how to make coffee without a coffee maker

I am a coffee addict. There. I said it. I can barely get out of bed without a cup of coffee, let alone last through the morning (or day) without multiple cups. But what would I do if a morning came if my coffee pot broke, or the power was out?

Fortunately, I have a gas range, and should the power go out, I could ignite it with a match and get some boiling water going. That’s part of the battle won…

There are several ways to prepare a cup of coffee without coffee brewing apparatus. None of these are going to result in the best cup ever, but if you need your caffeine, these methods will help.

The first rule of making coffee without a coffee maker is that you have access to boiling water. There are several ways to skin this cat. If you don’t have a gas range, a can of sterno (link to Amazon here) will do fine. And you should ALWAYS have a couple of cans of sterno in the house in case such an emergency should pop up! For that matter, you could also keep a stovetop percolator (link to Amazon here) on hand, just in case… If you still have power, you can always boil water in your microwave. One word of caution here… Boiling water in the microwave can be dangerous. Water can become superheated (reach temperatures above boiling point) without actually boiling. As soon as the water is disturbed (say, by taking the cup out of the microwave or putting a spoon into the water), it can explode. Into your face. Enough said. All of the methods below use the same ratio of coffee to water per cup that you would use in your favorite brewing method.

The Pot on the Stove

a ready to go stove
  • Use the same ratio of coffee to water that you would normally use.
  • Add coffee and water directly into the pan / skillet / kettle / whatever your vessel of choice.
  • Bring the pan to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Let boil for two minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from heat and let sit for several minutes.
  • Ladle coffee into mugs. Or carefully decant the coffee (pouring from the pan into the cup). Or, better still, pour the coffee through a very fine mesh strainer (or a strainer lined with a coffee filter or cheesecloth.
  • Enjoy!

The Microwave

This method assumes that you still have power, just not a working coffee machine…

  • Fill your mug with water and nuke it for about 2 minutes.
  • Very carefully, add coffee grounds and stir. Be VERY careful here, as super-hot water can become explosive as explained above.
  • Let coffee steep for about 5 minutes.
  • Carefully decant into another cup.

Make Your Own Teabag (but with coffee, of course)

  • Add coffee to a coffee filter.
  • Gather the edges of the filter and tie tightly with a piece of string (like a purse or teabag).
  • Place “coffee bag” into a mug.
  • Pour over boiling water.
  • Let coffee steep for about 5 minutes.
  • Remove bag.
  • Enjoy!

The Handkerchief or Napkin

This method is for the truly desperate, but it works! And please remember (it should go without saying), use a clean handkerchief or linen / cotton napkin. Know that whatever piece of cloth you choose to sacrifice, it will be ruined, so don’t use your grandmother’s antique hand-embroidered Irish lace hanky…

  • Place a clean hanky over the top of your mug, and press it into the mug, making sure that the hem is still outside the rim.
  • Secure the cloth to the outside of the cup using binder clips or a rubber band.
  • Place coffee into the indentation.
  • Pour a little hot water over the grounds.
  • Let sit 30 seconds.
  • Pour over the rest of the water.
  • Let steep 4 or 5 minutes.
  • Remove the cloth.
  • Enjoy!

French Press without a French Press

  • Place coffee in a deep bowl (link here to cafe au lait bowls).
  • Pour a little hot water into the bowl to saturate the coffee grounds.
  • Let sit 30 seconds.
  • Pour the rest of the water into the bowl.
  • Let steep 5 minutes.
  • Press the grounds to the bottom of the bowl with a large serving spoon.
  • While holding the spoon to the bottom of the bowl, carefully pour the coffee off into your mug.

Instant coffee

My VERY last choice. I actually keep some instant espresso in the house (because I bake a lot), but I’d almost rather not drink any coffee than instant.

  • Place a teaspoon of instant coffee (link here for instant coffee) in your mug.
  • Pour over boiling water.
  • Stir.
  • Enjoy. Or whatever.

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