferences and complements the campfire ambiance.
  3. Grind Just Before Brewing: Grind your coffee beans immediately before brewing to preserve freshness and flavor. A burr grinder allows for consistent grinding and better control of the size, ensuring optimal extraction. If using pre-ground coffee, choose a coarse grind suitable for campfire brewing.
  4. Control Brewing Time: Maintain control over the brewing time by counting the number of brew cycles or using a timer. Adjust the brewing time based on the desired strength and taste of your coffee. Remember, practice makes perfect, so refine your brewing technique with each batch.
  5. Adjust the Water-to-Coffee Ratio: Experiment with the coffee-to-water ratio to find your preferred strength. Increase or decrease the amount of coffee grounds or water to suit your taste. Keep in mind that brewing over a campfire may require slightly more coffee for a fuller flavor.
  6. Pre-warm Your Cup: To keep your campfire coffee hotter for longer, pre-warm your cup or mug with hot water before pouring the coffee. This helps maintain the temperature and ensures a more enjoyable drinking experience.
  7. Clean Your Percolator Thoroughly: Properly clean and maintain your percolator to avoid any lingering flavors or residues. After each use, disassemble the percolator and wash all parts with warm, soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and dry completely before storing.
  8. Appreciate the Process: Brewing campfire coffee is not just about the end result, but also the experience itself. Take the time to appreciate the crackling fire, the aroma of brewing coffee, and the tranquility of nature. Embrace the ritual of campfire coffee as a moment of relaxation and connection with your surroundings.

With these tips and tricks, you’ll be well-equipped to brew the best campfire coffee every time. Remember, the joy of campfire brewing lies in the adventure and experimentation. Enjoy the process, adapt as needed, and create your own memorable coffee moments in the great outdoors.


Now, go ahead and embark on your next camping trip, ready to impress your fellow campers with your expertise in brewing exceptional campfire coffee!



Campfire coffee brewed with a percolator is a delightful and rewarding experience that combines the love for the great outdoors with the joy of savoring a delicious cup of coffee. By following the steps outlined in this guide and implementing the tips and tricks provided, you can perfect the art of brewing the best campfire coffee.


Choosing the right beans, grinding them to the proper size, and measuring the coffee and water accurately are crucial steps in the process. Assembling the percolator correctly and preparing the campfire ensure a smooth brewing experience. Monitoring the brewing process and adjusting the heat as needed allow you to achieve the desired strength and flavor.


As the rich aromas fill the air and the coffee percolates, you’ll be immersed in the unique moments that come with brewing coffee over a campfire. Sipping your well-crafted cup of campfire coffee, you’ll appreciate the fusion of flavors, the smoky ambiance, and the connection to nature.


Remember, brewing campfire coffee is an art that can be perfected with time and practice. Enjoy the process, be open to experimentation, and make adjustments to suit your personal taste preferences. Each cup of campfire coffee is an opportunity to create memories and savor the simple pleasures of outdoor living.


So, the next time you venture into the wilderness, don’t forget to pack your percolator and favorite beans. Embrace the tranquility of nature, the crackling campfire, and the unparalleled joy of brewing and indulging in a cup of campfire coffee that invigorates your senses and fuels your adventures.


Happy brewing and happy camping!