Electricity off? No machine at the vacation rental? Brew on.

By Karla Walsh
August 24, 2020
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About 45 percent of Americans own a drip coffee maker, and another 42 percent own a single-cup brewer, with some overlap between the two camps. But what about the java fans who don't own one, don't have access to power (say, on a camping trip), or prefer to make their mug in a more classic way?

Enter these four ways to make coffee without a coffee maker. You can use a French press or pour-over coffee maker like this Chemex ($42; amazon.com), of course. However, if you don't have one and prefer not to invest in new equipment, these ways to make coffee should be doable with items you already have around the house.

Kitchen / domestic scene of a hand pouring a kettle of boiling water into mugs. Space for copy.
Credit: Catherine Falls Commercial/Getty Images

Before we get brewing, a few general coffee best practices:

  • Know your beans' birth date. By that, we mean roast date. You'll score the best homemade coffee using beans that have been roasted within two weeks.
  • Use the freshest coffee possible. Buy the beans whole and grind them to your preferred coarseness (using something like this Cuisinart Coffee Bar Coffee Grinder; $27; amazon.com) for the finest flavor.
  • Be careful with temp. The ideal temperature for water used to brew coffee is right around 200° Fahrenheit.

4 Ways to Make Coffee Without a Coffee Maker

1. Brew up a Stovetop Cup

This is an old-school, traditional way to make coffee if you're sans microwave. It will also work if you happen to be without power, as long as you have a gas range.

  • Start with six ounces of cold water per serving. Then, pour water into a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
  • Add 1 heaping tablespoon of coffee per serving to the pan. If desired, add sugar now.
  • Bring the coffee mixture to a boil.
  • Stir occasionally and allow to boil for 2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, let sit for 4 minutes, then pour the coffee slowly and carefully from the pan so the grounds stay in the pan — and out of your cup(s).
  • Add sugar and/or cream, if desired.

2. Make Turkish Coffee

Similar to stovetop coffee but slightly more fussy, this method creates a thick, frothy, and strong brew. It's not a fully traditional method for Turkish coffee, but it's one way to get a really deep brew. Yes, the grinds should be in the cup at the end.

  • Start with 6 ounces of cold water per serving. Then pour water into a small saucepan over low heat.
  • Add 1 heaping tablespoon of coffee per serving to the pan. If desired, add sugar now.
  • When the water is just about to boil, remove it from the heat and skim off the foam. Place foam into your coffee cup(s).
  • Return the pan to the heat and watch for it to get near a boil again, then remove from heat.
  • Pour half of the coffee into your coffee cup(s).
  • Return the pan to the heat once more. Boil for 15 additional seconds, then remove from heat.
  • Pour this entire mixture into coffee cup(s). Allow to sit for 2 or 3 minutes so the coffee can sink to the bottom.

3. Try a Faux French Press

Mimic the same results you'd get with a French press coffee maker using a mug, a bowl, and a spoon.

  • Boil water in a saucepan on the stove.
  • In a deep bowl, add 1 heaping tablespoon of coffee per serving.
  • Pour a small amount of boiling water over the grounds to saturate them, and then add 6 ounces of water per serving.
  • Use a spoon to press the coffee grounds to the bottom of the bowl.
  • Pressing the spoon down on top of the grounds, pour the remaining liquid into your coffee cup(s).
  • Add sugar and/or cream, if desired.

4. Create a Coffee Bag

If you prefer less bitter coffee, stock up on coffee filters (such as If You Care Unbleached Coffee Filters, $7.19 for 100; amazon.com) for this stovetop method.

  • Lay one filter on the counter, and add 2 heaping tablespoons of coffee. (We call for more in this method to account for the filter and how much flavor can "escape.")
  • Bring the ends of the filter together and tie with twine. Imagine a tea bag-like package. Place this bag in your coffee cup.
  • In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil.
  • Saturate the bag of coffee in enough water just to soak the grounds, then let the grounds soak for 30 seconds.
  • Pour 6 ounces of water into your coffee cup.
  • Allow to steep for 4 minutes, then remove the bag.
  • Add sugar and/or cream, if desired.