How to Make Coffee Without a Coffee Maker

How to Make Coffee Without a Coffee Maker

The world has ended. Civilization as we know it has collapsed. Starbucks is dead.

In your attempt to save your skin, you forgot your coffee maker at your house which had probably been looted to its bare bones. This is sad – tragic even – for someone who’s married to coffee.

You wander the desolate streets, thinking about how to make coffee without a coffee maker.

If you happen to come across this article by some miracle, know this: There is hope. You’ll get your daily fix without munching on coffee beans. This is your guide.

Things You Should Know Beforehand

How to Make Coffee Without a Coffee Maker

In times like this, having a clear plan will decide whether you’ll get to enjoy a nice and hot coffee cup or a tummy ache. Nail these two basic requirements to achieve the former.

Getting the Right Water Quality and Temperature

A cup of coffee is more than 90% water. To produce a great brew, you have to use the best quality water.

The right one has a neutral pH level, ideally at 7.0, but a 6.5 to 7.5 pH level should be good enough.

You can make your pH indicator solution by using a red cabbage (you can also use a rose petal, red onions, blueberries, or plums). Grate your ingredient and boil it with distilled water. Mix this solution with your sample water: if it turns pink, it's acidic; if it turns blue, green, or yellow it’s alkaline. If the water is neutral, it will remain purple.

Another important consideration is the water’s TDS or total dissolved components. This is the number of minerals your water contains. The balance of these minerals accentuates either the beans’ bitterness or their sweetness.

Avoid using tap water for obvious reasons. You don’t want chlorine in your brew. Also, make sure that the water you’re using is clean and has no odor. Your best options should be filtered, purified, and distilled. Of all three, filtered water is a good choice since it’s free from impurities but retains the minerals that help in bringing out the flavor from your coffee.

Once you have your clean water, prepare it by getting it to a full boil and set it aside immediately after. The ideal water temperature for brewing coffee is 200 degrees Fahrenheit. But the range between 195 and 205 is okay. Any hotter and it can cause your coffee to lose its flavor while colder brewing temperature will not get you the most from your coffee grounds.

You most likely won’t have any way of measuring the water temperature, that’s why I advised you to set it aside after boiling to allow it to cool down to our preferred temperature for a minute.

Right Grind

Coffee brewing is both an art and a science. To make the perfect brew, everything must be measured down to the size of the coffee granules.

Coarser grind can lead to a flat coffee brew since the flavor is harder to extract at this size (unless you’re brewing it at low temperatures for a longer period). Too fine a grind, on the other hand, can produce something a little too bitter than most people would prefer. Medium-coarse to medium-fine should work for you.

Aim for consistent grind size. You can achieve this by using a burr grinder instead of a blade grinder and screening with a 20 wire mesh strainer.

Friendly reminders:

  1. For fresher coffee brew, grind the beans right before the brewing process.
  2. Follow the golden ratio of brewing: 1 to 2 tablespoons of coffee grind is to 6 ounces of water (a typical coffee mug is 8 to 10 ounces). You can adjust your measurement according to your preference.

How to Make Coffee Without a Coffee Maker

The Stovetop Method

The stovetop method is a traditional brewing method that can produce a surprisingly strong brew comparable to an espresso. The best thing about it is it's cheaper and doesn’t come in a bulky piece of machinery. It’s a simple contraption made of three little parts and sits on top of a heat source such as a stove. If you’re lucky enough to find one, read on.

Things you’ll need:

  • Stovetop
  • Water
  • Kettle
  • Coffee grind (medium to medium-fine)
  • Hot pads

How to Brew it: Step by Step

  1. Pour the pre-boiled water from the kettle into the bottom container of the stovetop (It’s best to use hot water to speed up the process and prevent your coffee’s flavor from escaping)
  2. Fill the coffee chamber with your coffee grind
  3. Remove excess coffee grind so that it fills the chamber exactly to the brim (don’t stamp the grind)
  4. Drop the chamber into your stovetop
  5. Put the bottom and top parts of the stovetop together (use hot pads to avoid hurting yourself)
  6. Let the stovetop sit on the stove over high heat
  7. Turn the heat off once the water starts gurgling up and let the pressure of the steam brew your coffee

Enjoy an exquisite cup of espresso as the world crumbles around you.

The Coffee Bag Method

There’s no simpler and easier way to brew coffee than this method. A coffee bag is just like a tea bag but with, well, coffee.

If you want an express coffee cup with the freshly ground coffee bean flavor, you can try this brewing method.

Coffee bags are available in stores, but given your circumstance, you may improvise.

A paper filter is ideal, but anything clean and durable enough not to dissolve in hot water will do. Put your coffee grind in it and secure it with a string. Voila, a survivor coffee bag.

Things you’ll need:

  • Coffee bag
  • Coffee cup
  • Off-the-boil water

How to Brew it: Step by Step

  1. Pour hot water into your cup
  2. Put your coffee bag into hot water
  3. Give it 5 minutes to brew

Friendly reminder:

Pouring off-the-boil water onto the coffee bag can kill the flavor from the coffee grind. Let the cup absorb some of the heat first before you dip the bag. 

