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How To Make Coffee Without A Coffee Maker: 6 Easy Methods
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People drank coffee before there were coffee makers? Yes, little one. People also traveled before there were cars and planes, and they listened to music before Spotify, iPods, cassette players and even phonograph records.
We understand. You can’t beat the convenience of having an entire music library on your phone, a GPS-equipped SUV – and a coffee maker on your counter.
But people were able to live rich and rewarding lives while they were also taping songs from the radio and taking cross-country train trips. And if you’re on a camping trip, coping with a power outage, or roughing it in an Airbnb without a coffee machine (gasp!), calm down. You can still have your morning cup of joe, and live to talk about it once you’re back in 21st century civilization.
One note: we’re not talking about mixing hot water with a spoonful of instant coffee. Not only is that way too easy, it also isn’t fresh-brewed coffee.
Here are six ways to brew coffee without a coffee maker.
No, there weren’t any cowboys in Yemen or Ethiopia, where it’s said that people first realized the benefits and pleasures of drinking coffee. Even so, this DIY method of making coffee has its roots back in the days when all there was to work with were a heat source, a container, coffee beans and water.
The product of this method is often called boiled coffee, because that’s basically what it is. Cowboys used to sit by their campfire and make coffee in a pot. Campers (the ones without fancy vans or RVs, that is) have used the method for centuries. And of course, it still works today – even if you’re an urban (or suburban) cowboy without a coffee machine or a nearby Starbucks.
In running down this stovetop process, we’ll assume that you have ready access to cookware, a stove, and measuring implements. But it’s just as easy to make cowboy coffee with an old pot, a campfire, and a practiced eye.
- Put cold water into a pot, about ten ounces of water for each cup of coffee you want to make. That will leave extra water in the pot after you pour your coffee; that’s a very good thing, as you’ll learn shortly.
- Set your stove for medium-high to high heat. As the hot water approaches boiling, add two tablespoons of ground coffee (medium or fine grind is best) for each cup of coffee, and stir.
- Let the mixture boil for two minutes, stirring every thirty seconds. Cover the pot and remove it from the heat.
- Wait until all of the coffee grounds have settled to the bottom of the pot, which should be about 4-5 minutes. If the grounds won’t completely settle, add a little cold water to “push” them to the bottom of the pot.
- Your coffee is ready. If you have a ladle, scoop the coffee from the top layer of the pot into mugs. Otherwise, gently pour the coffee from the pot, making sure not to pour any of the “sludge” that’s accumulated at the bottom. (If you don’t mind losing a bit of cowboy authenticity, feel free to use a strainer.)
That sludge is a mix of the leftover coffee grounds and the extra water you started with. If you hadn’t added additional water, you’d either end up with coffee grounds in your mug, or a lot less coffee than you’d intended to make.
Stronger, Turkish-Style Coffee
This isn’t quite the same way coffee brewing method they use in legendary Turkish coffee houses, but it’s close – and it will produce a deep, thick, foamy brew very similar to the stuff they sip while talking politics and smoking hookahs. The method is almost the same one you’d use to make cowboy coffee, but it requires more technique.
- Use about six ounces of cold water for each cup; you don’t need to add a lot of extra water for Turkish coffee, because the grounds are poured with the coffee.
- Heat the water on low heat, and add two teaspoons of coffee grounds per cup. It’s also customary to add sugar at this point, if you take it in your coffee.
- It will take a while since you’re using low heat, but when the coffee is almost boiling remove the pot from the stove, skim the foam from the top of the pot and put it into your coffee cup(s). Return the pot to low heat.
- When the coffee is almost boiling again, pour half of it into the cups and put it back on the stove again.
- Cook for 30 seconds and then pour the rest of the coffee into the cups. The grounds will wind up in the cups, so allow them to settle for a few minutes before drinking.
Yes, you have to be careful drinking coffee when the grounds are in the cup, but that’s part of the charm of Turkish brew – and the deep, rich taste of this coffee is worth the slight inconvenience.
Not a fan of coffee grounds? We don’t blame you. We’ll have brewing methods you’ll probably enjoy more, coming next.
If you heard the name Amalie Auguste Melitta Bentz, you might guess correctly that she founded the Melitta coffee empire known primarily today for its coffee makers and systems. You probably wouldn’t have guessed, though, that Melitta Bentz (as she’s usually known) also invented the coffee filter, which she patented in 1908.
Bentz eventually perfected the paper filter, but she started by using paper ripped from her son’s school notebook. We’ll be doing sort of the same thing, using a paper filter if one is available, but otherwise using whatever we can find around the house to filter out coffee grounds before they reach the coffee cup. If it helps to visualize this process, think of it as a rudimentary Chemex machine or manual pour-over.
- Start with a paper filter, if you have one. Otherwise, use anything that’s made from a fine mesh, yet is strong enough to withstand the temperature of boiling water and the weight of the water that will be poured into it. Some of the possibilities: cheesecloth, a kitchen towel or thick paper towel, even a cloth hanky.
- Fold your filter into a square which will fit over your coffee cup or mug, with a couple of inches hanging over the edges. (You have an advantage that Melitta Bentz didn’t have; you know what a coffee filter is supposed to look like.)
- Use paper clips, binder clips or elastics to secure the filter to the top of the cup.
- If you have a coffee grinder, grind about five teaspoons of medium-fine coffee. Obviously, if you purchase ground coffee, medium-fine is the best choice. Place the coffee into the filter and distribute it evenly.
