How To Make Coffee Without A Coffee Maker (5 Surprising Ways!)

brew coffee without a coffee maker

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Just close your eyes and take a few seconds to imagine what it would be like waking up to a broken coffee machine. Scary right? It does happen, and it could happen to you.

But the question is, are you prepared if that day ever comes? Do you have a game plan in place that you can kick into gear in the early hours to pull you out from a caffeine-starved zombie state?

If you’re looking for possible contingency plans to enable you to brew coffee without a coffee maker, you’ve stumbled on the right page.

In this article, we have tried and tested some of the best ways to brew coffee without a machine. We can’t guarantee that these methods will knock your socks off in the taste department, but at least these improvised methods will allow you to get a much-needed hot cup of coffee down your throat when you need it the most.

The Saucepan Method (Cowboy Coffee)

boiling coffee in a saucepan

pouring coffee from a saucepan into mug

Cowboy coffee made on the stove-top is one of the easiest ways to make coffee without a machine. As long as you have access to a regular pan or cooking pot, you can brew a strong batch of great-tasting coffee almost anywhere, even on a campfire.

You’ll Need:

  • Medium to fine ground coffee (we suggest two tablespoons of coffee for every 6 ounces of water)
  • A saucepan (smaller pans work the best)
  • Stove-top or campfire
  • Water
  • Coffee mug

How to Brew It:

  1. Take a small clean saucepan and place it on your stove-top and add water. We recommend adding slightly more water than you usually use if you were brewing in your regular coffee maker. For example, if you typically use two cups of water, add an additional one cup so that there are three cups of water in the pan. The reason you need to do this will become apparent when you try to ladle your coffee out of the pan – it merely makes it easier, and you have less chance of any coffee grounds getting into your mug.
  2. Once you’re happy with the amount of water in your pan, turn on the heat and allow it to come to a rolling boil. When ready, add your medium to finely ground coffee and gently stir – remember roughly two tablespoons for every 6 ounces of water. But there’s no problem “winging it” if you’re out in the middle of nowhere sat around a campfire.
  3. When the coffee is entirely saturated and thoroughly stirred, remove the pan from the heat and immediately cover it with a lid. Wait for around five minutes, and then remove the lid. Do not stir or move your pan unnecessarily, as this will disrupt the settled coffee grounds. You should see that all of the coffee grounds have sunk to the bottom of the pan, and you should be smelling some great coffee aromas by now!
  4. Now it’s time to serve. There are two ways of doing this – you can skillfully try to tilt the pan and pour the top layer of coffee into your cup, or you can use a ladle and fill your mug up.

DIY Coffee Bag

coffee brewed in a sock

If your coffee machine has broken, you will likely still have some paper coffee filters lying around. You can turn those filters into a coffee bag. Like a teabag, you can brew coffee in the same way with a few simple tricks and a bit of patience, and you’ll have a great-tasting cup of coffee in no time at all.

You’ll Need:

  • 16 grams medium to coarse ground coffee
  • Kettle or other means to boil water
  • Hot water (30 seconds off the boil)
  • Regular paper coffee filter (recommended Melitta #4 or similar size)
  • String (use a piece from a traditional teabag)

How to Brew It:

  1. Take a regular large coffee filter and place it on a flat surface. Carefully add your usual amount of coffee for one cup to the center of the filter. (Typically, around two tablespoons of ground coffee per 250 ml of water)
  2. Next, pull up and twist the paper filter and tie it with the length of the string. Make sure you don’t squeeze the coffee too tightly as you’re doing this because you need to allow the ground coffee to move freely for better immersion (just like a regular tea bag). Don’t forget to leave some string so you can easily pull the bag out of your mug once you’re done.
  3. If you haven’t done so already, turn on your kettle and boil some water. While you’re waiting, place your coffee bag inside of your mug.
  4. Pour your hot water into your mug, ensuring that your coffee bag is completely submerged, and gently squeeze the bag with a teaspoon for better extraction of your grounds.
  5. Leave your coffee bag steeping inside of your mug for 2 to 3 minutes, or if you prefer a more robust cup of coffee, leave it steeping for up to 5 minutes.
    When you’re done with your preferred steeping time, carefully pull on the string and lift out your coffee bag.

Improvised Pour Over (Hanky Method)

handkerchief with ground coffee inside of a mug

handkerchief pour over coffee

So, you have a broken coffee machine, and you don’t have a Hario v60, Chemex, or similar pour-over device – what ya gonna do! …You could make a makeshift pour-over coffee filter using items you already have lying around your home.

