I hope such a day never befalls any of you, but you may find yourself without a coffee maker and in dire need of coffee.
So you’ll be thinking to yourself: how can I make coffee without a coffee maker?
Not to worry, though – there are a few really awesome hacks to make a decent cup of coffee even if you don’t have a coffee maker handy.
Though I think the more likely situation is that the power is out, or your machine is not working, or UPS has not delivered your coffee maker yet 😉
So in this post, I thought I’d go ahead and share some of my favorite ways to make coffee without a coffee maker.
Method 1: Simple Stovetop coffee(no filter or paper towel needed)
This is the most basic method, and it makes pretty good coffee. You can also use this method in camping, since all you really need to make this coffee is a heat source, a pot or saucepan, and coffee.
Put some water on the stove to boil in a saucepan. The beauty of this method is that you can make as many cups as you need in a single go! Use a little more water than the amount of coffee you’re looking for.
For example, if you wanted a single cup, add 9-1o ounces instead of 8 ounces.
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Next, measure out some coffee. Aim for about two tablespoons for a single 6-8 ounce cup. As soon as the water comes to a boil, add the coffee, remove the heat, and cover the pot.
Wait four to five minutes. In this time, the coffee grounds will have absorbed enough water to settle to the bottom of the pot.
Ladle out your coffee and enjoy!
Some will ultimately be left behind because you won’t be able to get every last drop out of the grounds, but that’s okay, since you added a little extra water at the start.
Method 2: DIY Filter Pour Over Coffee
You’ll require two more pieces of equipment for this method compared to stovetop or cowboy coffee, but this mimics the drip coffee method and you’ll get some really nice tasting coffee, for what it’s worth.
Here’s what you’ll need
- A kettle, preferably with a small/long spout
- Coffee grounds(ground to drip coffee consistency)
- A coffee filter or a handkerchief
- A mug
- Something to secure the filter in place
Heat up your water to 195 degrees Fahrenheit, or between 90-95 degrees Celcius. If you’ve boiled your water all the way, leave it out for 30 seconds to a minute and the temperature should drop. If you want to be really finicky, use a thermometer to make sure the temperature is just right.
Note: Emergencies may call for using a microwave for heating
Place the coffee filter or handkerchief in the top part of the mug and secure it with binder clips. Add your coffee grounds(same measurement as before, about 2 tablespoons for 8 ounces of water).
Pro tip: If you’re using a handkerchief, remember to leave some of it hanging outside the mug so it’s easy to secure. Some people advocate folding the handkerchief over into half or a quarter, but that’s totally optional. I encourage you to experiment and see how adding folds changes the flavor of the coffee!
Now pour the water very slowly and gradually, making sure to wet all the coffee grounds as evenly as possible. This is just your first pour, where you’ll see bubbles form in the water.
In coffee-speak, this process is called “blooming“, where the coffee grounds are releasing the stored CO2. Add some more water, wait, and finish your water in two more pours.
Remember, after all, that this is pour-over coffee.
Once you’ve emptied all of the water, wait for the water to filter through into your mug. You may find that you have to gently stir the coffee sludge on the filter to get it to filter through.
Remove the filter, and enjoy your coffee!
Method 3: Strainer Coffee
This is essentially the same as the stovetop method, except you don’t have to wait for the grounds to settle to the bottom of your pot. You can just give it a couple of minutes to brew and then pour straight away. You need a good strainer on hand, though.
Note: While this method is also similar to DIY pour over coffee, the mesh of the strainer is going to let the water drip through too fast, not leaving enough time to extract enough flavors.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Coffee grounds(french press to drip consistency)
- Pot and heat source
- A strainer(the finer the mesh the better)
- A mug
Measure out the amount of water you need for your coffee, and bring it to a boil on the stovetop. Add your coffee(remember the golden rule: 2 tablespoons for 6 to 8 ounces) and remove it from the heat. This keeps the coffee from scalding and the residual heat in the water still makes a good flavorful brew.
In about two minutes, pour the liquid through the strainer into your mug. The strainer will catch all the grounds and you’ll be left with a great tasting coffee.
Method 4: DIY Coffee Bag
This method is inspired from coffee’s cousin, tea. Teabags are really common, so why not coffee bags? Some companies actually make coffee pouches that you can throw into some hot water, but if you want to use your own beans and grinds, then it’s really easy to make your own coffee bag to dip.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Coffee grounds(drip consistency)
- a coffee filter
- string, but make sure not is not coated with wax
- A mug
Instead of heating the water first, this time, we’ll make the coffee pouch. The only drawback of this method is that the pouch is not reusable, and you’ll have to throw out the filter, and you can’t really substitute a hanky here(though you could try).
