How to Use a Coffee Percolator While Camping

One crucial step, possibly the most crucial when planning a camping trip, is deciding how you’ll make coffee while you’re there.

In fact, the last thing you want is to be caught in the middle of the forest without a refreshing cup of Joe. But the good news is there are numerous ways to make a steaming hot cup of coffee when camping.

The coffee percolator is one of the most widely used appliances for brewing coffee while camping.

How Do Coffee Percolators Work

Now, let’s learn how a coffee percolator works and how to use it to make coffee while you’re on a camping trip.

As you put water inside the percolator and heat it, it starts boiling. When this happens, the boiling water rises up the percolator’s vertical tube.

It then reaches the spreader plate where you’ve deposited your coffee grounds. But, one thing to remember here is that the water inside the percolator doesn’t boil all at once. 

The water closest to the heating surface has a higher temperature, while the water above it has a lower temperature. Then, the water from the spreader plate seeps into your coffee grinds and absorbs all the flavor.

Ultimately, a percolator works on the principle of pressure created by gravity and boiling water. And it does all of this without needing any form of electricity. Hence, percolators are excellent for camping.

Things You Need to Use a Percolator

Now that you know how a coffee percolator functions, here are four things you need to make a great cup of java:

  • Heat Source, preferable a campfire
  • Ground coffee beans
  • Clean water
  • A coffee percolator (duh!)

Furthermore, depending on the type of coffee beans and percolator you use, you might also need a coffee filter. So, pack one just in case.

Steps Involved in Using a Percolator

Okay, now that you have the necessary items and know how a percolator works, let’s begin brewing a fresh cup of coffee using this newly acquired knowledge.

So, on that note, here are a few steps you need to follow:

Take Your Coffee Percolator Apart

The first step to making a delicious cup of coffee using a percolator is to disassemble it. This will allow you to add coffee grounds and water to the percolator.

All you need to do to open it is to remove the top, take out the brew basket, and you’re good to go.

Add Water

The next step is to add water to the percolator’s water pot. So, take a few cups of water and fill it up according to your liking. But it would be wise to use the same cup you’ll pour your coffee into.

Doing so will allow you to keep accurate measurements. For example, using the percolator, one cup of water will make exactly one cup of coffee.

Moreover, ensure that you’re using ambient or room temperature water. Plus, the water you use should be clean. Thus, bottled water is preferable here.

Add the Coffee Filter

While this step is optional, we recommend using a coffee filter for a smoother, more consistent brew. Of course, if you’re okay with coffee grounds and sediments inside your coffee, you can skip this step.

In fact, you might not need a filter altogether since some percolators come with built-in coffee filters. Furthermore, whether you need a filter or not also depends on your grind type.

For instance, if you’re using finely ground coffee, you will probably need one. On the other hand, if you’re using a coarse grind, no sediments will appear inside your brew.

Typically, you should ditch finely ground coffee when using a coffee percolator.

Add the Grounds

Now comes the moment we’ve all been waiting for: adding the coffee grounds. Add one tablespoon of your favorite coffee grounds to the percolator’s brew basket. But, if you like your brew to come out extra strong, you can add more grounds.

Next, assemble the percolator by placing the vertical stem and brew basket back.

Apply High Heat till Water Starts to Boil

The next step is to take your coffee percolator and place it over a fire. This can either be a portable camping stove or a campfire.

This step involves placing the percolator on high heat to boil the water quickly. So, set your portable stove to “high” or add more wood to your campfire to raise its temperature.

Lower the Heat

When the water starts boiling, you’ll hear a spurting sound. This is called “perking.” “Perking” happens when the water starts to boil, goes up the percolator’s vertical stem, and flows through the grounds.

Once this happens, you will have to lower the percolator’s temperature to allow your coffee to simmer. Do this by setting your camping stove to “low”, or by placing the percolator on indirect heat.

Typically, you will have to simmer your coffee for around fifteen minutes to get a delicious-tasting brew. Once the spurting noise goes away, this means your coffee is ready.

Remember that you will have to remove the percolator from the heat source immediately. Leaving it on the fire too long can result in bitter-tasting coffee.

