How to Make Coffee Without a Coffee Maker

Like most people, you probably rely on your drip coffee maker to provide you with fresh, hot coffee every morning. While some of you may have time to brew coffee in a Chemex with freshly ground, home-roasted beans every day, the rest of us wake up, stumble to our pot, push the button, and silently beg it to brew faster.

As a coffee fanatic, what’s your biggest nightmare? Mine has to be the day where I wake up all groggy, eyes bleary, without a brewer, drip coffee maker or any of my usual ways to make my morning cup of coffee. Heaven forbid, I might have to turn to instant coffee.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to drink instant coffee. I prefer to leave that s**t to nightmares. Brace yourself – I’m about to open your eyes to a few simple ways (5, in fact) of coffee making without a coffee maker.

But what happens when that button does nothing? When the water doesn’t heat up? When you have a power outage? Or worse, someone has forced you to stay in a hotel or at a campsite with no coffee maker in sight? If it’s that last one, maybe reconsider the folks you’re spending time with.

What about cold brew? Cold brew is a great way to make coffee without a coffee maker – as long as you can wait 12 to 24 hours. But if you wake up to the unthinkable horror of a dead coffee maker, these techniques will get you caffeinated right now.

Fill a pan with water and turn on the heat. Use a little more water than you would normally use when making coffee, since some of it is going to get left behind.

Use freshly ground coffee – this is an article of faith for the coffee devotee. Always use freshly ground beans. You only have about 15-20 minutes before your beans start losing some of that goodness that makes them taste the way they do.

Use freshly roasted coffee – a half-decent cup of coffee always starts with the beans. You’ll want quality beans that have been roasted within the last 2 weeks.

Pour water into your pan. Use slightly more water than the amount of coffee you want because you’ll lose some of it to boiling and soaking into the grounds.

Stir the coffee grounds right into the water. Use the same amount you would put in your coffee maker for the amount of water you used.

Place the pan on your stove (or campfire) and turn on the heat. When the water comes to a boil, add your coffee. A rough amount of coffee is about two tablespoons for every 6 ounces of water, but you can change that depending on how strong you want your coffee. Following cowboy tradition, I’m just doing it by eye.

Set a burner to medium–high and bring your coffee to a boil. Stir occasionally to avoid burning the grounds on the bottom of your pan.

Remove the pan from heat and cover immediately. Wait four to five minutes before you uncover the pan. Once you see that all grounds have settled to the bottom of the pan, you’re ready to serve your coffee.

Use a ladle to scoop brewed coffee into your mug, without taking any grounds with it. A small ladle is perfect for this. If you don’t have a ladle at all, you can pour the coffee from your saucepan very slowly. The grounds are heavy and will mostly stay on the bottom.

The Coffee Bag Method

Are you one of those people who wakes up with all your synapses firing, ready to take on the day? If so, you can make yourself a little tea bag for coffee grounds, just as the French did during the 18th Century.

First, get out that kitchen toolbox, Morning Person!

You’ll Need:

  1. Coffee grounds
  2. Hot Water
  3. Coffee filter
  4. String (any kind will work as long as it’s not coated with wax!)
  5. Mug

How to Brew It

Measure a single serving of coffee grounds, then pour it into your filter.

Close the filter tightly, making a little pouch full of grounds.

Tie it with a length of string, leaving one long end to hang outside your cup just like a tea bag.

Heat water using any method you have available, such as a kettle, pot, or even a cup in the microwave.

Place the coffee filter bag you created into an empty mug.

Slowly pour the hot water over the coffee bag in the cup, being careful not to overfill your cup.

Allow the coffee too steep for about four minutes. You may increase or decrease the time as necessary to make your brew stronger or weaker.

Remove the filter and discard it before drinking.

A Makeshift Coffee Filter

What You Need:

Freshly ground coffee (go for a similar grind to a pour-over – medium-fine)

Hot water (just below boiling)

A standard paper filter (or something similar if you don’t have one – see below)

Large coffee mug

Paper clips, binders, or elastics – anything to securely hold the makeshift filter in place

How to Do It

Prepare your filter. Get your clean handkerchief (or alternative filter) and fold it into a square that will fit the mouth of your mug or cup. Make sure to leave a margin of cloth, around two inches, that should hang over the sides of your cup.

Clamp the handkerchief securely to the sides of your cup. Check the tightness of the clips to ensure the cloth stays in place while you’re pouring hot water.

Grind your coffee to a medium-coarse grind. It is best to use a good quality burr grinder that gives you consistent results.

Depending on the grinder you’re using, grind until you reach the first marking or first cup symbol.

Once you have enough coffee to reach the target measure, place the ground coffee onto your filter set-up. Give it a little shake to spread the grounds equally on the filter.

Boil two cups of water. Once it reaches the boiling point, take it off the heat source. Let the water cool off for thirty seconds.

Pour a bit of water on the grounds, just enough to wet the coffee. Let it bloom – a process common to pour-over methods, showing your coffee is fresh and is releasing CO2 gases – for about thirty seconds.

Do four slow pours, one every thirty seconds, until you have used up all the remaining water. If you’re using a thick makeshift filter, you may need to tease the grounds a little with a spoon to help the drip flow.

Once this two-minute process is complete, all the coffee grounds should be fully saturated. When all the water has seeped through the handkerchief, you can carefully remove the clips and your makeshift filter.