Category Archives: camping

How to make camp coffee that doesn’t suck: The French Press

This entry is WAY old and out of date. I updated it on my new website, so click here to head on over to to check it out.

I don’t sleep well when I’m camping. I never have, and I probably never will. When I go to camp, I don’t go so I can spend the whole time in bed. Oh no sir. When I camp, I like to be all full of piss and vinegar, and coffee sure makes an awful lot of piss.

To be honest, I had resigned myself to drinking terrible coffee at camp. Instant or percolated, it was always just terrible. Bitter, gritty, and acidic. I just accepted it and drank it anyway. Then, someone gave me a French press. After a scan of the instructions, I made my first cup of French press coffee at camp.

I took a sip.

It was GOOD.

The problem I was running into at camp was that I was relying on boiling water to make my coffee. There’s never electricity in a campsite, and even if there were, I wouldn’t drag my espresso machine into the woods. Boiling water has a nasty tendency to over-extract the coffee, which explains why I was so used to it tasting like bitter vinegar. Milk would help cut the acidity, but in the summer, storing milk just isn’t an option.

Enter the French Press.

1. Grind your beans to a coarse grind. This is crucial, because if your grind is too fine, you’ll get more and more grit at the bottom of your cup, and you’ll get it floating in your coffee. It’s nice and manly to spit out a wadful of coffee grounds, but let’s be honest. Grit blows. I follow the rule of 2 tablespoons of beans per 8 oz of water.

See those chunks of coffee beans? That means I need a new grinder. I’ll be getting a burr grinder.

2. Heat your water. Either boil it and let it cool for a couple minutes or use a thermometer to get it between 195-205 degrees. If it’s at a rolling boil your coffee is going to suck mad hard. Give yourself a couple minutes and let it cool. While it’s cooling, cover the bottom of the French Press with your coarse ground coffee. My French press will hold 5.5 cups of water, so we’ll do 11 tablespoons of coffee in the bottom.

It puts the water on the stove or else it gets the hose again.

3. Pour the ALL of the NON-BOILING water over the coffee.

If I have to tell you to be careful while you’re pouring hot water then you probably shouldn’t be playing with a stove. Moron.

4. Let it sit, stirring occasionally, for a full five minutes. After the five minutes, stir and really mix up the coffee with a non-metal spoon. Stir some more, maybe another minute. If you use a metal spoon, ninja kittens with tear our your eyes and feed them to goldfish as treats. If you’ve done the stirring right (and if you didn’t you will lose the approval of your father) you should have a layer of foam on top. This is good. This means that we’re on the last step.

5. Now comes the fun part. Put the top of the lid onto the jar portion of the lid. Push gently but firmly DOWN. When the screen hits the bottom, just pour and serve.

If you’re an ultra-light backpacker, it’s probably not the best route to take, but for someone who doesn’t mind a few extra ounces in their pack, it’s a GREAT way to make delicious, mellow coffee without the nasty vinegary taste of traditional camp coffee.

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Posted by on September 30, 2012 in camping, coffee, food, scouting



A killer weekend getting back to what I believe in.

This weekend, I slept under these stars. It felt right.
If you’re wondering, it was shot at ISO 200
18mm-f/3.5 for 30 seconds on a D50. The picnic table was my tripod.
I’m especially proud of the big dipper.

That’s my tent on the left. My mom bought it for me for my birthday in 2008. That tent has been ERRYWHERES with me. It went east-to-west across northern Minnesota with me during the year that I gave up. It housed me and my wife at scout camp during her first summer there. It’s housed me on 48 weekend campouts so far, and it will serve me well on many, many more.

This weekend, it housed me at Philippo Scout Reservation in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. I was there for for my scouting district’s Order of the Arrow Conclave and it was AWESOME.

In which El Chris does legit farm work for like 25 minutes.

I’m white. I’m getting to be middle aged. I grew up in a white suburb FULL of people getting to be middle aged. I admit this freely. I also admit that I never, EVER worked on a farm. EVER. 

I was taking a break this weekend (since I’m an adult leader, I take lots of breaks) when a buddy of mine from Wood Badge walked past. 
“Hey El Chris,” came the cry. “How about we go unload that hay trailer?”

I really had no excuse other than “Wow, that sounds awful” so I went along. My back already hurt.

 We arrived at this mountain of hay on a cart. “Well this doesn’t look so bad!” I muttered to myself.

“Naw, it’s lots worse,” said Ranger Bob. “Ya’ll gon’ be unloadin that trailer behind you.” The chock full trailer behind us is the trailer shown below. Chock full of hay that might have dead snakes. This was going from bad to worse.

Our job was to make this nice large pile on the right and add it to the sloppy pile below and make it look good and ventilate so that dry rot doesn’t set in.

I started in. Then I quickly stopped. I had no gloves. I realized that chappy hands would a slothy El Chris make, and since I have soft little princess hands, they would get chappy FAST.
Ranger Bob got me some nice gloves. We went back to work.

 My buddies Darryl and Darryl were helping me out. Actually, I was helping them. I was about 25 years their junior and they gave me an ass kicking worthy of an elementary school playground. Hoo boy, did we move that hay. We cleaned up the receiving pile and then we threw the hay from the hay trailer. I got some on my skin and it was awful. I think it’s still in there.
The whole reason  I do this thing with Order of the Arrow to implant a belief in my scouts that cheerful service is a quality that a good man has. We LIKE cheerful service because it reminds us to remain happy in irksome circumstances. THAT is why I moved bales of Hay.
Sure, there’s good food that you can read about here, but that was hardly it.
We finished, and aside from some residual hay, we got through it just fine, thanks.

The boys dressed up in their OA regalia and said their lines FLAWLESSLY.  


 The boys took their roles seriously and delivered their lines well. VERY well.

Here’s an irksome task.

And here’s Derek drinking two cans of Mountain Dew
at the same time. He DID deserve them, in case you’re wondering.
If you look close, you can see him dribbling globules of Mountain Dew.
This guy had the least irksome task of all of them. I want his job next year.

Snagged this shot during the PERFECT blue hour. I couldn’t have BEGGED for it to look any nicer. I love this camp, I love being here, and I love know that it’s there. Thanks for the great weekend, and I’ll see you in 2 more.

 What’s your favorite place to camp?

Leave me a comment and I’ll let you know what I think!