Thursday, August 21, 2014

DIY Road Coffee

My first memory of coffee while camping, is from the early 70's. I wasn't even a teen at that time, so the memory doesn't involve drinking it--only observing the process, enjoying the smell and the ritual. A morning ritual that brought people out of their sleeping bags, rubbing their eyes, ready to begin another day spent in the company of community.

My folks and their friends enjoyed camping on Dry Creek in the Gifford Pinchot Forest, situated on the Carson side of Mt. St. Helens. It wasn't a campsite by today's standards. N explained it was probably a road/turn-around made by water trucks, to fill their tanks during fire season. I know there was an evolution of camping equipment over the years, but the time I remember most clearly is when everyone in the group had a camper on their trucks.

Despite trying to massage my grey matter into releasing a clearer picture, I can't remember if there was one shared coffee pot with a designated brewer or if everyone had their own. Though, I can visualize an active stainless steel percolator near the morning campfire--maybe on a grate belonging to one of the group. And there's an image of a white cup (small by my current standard) filled with a light brown brew. Coffee was most likely an extravagance when raising five children, so I imagine stretching that can of Folgers or Maxwell House was a priority.

When N and I were first married, being the only drinker, I never bothered with coffee when we went camping. Besides, if it didn't fit in the trunk of our little sedan, we didn't bring it. Later, when storage was less of an issue, I brought instant coffee and after that  "coffee bags". Coffee bags or "coffee singles" are a small step up from instant, and the taste was slightly better. Years later, when we bought a tent trailer, my home coffee ritual had changed along with the rest of the country. I bought beans, ground them only when I made a pot, kept the brew in a thermos instead of "burning it". And while I esteemed a cup made in a French press, I still liked the convenience of a coffee maker. But, I decided, a French press was perfect to create my own morning ritual while camping.

An important detail when camping: whether you're in a tent or a motorhome (not the king sized variety), water needs to be used conservatively. I did my best to find a way to use as little water as possible while cleaning my French press, but it was a messy process. During a trip with friends, I noticed they used a pour over method using a filter. The results weren't great, but I didn't discount the process.

This summer we made the move from tent trailer to travel trailer. Another opportunity to change the way I make my coffee! At least that seems to be what happens whenever I've taken time to sort through our equipment. With both the memory of the pour over cones and a local coffee shop that always talks about different brewing methods on their Facebook stream, I began to search. What I like about the French press is the ability to decide how long to immerse the ground beans in the hot water. Enter the Clever Coffee Dripper, made by the small Taiwan company, ABID (Absolutely Best Idea Development).

The results? I think the brew is as full of the same bold flavors as what the French press offers, but it's a step up. The tones are clearer and a muddiness (I hadn't noticed until now) was absent. Oh and the clean-up? Since a filter is used in the Clever, all I do is toss and rinse. How clever is that?

Ps. During some discussions following this blogpost, I learned another great option is the Bialetti Moka Pot. My only concern is whether a camp stove flame can be adjusted to the correct temperature. Plus I heard they work best when used on a regular basis. I might have to pick one up just to play with and to see how much water is needed for clean-up.

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