How to Make Coffee Without a Coffee Maker

You’ve just arrived somewhere new on a trip, and to your horror, there’s not a coffee maker in sight.

What to do? You wonder, instinctively: How can I make coffee without a coffee maker?

The fact of the matter is that coffee brews through a combination of coffee grounds and hot water. That’s it. Which means that, if you’re willing to open your mind just a bit, there are plenty of inventive ways to get Joe’s heavenly aromas steaming from your cup in a matter of minutes.

Here’s how to make coffee without a coffee maker.

Cowboy Coffee: How to Brew Coffee Without a Maker

Taking its name from cattle ranchers on the Western frontier who would heat coffee with a campfire, this method of coffee brewing derives from the Ethiopian method of boiling beans over a stove. Which is, frankly, about as simple as it sounds and the easiest way to make coffee without a coffee maker.

Here are the steps to make “cowboy coffee” and brew your own without a coffee maker:

  • Gather supplies. You’ll need coffee ground coarse, a stove or flame source, a saucepan, a measuring cup, tablespoon, and water.
  • Combine coffee and water in saucepan. Yes, just like that. Toss them in.
  • Bring to a boil. You’ll notice the coffee turning into a slurry after less than a minute of boiling; at that point, stir.
  • Boil for two minutes. After this time has elapsed, take it off the burner—or flame—and let it continue to brew in the saucepan. Take it out after three minutes.
  • Pour. The coffee should sink to the bottom, much as it would with a French press. But if you have one handy, use a strainer.

This is the best and easiest way to make coffee without a coffee maker.

Makeshift Coffee Filters

No filter? No problem. While your DIY coffee filter won’t hold up quite as well as the store-bought paper one, they will get you on the fast track to your caffeine fix as you improv a pour-over sans Chemex or Hario—another way to make a cup of coffee without a maker. (In sum: Brew it just as you would with a pour over device, but lower expectations.)

The ideal makeshift coffee filter is the reusable muslin filter. Here is how to make your own.

  • Gather supplies. You’ll need muslin, a pencil, a needle and thread, and scissors.
  • Sketch. You’ll need to measure out how big the filter should be for the basket you plan to fit it into. Sketch out a cone shape, then cut with scissors.
  • Sew. A needle and thread should work just fine, but feel free to use a sewing machine if you have one. Connect the sides and sew along the seams.
  • Turn it inside out. You don’t want coffee grounds stuck in the seams.

This reusable filter should last for several uses, though it’s important to clean it. While it’s always an option to use a metal filter—or any kind of strainer—it’s worth noting that it does not filter out oils in the same way a paper filter does. This impacts taste and also allows a small amount of cholesterol into the coffee from the oils.

Other options include a cheesecloth or, gross as it may sound, a clean sock—just make it a thin one, and be sure it’s big enough to account for about two inches of material to hang over the cup. Avoid paper towels; they’re often treated with chemicals that can seep into the coffee.

Coffee Bag

Much like tea, coffee can be bagged and brewed in a cup. They’re even rather trendy and increasingly easier to purchase in stores and craft coffee shops.

To make it, simply boil water to around 205 degrees, place the bag in the cup, and slowly pour the water in. Again, like tea, let it steep for longer if you prefer a stronger flavor, or take it out after three minutes for a balanced cup of coffee.

Tip: If you’d rather use your own coffee, simply bag it yourself by creating a bag from paper filters and inserting the coffee—or by taking the tea out of existing tea bags.

If you ever find yourself in dire need of coffee without a coffee machine (or coffee shop) around, there are a variety of ways to make coffee without a coffee maker. Coffee has been around for centuries and it’s been only recently that we’ve refined brewing methods to use machinery. Give some of these low-tech methods a try for yourself!