Journal

Brewing in the Wild

Being able to brew great coffee wherever and whenever you need it most has always been a key aim of ours. No matter where you are or what equipment you have with you, you should still be able to brew the best cup of coffee possible.

Nowhere is this truer than in the great outdoors, whether that's camping in the wild or hiking up a mountain -- a great cup of coffee is the perfect accompaniment. 

Over the recent Summer Solstice weekend, Sheffield-based bikepacking brand, Pannier, set up camp at Stanage Edge in the Peak District and invited tourers to join them for a few days of riding and socialising out in the wild. We roasted a batch of our Rwandan filter, Kirehe Remera, for them to brew up each day.

But brewing in the wild provides some unique challenges and so with practicality in mind, and travelling light a priority, we also put together a few tips to help keep your coffee tasting sweet even with a more lo-fi brewing set-up.

Aeropress

Use a metal filter
You can leave paper ones at home, so the filter holder isn't taking up the space of half a water canteen. Metal filters allow more oils and fine sediment into your cup, and need rinsing and wiping off once you've brewed, thus ensuring the oils don't turn rancid and taint your next cup. 

Use a scoop
Every AeroPress comes with a scoop which promptly gets tossed into the "random things" drawer in everyone's kitchen. It's actually pretty decent. The spoon end of a spork (below) also makes for a good alternative. 

Grind a touch coarser
You should be using a Porlex when camping; it slots into your AeroPress chamber when packing, is quick, and doesn't require an energy source besides yourself. Rather than trying to squeeze down your AeroPress with a considerable amount of force when you're likely brewing on an uneven tree stump or a mossy woodland floor, go for a coarser grind and longer steep time, with an extended stir to make sure the coffee extracts properly. A coarser grind will also make plunging through a metal filter that little bit easier.

Brew inverted
Make sure the rubber bung is securely in place in the brewing chamber and add your ground coffee. Then slowly top up with freshly boiled water to just shy of the brim of the AeroPress a this equates to around 250g of water. Get stirring and leave for a few minutes to steep before placing the filter and cap in place, flipping onto your tin travel mug, and slowly plunging. 

Pourover

Take pre-rinsed filter papers
If you're the kind of person to be doing pour-over brewing in the woods, you sound pretty into your coffee. For single cup brewing, the taste of a filter paper will come through if it's unrinsed, but when camping, water and heat will be in short supply compared to back home. Therefore when packing, spend a minute a few days before you leave rinsing a short stack of filter papers in your pourover cone, letting them dry before popping into your rucksack. That way you can brew straight away without having to boil extra water.

 

Grind a little finer than normal
This might sound counter-intuitive given the AeroPress brewing advice to grind coarser whilst camping but bear with me. The hard part of pourover brewing without scales is getting an accurate coffee-to-water ratio. We all know the right amount of coffee to water, ground on the correct grind setting gets you a cup of coffee which is well extracted and brewed to the proper strength. What we propose you do in the woods, however, is to purposefully brew a cup that's a bit too strong, but is properly extracted. Then, to dilute the concentrated cup and open up the flavours, add a little hot water to taste. 

 

Aim for a large bloom and higher brew bed throughout
As you won't be packing a gooseneck kettle, pouring carefully, slowly and accurately, in all likelihood, won't be possible. To counteract this, and still get an even extraction, start by pouring quite a lot of water onto the grounds, more than you would at home. Get a spoon in there and make sure that all the grounds are wet in this initial slurry, before continuing to pour. Keep the level of water quite high in your cone, as this will hopefully achieve a higher temperature in the brew slurry. Maintaining a high temperature, combined with a finer grind, means you'll be able to extract all the delicious flavours from your ground coffee, with less water than you would use to pour through the coffee bed at home. 

Dilute
When you feel like you've got a strong cup of coffee under the cone, take it off and taste it. Add a splash more hot water, mix and taste again. Keep doing so until the coffee is at your desired strength then savour and enjoy.

Cowboy Coffee
Finally, if you forgot to pack a coffee brewer, but still have your grinder or pre-ground coffee with you, don't fret. You can still brew a super lo-fi cup of coffee in your saucepan or kettle. This isn't going to be the most refined cup of coffee you'll ever drink, but here are some tips to get closer to that sweet spot. 
 
Use a medium grind size
There will be a tendency to want to grind very coarse when you're making steeped coffee. However, a coarse grind size won't allow you to reach an optimal extraction when the water and coffee are just sitting together, slowly infusing. Use a generous scoop for each cup you're making, and in the tried and tested tradition of English tea brewing, throw in another one "for the pot". This way you can opt to dilute the slightly strong coffee with a splash of water or milk, which will also stretch the amount of brewed coffee to go that little bit further. You'll have to leave behind some of the brewed coffee in the pan to avoid grounds in your cup, so having a slightly more concentrated brew to dilute down is a good thing. 
 