The Strainer Method

Another simple but effective way of extracting the flavor from your coffee ground is the strainer method. However, the strainer should match the type of grind you have. Either the mesh should be small enough so that coffee granules would not pass through, or your coffee grind should be a bit coarse so they won’t fall through. In any case, adding a coffee filter, if available, should help you keep the coffee bits from the final brew.

Things you’ll need:

  • Strainer
  • Coffee filter (optional)
  • Hot water
  • Coffee cup

How to Brew it: Step by Step

  1. Let the strainer sit on top of the coffee cup
  2. Put the coffee filter inside the strainer
  3. Put your preferred amount of coffee ground into the filter
  4. Gently pour hot water onto the coffee ground but don’t let it spill over to the side of the filter and strainer
  5. Repeat until you get your desired concentration in your coffee brew

The Hanky Method

A handkerchief may not save the world, but it can save you from your caffeine withdrawal symptoms.

Things you’ll need:

  • Clean handkerchief
  • Clothespins, rubber bands, or strings – anything that can hold the hanky up in place
  • Coffee grind
  • Hot water
  • Coffee mug or jar

How to Brew it: Step by Step

  1. Place the hanky on the mouth of the mug or jar
  2. Make a pouch-like depression at the center of the hanky deep enough to hold your preferred amount of coffee grind
  3. Secure the hanky around the mug’s mouth by using the clothespin or rubber band
  4. Put your coffee grind into the depression
  5. Pour in the hot water but careful not to spill over
  6. Allow the coffee grind to soak in the water for about half a minute
  7. Pour some more water until you get your desired amount

After using, wash your hanky and keep it clean and dry for future use.

The Faux French Press

This is not as sophisticated as it sounds. It means you’re imitating the brewing process of a French Press with the available tools you have.
The Faux French Press method could be one of the rougher methods there is and you’ll soon know why.

Things you’ll need:

  • A jar
  • A coffee cup
  • Coarse coffee grind
  • Off-the-boil water
  • Spoon (a strainer with finer mesh is better if you have one)

How to Brew it: Step by Step

  1. Put your desired amount of coffee grind into the jar
  2. Pour in a small amount of hot water to saturate the grind
  3. Pour in the remaining hot water, stir using the spoon, and let it brew for about 4 minutes
  4. Transfer the coffee brew to your mug or cup while using the spoon to push the sediments back

The long brewing time will allow you to extract a decent amount of flavor even from a coarse grind. Some coffee granules will have made it to your cup. Think of it as a light snack.

The Cowboy Method

This method has a bad reputation among coffee drinkers. It is most suitable outdoors when you’re away from the aid of your kitchen implements and have no choice but to make the best of your limited resources.

Even so, the Cowboy method doesn’t have to be so unrefined. Follow these requirements for an outdoor coffee that could feel just like home.

Things you’ll need:

  • Pot (the metal thingy not the other ‘pot’)
  • Water
  • Heat source
  • Fine coffee grind
  • Coffee cup or mug
  • Tablespoon

How to Brew it: Step by Step

  1. Boil water in the pot but leave some cool water for later.
  2. Remove the boiling water from the heat and let sit for half a minute. This will bring the temperature down to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit
  3. Add the coffee grind to the pot of hot water and give a stir
  4. Leave it to brew for a couple of minutes before stirring again
  5. Give it 2 more minutes and then throw in a dash of cold water over the brew to help bring the floating granules down to the bottom of the pot
  6. Pour your coffee brew into your coffee cup, but slowly lest you disturb the coffee ground.

It turns out, you can still enjoy the finer things even when all hell had broken loose.

The Microwave Method

Out in the post-apocalyptic wilderness, you can’t always be certain of things including making a good fire. But not getting your hot cup of coffee brew is not an option.

One of the fastest ways to heat something is to microwave it.

Ransack an appliance store and I’m sure you’ll find a working microwave there. Find a power source at all costs and plug in the appliance.

Before anything else, make sure you’ve got everything you need.

Things you’ll need:

  • Working microwave
  • Microwave-safe coffee cup and mug
  • Filtered water
  • Coffee grind (medium-coarse to medium)
  • Spoon
  • Coffee filter or anything clean that can work

How to Brew it: Step by Step

  1. Put water into the cup
  2. Heat the water in the microwave oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 minute
  3. While waiting, put the coffee grind into the coffee filter and wrap it up
  4. Once the water is hot, take it out of the microwave and then put the wrapped coffee grind into the water
  5. Let it brew for 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Press the coffee bag against the inside of the cup to squeeze out the flavor

That’s one of the two ways to make coffee using a microwave with the help of a filter. But what if you don’t have a filter? Then you do it the cowboy way.

