The Vanlife Coffee Guide | 4 Camping Coffee Makers to Make Your Perfect Campervan Coffee

written by Sabrina
published on October 2, 2020

Vanlife is amazing! But, it comes with its limitations. Like making your favourite cup of coffee while camping. Let’s be honest. Instant coffee from a sachet is not real coffee. It doesn’t smell the same, it doesn’t taste the same and it definitely misses the lovely creamy top!

On top of that, some perfect vanlife countries simply don’t make great coffee! So even more reason to make your own 😉 In this article we’ll go over the 4 best ways to make a great camping coffee in your campervan! 🙂

Because I’m not really a coffee connaisseur (yep, I’m a tea girl!), my friends from bigcupofcoffee.com helped me writing this article. After long hours of searching for the most versatile coffee maker you can sneak into your Campervan, we’ve prepared a list of the best brewing methods you can use in a Campervan.

It takes a bit of trial and error to see which coffee style you like best – so don’t hesitate to ask some of your vanlife friends to try their favourite method 😉

Can’t wait to make your favourite roast while relaxing in your tiny home with amazing views? Here’s how!

The Best Campervan Coffee Makers: A Quick Comparison

All these camping coffee makers have pro’s and con’s and delivery different flavours of coffee. To each their own, so we won’t advice on that. But we can help with functionality 🙂 All four of these options makes a great gift for full-time vanlifers and RV’ers!

If you’re looking for a quick decision on how to make your best camping coffee, this table is for you! Below the table, we will dive into the different ways of making coffee in your campervan.

French PressPour OverAeropressMoka Pot
Price Few euros ranging to over €30!Plastic pour-overs: a few euro’s. Pretty glass ones €20-30. Plus filtersAbout €30 plus filters.From a few euro’s to about €20 for more heavy materials.
Heat SourceHot water onlyHot water onlyHot water onlyYou need a gas/electrical hob to heat the moka pot.
MaterialMost French presses are at least partly glassCan be simple plastic which is great for campervan life. The glass ones are a lot fancier though 🙂Plastic, great plus for campervan coffee!Aluminium or stainless steel. A bit heaver than other coffee makers.
Size & StorageNot large, but need safe storage due to glass!Odd shaped, but the plastic ones are very lightEasy and small!Odd shape and is not easy to store in small spaces.
# cups of coffeeup to 8 cups of coffee per brewWith one brew, you’d make 1-2 cups before refreshing the beans.One cup at at a time1 or 2 epresso’s
TimingAbout 4 minutesA minute or soLess than a minuteTakes a few minutes on a stove

The 4 Best Methods for Making Coffee in a Campervan

The Ultimate Camping Coffee: Use a French Press!

What is a French Press coffee machine?

A French Press is a brewing method that involves steeping ground coffee beans and hot water in a cylindrical carafe to extract flavorful oils and nuances. It’s an all time favourite with many coffee lovers! After only 4 minutes of steeping, you press down the plunger with a metal mesh filter attached. 

The mesh filter helps separate the coffee grounds from the coffee extract, which enables you to produce a thick body of natural oils and fine grounds that rises as the plunger reaches the bottom from the amount of pressure you exert.

French Press Coffee in your campervan and motorhome
Making a decent camping coffee using a French Press!

Grind Type Recommendation: Coarse grind

The grind size recommended for French Press is coarse grind size (quite large chunks). It helps in slowing down the extraction rate of coffee. Thus, over-extraction is avoided.

Another reason why coarse ground coffee is suitable for French Press is that it won’t get stuck on the mesh filter. Best of all, it won’t be too difficult to press the plunger as you separate the grounds from the liquid coffee.

Type of Bean: Medium to Dark Roast

French Press coffee tastes best when you use medium to dark roast coffee beans. This type of bean matches the method as French Press reduces the perceived bitterness you’ll taste from the coffee beans. Likewise, the French Press gives coffee a smokey, dark brew personality paired with its appetizing shiny, black color of a decent French roast.

Recommended Camping French Press: Bodum Chambord

You can go camping in style with Bodum as your camp espresso maker. The Bodum Chambord is made of Borosilicate glass cylinder with stainless steel and durable plastic framing. They are absolutely stunning! This French Press allows you to brew 8 cups of coffee (4 oz each mug) in just 4 minutes and is only 23 cm high – so it should fit in any campervan!

For a simply & effective coffee: the Pour Over

What is Pour-Over?

Pour Over is a filter method of brewing coffee, just like a regular household machine does! It involves pouring hot water through the coffee grounds in a paper filter.

The hot water is poured in a swirling motion for an even extraction. The extracted coffee drains through the paper filter directly into your mug or into a stainless steel carafe to retain the heat.

Grind Type Recommendation: Medium grind

Pour-over coffee is the result of infusion between hot water and coffee grounds. Infusion happens when the coffee grounds and warm water come in contact for a brief moment. With such time given to extract the coffee beans’ flavors and oils, medium grind size is more suitable for pour-over. 

