6 Ways to Make Coffee that Don’t Take Much Space

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Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you have to skimp on quality coffee to start your day. Whether you’re dry camping in the remote wilderness with no hookups or parked in your local RV park, there are affordable, and electricity-free ways to achieve that perfect cup every morning. Here are six ways to make coffee in a camper.

How do you make coffee in a camper?

Let’s start with what type of coffee you prefer each morning.  

1. Espresso

I make a pot of espresso every morning in our RV—and no it’s not with a costly espresso machine. While espresso sounds fancy, that doesn’t mean it has to be expensive.

With a stovetop espresso maker, all you need to do is grind your coffee to a fine grain and you can have espresso no matter where you’re parked.

Bialetti - Moka Espress: Iconic Stovetop Espresso Maker, Makes Real Italian Coffee, Moka Pot 6 Cups (6 Oz), Aluminium, Silver
  • The original moka coffee pot: Moka Express is the original stovetop espresso maker, it provides the experience of the real Italian way of preparing a tasteful coffee, its unique shape and the inimitable gentleman with moustache date back to 1933, when Alfonso Bialetti invented it.

Espresso is the base for most coffee drinks, but is commonly consumed by the shot (roughly 1 fluid ounce). In Europe, this is a common way to enjoy your morning coffee and when I’ve rented RVs abroad, the same stovetop espresso pot as above is almost always included.

In America, however, it’s more common to drink your espresso as an Americano (hence the name!). This is one shot of espresso topped with a few ounces of hot water. 

With an espresso maker, you can make most of the fancy-sounding drinks you’ll see on every coffee shop menu. Latte, cappuccino, macchiato… These drinks can only be made with espresso, and will also require a milk frother or steamer to heat milk. 

I want a latte every morning, so I use my stovetop espresso maker and this electric milk frother every day. 

For a latte you can enjoy while boondocking, swap an electric milk frother for an inexpensive handheld one:

Zulay Milk Frother Wand Drink Mixer with Proprietary Z Motor Max - Handheld Frother Electric Whisk, Milk Foamer, Mini Blender and Electric Mixer Coffee Frother for Frappe, Matcha, No Stand - Black
  • CREAMY VELVETY FROTH IN SECONDS: Making coffee-shop-style recipes at home is as simple as it can be with this milk frother. The 13,000 RPM motor and 25 spiral rings on the whisk let you whip up rich foam in no time. Level up your everyday warm or cold coffee, latte, cappuccino, hot chocolate, matcha, or powdered drinks with this coffee foam.

While espresso drinks sound expensive, as you can see, you can get a full setup to create lattes and cappuccinos of your own for around $50.

For Starbucks Lovers…

If you not only love lattes, but love going to your favorite coffee shop for a flavored drink, consider buying your own syrups.

In addition to being able to control how much sugar you’re adding to your coffee, this can save you a ridiculous amount of money over time by skipping the overpriced barista-served options.

2. Pressed Coffee

While I love espresso, one of the most popular ways to make coffee is with a French press or Aeropress. And it’s very RV-friendly!

Secura French Press Coffee Maker, 304 Grade Stainless Steel Insulated Coffee Press with 2 Extra Screens, 34oz (1 Litre), Silver
  • Secura stainless steel French Press coffee maker is made from top quality 18/10 stainless steel, both the interior and exterior. It is made to outlast other coffee makers.

For French pressed coffee (sometimes called plunger coffee), you’ll want a coarse grind of coffee, hot water, and a French press. I recommend buying an insulated press that will keep your coffee warm and a stainless steel one that won’t break in your cabinet. Add 2 tablespoons of coffee for every cup of coffee and let brew for four minutes before pressing. 

An AeroPress, a three-piece plastic coffee press, will press you a cup of hot coffee in half the time. However, they only make one cup of coffee at a time. 

Both of these pressed coffee options are easy to clean and have reusable metal filters to make brewing and cleanup easier. 

Both of these presses don’t require electricity—perfect for boondockers—but they do require hot water. Be sure to pack a kettle!

Collapsible Camping Kettle for Hiking Travel & Outdoors & Indoors 42 Ounce Capacity Blue/Green
  • EASY TO TAKE - Designed for camping and hiking, Tthis camping kettle is collapsible and easy to use as well as lightweight, a necessity for camping equipment.

