MacGyver Coffee




Introduction: MacGyver Coffee

About: I build, I teach, I learn. Happiest when covered in saw dust, sweat and machine grease. Visit for more projects and info.

Have you ever woken up in the woods without a coffee maker, at least 20 miles from the nearest coffee shop, and nearly lost your mind from caffeine withdrawal? Is instant coffee not good enough for you on a camping trip? Think carrying a pour over device and filters is too much weight or trouble?

If you answered "yes" to any or all of those questions, the Macgyver Method of Brewing Coffee (MMBC) is right for you. MMBC requires just a few things you should already have with you on an overnight trip to the woods:

  • vessel for brewing coffee in and drinking from, preferably with a wide mouth. I used this nalgene water bottle
  • clean piece of non-stretchy cloth
  • method for heating water; either a camp stove or a fire
  • vessel for boiling water
  • pot grippers to safely manipulate the vessel of boiling water
  • fastener for your cloth to the mouth of the water bottle: either a humangear capCAP, string, or a rubber band depending on what you have available

MMBC came to be on the first morning of a 700 mile bike trip. I woke up that morning craving coffee and realized we had forgotten all of the traditional tools to make it. As we all know, necessity is the mother of invention. Motivated by a need for caffeine, I dug through my bags and got to work on crafting the delicious brew. MMBC is modeled after the pour over method of brewing coffee with adaptations for equipment you'll already have for camping or bike touring.

If you also in need of a chocolate fix check out Backwoods Gourmet Brownies.

Step 1: Turn Up the Heat

Unless you want to wait a day or more for it to cold brew, coffee grounds require hot water to make coffee. I used my MSR single burner camp stove, and a pot to heat the water to boiling.

Step 2: Prep Your Vessel

Starting with an empty vessel, take your clean cloth and arrange it in the mouth with a depression deep enough to hold the desired amount of coffee grounds. Keep in mind that the hot water will cause the grounds to expand, so give yourself some extra space.

Pour your coffee in, and screw the cap back on over the cloth. Screw it on tight enough to keep the cloth in place but not too tight, you'll want air to be able to escape when you're pouring the water over it.

If you don't have a cap with an extra cap in it like the humangear capCAP, you can use a rubber band or a string to fasten the cloth in place.

A note on taste: unless you're OK with laundry detergent flavoring, be sure your cloth is thoroughly rinsed prior to use. Once you're sure, rinse it again.

Step 3: Pour It On

Warning! This step involves handling hot stuff, so please use caution!

I used pot grippers to hold the pot of boiling water and carefully poured it into the smaller mouth on my water bottle.

The key to a good pour is doing it SLOWLY. The water needs time to filter through the grounds and the cloth, and the coffee grounds will expand when the water hits them. A speedy pour will get you a coffee ground geyser and a big mess.

Step 4: Brew + Flip

Give the grounds an opportunity to hang out and bond with the hot water. After securing the lid, I turned the vessel upside down for some increased exposure. The longer you leave it, the stronger the brew.

Once you're satisfied, flip it and carefully remove your coffee grounds. Keep those little suckers in the cloth unless you want them in your smile while you're done drinking your coffee.

If you are following Leave No Trace principals while in the woods (recommended), be sure to pack out your coffee grounds with you. To limit mess, they can be packed back into your vessel after you've had your fill.

Step 5: Cheers!

Coffee is delicious, but especially after this much work has gone into it. Because you brewed your coffee in a vessel you can drink from, no need to pour it out and have to wash more dishes. If you can stand to share, just pass the bottle among friends and enjoy!

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    Nicely done! Fairly complex process making coffee without a coffee maker. Awesome job on figuring it out with minimal camp gear. Thanks for sharing!