Note: This week’s blog post is a special guest post from our good friend John Giuliano. John has an excellent blog over at BrewingCoffeeManually.com where he talks all about how to do different manual brewing methods in detail. He also spends a lot of time talking about brewing coffee in the outdoors, which is what we’re talking about this week.
If you follow me on social media or read my blog often enough, you will notice that something that I advocate and enjoy is coffee outside.
Typically people would associate making and drinking coffee outside with warmer months where outdoor activities are prevalent and coffee just seems to fit. Don’t let the fact that winter is upon us stop you from enjoying your coffee outside. Winter still offers plenty of opportunities to get outside and enjoy a great cup of coffee (like those wonderful winter days when the weather changes from a week of -15 degree wind chill to sunny, slightly above freezing temperatures).
If you can’t quite get up the enthusiasm for a wintertime coffee outside excursion, spring will be here before you know it. That first warm spring day, the one where you can’t help but stay outside all day is coming. When it does, be ready to bring your coffee enthusiasm along.
A few universal coffee outside principles
Whether your idea of coffee outside is an early summer morning with the sunrise or some sort of Jack London “To Build a Fire” sequel, there are some basic principles that hold true.
- Bringing your coffee outside to enjoy counts– Even though the majority of the rest of this post will focus on brewing coffee outside, bringing a thermos of coffee from home (or a coffee shop) and simply enjoying it outside is a great way to spend an hour or two. Sometimes keeping it simple is best. Honestly, you may never go if it is a big elaborate thing. Grab a cup of coffee and go enjoy nature. It doesn’t get easier than that.
- Hot water is your main obstacle when brewing coffee outside- It takes hot water to make hot coffee. Figuring out where you are going to get it is the hardest part about brewing coffee outside. Your options are nearly limitless but you will need at least some basic equipment and a heat source. Bringing already heated water (in a thermos) may also be an option especially if you are using a brew method that takes lower temperatures like the Aeropress.
- Once the water situation is settled, everything else is just a variation of manual brewing at home– Once you decide on a water heating method, you can pretty much proceed as normal. Situations vary widely but generally you will need to consider durability of your equipment when choosing a brewing method. You will also need to decide whether you will be bring your coffee ground or would like to grind on site with a handmill. Oh, and feel free to leave your gram scale and brewing timer behind.
Making the leap from brewing inside to brewing outside
Once you have decided to make the leap from inside to outside with your coffee brewing, you are only a few action steps and decisions away from your first brewing coffee outside excursion. As I said earlier, it really isn’t that complicated. Here is what you need to do:
Pick a brewing method and brewer that matches up with your expectations and activity- There is really no brewing method that is off limits for coffee outside but you have to think through it a little bit. In my opinion, the best brewing method is the one you like and are comfortable with but you also have to think about durability and ease of use. Last fall, I spent a week bicycle touring in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and even though I love my Chemex, I would have broken it if it was along for the ride. Two brewers you may want to consider for outdoor brewing adventures are the Aeropress and the Snow Peak Dripper (or any durable pour-over brewer).
Choose a heating method and kettle- Heating sources range from the raging bonfire and camp kettle combination to all the nifty camp stoves in the ultralight backpacking community. Once again you will want to look at the context of what activities you will be brewing coffee around. I’ve had great success with the Whisperlite Stove and recently I picked up an Emberlit Fire Ant for a little variety. Do a little research and figure out what you will want and need.
Pre-ground or ground on site- If you have a handmill like Hario Slim Mill, you might as well bring it along. I find something grand in the process of starting with whole beans and cold water and having a hot coffee a few minutes later. If you don’t have a portable grinder, don’t worry about it. Grinding your coffee at home before you go will not ruin your experience.
Make a list- If you don’t make a list, you will likely spend too much time trying to figure out what you need and will probably forget something. The first time you go, sit down and make a list. Keep the list handy and augment it as you learn more about what you need and want for your coffee outside setup. Here is a list to get you started:
- Coffee- I suggest picking some up from Fresh Ground
A manual brewing device
Filters (if needed)
Water- bring more than you think you will need
Kettle or pot for boiling water
Stove or heat source
Matches or a lighter
Once you have sorted through these things, it is time to go outside and brew some coffee. It doesn’t matter where you go, it can be your backyard, the beach or a forest preserve. Go and give it a try and experiment. Don’t stress about technique and keeping everything perfect. The coffee is going to be great. There is something about the outdoors that elevates a good coffee experience into a great one. Let me know how it goes!