Some people enjoy a superb cup of coffee just as much as wine connoisseurs enjoy fine wine. If you believe life is too short to drink bad coffee, there is no reason to leave your passion behind when you are on the road in your RV. Take along a few essentials and you can enjoy that early morning cup of comfort while you watch the sunrise along a mountain stream, or while you relax around a campfire in the evening. When the brewed aroma of a great coffee combines with the outdoor ambiance of nature, it is a small pleasure well worth a little preparation. Here are some tips for brewing coffee to perfection, whether you are dry camping overnight in a Walmart parking lot in your Class B motorhome, or settled into one of America’s fabulous National Park campgrounds for a week or two in your Airstream trailer.
SELECTING YOUR BREWING METHOD
Depending on your choice of heat source – either the stove in your RV or a campfire, you may choose any of several brewing options. While you are out on the road enjoying new experiences, brewing your coffee in a different way than you might do it at home can add to your discovery experience. Here are a few techniques that make some extraordinary brews.
The Italian stove top espresso maker is a three part pot, usually made of aluminum, consisting of a lower water chamber, a filter basket, and an upper coffee vessel with a handle and a lid. Taking the espresso pot apart, fill the lower unit with cold water to a level just below the brass steam pressure relief valve. With the filter basket inserted into the boiling pot, grind your favorite coffee beans to a powdery consistency and add the coffee to the filter basket, filling it evenly and nearly to the top. Screw the top unit onto the lower boiling pot and place on the stove over medium high heat. As the water in the lower chamber is heated, the steam passes through the coffee and the upper chamber begins to fill, slowly at first, then more rapidly. This type of pot makes only about two large cups of coffee, so it will not take long. The pot spits, sputters and gurgles, telling you that your espresso is ready. Remove from the heat, pour and enjoy a strong, rich, satisfying brew.
The French press, sometimes called a plunger pot, can be tricky to use, but many coffee connoisseurs prefer this ritualistic way to make an exceptional brew. There is precision involved. The water temperature is critical, the consistency of the coffee grind is essential, and timing adds one more element of complexity to the process. Practice makes perfect, but here are the basic steps:
• Remove the lid and plunger. Put freshly ground coffee, about the consistency of Kosher salt, into the clean pot, about two rounded tablespoons for each eight ounces of water. Most French press pots hold about 32 ounces.
• Boil water in a separate pot and allow the boiling water to cool to between 195 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. It is helpful to have a thermometer for this step, but if that device is not available, it takes about 20 to 30 seconds for boiling water at sea level to cool to 200 degrees. At higher elevations, it can take a few seconds more.
• Slowly pour the hot water into the French press pot. Most of the coffee will float. Gently stir for a few seconds and the coffee will settle.
• With the screen retracted, or at the bottom of the lid, place the lid on the press. Wait for three to five minutes after adding the hot water, then slowly, gently push the plunger screen to the bottom of the pot. Allow about 20 seconds, being careful not to push the plunger too fast as this will cause the screen to tilt and coffee grinds can escape.
• Pour coffee slowly to minimize silt and enjoy. If you are not going to serve all of the coffee at once, pour the remainder into a thermos bottle. Do not leave it in the French press as it will continue to brew. Using this method, there will be some grinds in the bottom of your cup, so even if it is good to the last drop, you might have to chew the last drop a little.
For more than a hundred years, making coffee on an open campfire in a porcelain pot has been a Western tradition in America. Though the quality of the coffee used by cowboys in the old west was questionable, the method is simple and will produce extraordinary coffee with a bit of attention to detail. Here’s how:
• Fill the porcelain pot with water and place the pot in the campfire coals at the edge of the fire, not over direct flame.
• Allowing the water to come to a boil, remove the pot from the fire. After about a minute, add coarsely ground coffee – at two tablespoons per eight ounces of water – to the pot, stir briefly and replace the pot near the fire, but not directly on the heat source.
• Allow the coffee to brew for three to five minutes. Cowboys say that adding an egg shell to the pot will help the grinds to settle and clarify the coffee. Another hint to reduce muddiness: Place the coffee grinds in a fine cheesecloth pouch before adding to the pot.
• Pour slowly to avoid disturbing coffee grinds at the bottom of the pot. Enjoy!
GREAT COFFEE ANYWHERE ANYTIME
Unless you are camping in a wilderness area miles from civilization, you are not far from a local coffee roaster with fresh beans. Always use freshly roasted beans, grind your coffee immediately before using it, and don’t over brew. If there is no electric power, coffee grinders are available with battery power, or you can take an old fashioned crank grinder with you. If you aren’t sure of the water quality where you are, bring along bottled water. Regardless of your brewing method, remember, “If your coffee tastes like mud today, it was fresh ground yesterday.”