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Question: Why do bears shit in the woods?
Answer: Because they drink rubbish coffee.

The following article has nothing and everything to do with mountaineering. Is there a climber or mountaineer anywhere that can face the day without a hit of caffeine ? The following ideas will help you brew up very good coffee whether in the back of your T5, the porch of your Quasar at Camp Four, or a lay-by in the Glen. 

The Simple and Effective Way 

The easiest way to make excellent coffee outdoors.  
Ask your coffee provider to grind a hearty coffee at Grade 0 (sometimes known as Turkish grade). Boil water. Put one heaped tea-spoon of coffee in your tin camping mug. Pour on water. DO NOTHING for 4 minutes. Coffee ground at this level will naturally sink to the bottom of the cup (leaving residue in the bottom) and provides you with excellent coffee that requires no fancy coffee gear whatsoever. 
Recommended coffee – Cuban Crystal Valley 

The Way of the Bialetti 

For some the process and sounds of making coffee in a Bialetti is almost a daily religion. The sound of a Bialetti starting to gurgle is one of the finest sounds of the coffee world. Looked after it will last over two decades, and will make almost espresso strength nectar with ease. The small one is just small enough to warrant backpacking with, and works over an MSR pocket rocket and small canister. Only ever rinse the Bialetti in hot water (no soaps). If you’re in basecamp or in a VW larger Bialettis are available. 
Recommended coffee – Ethiopian Yirgachefa 

The French Way 

French presses come in many sizes and guises and most outdoor stove makers make a press to fit their models. The downside to these is that I haven’t yet found one that works all the time, by which I mean the filter sometimes doesn’t sit flush to the inside of the stove boiler, and you end up with gritty brown caffeinated water for breakfast. They are also inherently finicky. Getting the grind right on these can be a bind also. It may be worth taking the press part in to the coffee shop, or experimenting at home before you head off in to the great outdoors. Unless you thoroughly wash the boil pan after each brew, whatever you next use boiled water for will taste of coffee. MSR, Jetboil and Primus are amongst the companies that make French press adaptors. 
Recommended coffee – Rwanda Inzovu Cup of Excellence 

The MugMate Way 

As mentioned above (in the French way) most of the stove add-ons for making coffee don’t hit the mark, normally for construction or longevity reasons. MSR address this problem by offering their MugMate. It offers probably the second easiest way of making coffee in the Kalahari (or anywhere else). Add fineish ground coffee in to the mesh; sit the mesh inside your base camp mug, pour on hot water; contemplate your own existence; remove mesh; drink. Experiment with the amount (and type) of coffee at home first. The MugMate is also super easy to maintain too, and can be stored / protected inside most cups. 
Recommended coffee – Dark Side of the Moon 

The Aeropress Way

I once was a doubter too. Put a filter, some coffee and some hot water in to an outsize syringe; squeeze; and enjoy uber smooth coffee in about 30 seconds ???? Really ???? 
The componentry can be a bit of a faff, and it isn’t mega robust enough for three months in the Hindu Kush, but it weighs very very little, and makes wonderfully smooth coffee with ease. Indeed many of the worlds best caffeineries are now making with Aeropress. If you take yours in to the outback, a protective pouch makes sense (stick it inside an old ((clean)) mountaineering sock inside a small dry bag, or buy a second hand camera lens case). You can buy a permanent filter for it too, which will remove the requirement to carry paper filter papers with you. Try to not use boiled water with the device, 80c works best. Another top tip is make sure that the mug you are pressing in to and the surface on which the mug sits are both solid. There are tales of folk with arms like Garth being covered in very hot coffee as their immense downward pressure broke the cup, or the cup skidded off across the worktop.  The newish Aeropress Go is a great compact variant. 
Simple. Fast. Smooth.  
Recommended coffee – Sulawesi Jewel of the Rainforest 

The Way of the Drip 

For those who know what Chemex coffee drips are, I haven’t included them here simply because I haven’t yet found a Chemex drip that is robust enough to venture outside with. For the record some baristas consider Chemex to be the finest way of making coffee. Each to their own. 
In the Great Outdoors a drip coffee maker needs to be very simple in design. SnowPeak make their delightful steel Collapsible Coffee Drip, and GSI make the Ultralight Java Drip. The first is a thing of folding beauty, the latter looks like you are making coffee through an outsize pair of Action Mans Y fronts. Both work. The Snowpeak requires papers (get advice; buy good ones), the GSI one has a hanging mesh filter. I didn’t find the GSI one particularly base camp proof. The SnowPeak one (like most things they make) was spot on. Drip coffee also takes time and patience which, in a way, adds something to the end product. 
Recommended coffee – Honduras Santa Rosa 

