MSR Backcountry Café: French Press Coffee

A French press can produce rich, strong coffee that will supercharge your day in the backcountry.  Collapsible presses, available as accessories for our Windburner® and Reactor® stoves, allow you to use your cooking pot for a brewing vessel, saving weight and space in your pack. Best of all, French press coffee is simple and delicious: get the grind and water temperature correct and you’re likely to have a great cup (or three).

The Coffee

You’ll need about one ounce of coffee per finished cup. It should be coarse-ground and stored in an air-tight container. With French press coffee, an even grind is important—use a burr grinder rather than the blade type.

Tip: Normal drip coffee will work if you can’t find the proper grind; MSR presses are designed to work with generic drip grounds too.

The Water

Backcountry water makes great coffee! Use clear, filtered water from a stream or lake. Make sure it is free of tannins (sometimes identified by an orange hue in the water) and other natural flavors that can taint your finished cup.

The Process

  1. Start heating your water in the pot. Use a little more than one liter of water to make three cups of coffee. If it’s cold, add a little extra for warming the cups before you brew.
  2. Measure out 4.5 tablespoons of ground coffee and set it aside.
  3. Turn the heat 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.
  4. If it’s cold out, pour a little hot water into your coffee cup to warm it. Dump this water before you serve the finished coffee.
  5. Stir the coffee grounds into the hot water. Use a long spoon that reaches near the bottom of the pot.
  6. Cover the pot with the press and lid. Allow the coffee to steep for a minimum of four minutes. If you’re camping in cold weather, use a fleece jacket or towel to insulate the press while it steeps. (Be careful not to melt synthetics on the hot pot!)
  7. Press the coffee and pour it into your cups. Don’t leave excess coffee sitting in the press for too long, it will quickly become bitter.
  8. Enjoy!


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Updated. Originally Published April 10, 2013.