How to Make Coffee Without a Coffee Maker

No coffee maker? No problem! You can still enjoy a great cup of coffee with a few household items and a little creativity.

It’s to panic early in the morning upon discovering that your coffee machine isn’t working, but fortunately, there are many ways to brew coffee, almost as good, with no machine. Sure, you could buy an emergency espresso machine (even with less than $100 in your pocket, surprisingly) however when you need a caffeine fix immediately, that’s not an option. People have made their coffee by hand for hundreds of years—there’s no reason you can’t too.

Here are a few ways you can get your morning cup of Joe when there’s no ‘official’ coffee machine within reach.

1. The Cowboy Method

Getting its name from the way cowboys and outdoorsmen make their coffee, the cowboy method’s main characteristic is dumping the coffee grounds straight into the water in a saucepan.

How to do it:

  • Pour water into your saucepan and place it on the stove
  • Use more water than you normally would with a coffee machine, as some of it will be left behind. An additional cup of water will suffice.
  • Add your coffee and stir the coffee-water mixture. Aim for 2 tablespoons of coffee for every ounce of water—more if you want it stronger and less for weaker coffee.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring from time to time.
  • Allow your coffee mix to boil uncovered, for 2 minutes.
  • Take the saucepan off the heat, allowing your coffee brew to rest for at least 5 minutes to allow the grounds to sink to the bottom

Slowly pour your coffee off the top or ladle it into your cup. Enjoy your homebrewed cup of Joe, and give yourself a pat on the back for joining the cowboy coffee club!

As for your grounds, don’t throw them away! If you have a home garden, coffee grounds make for great compost material.

2. The DIY Coffee Bag Method

Similar to tea bags, which hold dried tealeaves, the coffee bag method will instead hold your ground coffee. You can either purchase empty tea bags, or take your standard coffee filter and cotton string.

How to do it:

  • Take a sufficient amount of coffee for your needs and pour into your filter
  • Wrap the filter around the coffee, closing it up with string—be sure to wrap tightly and leave enough string to rest outside your cup
  • Just as you would when preparing tea, place your improvised coffee-filter bag into an empty cup
  • Pour hot water into the cup, taking care not to overfill it
  • Let your coffee bag steep or rest for four minutes, allowing it to diffuse the flavor of the coffee grounds. For stronger coffee, rest for 6 minutes. For weaker coffee, rest for 2 to 3 minutes.
    Once steeped, remove coffee bag

A word of warning: be sure not to steep your coffee for too long, otherwise your final product will be too bitter.

3. Use a Strainer

If you don’t have a coffee filter around to keep the grounds from spreading in your coffee, you could always improvise by using a strainer.

Just be sure to use the right strainer—one with very small holes—otherwise your grounds will just pass through.

How to do it:

  • Take a sufficient amount of water for the number of cups of coffee you need, and place it in a pot or kettle
  • Add the appropriate amount of coffee for the number of servings. For stronger coffee, add more coffee, and for weaker coffee, add less.
  • Bring your water to a boil, letting it boil uncovered for 2 minutes
  • Remove the pot or kettle from the heat
  • Take your strainer and place above your cup or mug—a tea strainer will be perfect for the job

Pour your coffee slowly into your cup—make sure the strainer catches any coffee grounds that fall out of the pot or kettle. Enjoy your coffee.

4. The Handkerchief Method

This method involves using a handkerchief as an improvised pour-over filter. You’ll be surprised at how similar it tastes to your favored single serve dripper!

How to do it:

  • Take a clean handkerchief and fold it into a square—this will be your coffee filter. Attach it to the mouth of a cup, using paper clips to hold the filter on its four sides
  • Take your ground coffee and place it evenly at the center of your handkerchief filter
  • Wet your grounds with a little hot water and wait for 30 before pouring more water
  • Slowly pour more water into the cup until it reaches halfway. Wait for another 30 seconds.
  • For the next minute, slowly add water in small increments until the cup is full.
  • Remove the clips and handkerchief the moment the water has gone through the grounds. If its submerged, carefully lift the handkerchief without letting the grounds escape

Enjoy your coffee, brewed handkerchief style.

When All Else Fails, Use Instant Coffee

If you don’t have the time to brew your coffee the old-fashioned way, there’s always instant coffee to give your caffeine fix.

While many people will turn their noses at instant coffee, thinking of it as “fake” coffee, it will give you the same aroma and flavor of coffee, albeit without the same fullness of brewed coffee.

The Bottom Line

Coffee machines are great contraptions and as a coffee lover, you’ll likely have a wide array available, but they’re not exactly necessary to enjoy a cup of brewed coffee.

Remember that the methods mentioned above—save for the instant coffee option—take a little time and attention.