Sunday, August 14, 2011

Improvised Drip Coffee Maker for camping

As with any camping trip, you have to prepare to provide the necessities. For me, this means coffee, then a sleeping bag, a tent, and food ... in that order. I have a percolator for camping, but greatly prefer drip coffee, so I improvised the following for under $20.

I was searching for an insulated, stainless steel coffee pot. The thin-walled type only keeps your coffee warm while you keep the stove going or keep the fire burning. The glass-tube vacuum-insulated type coffee makers are fragile. I found this one, stainless steel lined and vacuum insulated for $16 at Walmart.

I went searching for a basket, i.e., a stainless steel bowl. After a fruitless search, I was headed out of the store past the BBQ Grills, and I saw a small stainless bowl intended for marinating. It looked to be about the right size, but also had a wonderful little red sticker that said, "Clearance!" At $3, something that looked perfect, certainly was worth the gamble. It came with a marinating brush which will be saved for later use (possibly even for it's intended purpose). The bowl, however, I modified.

First, I cut off part of the handle, rounded it , and bent it down to allow it to nest atop the carafe. As it happens, the base nestles nicely onto the carafe, so all I was really doing was making the handle hold its own weight by catching a small ridge on the top of the handle
Then, I drilled a hole in the bottom of the pan, and pounded a counter sink down into my hole to make a slight funnel-shape surrounding the hole. Not a lot, but a bit. Later on, I used the counter-sink to slightly enlarge the hole to optimum size.
Thrilled with my progress, I put it together and promptly went to make some coffee. I boiled some water on the stove, put a filter and grounds into the improvised basket, and poured the water in ... However, I found I was not done.
The picture at left shows a commercial basket from my daily use coffee maker (complete with the coffee build-up that has occurred over the past few months ... my coffee maker only gets cleaned when my mother-in-law comes to visit ... otherwise it's in constant use). In the bottom of the basket, there are little baffles, which seems like a good name for them because I was largely baffled at their use.

As it turns out, the engineers that came up with the baffling idea had a reason. Without the baffles, only the small part of the filter directly over the hole works to filter the coffee. It promptly plugs. In the commercial coffee makers, the baffles suspend the filter above the bottom of the basket so that the entire bottom of the filter will allow the coffee to pass through.  I definitely needed baffles.

I was about to cut apart a pie tin and carve some baffles when my wife returned home. I explained the problem to her and she said, "I have an idea. Do you want to hear it?" In 12 years, my wife hasn't spent a lot of time re-purposing good items for other (possibly better) purposes, so I really didn't expect the help. She opened a drawer and pulled out an apple slicer! PERFECT! I got so excited, I virtually leaped into my shoes and headed for the door, still holding the apple slicer.

 "Where are you going?" she asked.

"To Walmart to buy an apple slicer!" I replied.  Honestly, for someone who just came up with the perfect solution, the question seemed a bit dense. I was within striking distance on completing a project; obviously, I was going to the store.

"Why not use that one?" she asked.

"You do realize that if I use it, it will be destroyed for it's current purpose?" It's not the first time I've done a project. I would have thought she'd known that!

"I know. It's ok. I have two of them!" she said, pulling another from the drawer. I LOVE MY WIFE!

So, my third building material was not only perfect, but free!

After removing the plastic with a Dremel tool, and cutting some groves in the bottom of the center ring to allow for coffee flow, the baffles rested into the pot so perfectly, one would think they were designed for the purpose. I was quite pleased!

Back to Experimentation! I boiled another pot of water, re-filled the basket with a new filter and coffee and poured away. Almost immediately, I could hear the tell-tale sound of coffee tinkling into the pot. It was working, and working well, but after a minute or two, the progress slowed to almost nothing. I lifted the coffee filter out to figure out what was causing the problem, only to find that there was no problem. The baffle system lifted the filter up so high, that in combination with the coffee grounds, it looked half full even after the water had poured through. So there had been no problem! It worked great!

Since it takes a bit for the water to get through the filter and coffee, I found that if I fill the basket with water 3.75 times, I get a full pot.


(I'm not sure, but I think the coffee tastes better this way!)

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