How Long Do You Percolate Coffee on a Campfire? 7 Simple Steps

By Emma
how to percolate coffee when camping

I understand more than anyone that coffee is an essential tool on those early mornings while camping. It’s perfect for waking you up for the day!

Here’s how you percolate coffee while camping:

  • Build a campfire
  • Fill your pot
  • Assemble your basket
  • Add coffee
  • Assemble your percolator
  • Watch it boil
  • Percolate for 10–15 minutes

For a more detailed overview of how long to percolate your coffee, read on.

How Long Do You Percolate Coffee on a Campfire?

It usually takes 10–15 minutes to percolate coffee, but sometimes it can take as little as five minutes. If you percolate for longer, then your coffee will be stronger.

You won’t get the perfect cup of coffee on your first try, so experiment. Eventually, you’ll be able to tell when your coffee is ready to drink by the color. 

It darkens during percolation, and you’ll learn to recognize when your coffee is dark enough to provide the desired strength and flavor.

Try to stick to one coffee brand, though. Changing your brand will change the taste, so you’ll have to experiment with how long you percolate all over again.

How Do You Make Percolator Coffee?

There are several steps to making percolator coffee, but it’s not complex. With practice, you’ll be able to get this process done quickly.

Step #1: Build Up Your Campfire

To start, you’ll need a campfire that’s not going out any time soon. If you want to figure out how long do campfires last, then I’ve got an article on that for you, and it’ll give you tips on keeping the fire going for longer.

You don’t need any particular type of campfire for this, but it’ll be easier if it’s one with small flames. That way, you can place your percolator on top of a grate over the firepit.

Step #2: Fill Your Pot

Once the fire is ready, it’s time to prepare to brew.

A good camping percolator will have a fill line. This line will usually indicate when you’ve filled the percolator with enough for different amounts of coffee (two cups, four cups, etc.)

If your percolator doesn’t have a fill line, then measure 6oz of water per cup of coffee for the perfect drink.

Step #3: Assemble Your Basket

The basket in your percolator is the part that holds your coffee ground. There’s a long stem that goes into this, and the boiling water passes through this stem when you’re making your coffee.

However, you need to attach the stem and the basket. Your percolator will usually come with instructions on how to do this.

Step #4: Add Coffee

Once you have your basket assembled, you can add your coffee to it. If your percolator came with a filter, then put that in the basket before the coffee.

Now it’s time to figure out how much coffee works to provide a drink that you enjoy. Usually, two tablespoons of coffee grounds per cup are enough. Although, some people prefer one spoon per two cups, so play with it a little.

Coffee brewing is never an exact science, so play around with your ratios until you discover the one that’s perfect for you.

Step #5: Assemble Your Percolator

Now that your basket is ready, you can assemble the rest of the percolator. The basket will have a lid, so put that on, and ensure it’s snug. You don’t want a lid that wobbles, as this could lead to splashes and burns.

Your stem and basket will still be attached at this point, so place them into the pot of the percolator.

Step #6: Watch Your Pot

It’s a common saying that a watched pot never boils, but it does—and you’ll need to keep an eye on your percolator.

Place the percolator over the fire or hot coals, and keep an eye on it until it boils. 

Once it’s boiling, decrease the heat. You can do this by moving the percolator off-center over a fire, raising it higher over tall flames, or lowering the temperature of a camping stove (if applicable.)

Step #7: Wait

Now that your coffee’s boiling over the low heat, it’s percolating. Watch the coffee boil.

You don’t have to keep your eyes glued to it. Once you reach the five-minute mark, then you should start checking on the coffee every minute or so until it’s boiled for 10–15 minutes.

When the coffee is done, take it off the heat, and hold down the lid with a towel. You don’t want any steam to escape and burn you, and the lid will be too hot to touch.

Now you can serve your coffee. Wash your percolator while you wait for the coffee to cool, as you really don’t want those grounds to dry in and stick. Rinse it well if you can, then enjoy your drink!

How Do You Know When Campfire Coffee Is Done?

Your coffee will pop into the dome in the percolator. This is how you know it’s boiling. Once the coffee is doing this, you know to keep an eye on the coffee. When it darkens to the color of your usual coffee after 10–15 minutes of percolating, then it’s very likely done.

Choosing the Right Camping Percolator

There are a few factors to consider when choosing a camping percolator. Let’s take a quick peek at the most important things to look for.


If it’s a solo trip, then a percolator that can make one cup of coffee at a time will be fine. However, group trips will require a larger percolator. Make sure you find one that suits your needs accordingly.

Percolators come in a variety of sizes. A small, single-cup percolator will suit a backpacker. These are sometimes hard to come across, though, so look for the smallest one you can find.

Huge groups should consider something like the Texsport Stainless Steel Coffee Pot. You can brew 28 cups of coffee at once!


Stainless steel percolators are common, and they’re high-quality. Look for stainless steel if you can. Enameled steel and aluminum also work well, but aluminum tends to warp when it gets too hot, so be careful.


Not all percolators are stovetop, and you’ll most likely want a stovetop percolator for camping. This is the kind you can use over the fire.

There are also electric percolators available, and you can choose one of those if you wish. However, it’ll remove the fire-related steps from the tutorial on making percolator coffee.

Most percolators you’ll find are stovetop. Electric percolators just don’t work well for camping, as you’ll need a very long extension cable for it.

Other Ways To Make Camping Coffee

If a percolator isn’t your favorite thing in the world, then feel free to try one of these other methods of brewing your coffee!

Drip Coffee

Pour-over or drip coffee is a fantastic way to make your drink. Boil the water, add the grounds, and pour the coffee over them.

If you have a Chemex at home, then you could bring it on your car camping trips. A camp pour-over coffee set will work better if you’re traveling, though, as it’s less likely to break.


I get it—not everyone can tolerate instant coffee. But if you can, pick your favorite brand, and bring it along while camping! It’s always easy to make.

French Press

Cleaning a French press isn’t fun while camping, but if you’re up for the challenge, then you can make coffee this way.

You pull up the press, add your grounds to the receptacle, add boiling water, and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then press from the top down so the grounds are trapped under a filter. Now you can pour, and wash the French press ASAP.

Moka Pot

If you have a moka pot or stove top espresso machine at home, then bring it along on your camping trip. You can use a camping stove or fire instead of your stovetop.

You fill the lower chamber with water, then add finely ground coffee into the pot’s middle filter. As the water boils on the fire, it shoots up through the coffee grounds, making your coffee.

Cowboy Coffee

If you don’t mind a little mess, then cowboy coffee is great. Throw your grounds and water in a receptacle of some kind, and let it sit. Wait until the grounds settle to the bottom of the jar, then carefully pour the coffee into cups.

You might end up with some coffee grounds in your mouth, but if you’re careful, it won’t be a lot.


With some prep and 10–15 minutes of percolating, you can have the perfect cup of coffee. Of course, the alternative coffee-making methods work wonderfully, too!

Make sure you get a percolator the right size for you, and bring a thermos to ensure your coffee stays hot. There’s nothing worse than cold coffee, unless it’s ice coffee in summer.

Founder Headshot

My name is Emma, and I’m a city dweller who jumps on every opportunity to get out and enjoy nature! I’ve gone on a number of car camping and backpacking trips over the past few years. I created this site to inspire others to get outside and to make the process easier for you.