- Boil water, about 2-3 cups, and let it rest for about 20 seconds.
- Pour enough water onto the grounds just to get them wet, and then wait another 30-45 seconds while the coffee starts to release carbon dioxide in a process called blooming.
- Now slowly pour the water, in 3-4 pours, into the filter. That’s it. Your coffee, with no grounds in the cup, is ready.
Nice job! But sorry to disappoint you – as we’ve mentioned, the coffee filter has already been patented.
Use a Coffee Bag
A coffee bag is almost the same thing as a tea bag, with the coffee grounds held in a porous container that allows them to steep in hot water. If that sounds weird, just think of it as similar to a coffee pod or Keurig K-Cup. They use the same principle.
Once again we’re sorry to disappoint you, but the coffee bag has already been patented, too. You can purchase them empty or pre-filled, on Amazon or at many kitchen and department stores.
Or, of course, you can make your own.
- Open a coffee filter and put several tablespoons of coffee into the middle. (The amount of coffee you use isn’t really crucial for this method.) Bunch the filter up like a bag, but not too tightly, because the grounds will expand as they bloom and release carbon dioxide. Tie the bag closed with a length of string.
- Put the bag into your mug or coffee cup with the string hanging over the edge, and fill the mug with almost-boiling water, ensuring that the bag is completely covered.
- Let the coffee steep for about 3-5 minutes. The longer you leave it steeping, the stronger your coffee will be.
- Remove the bag by the string, and feel proud of yourself as you drink.
You can also take a regular teabag and replace the tea that’s inside with coffee, but that tends to get messy.
Pretend You Have a French Press
A French press machine makes delicious, rich coffee that’s nearly as powerful as espresso. If you don’t have one (or don’t have access to one), using a spoon instead of a press can deliver a brew that’s almost as delicious as French press coffee.
- Put 1-2 tablespoons of coarse ground coffee into a bowl. A larger amount of grounds will produce stronger coffee.
- Boil water on the stove.
- Pour a small amount of water onto the grounds and make sure they’re saturated, so the coffee can bloom for 30 seconds or so.
- Add 6-8 ounces of water to the coffee and let it sit for a few minutes.
- Now, press down on the ground coffee with the back of your spoon until most of the water has been separated from the grounds. Continue to press as you pour the coffee into a mug or cup. (Yes, you can use a strainer to make sure your coffee isn’t gritty.)
You may enjoy coffee made this way so much that you’re ready to buy a French press or an AeroPress machine. We wouldn’t blame you.
Make Cold Brew Coffee
Caution #1: this coffee won’t be ready in five or ten minutes. You’ll have to plan ahead and make it 12-24 hours before you want to drink it.
Caution #2: Cold brew coffee is not the same thing as iced coffee. The latter is just brewed coffee poured over ice. The “cold” in cold brew defines how you make it, not how you drink it.
Caution #3: This method produces a coffee concentrate that has a mild taste when served properly. It has to be diluted with an equal amount of cold water before it can be enjoyed.
Caution #4: You may like cold brew coffee so much that it will become your default order at Starbucks or your local upscale coffee shop. In fact, if you get proficient at making it, they may want to hire you as a barista.
- Mix two ounces of coarse-grind coffee with two ounces of cold or room-temperature water, and steep overnight in a tightly-closed mason jar. Steeping for 20-24 hours will make an even smoother brew.
- Slowly strain the coffee through a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Don’t squeeze the coffee to make it drip faster, because that will make the final product more bitter. Take your time; a few more minutes won’t hurt. You’ve already waited nearly a full day to drink it, right?
- Dilute the cold-brewed concentrate and serve over ice, or store the concentrate in the refrigerator. It will keep for a week or two without losing much flavor.
Tips on Brewing Your Own Coffee
When you’re desperate, needless to say, coffee is coffee – even if it isn’t very good. So if you’re “forced” to resort to brewing your own coffee without a coffee maker, or even a coffee pot, your first instinct probably won’t be to maximize the quality of your brew. You just need some coffee.
However, if you’re going to go long stretches without creature comforts, or if you simply enjoy one of the brewing methods we’ve described, you’ll be more likely to focus on the ways you can create a great cup of coffee without a coffee machine. Here are a few suggestions.
- Whether you’re using an expensive Breville or brewing up some cowboy coffee on your stove, the freshest and most delicious coffee is made from freshly-ground beans. You may not want to invest in a drip coffee maker, but spending a few bucks on an inexpensive grinder and using coffee within 30 minutes of grinding can make all the difference in the world. Once you’ve tasted coffee that’s been created this way, you’ll never go back to pre-ground.
- All coffee beans aren’t equal. We’re not talking about the roast, which is more a matter of preference than anything else. We’re talking about when the beans have been roasted. You’ll maximize freshness and flavor by using beans that were roasted no more than two weeks before you grind them. Always check the “roast date” on your package of beans, and stick with the ones that have just arrived from the roaster.
- Hot, not boiling. Water temperature makes an enormous difference in the quality of your coffee. Too hot, and you can scald the coffee. Too cold, and you won’t extract all of its goodness. Shoot for water just below boiling, around 200° or so, for best results. (“How in the world will I know when it’s at 200 degrees?” we hear you cry. It’s easy. Boil it and then then let it cool for 30 seconds, and you’ll be in the right ballpark.)