How to make coffee without a coffee maker

By Kristen Underwood — / Death Wish Coffee Blog

Can I make coffee without a coffee maker?

On the list of “Worst Nightmares,” I’d have to say waking up to a coffee maker that just shit the bed, or not having a coffee maker at all, is at the very tip-top. While some of us have the time to grind our beans to fresh grounds and soon to be beautiful bloom a-brew in the Chemex, the rest of us are waking up, falling over ourselves and onto the brew button, silently begging for it to brew just a little bit faster. 

But what happens when you hit that button and the brew doesn’t start? Forget the reason why. What’s more important is your life, as you know it, has come to a halt. Your Monday morning mission of getting to work on time has come and gone. Your new mission is finding a way to get some coffee in you, STAT. 

There, there, young grasshopper. There are several options for making coffee without a coffee maker, depending on the resources you have lying around your house — and we've gone through each of these methods below. Whatever concoction you end up with certainly will not hold a candle to your freshly brewed cup, but at least you won’t have to scrounge for change and throw your routine drive to work off route.

We spoke with EJ Snyder, of Naked and Afraid, about his years in the military learning survival techniques, which then led to different opportunities in his life. During this crazy interesting conversation, EJ told us a story of how his coffee addiction led him straight to the source during the Gulf War. It went a little something like this:

EJ Snyder: “I am such a coffee addict, when I was in the Gulf War, I was moving up and down the line when we had halted looking to see if anybody had some coffee. I had my canteen cup out and I smelled some coffee being brewed, but I didn't know where it was, so I come upon a guy from Philadelphia, my buddy Dan, and I'm like, "Dan, what are you doing?" It looked like he was doing his laundry because I see these green socks in this big Bedouin pot and there's all smoke coming out of there. I'm like, "What are you doing, your laundry?" He's like, "No." Those green socks had coffee grinds in them and he was using them as filters. That was the best cup of coffee I ever had on the planet because it saved me out there and I dunked my canteen cup in there and got me a swig of that stuff."

If filtering your grinds through socks doesn’t sound appetizing, here are a few other ways to get your morning fix.

The Cowboy Method:

Not to worry. You won’t need a horse or ten-gallon hat to make this method work. You can make it almost anywhere, though, as long as you don’t mind just a little bit of grit in your cup.

You’ll need:

  • Coffee grounds
  • Water
  • Kettle or pot
  • Stirring utensil
  • Mug

How to brew:

  • Scoop your preferred ratio of grounds
  • Add water to your kettle or pot
  • Place kettle over fire or stove and bring to a boil
  • Boil for 2 minutes and remove from stove
  • Allow grounds to sink to the bottom of the kettle
  • Pour coffee into mug avoiding grounds as well as possible
  • Sip it down and giddy up!


The Coffee Bag Method:

This may be the simplest method of all, so listen closely.

You’ll need:

  • Coffee bag (similar to a teabag, but with coffee grounds inside)
  • Water
  • Mug

How to brew:

  • Boil water
  • Place coffee bag in a mug
  • Slowly pour water over coffee bag until saturated
  • Leave coffee bag immersed in water until desired steep time (the strength of your brew can be adjusted based on steeping time)
  • Once you've reached your desired steep time, remove the coffee bag and discard

The Saucepan Method:

With limited supplies, this option will work for you. If you’ve got the kitchen basics, you’re good to go.

You’ll need:

  • Coffee grounds
  • Water
  • Small saucepan
  • Spoon
  • Ladle
  • Mug

How to brew:

  • Pour water into your pan
  • Stir the coffee grounds right into the water
  • Set your burner on medium-high until coffee comes to a boil
  • Stir occasionally to avoid burnt grounds
  • Boil coffee uncovered for 2 minutes
  • Remove coffee from the stove and allow grounds to settle to the bottom of the pan
  • Using a ladle, scoop coffee avoiding grounds into your mug

The Strainer Method:

No filters? No problem! If you have a strainer, preferably with small holes to avoid grounds getting in your cup, get ready for a cup of joe.

You’ll need:

  • Coffee grounds
  • Water
  • Kettle or saucepan
  • Mesh strainer (small and conical is ideal)
  • Mug

How to brew:

  • Measure out your water in correlation to the number of cups you wish to make
  • Add the correct amount of coffee grounds to match the number of cups and stir it in
  • Bring water to a boil and keep it boiling for 2 minutes
  • Remove saucepan from heat
  • Hold strainer above mug and pour the coffee through it
  • The strainer will catch the grounds, as the coffee fills your mug

If the thought of going without coffee in the morning makes you want to catapult your favorite mug across the room, it may be a good idea to keep a few things on hand for emergencies. Wipe your tears and tune into your inner scout. This isn’t just your morning coffee, this is survival.

Related: Alternative Ways of Brewing Coffee


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