You’ll Need:

  • 25 grams freshly ground medium to coarse coffee
  • Kettle or other means to boil water
  • A clean dish towel, handkerchief, or just a regular paper coffee filter
  • Large coffee mug
  • Clothes pegs, elastic bands, or a small clamp mechanism to securely hold the makeshift coffee filter in place.

how to fold the handkerchief

How to Brew It:

  1. For this demonstration, we have opted to use a handkerchief. If you’re following along, fold your handkerchief into a square, ideally two layers thick.
    Make sure the size is large enough so that you can place it over your coffee cup, leaving enough cloth left over to push it down to make a small reservoir. Make sure to leave a small amount of fabric (roughly two inches) hanging over the sides of your cup so you can clamp the handkerchief securely to the sides of your mug.
  2. Using clothes pegs or elastic bands, clamp the handkerchief to the sides of your coffee mug. Push down gently into the center of the handkerchief to make sure the cloth stays in place.
    If you haven’t done so already, grind your coffee to a medium to coarse grind. We suggest using 25 grams of ground coffee and 375 grams of water for this improvised brewing method. As always, we recommend using a good-quality burr coffee grinder for more consistent grind results.
  3. Add your ground coffee into the center of your cloth filter and give your mug a gentle shake to flatten the coffee bed.
  4. Boil your water, and once boiled, let it stand for 30 seconds so that it settles somewhere within the optimum temperature range.
  5. Next, slowly pour just enough water over your coffee grounds, only a tiny amount to moisten the grounds; in the industry, this is called the bloom, and it allows for excess C02 to escape from the freshly ground coffee beans.
  6. Wait for about 30 seconds, and then continue to slowly pour your remaining water over the coffee grounds using a slow circular pattern. Because we are using a “MacGyver brewing technique,” you may find you will have to coax the grounds gently using a wooden spoon or teaspoon to ensure they are all submerged and to aid in the drip flow rate.
  7. It should take no more than two minutes for your coffee to filter through the handkerchief. Once done, carefully remove the clips from your filter and enjoy.

Makeshift French Press (Minus The Press)

pouring in hot water

steeping coffee in mug

transferring brewed from mug to mug

If you enjoy the bold, vibrant, oily flavors that a traditional French press provides, you’re going to love this method, but be warned it does require a bit of skill, finesse, and a steady hand.

You’ll Need:

  • Hot water (30 seconds off the boil)
  • 30 grams medium to coarsely ground coffee
  • Two coffee mugs

How to Brew It:

  1. Like a regular French press, you will need to grind your whole coffee beans to a coarse grind (You’re aiming for a consistency similar to sea salt). For this method, we suggest grinding roughly two tablespoons of coffee to every 250ml/1 cup of water.
  2. Next, place your ground coffee in one of your mugs and give the mug a gentle shake.
  3. If you haven’t done so already, boil your water and allow it to sit for 30 seconds off the boil. Pour a tiny amount of water into the mug that holds the ground coffee, just enough to moisten the coffee. Wait for 30 seconds, and you should see the coffee grounds start to fluff up and “bloom.” This process allows for any C02 to escape.
  4. Once you’re done waiting, slowly pour the rest of the hot water over your coffee grounds and fill up your mug.
  5. Allow the coffee to steep for about 4 minutes, but you can leave it brewing for longer if you prefer a more robust cup of coffee.
  6. This is where you need to bring your a-game and a touch of finesse. You need to slowly pour your coffee from one mug to the other without letting any of the coffee grounds slip through. Sounds impossible, right? It’s not as hard as you think. Almost all of the heavy coffee grounds have sunk to the bottom, so pouring pure coffee into your other mug is relatively easy – if you’ve got a steady hand. Just make sure you don’t pour in the last few milliliters; it’s all going to be coffee sludge.

All Else Fails Use a Sock!

coffee made with a sock

Desperate times call for drastic measures. If all else fails, use a trusty sock (not crusty “trusty”) to make coffee without a coffee maker. Seriously, you have to be pretty desperate for a caffeine fix if you find yourself reaching down and pulling off a sock. But, hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it – it works a treat!

You’ll Need:

  • Hot water (30 seconds off the boil)
  • 25 grams medium to coarsely ground coffee
  • A clean sock
  • Coffee mug

How to Brew It:

  1. Find a clean white sock and slightly dampen it with room temperature water.
  2. Place your sock in your coffee mug and push it down inside, ensuring that the top of the sock wraps around the rim of your cup.
  3. Grind 25 grams of coffee to a medium to coarse grind and add to the inside of your sock.
  4. Boil 375 grams of water and let it sit for roughly 30 seconds once boiled to reach the optimum water temperature.
  5. Slowly pour your boiled water into your sock, stopping at intervals to ensure that the water doesn’t pass through the sock too quickly.
  6. If you want a stronger brew, you can remove your sock from the rim of the cup, twist the top and then slowly dunk it into your coffee – just like a teabag!
So, suppose you ever find yourself stuck in the early hours of the morning with a broken coffee machine. In that case, you should now have the knowledge to either brew coffee on a stove using a saucepan, using a homemade coffee filter, or if the worse comes to the worst, brewing with a sock (hopefully, it never comes to that!). Good luck!
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