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How to Make Coffee Without a Coffee Maker

Want a hot cup of java but find yourself without a coffee maker? Our guide will reveal how to make a Cowboy coffee, Turkish coffee and more

Most of us like to start the day with a hot cup of coffee, but what happens if your regular machine suffers a breakdown? Or, you could be traveling abroad, staying with a decaffeinated friend or camping, without access to your tried-and-trusted coffee maker. Well, fear not – we ensure you will be able to kick-start your day with a cup of caffeine with our five easy ways to make coffee without a coffee maker.

As well as revealing several methods to make your morning brew without a dedicated machine, you’ll also find expert knowledge from Kaleena Teoh, co-founder and Director of Education at coffee training campus Coffee Project NY. Read on to discover her thoughts on her preferred method as well as our top tips.

The best ways to make coffee without a coffee maker

For all of the methods below, there are a few prerequisites: coffee grounds or instant coffee, access to water, preferably with some way to heat it, a filtration device or filter papers and, of course, a mug for serving. Aside from the above, the various methods may require some additional bits, so read on to discover which method will suit you best.

1. Cowboy coffee

Cowboy coffee is named after its popularity as a drink on trails and in campsites during the period of the American frontier. A simple and back-to-basics method of making a cup of joe, it creates a drink that has a brash, bright flavor. While it can be a little tricky to get right, if you have precious few tools at your disposal, then this is the best method to go for.

What you’ll need: Coffee grounds, cooking pot, heat source, water, salt (optional), strainer (optional).

1. Bring water to a boil over your heat source. For authentic Cowboy coffee, you’ll want it to be an open flame.

2. Once your water has boiled, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool for around 30 seconds. This will take its temperature down from boiling – which will burn your grounds – to a more ideal temperature closer to 200° F.

3. Now add your coffee grounds (coarsely ground coffee works best for this method) to the water and give the mixture a stir. Most recipes suggest a ratio of 2 tbsp for every 8oz of water; but if you have no way of measuring, just add one healthy scoop of coffee for every cup you’re making. For a really authentic cup of Cowboy coffee add a pinch of salt, which is supposed to mellow out the bitterness and highlight the sweeter notes.

4. Let your coffee and water mixture sit for around four minutes, stirring again halfway through.

5. Once this time has elapsed and your coffee brewed, your next challenge will be to extract the grounds. If you have no filter or strainer, you can get them to settle to the bottom of the pot by adding a small amount of cold water over the top of your coffee or stirring with a cold spoon. Other methods favored by seasoned campers include straining your coffee through a clean sock, brewing the coffee with crushed eggshells added (an addition whose proteins help the grounds clump together and sink and whose alkaline nature also helps reduce the acidity of your coffee) or simply waiting for the grounds to settle.

2. Turkish coffee

Turkish coffee is made in a specialized metal pot called a cezve, sometimes heated over hot sand, and using very finely ground coffee. This method delivers a drink with a strong, bittersweet flavor, a thick texture and a characteristic layer of foam on top. A traditional and very enjoyable way to make coffee, you can approximate a Turkish coffee at home if you have the right tools and ingredients. Here, we’ll assume you don’t have a coffee maker, nor do you have a cezve lying around either.

What you’ll need: Finely ground coffee, small cooking pot, water, heat source, sugar.

1. Add 3oz of cold water per desired number of servings to a small, long-handled pot, adding a little extra water to account for evaporation. Next, add between a ½ tsp and 2 tsp of sugar per cup of water, depending on how sweet you want it. For each cup of Turkish coffee you’re making, add a heaped teaspoon of very finely ground coffee.

2. Heat your coffee over a medium heat until it reaches a boil and begins to froth over, then remove it from the heat and allow it to settle. In traditional Turkish coffee making, this process is repeated three times. In-between boils, skim some of the foam off the top of the liquid and add it to the bottom of your empty coffee cups.

3. Once you’ve heated your coffee sufficiently, let it sit for a few minutes to settle, then pour it into your cups slowly, allowing the foam to rise to the surface. Once again, let the drink sit for a minute for the coffee to settle, then enjoy.

3. Homemade coffee bags

Aside from requiring that you have paper filters to hand, this is an exceedingly simple method for preparing coffee. Borrowing the design of teabags, homemade coffee bags allow you to make yourself a delicious brew directly in your cup.

What you’ll need: Ground coffee, filter papers, water, heat source, staple and string (optional).

1. Lay out a large paper coffee filter on a flat surface, then place 1-2 tablespoons of finely ground coffee in its center.

2. Next, you’ll want to seal up your filter. Some people like to fold it squarely, then staple it shut and add a string, to resemble a tea bag. I prefer to fold mine in half and crimp it along the edges like a dumpling.

3. Heat water in a microwave or on your stovetop. Once it has reached boiling and cooled for 30 seconds, you can add it to your cup and drop in your coffee bag.

4. Let your coffee bag brew for around four minutes, then fish it out and enjoy your cup of coffee.

4. Cold brew coffee

While it has slightly fancy connotations, cold brew is actually one of the simplest methods of making coffee – and it doesn’t even require cold conditions or a fridge. All you really need to do is let your grounds soak in water for a few hours. As Kaleena Teoh of Coffee Project NY puts it, “As long as coffee has contact with water, it will extract. If you happen to find yourself in a situation where you have no access to coffee devices, you will likely just need a container that allows for coffee to sit with water and something with which to strain the grounds.”

What you’ll need: Coffee grounds, water, a storage container, fridge or cold space (optional).

1. The first step in making cold brew is to find a suitable storage container. We’re looking for something airtight, food-safe and non-porous, if possible. Glass tupperware, mason jars and reusable water bottles are all good options, with a ziploc bag making a surprisingly good vessel if you have nothing else to hand.

2. Next, add coarsely ground coffee and water to your container in a ratio of 1:4. A coarse ground works best here since it will extract more slowly, preventing over-extraction across the longer brew time and thereby stopping the development of harsh, unpleasant flavors.

3. If you’re brewing at room temperature, allow your mixture to sit for 3-5 hours. Brewing at cold temperatures slows down the extraction of oils and flavors, so if you’re brewing in the fridge, leave it for at least 12 hours, and anywhere up to 24 hours.

4. Once your coffee is brewed, it’s time to filter out the grounds – note that they’ll continue to extract as long as they’re in contact with the water. If you don’t have filter paper or a strainer, you can simply decant your coffee carefully; the grounds should have sunk to the bottom of your container by now.

5. With that done, your cold brew is almost ready. It’s important to note that making cold brew in these ratios creates a concentrate. When serving, you should dilute your concentrate in a ratio of 1:2 with water or milk. A final note: once decanted, cold brew concentrate can be stored in the fridge for 7-10 days.

5. Instant coffee

Yes, it’s the most obvious answer, so our list wouldn’t be complete without instant coffee. If you’re planning a trip in advance, sans coffee maker, and the methods above seem a little too fussy, then maybe it’s best to play it safe and put a tin of instant coffee in your bag.

What you’ll need: Instant coffee, water, heat source

1. Heat 8oz of water to a near boil.

2. Add 1-2 tbsp of instant coffee to your cup, depending on the recommendation on the box.

3. Add your heated water and stir.

4. To improve the flavor of your instant coffee you can add milk, creamer or spices such as nutmeg or cinnamon.

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