Percolator Coffee Vs Drip Coffee: What's The Best For Camping?

Many hiking and camping trips are started and ended with a cup of coffee. There are several options now for outdoor coffee makers, but two of the most popular types of coffee makers are old-fashioned percolators and the relatively new drip coffee makers.

There is much debate over which type is best, percolator coffee vs. drip, so, we will take a look at each coffee making style. We will first look at the primary process for making each method of coffee, then compare the pros and cons. Lastly, we will dive into which coffee making style is the best for camping and hiking.

percolator coffee vs drip

How to Make Each Type of Coffee

First, we’ll review percolator vs. drip production methods and outcomes.

Percolator Coffee

Percolating coffee is one of the oldest methods for making coffee. A percolator consists of a bottom chamber where you place the water and a top chamber where you put the coffee grounds. When the water heats, it boils up through a spout and pours down over the coffee grounds and seeps back into the bottom chamber.

Through this process, some of the water may filter through the coffee grounds more than once, creating a stronger flavor. For how-to instructions on using a percolator while camping, click here.

Drip Coffee

Drip coffee makers are a new invention, coming about in the 1970s. A drip coffee maker consists of a water reservoir, a basket and filter for the coffee grounds, and a pot for the brewed coffee to dispense. Most commonly drip coffee is done in an automatic pot, but drip coffee can also be done manually with a coffee cup, pot of boiling water, and a filter and basket.

If making drip coffee manually, pour the hot water over the coffee grounds in the filter and once all the water has seeped through into the cup, it is ready to drink. Whether using an automatic pot or making drip coffee manually, the coffee tends to be milder in taste because the water only touches the grounds once.

For how-to instructions on making drip/pour over coffee while camping, click here.

When to Choose Percolator Coffee and When to Choose Drip Coffee

There are several benefits and drawbacks to each method. It will ultimately depend on a few factors. Let’s take a look.

Percolator Coffee

Percolator coffee tends to have a stronger, more acidic taste because of the water filtering through the coffee grounds multiple times. The longer you percolate the coffee, the stronger it will taste. The hotter water also means that more of the oils in coffee beans make it into the final product.

Most percolators do not require an additional paper filter and can be brewed using only the metal filter. However, using the metal filter means smaller coffee grounds may end up in the coffee. So, make sure to use a more substantial size ground when percolating coffee.

Portable percolators are said to keep coffee warmer for longer than portable drip coffee makers, and they can make larger quantities of coffee. So, if you have a large group on your camping or hiking trip, a percolator will be better.

Lastly, mobile percolators usually have fewer parts than mobile drip coffee makers, which makes it easier to keep track of each component.

Drip Coffee

When using the drip method to make coffee, the coffee tends to be milder tasting because the water is only filtering through the grounds once and usually fairly quickly. There is less of a chance of having grounds and debris in your final coffee product when using the drip method.

Portable drip coffee makers have more parts than portable percolators. Mobile drip coffee requires a cup, a pot or container of hot water, the filter basket, and a paper filter. The additional parts make clean-up a bit more difficult, and there are more parts to store and keep track of. Having a paper filter though, does mean you can use a finer coffee ground.

Though there are more parts to a portable drip coffee maker, the parts are often lighter weight than a portable percolator. Many camping drip filter baskets are lightweight aluminum and fold up to be completely flat.

Making drip coffee is much quicker than percolating coffee, but only makes a small amount of coffee. So, drip coffee is ideal for a single person or couple.

So, Which is Better?

First, a quick refresher.

Percolator Coffee

  • Stronger taste
  • Stays warmer for longer
  • Can serve a larger group
  • Fewer parts

Drip Coffee

  • Milder taste
  • Brews faster
  • Lightweight for backpack carrying
  • Only serves 1-2 people

It is hard to say which coffee making method produces the best tasting coffee. The percolator coffee vs. drip coffee taste debate comes down to personal preference. If you enjoy a strong cup of coffee that is very hot, then percolator coffee may be the best option for you. If you enjoy a milder tasting coffee that is not piping hot, then drip coffee may be better for you.

Now, when it comes to the percolator coffee vs. drip coffee debate for outdoor use, the percolator method has more advantages than drip coffee. With a portable percolator, you merely need one piece of equipment along with your coffee grounds and hot water. However, we did find a cool "collapsible coffee drip cone" in one of our recent Battlbox deliveries.

The percolator makes a greater quantity of coffee and keeps it warmer for longer. There are no disposable filters with a percolator, so there is less trash in the end. A percolator can also be placed directly onto a campfire or camping stove, whereas with a drip coffee maker only the pot boiling the water can be placed directly over a flame.

As technology advances, we will most likely see an improvement in portable drip coffee makers. Since drip coffee makers are a relatively new invention compared to percolators, the chances that one day the drip coffee method will overshadow the percolator method seems likely.

However, until that time comes the traditional percolator coffee pot makes the best portable option for outdoor use. As for the best taste in the percolator coffee vs. drip debate, only you can decide.


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