American Bushman

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing." —Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


While we're on the subject of trail foods...

Coffee is a staple I cannot do without. Yes, I'm an addict. It takes me two (sometimes three) cups in the morning just to get functional. Dissertations by a 5 year old before that third cup can be a bit frustrating and almost definitely confusing.

There are several methods to make coffee in the woods from the simple (cowboy coffee) to the complex (GSI Espresso maker) and all points in between. Here we'll talk about the simplest method and I'll take you from green coffee bean to finished cup.

You can get your coffee pre-roasted (known as green coffee) from many of the same places you'll buy your roasted beans. The one I use most often for both roasted and unroasted beans is Intelligentsia. A pound of green beans should store for up to a year (maybe longer) and they'll travel well when stuffed into your pack.

You'll also need a skillet or some other pan for roasting the beans over the campfire. At home you can use the stove or even a purpose-built bean roaster but those are luxuries you'll likely be without on the trail. I like my small Lodge cast iron skillet. It looks like it's about 6.5" in diameter at the top edge. It's heavy relative to Titanium or Aluminum skillets of similar dimension but it'll stand up to the heat of the campfire better for longer and the weight for such a small pan is only two pounds.

In camp, you'll need to build a small fire. Don't make it too hot. You only need to boil water and roast some coffee beans. Set your skillet on the coals to warm it up. It only needs a minute or two to get plenty hot.

Take a handful of green coffee and add it to your skillet. Much like parching rice or corn you'll need to stir it often and keep an eye on it. Dark roast turns into charred bean in no time flat. The darker the bean the stronger the coffee.

Once your beans are dark enough for you, pull them from the heat and continue to stir them to allow them to cool down quickly. If you can move them from the hot skillet to a muslin or cotton bag that would be ideal as you can twirl the bag to circulate more air and you're going to be using the bag in the next step anyway.

If you haven't already, add your roasted beans to a muslin or cotton bag (any sort of soft container would work--even an extra sock.) Using the poll of your axe, the bottom of your skillet, or some other hard object, pound the roasted beans into grounds. Coarseness of the grounds, like darkness of the bean, affects the final strength of the coffee. Finer = stronger.

You could, of course, skip all the steps above and just buy your coffee at any of the stages outlined above. Green, roasted whole bean, and roasted ground bean are widely available at your local supermarket or specialty retailers like Intelligentsia, Starbucks, Peets, etc. Wouldn't be quite as fun though...

Once you've got your beans roasted and ground and your water boiling you follow the steps outlined here to complete the process and have yourself a nice cup (or two or three) of java.

Again, you could just go out and buy a percolator from REI, EMS, etc. and add your ground coffee to the filter basket and you'd have an easy, tasty cup of coffee but you'd also be lugging around an extra piece of gear that was fairly specific in usefulness that you'd be hard pressed (no coffee pun intended) to justify lugging it through the woods.

Thanks for reading,



Post a Comment

<< Home