MSR Backcountry Cafe: Steeped Coffee

Steeped coffee tastes great and is easy to make in the backcountry. The equipment is among the lightest and most compact available, and the finished brew is a step above any of the instant coffees. In fact, many coffee aficionados believe this method produces one of the richest cups you can make. The key to success is choosing a good coffee and following the steps carefully.

The Coffee: You’ll need about one ounce of coffee per finished cup. It should be ground at a coarse to medium setting and stored in an air-tight container. Look for a coffee from Kenya, Guatemala or El Salvador. Any coffee will make a decent cup, but these tend to be the best.

The Water: Use clear, filtered water from a stream or lake. The taste-free water you find in the backcountry can make great coffee.

–        Start heating the water in a pot. You’ll need a little more than a half liter per cup with this method, so measure according to the number of cups you’re making.

–        Put one ounce of ground coffee in the filter and place it in the cup. (One ounce fills close to half the filter.)


–        Take the water off just before it reaches boiling. This stage is often called “fish eyes” because of the small bubbles forming at the bottom of the pot.

–        If it’s cold out, pour a little hot water into your coffee cup to warm it before the brewing process. You can set the pot back on the stove in the meantime. Dump or reuse this “warming” water before you brew.

–        Start the brew by pouring a small amount of water over the grounds. Pour in a circular motion, making sure to wet the coffee grounds evenly. Let the coffee sit for about 30 seconds. Depending on the air temperature, you may need to put the water back on the stove to keep it near the pre-boiling state.


–        Complete the brew by filling the cup to the brim with water. Allow the grounds to soak for 1-3 minutes, depending on your preference. A longer soak will result in more caffeine, and possibly more bitterness.


–        Remove the filter and grounds from the cup, leaving the ideal “room for cream.”