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MSR MugMate Review

This simple and durable filter is easy to use, produces a decent cup of coffee, and can also be used for tea
MSR MugMate
Photo: MSR
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $17 List | $16.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, easy to use and clean, durable, no waste, can use for tea
Cons:  Doesn't produce the best flavor, not ideal for multiple cups, difficult to control extraction
Manufacturer:   MSR
By Mary Witlacil and Penney Garrett  ⋅  Apr 29, 2020
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67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 19
  • Taste - 40% 6
  • Ease of Use - 25% 8
  • Group Cooking - 15% 4
  • Portability - 10% 8
  • Weight - 10% 9

Our Verdict

The MSR MugMate is a classic backpacking coffee filter that can also be used to steep loose leaf tea or even pre-filter water. It's the most lightweight and durable option in our review, aside from instant, and can nest inside pretty much any wide-mouth mug for easy transport in a backpack. While it's not meant for making more than a cup or two at a time, it's easy to clean and move on to another brewing session quickly. If you need a bullet-proof, ultralight option for backpacking, this little dude can't be beat. This is why it was awarded our Top Pick for Backpacking Award.

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MSR MugMate
This Product
MSR MugMate
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award  
Price $16.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$7.00 at Amazon$10.16 at Amazon$29.95 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$39.95 at Amazon
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Pros Lightweight, easy to use and clean, durable, no waste, can use for teaGourmet flavor, well-conceived design, ceramic version available for home useNo filter needed, tiny and light, consistently good tasteAmazing flavor, versatile, very portable, simple cleanupExcellent clean flavor, double-filtered to eliminate sediment, press completely stops extraction, vessel can be used as a leakproof travel mug
Cons Doesn't produce the best flavor, not ideal for multiple cups, difficult to control extractionSpecial shaped filters are harder to find, expensive for a plastic dripper, heavier than other brandsMust lift filter out of most cups to avoid steeping, poor for large groupA lot of little pieces to keep track of, on the heavy side for backpackingLots of pieces to keep track of, heavy, on the pricier side
Bottom Line This is a tried-and-true no-fuss filter that can also be used for steeping tea and pre-filtering waterGreat taste, easy to use, and lightweight - we love this plastic iteration of the classic glass and ceramic versionsDurable, light, and compact, this is a fantastic option for backpacking trips or any kind of light travelWhile this unique brewer has a bit of a learning curve, the final flavor is the best in our test suiteThe superfine double filter and extraction-stopping plunger of this press make for a very excellent brew
Rating Categories MSR MugMate Hario V60 Plastic Dripper Primula Coffee Brew Buddy AeroPress Coffee Maker Espro Travel Press
Taste (40%)
6
9
7
10
8
Ease Of Use (25%)
8
7
9
7
8
Group Cooking (15%)
4
6
4
4
5
Portability (10%)
8
5
9
6
6
Weight (10%)
9
8
9
5
3
Specs MSR MugMate Hario V60 Plastic... Primula Coffee... AeroPress Coffee... Espro Travel Press
Weight Filter alone: 0.7 oz
Filter + lid/coaster: 1.0 oz
Dripper alone: 2.95 oz
Dripper + scoop: 3.37 oz
1.1 oz Press alone: 7.98 oz
Press + spoon + stirrer: 9.39 oz
12.3 oz
Brew Type Filter Pour Over Pour Over Pour Over/Press Hybrid French Press/ Pour Over
Main Material Nylon/Stainless steel Hard plastic Nylon filter BPA-free polypropylene Stainless steel
Filter needed? No Yes No Yes No
Notable Features Can be used for coffee or tea, compact Cone shape, large hole, ribs along side Rests on any mug Easy to clean, re-usable filter Can be used as french press, pour over, or for tea
Notes Super simple and versatile but need to have the right-sized vessel for it to rest on Makes strong, smooth coffee Filter hangs in coffee for most cups Eliminates bitterness while keeping a good flavor Brews a really clean cup, keeps liquids nice and hot

Our Analysis and Test Results

The MSR MugMate is an ultralight, no-frills pour-over filter perfect for anyone wanting fresh coffee miles deep into the backcountry. This little filter nests easily inside your favorite mug and will add just over half an ounce to your pack-weight. We love that it is featherweight, durable, easy to use, and that it can be used for coffee, loose leaf tea, or in a pinch, you could use it to pre-filter your water. The MugMate produces absolutely drinkable coffee, and while other brewers deliver better flavor, the versatility makes it ideal for backpacking and other adventures that require a simple, lightweight coffee brewing method.

Performance Comparison


This filter is easy to use, both for coffee and tea. We think it's a...
This filter is easy to use, both for coffee and tea. We think it's a great companion for all manner of outdoor adventures.
Photo: Penney Garrett

Brew Features


The MugMate is an ultra-durable, fine-mesh filter that allows you to brew coffee without the need for additional paper filters. This tried-and-true method for backcountry coffee brewing is unbeatable. While coffee professionals may prefer something that delivers a more nuanced flavor, the MugMate gets the job done and for a fraction of the weight of other brewing methods. The square shape and the fact that it brews by steeping within a confined space with a micro-filter means that controlling the nuances of extraction can be difficult. However, as long as you remember to remove the Mugmate within a few minutes, your coffee should be delicious. One of our reviewers has used this bad boy for nearly a decade; it has proven an indispensable part of her backpacking kit for years.