Yet, to achieve a perfect pour-over coffee, it requires a lot of tweaking, including the number of coffee beans to brew and the water temperature. Make sure to try various amounts to get a sense for what works best for you.

Type of Bean: Light Roast + Medium Roast

The Pour Over method is a brewing technique that highlights the coffee beans’ best features – the flavor notes and the aroma. If you prefer a bright coffee, light roast coffee beans are most frequently used to make a vibrant joe with the most acidity and subtle flavor notes.

Some coffee drinkers mix light roast and medium roast for a balanced, complex coffee to lessen the bite and the jitters.

Recommended Espresso Maker: Chemex

Pour-over coffee tastes good – but even better when you brew the coffee beans using Chemex. This hourglass-shaped coffee maker made of non-porous, Borosilicate glass and is super fashionable!

Some types have a heat-proof wooden collar wrapped around its neck and it brews clean, bright coffee. It uses a double-bonded paper filter to prevent the coffee beans from over-extraction and effectively traps coffee oil that aids in reducing the caffeine content of the coffee.

Do mind that Chemex is made of glass and therefore needs a solid storage place in your campervan!

Using a Pour over to make coffee in your campervan - Camping Coffee
Beautiful traditional coffees through the pour-over method

Easy One Cup of Coffee: AeroPress

What is an AeroPress?

The brewing technique using an AeroPress is similar to that of that French Press, but a bit more modern. Both apply pressure to extract coffee. Yet, what sets these two apart is that AeroPress is made of two nesting cylinders made from BPA-free, durable plastics.

One cylinder has an airtight seal fitted to another cylinder, which serves as the brewing chamber. Check out this video to see how it works.

The brewing time with Aeropress is much shorter than French Press. It’s a handy, brewing device that you can bring anywhere you go and fit in your backpack. However, if you’re the type of coffee drinker who loves to share coffee, this device is not for you as it can only brew one (large) coffee serving at a time.

If you are a solo-vanlifer, the Aeropress may be great for you!

Grind Type Recommendation: Fine Grind

If you want a cafe-quality espresso in the middle of your camping trip in the wilderness, the AeroPress is a great brewing method. It uses fine grind size coffee beans for a shortened steeping time. This means you can buy pre ground coffee to use with your AeroPress if desired.   

Aeropress for the perfect camping coffee in your motorhome

Type of Bean: Espresso or Dark Roast

The espresso and dark roast blend allow you to taste the flavors of the coffee beans. When you brew the coffee beans with AeroPress, it doesn’t overpower the subtle coffee flavors with the time it takes to extract the oils from the grounds.

To brew a perfect AeroPress coffee, you have to pay more attention to the water temperature to be used than other coffee makers. Try different temperatures to see which fits your flavor profile best.

For a delicious cup of AeroPress coffee, Grounds and Hounds is a recommendable coffee blend with a full range of different coffee blends to choose from. It’s a versatile coffee blend because you can also brew it using your Pour over.

Check out an in-depth review for Grounds and Hounds and be amazed by their incredible mission supporting local animal shelters.

Go the Mediterranean way: Moka Pot or Percolator

What is a Moka Pot?

A Moka pot is a stovetop espresso maker similar to stovetop percolators. It’s a famous espresso maker used by many Spanish and Italian people because it allows you to create a beautiful espresso! The stovetop coffee maker has three parts: base, filter, and a top chamber.

Perfect espresso in your campervan with a moka pot - perfect camping coffee

Grind Type Recommendation: Fine to Medium Grind Size

When you use the Moka pot, it’s best to use fine to medium grind size coffee beans. Some would recommend the espresso grind. However, such grind size will only clog the filter-screen.

Likewise, it will create a dangerous pressure at a certain temperature level. So it’s best to use a finer grind size of coffee beans than your usual drip coffee beans.

Type of Bean: Medium to Dark Roast

With stovetop espresso makers like Moka pot, you can make an authentic espresso of barista-quality using the medium to dark roast coffee beans. This type of roast offers a deep and rich flavor as the Moka pot’s temperature increases and pressures the coffee beans to extract oils.

Recommended Espresso Maker: Classic Stovetop Maker

The Classic StoveTop maker is perfect for a strong espresso for hardcore coffee drinkers. This Italian style Moka pot distributes heat evenly to produce a creamy and smooth coffee.

The coffee maker’s body is made from durable aluminum and has a pressure valve to optimize the extraction of the coffee beans. It is handy and light-weight, so you can bring it anywhere you go.

To conclude on coffee in your campervan

Living in a campervan will get you 99 problems, but coffee ain’t one 😉 Hope that after reading this article, you will be able to brew yourself an amazing cup of coffee while gazing over mountains, enjoying sunsets (or rises!) and share beautiful moments with the people you love.

Dave Hoch big cup of coffee

Lover of life and consumer of dark craft coffee, Dave is the co-founder of BigCupofCoffee.com, a site dedicated to brewing the best cup of coffee at home.

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