  1. Put filtered water into a bigger cup (mug) and heat it in the microwave same as above
  2. Take out the mug and pour the coffee grounds into the hot water and then stir
  3. Let it sit and brew for 3 to 4 minutes
  4. Once the residue had settled, you may transfer the final brew into a smaller cup

The Swedish Egg Method

Here is another ingenious way of preparing coffee without a coffee maker.
The Swedish egg method involves an egg of a chicken of any nationality. The ‘Swedish’ came about instead, and so the legends have told, from Scandinavians migrating to the US back in the 1800s (which is why it’s also called ‘Scandinavian egg coffee’). The coffee they had back then was so bad it necessitated this invention to curb its otherwise unpalatable qualities.

The egg acts as a clarifying agent that helps remove the residue from the final brew.

Things you’ll need:

  • A raw egg
  • Ground coffee (coarse to medium grind)
  • Water for boiling
  • A separate cup of cool water
  • Pot

How to Brew it: Step by Step

  1. Bring the water to a boil in the pot
  2. While waiting for the hot water, crack the egg and mix the yellow and white with the coffee grind and add ¼ cup of cool water
  3. Optional: crush the eggshell and include it in the coffee-egg ‘paste’
  4. Once the water begins to boil, pour the coffee-egg mixture into the pot
  5. Turn the heat down and let it simmer for up to 3 minutes
  6. As the egg begins to cook, it will bind with the coffee ground and float on top of the brew. Turn the heat off when this happens.
  7. Pour the remaining ¼ cup of cool water into the brew. This will help make the residue settle at the bottom
  8. Using a strainer or your clean hanky as a filter, pour your coffee into your cup

When it comes to curbing the bitterness in the final brew, the Swedish egg method is the most effective. It’s the white of the egg that absorbs the bitterness and any burnt flavor, so accidental over brewing (leaving it over the heat for longer than you should) will not ruin the drink. 

The Cold Brew Method

At worst, you will not be able to find any means of extracting the flavor from your coffee grind using heat. That’s okay.

The cold brew method is the simplest and most straightforward way of extracting coffee flavors. You can do it even when the inclement weather prevents you from making a single spark. So long as you have the basics, you’ll be fine.

Things you’ll need:

  • A jar (with a lid)
  • Cold water
  • Medium-coarse to coarse coffee grind
  • Coffee cup or mug

How to Brew it: Step by Step

  1. Add your coffee grind into the jar. A coarser grind is a good choice since this method will require your coffee to be immersed in the water longer than in other brewing methods. There is very little risk of over-extraction.
  2. Pour in cold water to mix with the coffee.
  3. Put the lead on tightly and let it brew for 6 to 12 hours
  4. Use any available means of filtering e.g. strainer, coffee filter, clean cloth as you transfer the coffee brew into your cup or a larger container.

You can sleep on it while it’s brewing or you can let it slosh around in your backpack as you trek. In any case, expect a refreshingly mild brew with a hint of natural sweetness and without the bitter and acidic flavor in the end.

Things to Keep in Mind When Brewing Coffee Without a Coffee Maker

Alternative Coffee Maker

The end of the world is not an excuse to forgo finesse. When things have gone south, you should hold on tighter to simple things that matter including a perfect cup of coffee.
From the moment a coffee bean is picked and roasted, it begins its journey towards inevitable deterioration. There is only so much you can do to preserve and prolong its life.
Make the most of your supply by acquiring only the freshest beans.

Use Freshly Ground Coffee

Oxidation, moisture, and carbon dioxide (CO2) depletion all suck the flavor and aroma of your coffee. This is intensified and sped up when the bean is grounded. For this reason, I strongly advise getting whole roasted coffee beans and only grind an exact amount right before the brewing process.

Use Freshly Roasted Coffee

This advice is for your coffee beans’ longer storage life, NOT for brewing. Freshly roasted coffee needs time to degas or release the CO2 formed in the roasting process. Degassing takes a few days, but it is best to let the roasted beans rest for a full week. After only such time can you brew.

The best storage for freshly roasted beans is an airtight container with a one-way valve. This will allow the beans to release CO2 while preventing oxygen from getting in.

For convenience, it’s best to have a supply of ready-to-grind roasted beans you can brew while the fresher roasted ones are still degassing.

The Right Water

This one bears repeating. Never use water you wouldn’t drink on its own. It should not have any strange odor or color. Just clean and clear water. Any undesirable element might interact chemically with the brew, potentially ruining it and your bowel movement.

Filtered water is the best for coffee brewing regardless of the method. You can use distilled or purified, but these will lack the essential minerals that will help bring out the nuances in the taste of your coffee brew.

Work with What you Have

A combination of resourcefulness and a Stoic attitude towards any situation is your key to not simply surviving but thriving.

Humans have been consuming coffee for centuries now even when the modern brewing machines and apparatuses did not exist. If you want to enjoy a cup, you won’t let the lack of equipment hinder you. All you need are clean water, your coffee ground, and any available container and filtering method. Even heat and fire are privileges you won’t always get.


There are several methods to make coffee without a coffee maker. Whether you are staying at home or trekking out in the wild or spelunking among the ruins of modern civilization, you can always get your coffee fix.

As the saying goes, if there is a will, there is a way.

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