3. Pour Over Coffee

Pour over coffee is growing in popularity because of its ease for world travelers. It’s gaining a reputation as being the best way to make coffee since gravity slowly makes a delicious cup.

Segarty Silicone Pour Over Coffee Dripper, 1 Set Black Collapsible Coffee Maker Single Cup with Storage Pouch, Reusable Coffee Filter Cone Drip Holder Slow Brewer for Travel, Camping, Office
  • Great for Single Coffee Maker --- The nice and thick Segarty silicone coffee filter cup is about 300ml/10oz, nice for single mug. The mouth diameter: 4.2”/10.7cm; Flat base diameter: 3.8''/9.8cm; Height: 3.1”/8cm. Fits #2 paper coffee filter cone. Widely suitable with coffee cone filter holder for most mugs & kettles. Also with 3 holes at the flat bottom, its dripping is slower than the plastic, single-hole drippers which maximizes the flavors with greater flexibility and room for brewing.

You can find pour over drippers and filters in metal, ceramic, plastic, or silicone. Metal filters would reduce the need for paper filters, saving you on some waste and excess costs.

Simply add coffee grounds and slowly pour hot water over the grounds. This can be the least involved way to make a cup of coffee because you brew the coffee directly into your cup. Plus, a silicone pour over cone can easily flatten and store in the RV. 

Similarly, a Chemex is a popular pour over option. This requires the Chemex glass coffee maker and no electricity. But again you’ll need hot water to pour over the grounds. For coffee connoisseurs, heat the water to around 200º for the ideal pour over.

Chemex Pour-Over Glass Coffeemaker - Classic Series - 8-Cup - Exclusive Packaging
  • CHEMEX - simple, easy to use with timeless, elegant design

4. Steeped Coffee

Much like tea, you can find coffee bags that are designed to be steeped. You’ll sometimes spot these in hotel rooms. All you need is hot water and a mug. 

My husband doesn’t like the jitters that can come with brewed coffee and recently switched to Golden Ratio, which is like a tea version of coffee. The coffee comes in tea bags and can be steeped for 5-10 minutes to brew a hot cup, or left in water in the fridge overnight for a cold brew.

This style of coffee is harder to find on grocery store shelves, but is a great option if you’re looking for a more mellow cup of coffee. 

make coffee in a camper rv
Photo Credit: Alyssa Padgett

5. Brewed Coffee

If you just want a regular cup of drip coffee, a simple brew is your best option. You can do this with a classic coffee pot or with a single cup coffee maker.

Keurig, Nespresso, Verismo—there is no shortage of machines for brewing coffee. And while these machines are common in the home, I wouldn’t recommend them in an RV for a few reasons.

These machines are often larger or heavier than other coffee makers which makes them more difficult to store. Depending on the size of your RV, you may not have room on your countertop.

Photo Credit: Alchemy RV Renovations

And they may require significant power. Every machine is different, but if your lights in the RV dim when you turn it on, it’s pulling too much power. We used to travel with a Keurig, but we didn’t have a place to store it while driving and it flew off the countertop more than once, no matter how hard we tried to secure it.

This is my personal least favorite way to make coffee. Pods create a ton of plastic waste, but more importantly, the coffee quality is nowhere near as good.

As the coffee addict I clearly am, I blindly taste-tested the same coffee from different coffee makers with a group of friends. This inexpensive single-cup coffee maker beat out the big-name brands in flavor, and you can add your own coffee grounds to the reusable filter.

Single Serve Coffeemaker, Black
  • Fabric Type: Plastic, Stainless Steel

Plus, the height on this one allows for travel mugs to fit easily underneath. Perfect for RVers! (I’ve personally owned this machine for over 15 years and it still works great!)

6. Cold Brew

The last and least popular home brewed coffee option is cold brew. Cold brews are popular in the summer and warmer months, especially at coffee shops. But few people make it at home or in their RV because it does take a significant amount of time.

County Line Kitchen Cold Brew Coffee Maker, Mason Jar Pitcher - Heavy Duty Soda Lime Glass w/Stainless Steel Mesh Filter & Flip Cap Lid - Iced Tea & Coffee - 2 Qt (64 Oz), Gray/Blue No Handle
  • SIMPLE TO USE & CLEAN: Making cold brew has never been more straightforward. Our easy-to-use design takes the complexity out of the brewing process. Simply fill the filter with your favorite coffee grounds, add cold water, and let it steep! Cleanup is a breeze with dishwasher-safe components. (Avoid placing hot liquids in a cold pitcher and vice versa).