Be fair warned that this brewing method is most compatible with a shorter mug so that your grounds can more effectively steep, as you will want to ensure that the coffee is fully submerged while brewing. Brewing works best with a medium grind, and it produces the best flavor when brewed for three to four minutes. Brewing details aside, the featherweight of this device makes it ideal for ultralight backcountry endeavors, hence its designation as our Top Pick for Backpacking.

Depending on the height of your preferred mug you will need to add...
Depending on the height of your preferred mug you will need to add more or less coffee in order to match the amount of water needed to fully cover everything.
Photo: Penney Garrett

Taste


The MugMate delivers decent flavor, but it isn't the most delicious of our test-suite as the brewer remains submerged during extraction. The rudimentary steeping system and lack of paper filters can produce a slightly bitter cup.


That being said, some of our taste-testers were unable to discern a difference between coffee made with the MugMate and other brewers using paper filters. If you aim to enjoy good, fresh coffee in the backcountry, and you need to shave grams wherever you can, then this brewer is the one for you.

A decent cup of Joe from the MugMate. The optional lid also works as...
A decent cup of Joe from the MugMate. The optional lid also works as a holder for your spent coffee grounds or tea leaves.
Photo: Penney Garrett

Ease of Use


This brewer is about as easy as it gets. Simply place the MugMate into your mug, add ground coffee or loose leaf tea, add hot water until submerging your grounds, wait a few minutes, and remove.


There is an optional lid/coaster that can be used to cover your brew while it is steeping, but most folks choose to leave this behind to save weight. If you decide to bring it along, you can avoid losing a little heat during the brew process, and can use it as a trivet for the wet filter when you're finished. But, for most of us, we'll be on our way as soon as we're done brewing coffee, so we can tamp the spent grounds into the trash and get on with our day.

The MugMate's lid can be used to cover everything while you're...
The MugMate's lid can be used to cover everything while you're brewing or as a coaster for the dirty filter afterwards. That being said, it's an easy piece to lose and isn't necessary if you're trying to shed weight and keep things simple.
Photo: Penney Garrett

Group Cooking


This brewer is not meant for brewing up large amounts of coffee at a time. This aside, you could stretch the limits of this device, if you needed to make coffee for all your friends. Depending on the vessel you're steeping in, you could load this puppy up with enough grounds to steep more — maybe enough for two — though you will be forced to sacrifice some flavor.


Thankfully, the MugMate is quick (brewing time, depending on your preferences, will probably take about 4 minutes like a French press), and with a little water this buddy can be thoroughly cleaned up and ready for round two in no time. Also, if you want to make a giant pot of cowboy coffee, you can use the MugMate as a filter for each individual cup, so you can avoid grit in each cup.

With a bit of water (or a river!) you will be cleaned and ready to...
With a bit of water (or a river!) you will be cleaned and ready to re-brew in no time.
Photo: Penney Garrett

Portability


Outside of instant coffee, the Mugmate is among the most portable options for brewing coffee that you can find.


When not in use, the MugMate can store inside of your mug so that you can easily stash it in your backpack. If you leave behind the lid, it is the most lightweight and by far, the most durable backpacking filter in our review. We recommend ditching the lid to save weight, which makes this our lightest weight and most ideal brewer for backpacking.

Durable and small, this filter is an easy travel buddy.
Durable and small, this filter is an easy travel buddy.
Photo: Penney Garrett

Weight


Aside from a packet of instant coffee, the MugMate is the lightest weight option in our review weighing in at 0.7 ounces without the lid and 1.0 ounce even with the lid


For the durability and unbeatable light weight, this rad little filter cannot be outdone.

While we sometimes appreciated the "lid" of the MugMate, it's also...
While we sometimes appreciated the "lid" of the MugMate, it's also not necessary and potentially easy to lose. Leave it at home and shed almost half an ounce.
Photo: Penney Garrett

Value


Of all the coffee makers included in this review, the MugMate is not the most or least expensive. It is, however, the lightest weight option outside of instant coffee in our test-suite, and it is a fairly inexpensive option for the weight and durability it provides. For long-haul backpacking and adventures where every gram counts, the MugMate proves it is of incomparable value. This easy to use and ultra-durable brewer does not require paper filters, nor does it require a delicate hand. It is easy to brew with, easy to clean, and can handle some abuse. Use and abuse this dude, and you will still be sure to have a fantastic backcountry brewing method for years to come.

Conclusion


What is not to love about the MSR MugMate?! It is ultra-lightweight, wicked durable, and among the easiest brewers to use. You can use it to brew both coffee and loose leaf tea, but you could also use it to pre-filter large sediment and earth matter out of your water. When making coffee for your whole crew, there are better options out there. But, in a pinch, it is easy to clean, rinse, and refill, for each additional cup. While coffee professionals concur that this brewer doesn't produce the best flavor, it is completely drinkable and featherweight making it a clear choice for our Top Pick for Backpacking Award.

The MugMate is an excellent option for backpacking and any trip...
The MugMate is an excellent option for backpacking and any trip where you might also have tea drinkers.
Photo: Penney Garrett

Mary Witlacil and Penney Garrett