Percolator vs French Press Coffee While Camping: What’s Best?

Do you love camping?

Do you love drinking coffee?

It would be double the fun if you can go camping and enjoy great tasting coffee while surrounded by natural scenery. You get the best of both worlds.

Now, the question is, what type of brewing machine can you bring outdoors?

Without a brewing machine, you can always make coffee with the so-called cowboy style.

How do you that?

  1. You build a bonfire as a source of heat.
  2. Perch a pot with water and let it boil.
  3. Add your coffee grounds.
  4. Let it roll for up to 60 seconds.
  5. Remove from heat and pour into cups.

Now, you can enjoy hot coffee. Notice that it’s just hot coffee. Don’t expect flavorful, aromatic and bold tasting coffee. It’s a crude way to prepare coffee. But if you don’t have any choice, it is good enough.

However, you have really great choices when it comes to using a brewing machine even if you are outdoors.

Factors to Consider When Brewing Coffee Outdoors

Before you buy a brewing machine for your next camping, take a look at these things to consider:

  • Heat source

Remember that when you are outdoor, you have limited sources for heat. You can bring a portable gas stove, like butane powered one-burner. Or you can always build a bonfire and get a fire ready when you need it. In this case, think about the heat requirement of your coffee machine. Does it need direct heat? Does it require gas or electricity? If it needs electricity, you will be in big trouble. Better to leave that drip coffee machine at home.

  • Durability

When outdoors, you can be subject to various conditions beyond your control. You need a durable and sturdy coffee brewing device to withstand any possible hard fall and bumps. Choose something that is made from aluminum and steel. This way, you know that your brewer is safe even if your bags accidentally fall.

  • Easy to clean

Supplies are limited when you are camping. The water source may be limited or the nearest river is still a few minutes away from the campsite. Therefore, you need a brewer that is easy to maintain. Better yet, bring a brewer that only needs a few water for rinsing.

  • Size

Depending on the number of campers, you will most likely need a coffee machine that can make at least 4 cups of coffee. If you are expecting a bigger crowd, go for a 12-cup coffee brewer so that you don’t have to make coffee several times. If there will be left over coffee, make sure to bring an insulated mug to keep the coffee hot.

Now that you have these things in mind, it’s time to choose between a percolator and a French press.

How Does a Percolator Work?

Using a percolator is the most traditional way of preparing brewed coffee. Some of the admirable features of a percolator are as follows:

  • Brew quality For percolator fans, you will hear them say that percolator coffee is more flavorful. They allude this to the pressure exerted by boiling water as it passes through the coffee grounds. Especially if you are using coarse ground coffee, the boiling water creates enough pressure to seep in between the particles of the ground coffee and extract all its flavor.
  • Durability – Percolator is made from aluminum/stainless steel. By principle, these materials are built to last for years and years. They don’t have any fancy parts or electronic parts. It is considered as a good initial investment for everyday home brewing.
  • Easy to use and clean Brewing coffee with a percolator does not require much training. You just need to measure the correct ration of coffee grounds to water, turn on your stove and put the percolator or plug in the electric percolator and you will have freshly brewed coffee within minutes. After use, just rinse the percolator with water. For deep cleaning you can add some mild soap and rinse.

The percolator is easy to use. Just fill the jug with water. Follow the dotted lines painted or stamped on the percolator’s jug. This helps avoid water spilling during the boiling process. Insert the stem. Put the basket under the knob. If you have filter, put it on the basket and add the coffee grounds.

As the water heats up, it starts to bubble and creates a little pressure. The bubbling water enters the stem and spills over the over basket and pushing through the grounds. Once the water starts bubbling, reduce the heat to avoid burning the coffee.

How Does a French Press Work?

The French press is a household favorite too. It’s very easy to use and requires minimal effort. It also helps if you have a ready hot water because it can quickly reduce the prep time when using a French press.

Why is French press loved by many? Here are the main reasons:

  • French press retains the flavor and aroma that coffee is known for. Paper filters used in almost all coffee makers take out the flavor and oils. Just like in any good food, the fats and oils hold the flavor and when heated, the flavors burst out. French press allows you to enjoy the flavor and the tiny coffee ground that goes into your cup adds to the great tasting coffee up to the last drop.
  • French press allows steeping. Just like with any good tea, to get the full body flavor, taste and aroma of coffee, allow it to steep for up to 4 minutes. Steeping allows water to penetrate the cells of the coffee grounds and get it ready for extracting the coffee when pressed.
  • French press gives you a full cup. Everything is in the cup. All the flavors and aroma are extracted to make one of the best homemade coffee.
  • French press saturates all the coffee grounds. Unlike with a drip machine or percolator, the hot water just passes through the coffee grounds. With the steeping process of the French press, you know that all coffee grounds are penetrated with water. When you add the pressure of the plunger, you extract real coffee goodness.
  • French press can help you make espresso. With the right coffee roast and grind, you can recreate your own espresso at home. If you love espresso to the moon, you’ll love owning a French press at home.

When using a French press, simply place the grounds at the bottom of the carafe. Use coarse grounds for better flavor. Add hot water. Place the plunger but do not push yet. Steep the coffee for 3 to 4 minutes. This will help the coffee bloom so you can get a full bodied coffee. After this, press the plunger down in one consistent motion.

Percolator vs French Press: The Verdict

The French press may be easy to use and convenient because you don’t need to look for any heat source. However, remember that you will need hot water to make coffee. Unless you have a ready hot water, the French press is a good choice.

But, in reality, you will always have to find a way to heat water when camping. In this sense, the percolator is your best option. You can easily place it on top of heat source and let it boil. In few minutes, you can now enjoy a good cup of freshly brewed coffee. The good thing too is that the percolator can double as a pot and water boiler. It is very handy and multi-tasking.


Head blogger at "Top Off My Coffee Please" and lover of great coffee.

Recent Posts