This pitcher can make you plenty of cold brew after 24 hours in the fridge. Or if you’re only brewing for one, try a water bottle sized cold brew maker.

Takeya Patented Deluxe Cold Brew Coffee Maker with White Lid Airtight Pitcher, 1 Quart, White
  • The Deluxe Cold Brew Coffee Maker is a durable BPA Free Tritan pitcher with an airtight lid and non-slip silicone handle. It produces 4 servings of smooth cold brew with any type of coffee grounds and is less acidic than traditional coffee brewing.

You can use any coffee to make cold brew, but some grocery stores carry coffee grounds specifically for making cold brew.

Space-saving Coffee Grinder

If you decide to use a French Press, pour over, or a moka pot to make coffee, you’ll need a coffee grinder. This is especially true if you prefer to buy whole beans.

Coffee should be more coarsely ground for brewing in a French Press or else the coffee may become cloudy. Yet it needs to be ground very finely for making espresso in order to extract as much flavor as possible.

Before I had a coffee grinder, I used the machine in the coffee aisle at the grocery store to grind whole beans. Or if I was buying it at a local coffee shop, I asked the barista to grind it.

Then I got a little handheld coffee grinder in this style, which is what I still use for making just a single cup of coffee:

Manual Coffee Grinder with Ceramic Burrs, Hand Coffee Mill with Two Glass Jars(11oz each), Brush and Tablespoon Scoop
3,892 Reviews
Manual Coffee Grinder with Ceramic Burrs, Hand Coffee Mill with Two Glass Jars(11oz each), Brush and Tablespoon Scoop
  • Lengthen stainless steel handle saves you effort when grinding beans, providing fun of grinding coffee beans.

A handheld grinder is great for boondockers or saving on space, but an electric grinder is less work, especially if you live in your RV full-time!

CUISINART Coffee Grinder, Electric Burr One-Touch Automatic Grinder with18-Position Grind Selector, Stainless Steel, DBM-8P1
  • ENJOY OPTIMUM FLAVOR: Burr grinding provides a uniform grind to your fresh coffee beans with its 18-position grind selector – move the slide-dial from ultra-fine to extra-coarse to ensure your coffee grounds are exactly the way you prefer.BPA Free..UC Cubic Feet: 0.465, MC Cubic Feet: 0.558

How to Make Coffee in a Camper

Which way will you be making coffee? Share in the comments!

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  1. I went back in time to the old percolator. Actually I forgot how good coffee tasted and how hot it was once finished perking. Ahhh the smell and it’s perking. I check second hand stores for percolators and started using mine more than the quick methods. It’s worth 2-3 minutes wait

  2. I have a single cup K-Cup and also a percolator. I’m looking for a stainless steel percolator , which the smell of fresh coffee brewing can’t be beat, Especially on those chilly mornings !

  3. Lol on the last line!!!!

    We actually went to a french press at home yrs ago, because our coffee maker died, and we had some random french press hidden in a cupboard that dh had bought for traveling (?I think?), and the coffee it made was AMAZING!!!! We realized the coffee maker took up so much room and the french press coffee was so delish….and that was that. ALso, I think our last coffee maker had cost us around $100….eek. Our rv has a stainless steel french press and a thermos one, and also a vintage stove top percolator, which dh uses outside on a burner when he gets up at 5am and the rest of us sleep till 7…or later….lol! ….but then I always travel with a french press and my own coffee and mug, even if we take the car….I have for yrs…first it was just my own coffee (cause family rarely drinks it and would have 4 yr old folgers….ew), then we toted around the french press cause everyone has keurigs now. It’s funny.

    1. I use my French Press a lot too…more than some of my other brewing methods. I also use espresso machine that we bought last quite a bit for making lattes….but it’s not exactly a space saver haha. Previously I had been using the moka pot and milk frother for making lattes, but my husband didn’t care for lattes made with it so we decided to spring for the fancy machine to try to cut down on the amount of money we were spending on buying lattes at coffee shops. 🙂

    1. That’s good to hear! I think it’s such a cool idea, but you never know how something like that would actually work out, so it’s good to hear a recommendation from someone with real life experience!

  4. So many great options! We do the pour over on top of the cup right now, that breakfast maker/coffee in one does look super cool!🥰

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