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The 2000s have been an amazing time for innovation and globalization in coffee. Since the turn of the millennium, Americans have gone from strictly drip coffee maker brewers to a population who love to experiment with different preparation methods, from pods to pour-overs. However, one preparation method that is increasingly popular in the UK, Europe and Australia but still yet to really catch on in the USA is steeped coffee.
Recently, the appropriately named company, Steeped Coffee, has been making headway into this category of coffee preparation. They even won the “Best New Product” award at the 2019 Specialty Coffee Expo. But still, most Americans have never heard of steeped coffee. That’s a real shame because this is a super easy and way to make coffee.
Below, we’ll introduce the concept of steeped coffee, answer all your questions about this preparation method and run through some of the best steeped coffee options available for order on Amazon.
What Is Steeped Coffee?
Steeped coffee draws on the idea that all you need to do to create a cup of coffee is combine ground beans with hot (or cold) water. While most brewing methods pass hot water through coffee grounds to create a final product, steeped coffee submerges the grounds in hot water. In reality, the process of steeping coffee is very similar to making a cup of tea.
In general, stepped coffee is sold in single-serving bags. These bags contain an individual serving of coffee grounds and are placed in a single mug of hot water for several minutes.
Of course, this has several advantages to the consumer. As steeped coffee requires very little preparation, it could be considered the lazy man’s coffee brewing method. It’s also a great way to create individual servings of coffee without waste or complicated machinery.
What Is the Difference Between Brewing and Steeping Coffee?
Although the two coffee preparation methods create the same final product, brewing and steeping coffee are completely different.
When you brew coffee, whether that’s using a traditional coffee maker, a Keurig or a V60, you’re essentially forcing hot water to pass through ground coffee beans. When the water goes in, it is a clear substance. When it comes out the other side, it’s coffee. In between, it has picked up all the oils and flavors from the coffee beans, giving you the rich, chocolatey, slightly acidic tones usually present in brewed coffee.
On the other hand, when you steep coffee, you have to submerge a bag full of coffee grounds inside a container of hot water. The coffee grounds then sit in contact with the hot water for one minute or more, allowing the oils and flavors to seep out of the beans and into the water. The end result is a very similar cup of coffee with rich, acidic tones.
Although both brewing and steeping will create a cup of coffee with an approximate 15:1 water to coffee ratio (as long as you aren’t brewing espresso), there are two really major differences. First, steeping coffee really allows you to control how strong or weak your coffee is, as you can simply remove the bag of coffee at any point during the steeping process.
Second, steeping coffee is usually done in individual servings, meaning you likely won’t create a whole pot of steeped coffee. So, brewing may be a better option for a crowd.
What’s the Best Steeped Coffee?
Without further ado, let’s explore some of the best steeped coffee on the market. As a new category of coffee, there aren’t many options, but the ones you’ll find below will provide both quality and innovation to your daily hot drink habit.
1. Steeped Coffee Store Single Serve Coffee
Although other brands had started the steeped coffee movement in the UK and Australia, Steeped Coffee really kicked off the trend here in the United States. And they massively improved on what those other companies abroad were doing by inventing a completely new, biodegradable material for the coffee bags. Instead of using something akin to a tea bag, the CEO and founder, Josh Wilbur, found a plant-based material that’s neither a paper filter or nylon yet allows the oils and flavor to flow from the beans to your cup of joe. Each of the single-serve bags contains ground coffee that’s roasted in micro-batches and then sealed in the steeping bags with a bit of nitrogen gas to ensure the coffee arrives at your doorstep fresh and ready to drink.
2. Wildland Coffee- Medium Roast
BEST FOR CAMPING
Wildland’s steeped coffee is inspired by the great outdoors, and it’s a solid option for any camping or hiking enthusiasts looking for a pick-me-up while on the trial or the backwoods. As with any coffee option, you’ll still need a way to prepare hot water. But once you do that, simply place the coffee bag in an 8 oz cup of water. The coffee and its pouch are both compostable, too. The coffee is available in dark, medium or light roasts.
3. Bean and Bean Dunk and Steep Coffee Bag
Bean and Bean has been around for over a decade, and the New York-based women-led brand produces coffee that is fair-trade certified and USDA organic. Plus, the brand is part of the Rainforest Alliance. This option includes 10 single-serve packets. Simply place the coffee in a cup, pour hot water, dunk it up and down for a stronger brew, and then allow it to sit for five minutes. Bean and Bean’s coffee is made in partnership with Steeped, the brand that is our top pick on this list. This is the brand’s house Downtown Blend.
4. Folgers Coffee Singles Classic Roast
As the steeped coffee trend really starts to gain in popularity, we will likely see more and more brands produce single-serving bags of their coffee. Folgers is really the first major coffee producer to do so. For under $7, which is about half the price you’ll pay for other brands of steeped coffee, you’ll receive 19 brew bags. Why this box comes with 19 bags and not 20 is a mystery to us. However, the bags make a decent cup of coffee that tastes just like a cup of Folgers after only 75 seconds of steeping. So, if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to some of the best steeped coffees or you just want to try out steeping coffee for the first, this might be the best option for you.