Pour a Cuppa

The last thing to do is to grab your percolator and pour the freshly-brewed coffee into your coffee mug. But, ensure you exercise caution when removing it from the heat source. The percolator will be scorching hot!

Things to Consider When Purchasing a Coffee Percolator

There are different types of percolators available for purchase, each with its own set of features.

So, on that note, here are a few things to consider when purchasing a coffee percolator:

Weight and Size

Lightweight percolators are great for camping. They don’t place an unnecessary burden on your body, especially when moving from campsite to campsite.

Therefore, choose a reasonably compact and lightweight percolator with a high coffee yield.

Brewing Speed

You can never match the brewing speed of instant coffee with a coffee percolator. Such a thing comprises your coffee’s flavor.

However, ensure that you don’t purchase a percolator that takes an hour to brew a single cup. Thus, brewing speed is another thing to consider when purchasing a percolator for your camping trip.


The percolator you purchase should be straightforward to use. In fact, if a percolator comes with an instruction manual, it’s probably best to look elsewhere.


The percolator’s water capacity tells you how many cups of coffee you can make in one brewing cycle. This capacity is typically measured in ounces.

When you’re on a camping trip, resources are scarce. Plus, a higher water capacity means you’ll have to carry some extra water bottles, adding more weight to your camping bag.

So, you should purchase a percolator that makes enough cups of coffee for your entire group in one brewing cycle. Therefore, if you’re camping with a larger group, higher water capacity is a no-brainer.

Best Coffee Percolators for Camping

Here is a list of coffee percolators you can consider buying for your next camping trip:

Chinook 41115 Coffee-Percolator

This coffee percolator is made from high-quality stainless steel, making it ultra-durable for camping. This characteristic makes it perfect for your camping trips.

The Chinook 41115 can brew up to around six coffee cups in one brew cycle, making it perfect for three to four people.

The handle is made from permawood, which has excellent heat-resistant qualities. But, one downside to this percolator is that it takes around twenty-five minutes to complete one brew cycle. This duration should typically be around ten to fifteen minutes.

Stanley Cool Grip Camp Percolator

This percolator is excellent for group camping trips, especially when coffee quantity is the top priority.

Although the Stanley Cool Grip has a simple appearance, it is composed of sturdy stainless steel, which adds to its endurance. However, the extra stainless steel adds to its heft, making it difficult to carry.

Another con is that the percolator’s handle sticks out a bit. This makes it far less compact than other choices on this list.

Primula Today 9-Cup Coffee Percolator

The Primula Today 9 Cup Coffee Percolator is a sizable percolator with a nine-cup capacity. It is made from aluminum which makes it quite durable for camping trips.

It has an ergonomic plastic handle and a clear round knob on the lid, allowing you to see how the brewing process is going.

The best thing about it is that you can use it on any heat source, whether a campfire or portable stove. However, this percolator doesn’t work on an induction stove.

One downside about the Primula is that it stains rather quickly. Plus, the water takes longer to boil due to its large size.

GSI Outdoors 8-Cup Percolator

The GSI Outdoors 8 Cup Percolator has a timeless design and is constructed from sturdy steel with a layer of enamel coating to avoid rust.

The three-ply structure makes this percolator durable and enables maximum heat distribution for even cooking.

The best thing about it is that it comes with a manufacturer’s warranty and weighs only 1.3 pounds. So, shortlist it!

GSI Glacier Camping Percolator

Because this coffee percolator is built using sturdy materials, you can use it outdoors with peace of mind.

The percolator has a glossy, mirror-like appearance. You can check your brew strength with the preview knob, allowing you to prepare your coffee just how you like it.

Moreover, you won’t have to use a coffee filter with this percolator, as one is included inside. The only downside to this percolator is that its plastic knob isn’t as durable as we would like it to be.

Wrapping Up

A coffee percolator is an exceptional device for camping trips, especially if you’re a coffee lover. However, preparing a fresh cup of coffee using one takes practice and know-how.

Ultimately, coffee made using a percolator can beat instant coffee any day of the week. So, use the tips mentioned in this article, and you’ll be ready to prepare a fresh cup of java with a percolator in no time.

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