As I started boondocking more, I needed to start finding other ways of doing things that required electric appliances, and naturally making coffee was at the top of that list. In the past I just used a basic drip coffee maker, however, this required me to run the generator every time I wanted to make coffee. It turns out that people camped around you don’t like when you run a generator at 7AM, and going out in the cold to start it up isn’t very fun anyway.
The first method I tried when going “non-electric” with my coffee was Starbucks Via packets. I use these a lot when I go backpacking because they don’t take up any space and are about the easiest possible way to make coffee. All you do is boil some water and dump the packet in. The downside to this method is that the coffee isn’t great and the packets are really expensive (about a dollar each).
After realizing I wanted better and cheaper coffee, I decided to pick up a percolator. The percolator is nice because you only need the one container and you can make it on the stovetop. However, I was never really able to make good coffee with it. The stuff I made turned out okay, but barely better than the Starbucks Via packets. Also, I found cleaning the percolator to be a huge pain. You have to take it apart and clean the grounds out of the inside and clean all the individual pieces. Using a paper filter to hold the grounds helped, but it still wasn’t ideal.
After the percolator, I decided to give a French Press a shot. I had used French presses in the past and knew they made good coffee. It’s true that they do make fantastic coffee, but it turns out they’re not great for boondocking. The main reason is because it takes quite a bit of water to clean the press and you have to deal with all of the grounds. I would usually put a fine screen over my sink drain and rinse out the French press, catching all the grounds in the screen, then just dump the screen. But then you’re still left with a dirty glass press that needs to be cleaned, and you have to take apart the plunger and screen and clean all of the grounds out of it. It was a huge pain and used a bunch of water.
After the French Press I finally landed on the best method for brewing coffee off-grid, and the method I’m still using today, which is a pour over. I went with a size 2 plastic Hario v60 brewer, which is less than $10 on amazon, and the paper filters for it which are also about $10 for 200. Finally, I got a cheap hand grinder so that I can grind my own beans without using any electricity. The beauty of this setup is that I can brew directly into my mug, so there’s no extra vessels to clean, and I just throw the whole filter and grounds away when I’m done. And unlike the French press, you never get any coffee grounds at the bottom of your cup.
The brew method I use is similar to Scott Rao’s v60 method. I did a video on my Instagram story recently going through my process. Unfortunately I can’t get the video to convert correctly, but if I ever get it working I’ll upload it and update this post.
Even though I find the pour over to work best most of the time, the other methods still have their place. The Starbucks Via packets are still great for backpacking and travel days when I want something really quick. The percolator is cool because I can make coffee over a campfire with it. The French press still makes great coffee and is much better if I have guests and need to brew coffee for more than one person. For just myself though, the pour over is my daily brewer and I’ve grown to really enjoy the morning ritual of making coffee with it.