Boil and stir
Don't be afraid of brewing with boiling water. Measure out the water in the cups you'll be drinking from. The moment your saucepan is at a gentle rolling boil, turn off the gas and dump all the coffee grounds in (a hearty scoop for each cup, and one for the pan). Make sure at this point to use the back of a spoon to knock down any coffee grounds that are trying to float on the surface. Once they're all wet, you need to wait just a couple of minutes before giving the whole lot a really good stir. The grounds will have degassed and are ready to take on the water and start to diffuse their flavour into the liquor. 
 
Be patient and gentle
This is make or break for your cowboy coffee. You're now sat in front of a scalding hot pot of coffee which will be tastier the longer you leave it, and also will be more clarified the longer you leave it. The coffee grounds will slowly be sinking to the bottom of your pan. After a good ten minutes, you can start thinking about serving up the coffee. It is best to do this in one go, rather than to pour one cup and set the pan down again, and then to pour another cup later. Line up your mugs and ever so slowly and gently pour off the brewed coffee, trying not to disturb the grounds that have settled at the bottom of the pan.

Delving into automatics

Wilfa Grinder CGWS-130BThe era of the self-flagellating barista is over.

Overly obtuse and complicated brewing procedures that were once entertaining and exciting are now simply annoying. “There are no points for difficulty in coffee”. What really matters is using fantastic coffee and thoroughly enjoying the cups that you brew.

To that end we’ve been on the hunt for an automatic filter coffee brewer that we aren’t just happy to recommend, but wholeheartedly endorse, stock and sell to our customers. 

When we first dipped our toes into the world of auto-brewers we knew that we had to do a lot of experimenting. Upon testing a wide range of drip coffee makers we were scoring the machines in the following categories:

Ergonomics:
We looked at how comfortable and easy it is to engage with the machine, in preparing a pot, brewing and cleaning down, assessing the tactile qualities of the materials as well as sturdiness.

Brewing Temperature:
Assessing whether the machine is able to get the water up to an adequate brewing temperature, how quickly it does so and how stable it remains throughout the brewing process

Extraction Quality:
We trialled different recipes and techniques with each brewer, playing every role from skilled barista to someone half-asleep and feeling lazy in the morning. We rinsed filter papers, agitated as necessary and levelled the coffee bed for a more involved brewing procedure, but also trialled simply adding coffee and water by eye, with no intervention during the brewing process. Our thoughts behind these tests were that the better brewer would be the one that can adequately extract the coffee in a range of different scenarios. Using a refractometer we could check which machine brewed a stronger cup when using the same dose of coffee and water, thus informing us as to the more efficient option. 

Consistency:
It wouldn’t do to simply test the brewers once, so we brewed pot after pot of a wide range of coffees using water of varying hardness to see how the brewers coped in multiple scenarios. 

Speed:
Good things come to those who wait, but you can’t deny that your first cup in the morning can’t arrive quickly enough. Given that the machines will be popular in offices and cafes as well as in the home we wanted to make sure we selected a brewer that doesn’t take an age to produce a pot. 

Design:
You can’t overlook the importance of a slick looking machine. The footprint of the machine as well as the choice and finish of materials needs to lead to a pleasing aesthetic.

Value for Money:
There are some super cheap and some crazy expensive automatic brewers out there. It was important to us to find something with good build quality but not cost the earth, as the more people that can enjoy our coffee, the better.

Deliciousness:
Obviously this relies on the brewer delivering well on the above criteria, but we made sure to taste, taste and taste again to ensure the brewer reliably produces something utterly delicious.

Our Winner: The Technivorm Moccamaster

The Moccamaster ticked every box for us, and we’ve since been using it to brew fresh pots every day in the Workshop Coffee roastery as an extension of our roasted coffee QC program (and to perk the team up during a day’s roasting and packing).

A lesson in utilitarian, industrial aesthetic and a great example of quality manufacturing, the machine is hand-built in the Netherlands and comes with a 5 year manufacturer’s warranty. 

We were able to brew well extracted pots of coffee with minimal intervention, and have put together this concise brewing guide for those wanting to get the best out of their investment. 

We’re also importing and selling the new CGWS-130B electric burr grinder from Wilfa in Norway. Together they both deliver great results for minimal effort on your part: win win. 

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