5. Kuju Coffee Premium Single-Serve Pour-Over Coffee
BEST FOR POUR OVERS
While not exactly the same as steeped coffee, Kuju Coffee Premium Single-Serve Pour-Over Coffee is so similar, we decided to include it in our list. Instead of being a tea-like bag that you place in hot water, these single-serve bags open at the top so that you can create a delicious cup of pour-over. Simply, place the open pouch in your mug, pour in eight to 12 punches of hot water and wait a few minutes until the brew is as strong as you like it. If you don’t have the right equipment to get hot water inside the bag, these pouches can also easily be steeped.
6. Chamberlain Steeped Bags
There are a lot of celebrity tequila brands, but celeb coffee brands? That’s a surprisingly unexplored territory. Chamberlain Coffee was founded by Emma Chamberlain, an internet personality. But you don’t have to watch much YouTube to try the coffee. This option includes 10 single-serve steeped packs in a variety of flavors, including “Early Bird,” “Careless Cat” and “Social Dog.” The coffee comes in teabag-like pouches that are meant to be steeped for at least five minutes. The coffee is roasted in California.
7. Copper Cow Classic Black
BEST VIETNAMESE COFFEE
Copper Cow is more of a pour-over than a steeped coffee, but it’s no less convenient. Each coffee comes in an individual pouch, and inside is a fold-out paper filter that sits on top of your cup. Then, simply pour hot water over the grounds to brew into your cup. Copper Cow is unique, in that it highlights the rich coffee tradition of Vietnam. You can buy plain classic black coffee, or you can buy flavored coffees. Copper Cow’s standout is their latte kit, which includes creamer pouches to make a Vietnamese-inspired coffee. This kit includes five pour-over coffees and five creamers. Brewing at the office without a pour-over kettle? You can improvise, and use the lid of a travel mug for pour-over.
8. Verve Instant Craft Coffee – Package of 6
Maybe you’re searching for steeped coffee because you want something convenient but wrote off instant long ago. But believe it or not, we’re in the middle of something of an instant coffee renaissance. Verve is one of the brands leading the pack. They’re a roaster that’s local to Santa Cruz, California, but they have outposts in Los Angeles and Tokyo. Now, they have a wider reach, thanks to the success of their bagged and instant coffees. Each box comes with a paper pouch containing the amount of coffee needed for a single 10 oz cup of coffee, so you don’t even need to measure the way you would with a canister of instant coffee. This is the brand’s Streetlevel blend, which is made with coffees from Colombia and Honduras.
9. Cometeer Mixed Box
This option is different from a steeped bag of coffee, but it’s too unique to not include. The coffee is frozen at the peak of its flavor to preserve the delicious and unique complexities. When it arrives at your doorstep, you store the containers in the freezer, rather than the cupboard. When you’re ready to brew, you pop open the single-serve canister, drop it into your mug, and add 6-8 oz of hot water. Each box comes with 32 capsules, and the mixed box includes light, medium and dark roasts. Plus, unlike similar coffee pods, these are made from aluminum, which can be easily recycled at curbside bins. Admittedly, it’s not as convenient as coffee bags, because they have to be kept frozen. Still, it’s an incredibly convenient option for rushed mornings.
Steeped Coffee vs. Single-Serve Pods
As mentioned above, steeping coffee is really meant for creating individual servings. If you’ve been keeping up with the coffee industry in recent years, you’ll know that single serving is also a trend in a different category of brewing. Yes, we’re talking about pots or K-cups.
Many producers of steeped coffee have created their products in the hope of taking on the single-serve pods that have taken the coffee industry by storm. And, steeped coffee offers three distinct advantages over pods:
- Steeping is better for the environment as the bags are compostable, unlike plastic pods.
- Steeping doesn’t require specialized machinery, like a Keurig or similar device.
- Steeped coffee is highly portable, allowing you to create your favorite brew anywhere at any time.
As the world begins to care more about the environment, it’s easy to see why the popularity of pods should give way to the convenience and eco-friendliness of steeped coffee bags.
Why Can’t You Just Put Ground Coffee in a Tea Bag/Diffuser?
In reality, you could put ground coffee into a tea bag or tea diffuser and use that to create a cup of coffee through steeping. It does work, but you won’t get the same results as you will when you use a designed-for-purpose coffee steeping bag.
That’s because tea bags and diffusers tend to allow too much contact between the coffee grounds and the water. The resulting brew often ends up too bitter when compared to a normal cup of coffee. In addition, some diffusers or tea bags have holes that are too big, allowing coffee grounds to escape into your cup of coffee.
For those reasons, we recommend buying specially designed coffee for steeping rather than trying to DIY this preparation method.
How Do You Make Steeped Coffee?
Although each brand of steeped coffee offers slightly different recommendations, the basics are the same.
To make steeped coffee, start with a mug full of boiling hot water. Remove the bag of coffee from its exterior packaging, and insert it into the mug of hot water. Wait for one minute, then dip the coffee up and down around the mug for an additional 15 to 30 seconds, depending on how strong you like your coffee. (Note that some brands recommend dipping the coffee at the beginning of the steeping process rather than the end.) Remove the bag of coffee grounds from the cup and dispose of it with your organic waste. Finally, sit back, relax and enjoy your individual serving of coffee.