By Tony Barthel
I see a lot of questions on various forums about how to make coffee while boondocking. The assumption here is that people are asking how to make coffee without electrical power. There are actually a few good options. The Coleman Camping Coffee Maker is one of those options.
If you have a drip coffee maker at home, you already know what you’re getting here. Bring the same coffee you use at home and, potentially, even the same paper filters and you can make coffee over your RV’s stove or even a portable camp stove. (Did you see the one I just wrote about?)
The Coleman camping coffee maker is your typical drip coffee maker with the simple exception that it doesn’t use electricity to heat the water. Instead, the coffee maker is designed to sit on a stove burner. Coleman suggests that whatever stove you set it on not exceed 15,000 BTU of heat. The carafe that is included with this coffee maker is a 10-cup glass coffee pot.
There is also a pause and pour feature and, when using this, you should be certain to place the coffee pot under the brew basket with the handle facing outward so that it allows the coffee through and doesn’t activate the pause and pour function.
Construction of the Coleman camping coffee maker
Owing to the fact that this coffee maker is designed to work on a stovetop, the bottom is all metal. You simply pour water into the container, add your filter and coffee grounds and light the burner under the coffee maker on the stove. About 15 minutes later you get a pot of coffee.
While testing this, I noticed that you pour in what is indicated as 10 cups of water from the included carafe and you get about eight cups of coffee out. It seems that about two cups of water evaporate. You can fix this by adding some water during the brewing process.
Like so many things in the RV world, this does best when it sits level. I found that the coffee will spill over the paper filter and you’ll have crunchy coffee if the unit isn’t level. You can also make fewer than 10 cups of coffee, or really eight, by simply adjusting the amount of coffee grounds you put in the basket and the corresponding amount of water.
Downsides of the camping coffee maker
One of the biggest disappointments of this is that the carafe is glass. While that gives you a window into the brew that powers mornings, it also means there is no provision to keep the coffee steaming hot. You are not encouraged to leave a flame on under the coffee maker at all. While the base is a heavier metal and does definitely retain heat, it’s not sufficient to keep the coffee really hot for that second cup of goodness.
One solution to this is to use a stainless steel thermal carafe. You can find a 10-cup one here. Of course, you could also pour coffee from the glass carafe into a stainless steel one but then you’d have to carry a second one around. Stainless steel wouldn’t be prone to breaking, either, like the glass is.
If you choose not to use paper filters, a gold tone filter will also fit right in here. However, this defeats some of the purposes of this machine because the idea is to use as little water for clean-up as possible when boondocking, and you’d have to rinse the gold tone filter. While I respect throwing as few things away as possible, the paper filter will save water.
I’m a nut about coffee and I also love boondocking. As such, I’ve tried all sorts of coffee solutions from the AeroPress® to the Palmpress to pour-over systems and French presses. I bought a coffee pot that is a French press, which was terrible and messy and made lousy coffee. I kept a four-cup electric coffee maker from the resort we had. It made mediocre coffee and also needed electricity. That got donated to the local thrift shop quickly.
What I like about this is that you get 10 cups of coffee, assuming you’re adding water during the brew cycle, and there are essentially no moving parts to this thing other than the swing-out basket. It’s also really, really easy to clean up, further minimizing your water usage while boondocking, another plus. Lastly, it makes coffee like most folks make coffee at home and probably uses the same filters and coffee for the win.
Reading several other reviews of this from people who bought them, I can share that it’s a bad idea to put this over a campfire as you’ll just melt the plastic handle on the carafe. There are also reviews where people melted the handles on stovetops. I suspect their burners produced more than 15,000 BTU of heat.
My wife thinks I’m nuts with the number of coffee makers I have for both the RV and the home just because I keep trying new things. But this is basically as simple to use as an electric coffee maker provided you have a propane burner handy, which most RVs do.