The Way of the Pouch 

 Growers Cup is a company that has managed to stuff good coffee inside a decent filter inside a “disposable” portable coffee press. All you need to do to make good coffee their way is open the packaging, pour in hot water and wait. Coffee pouches cost about two pounds for which you get two medium size cups of coffee. All the forms of coffee making in this article produce some form of waste (even the simple zero grind way leaves a coffee sludge in the bottom of your cup). The Growers Cup method however leaves you with an A5 size press that is destined for landfill. You can however cut the top off, add a bit of soil to the coffee sludge, and then plant some flowers in the packet. Mothers Day made easy. 
Recommended coffee – whatever flavour you buy 

The Cold Kick in the Head Way 

This is how to make Cold Brew Coffee.  
Many people never do. Some who do wish they hadn’t. Some who do never go back.  
Get a 1 litre clear container with a lid. 
Make a 1:10 mix of good medium grind coffee to fresh water ratio.  
Mix and leave in the fridge for 24-36hrs.  
Decant and filter through coffee machine filter papers in to a stoppered or screw top container (a Nalgene jar is fine) and store in the fridge. Keeps for up to a week.  
Beware though. The long soak means that it is very caffeinated but will not be at all bitter. In fact it tastes a bit sweet. But it is strong stuff.  
Try half a tumbler topped with milk or ice. Yeah baby !!! 
Recommended coffee – Papua Bird of Paradise 

The Way of the Devil 

The year is 2057 and all other forms of coffee making on earth have been removed by the fun police. The only thing that still exists is grown in the arm-pit of The Gruffalo and is known as “instant”. Whatever your end of the world excuse is, and yes you will be damned forever and ever, you may, once in your life, have to use instant coffee. Via from Starbucks (available in uber low volume one-shot sachets), and Kenco Millicano (which even contains some real coffee), are the (almost) tolerable ones. Just don’t get caught drinking them.  

Some others to try: 

Left of Arc 
If you can’t quite handle, or don’t really need, the kick of full caffeine, then rather than selling your soul to de-caff, try a coffee that is naturally low in caffeine such as 
Thailand Doi Chaang Peaberry.  
Again, go to a proper coffee shop and ask an expert. 
Right of Arc 
If you haven’t got any open heart surgery to perform today, and you don’t need a steady hand, but you do need amongst the very finest of coffee kicks, indulge in Jamaican Blue Mountain RSW Plantation. A lot of JBM coffees are blends from the region. This one comes from one of the four highest plantations with authority to sell unblended. It is holy cow good. I was recovering from surgery once and was on morphine when I had a cup of this and I could still feel the surge over and above the effect of the drugs.  
Hold on tight. 
Something for the weekend ? 
Guadeloupe Bonifieur is grown at an altitude of 300-400 meters under the shade of banana plants on the mountain side of an active volcano in the Caribbean. Connoisseurs consider it one of the best coffees in the world and it is also one of rarest. You can read up elsewhere about the history of this extraordinary bean. The story involves an 18th century Mayor of Guadeloupe defending 3 coffee plants with his life. Bonifieur is not only the ancestor of Jamaican Blue Mountain but it is also the ancestor of ALL Central and South American coffees.  

Coffee Recommendations 

Lots of coffee is the same coffee as lots of other coffee just rebranded. Wherever possible use a reputable, ideally independent, expert seller. This author uses two: for quaffable excellent everyday coffees I use  www.pollarddscoffee.co.uk on Eccy Road in Sheffield (the also do mail order). All coffees mentioned in this article are available from Imperial Teas (of Lincoln). In the humble, reasonably experienced, and unbiased opinion of the author, they are the finest provider of teas and coffees in the land. From the everyday, through the unusual, to the absolutely extraordinary, Imperial advise and mail order across the globe, and do so without the arrogance and snobbery of some coffee houses. www.imperialteas.co.uk

PS there’s the coffee machine in the reception at www.pureoutdoor.co.uk too of course !!

Essential Notes

  • Use good coffee from a proper coffee shop. Tell the coffee expert what method or device you intend making coffee with and he or she will grind the beans to an appropriate level. 
  • Use a normal size cup (a tin camping mug is ideal ((narrow insulated mugs don’t work very well for some of these methods)). 
  • I would recommend, for the purposes of boiling water to make coffee, either a JetBoil or an MSR WindBurner stove. 
  • Please “drink responsibly” and take all of your coffee waste (and any packaging) home with you. The grinds can be put in a small Nalgene jar and used to grow mushrooms.  


1 comment:

  1. Nanopresso. And a SnowPeak titanium milk frother which fits neatly in a Jetboil - we use two pegs to lift it out. But we like the Bialetti too. And coffee bags. A girl can never have too much caffeine.


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