How To Brew Perfect Coffee With A Campfire Coffee Percolator

campfire coffee percolator

Wondering how you can use a campfire to make the perfect cup of percolator coffee? Here’s a general overview of how to do it!

  1. Start the Fire
  2. Fill the Percolator Pot
  3. Put Coffee Grounds in the Percolator
  4. Bring Coffee Near to a Boil
  5. Pour and Drink
  6. Clean Percolator

In the remainder of this article, I’ll make sure you understand each of these steps in detail and cover a few other factors you’ll need to be prepared for!

What You Will Need

To achieve that tasty campfire coffee goal, you’ll need the following supplies:3

  • A Percolator Coffee Pot
  • Filters (optional)
  • Thermometer (optional)
  • Vinegar (for cleaning later)
  • Campfire
  • Water
  • Regularly Ground Coffee

How To Make Coffee In A Campfire Percolator

Follow these 6 simple steps to brew coffee on your campfire using a camping percolator. These steps are easy to follow and make a great-tasting coffee for your morning wake-up.

Brewing on a stovetop is nearly the same process, with just a couple of minor differences. Learn how to brew coffee with a stovetop percolator in my stovetop article.

1. Start the Fire

Depending on where you’re camping and how readily available your materials are, starting the fire could be the trickiest part of your coffee-making experience! Remember that building fires is always inherently dangerous, and you must take necessary steps to protect yourself and your environment from that danger.

Fire Safety

Remember the water you’ll need for your coffee? Have it nearby as you start your fire, and don’t forget it if things get out of hand and you need a quick dousing!

To start your fire, first, make sure that you have a safe place for the fire to inhabit. This should be a circular place on the ground, usually, a shallow pit, surrounded by stones. This allows the fire to only come into contact with dirt instead of touching the flammable grass or wood around it and spreading out of containment.

If you’re at a campground, you’ll likely already have a fire pit for you. Still, ensure no flammable objects are near enough to catch fire. Additionally, you should never burn non-natural materials, like plastic, as it can harm the environment and release toxins into whatever you’re trying to cook on your campfire!

Building a Fire

To build a fire, put a base of smaller twigs and branches along the bottom of the fire pit. Then, add a layer of leaves and dry brush. Now it’s time to light your fire. Using a match or lighter, touch the flame to the dry brush and let the fire build.

Carefully place larger logs in a pyramid over this flame, and you’ll have a nice, warm fire in no time!

Now, on to the coffee!

2. Fill the Percolator Pot

The first step to making your coffee is to fill the percolator pot! How much water you use is up to you, but it is based on at least two things: one, your percolator’s size, and two, how much coffee you plan on drinking!

Generally, a batch of coffee tastes best and has the evenest flavor when filling the pot. If, for example, you have a percolator that can brew twelve cups of coffee, you’ll want to pour around 60 ounces of water into the pot. Check the side of your percolator to see whether or not there is a max or fill line to tell you where to stop.

If you overfill your percolator, it could end up boiling over, ruining your coffee, and increasing your risk of injury.

The water is poured directly into the bottom chamber portion of your percolator. From here, when heat is applied, the water will bubble up through a middle tube and rain down on the ground coffee. Once the water has seeped through the grounds, what falls into the lower chamber is delicious coffee.

The strength of your brew won’t depend on the water in the percolator but rather the amount of coffee grounds you use and the length of time it is given to boil. These two factors are discussed further below!

3. Put Coffee Grounds in the Percolator

The first thing to understand about adding coffee to the percolator is using a filter. Filters, when used in percolators, are optional in a percolator pot. Normally, you can just choose to add coffee directly to your percolator’s basket.

However, one possible benefit to a filter is that it can lower the cholesterol intake from the oil in your coffee. If that’s something that appeals to you, go ahead and place your filter in the basket of your percolator pot! If not, scooping coffee grounds directly into the percolator basket is also fine. 

Which Grounds Should Be Used In A Percolator?

The best coffee grounds to use in a percolator will be coarsely ground. This is because the unique way a percolator works causes any coffee-ground surface it comes into contact with to release more solubles. 

Solubles may not sound like a big deal at first glance, but too much of them in a brew can cause your coffee to taste very acidic. Coarse grounds are preferable because they don’t offer the water as much surface area to interact with during the brewing process. 