Add your two tablespoons of coffee into your coffee filter, then pinch the filter closed from above the coffee level.
Twist it a couple of times to secure it, and finally, tie some string around it to really hold it in place. Leave a length of string hanging as you’ll need this to dip and remove the pouch.
You can also use a spoon if you don’t have long enough string.
Heat up some water to 195 degrees F (90-95 C) and pour it into the mug. Drop in the coffee pouch, and let it brew for 3-4 minutes. You can play with the time a little bit to adjust the strength of the brew as you like it.
Once the time has elapsed, pull out the pouch with the string or fish it out with the spoon, and you’re good to go!
Method 5: DIY French Press
If you don’t have a french press handy but you want something as close to french press coffee as possible, here’s the solution. We’ll try to mimic the steeping/filtering action of the french press.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Coffee(french press consistency)
- Fine mesh sieve
- A spoon
- Two mugs
Heat up water to 195 degrees F and pour it into a mug, and add your coffee grounds(2 tablespoons for 8 ounces).
Give it a gentle stir with a spoon to agitate the grounds, and let it steep for 4 minutes.
At the end of four minutes, pour the mixture into the second mug through the sieve. Once you’ve poured all of the mixture, use a spoon and gently press down on the sludge remaining in the sieve to mimic the pressure action.
If you’ve used proper french press grounds and you have a fine sieve, no grounds should leak through.
Enjoy your DIY french press!
Method 6: Microwave Coffee
This is the quick and dirty version of stovetop coffee. Put some water to heat up in the microwave, about 2 minutes. At this point, it will be piping hot but just short of boiling. This should save you about 4-5 minutes compared to getting the water to a boil on the stove.
Stir in two tablespoons of coffee and give it 3-4 minutes to settle to the bottom of your mug.
At this point, you can either drink it right away – just don’t have the last ounce or so since that will be full of coffee grounds, or you can decant the coffee into a second mug with or without a strainer.
To get really clear coffee that you can drink every last drop of, use a strainer.
Method 7: DIY Latte/cappuccino(AKA Indian Cappuccino)
So this method isn’t quite an authentic latte or cappuccino since both those beverages need espresso shots, and we’re working without a machine here, but it will give you similar mouth feel thanks to the foamy milk we’ll add.
For this method to work you’ll need *sigh* instant coffee, so if you have a favorite brand, I’d suggest you use it. You can also use Sudden Coffee, which is the closest thing instant coffee will get to gourmet coffee.
What you’ll need:
- Instant coffee granules
- Two mugs
- A spoon or handheld milk frother
- Sugar to taste
Add one teaspoon of coffee grounds to a mug, and add just a few drops hot water in. You need to make a paste, so make sure you have added very little water. This will not work if the mixture is too liquidy. Add sugar to taste – and if you add some sugar, you’ll need a few more drops of water.
Using a spoon or frother, start stirring the coffee/water mixture very vigorously. In a couple of minutes, you’ll see the mixture become much lighter in color and it will acquire the consistency of a paste.
To this, add some hot milk. A layer of foam will form on the top and you’ll have a nice, milky coffee. For an extra frothy beverage, add frothed hot milk instead of just hot milk.
Method 8: Good quality instant coffee
Finally, if all else fails, you can consider drinking instant coffee.
The plus side of instant coffee is that it’s made from mostly robusta beans, so it has a lot more caffeine. There are lots of artisan instant coffees now available which aren’t quite as bad as the really cheap supermarket stuff.
If you want something really top of the line, consider Sudden Coffee, which I mentioned in the Indian Cappuccino method.
How to ensure you have great tasting coffee
Like I’ve said many times before on Coffee In My Veins, the secret to
good great coffee is actually making sure all the parts come together perfectly:
Using good quality beans
You can be a master barista but you can’t extract flavor out of bad beans. Make sure the beans you’re using are as freshly roasted as possible, and roasted to the consistency you like best(light/medium/dark) and you’ll be able to make great coffee.
Using the proper grind
Grind size is really, really important. Grind size dictates how well the coffee mixes with the water, so if you don’t grind properly, you may end up over-or-under extracting the coffee flavors and oils, and you’ll end up with a flavorless, bitter, or sour cup.
Using the right temperature
Finally, you need to have the correct temperature. Boiling water will scald and burn coffee, so that’s why all of the methods above tell you to remove the water from the boil right as you add coffee grounds.
While you may not be able to make a 100% replacement for your favorite machine coffee without a machine, these methods will help you brew a decent cup that will satisfy your caffeine craving!