The best way to ensure that your coffee is the right type of ground is to grind coffee in a burr-model grinder. You’ll want the flakes of coffee to be about as thick as a chunk of sea salt. If you cannot grind your coffee, check the packaging of your preferred blend to be sure it was ground using the burr method.

How Many Grounds Should Be Used In A Percolator?

Once your percolator basket and optional filter are in place and you have your coarse coffee grounds, it is time to decide how much coffee grounds you want in the percolator.

The amount of coffee you scoop into your percolator’s basket will determine your batch’s strength in terms of flavor and caffeine! A good rule of thumb is to use a tablespoon of nice, coarse grounds per cup. This will give you a flavorful, rich batch of coffee for the campsite!

However, if you prefer slightly weaker coffee, consider scooping in a teaspoon of grounds per cup instead.

4. Bring Coffee Near to a Boil

For percolator coffee, heat is incredibly important to consider! The temperature of the water that moves through this unique model of coffee pot has a lot to do with how much flavor and oil is extracted from the grounds. 

How Hot the Water in the Percolator Should Be

Water should be at 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  If you bring a thermometer, you can use it to determine this. However, you can also measure the heat of the water by watching to be sure that your percolator’s water is moving through the system but has not reached a rolling boil.

If your percolator does boil, it can pull flavors and notes from the coffee grounds too quickly and jumble up the grounds, leading to an uneven brewing process.

Place your percolator close to the flames of your campfire. Sometimes it is helpful to have a flat stone surface near the heat in your fire pit so that your percolator doesn’t risk tipping over and making a steamy mess of your coffee plans! However, if the campground provides a pit grate, that should do the trick!

The main point is to make sure your percolator is being evenly heated. Remember that water is cycled through the percolating system based on how hot it gets. If the pot is too far away from the flames, or the fire is not producing a steady blaze, your percolator may halt mid-brew. Ensure the fire is steady and your percolator is near a consistent blaze!

How to Tell When The Coffee Is Ready

Most percolators come with a glass lid, which helps let you know when your percolator is finished brewing. However, if your percolator’s lid isn’t transparent, don’t worry! Like waiting for popcorn to finish popping, finding out when your coffee is ready is as simple as using your ears. Simply wait for the percolator to finish making sputtering, splashing noises. This usually takes as few as 7 minutes or 10 minutes. 

5. Pour and Drink

When the 10-minute maximum time is up, carefully remove your percolator pot from the fire’s heat. Pour yourself a cup and enjoy the taste! If your percolator and campfire did their jobs correctly, you should have a robust coffee, strong in taste, maybe slightly bitter, but not too acidic. Enjoy your very own campfire-percolated coffee!

6. Clean Percolator

Cleaning up your percolator is an important process, especially while camping! If you’re going to be out in nature and plan on enjoying another fresh pot of coffee tomorrow, this is doubly true. It is time to put the vinegar you brought to good use!

Vinegar is an excellent choice for cleaning a coffee pot because while it removes old coffee, stains, and any odors or smells in your percolator, it does not leave any residue.

To clean your percolator using vinegar, begin by disassembling the pot itself. 

After letting your pot cool, pour out any remaining coffee drippings. Then, remove the lid, the basket, and the tube. 

Create a solution of vinegar in water. A good measurement might be one part vinegar with 2 parts of water. This solution should be poured directly into the pot. Then, reassemble the percolator and place it on the fire so it begins brewing the vinegar mixture the same way it might naturally brew a coffee.

The natural mechanisms inside the percolator will cause the vinegar solution to move thoroughly around the whole inside of the pot, washing it clean! 

After the vinegar solution has boiled its way through your pot, pour it out. Rinse the percolator with clean water once or twice before filling it with a final pot of water.

Allow this pot of water to reach a boil and move throughout the pot’s inner workings like the coffee and vinegar before it. Finally, pour this out and disassemble the percolator’s parts. Consider leaving them on a paper towel or picnic table to dry if you’re at a campsite.

Once they are dry, reassemble the pot so that it is ready for you to use the next morning again!

Final Thoughts

In summary, we’ve learned that a percolator works by moving water through coarsely ground coffee through heat. A well-built, safely placed campfire can provide this heat. After brewing your coffee at 200 degrees, just before a boil, for around 7 minutes, you should have a delicious cup of coffee to enjoy at your campsite!

Watch This Campfire Coffee Percolator Video To See How It’s Done

Christopher Mize
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