How to Make Coffee Without a Coffee Maker – 5 Simple Approaches (#4 is sad – but it works!)

As a coffee fanatic, what’s your biggest nightmare? Mine has to be the day where I wake up all groggy, eyes bleary, without a brewer, dripper or machine to make my morning cup of coffee. Heavens forbid, I’d have to turn to instant coffee.

Come to think of it, to be stuck without a coffee machine doesn’t really have to leave you high and dry….

Don’t worry I’m not going to tell you to drink instant coffee – we’d prefer to leave that s**t to nightmares (seriously, instant coffee might negatively affect your health!). Brace yourself - I’m about to open your eyes to a few simple ways (5 in fact) on how to make coffee without a coffee maker.

Before We Show You How To Brew Coffee Without A Coffee Maker.....A Little Housekeeping...

You've found yourself without coffee maker, so chances are that the brew that you are about to create won't be one of your best - but there's a few simple and well-known steps you can take to make sure it's almost as good:

  • Use freshly ground coffee - this is an obvious one, however, i'll say it again since it will make a huge difference. Always use freshly ground beans.
    You have about 15-20 minutes before your beans start losing some of that goodness that makes them taste the way they do.
  • Use Freshly Roasted Coffee - a half decent cup of coffee always starts with the beans - you'll want decent beans that have been roasted within the last 2 weeks. This point alone make a huge difference.
  • The Right Water Temperature - Too hot (boiling water) and you'll scold your beans, too cold and you'll under extract them.
    The right temperature varies depending on your brew method, but as a guide the sweet spot is within 195 -205 degrees. A simple way to achieve this (without carrying a thermometer) is to bring your water to the boil, and let it sit for 30 seconds (time it)

#1 - The Cowboy Method (Cowboy Coffee)

The Cowboy Method brings you back to the old-fashioned ways of good coffee brewing - your best beans and nearly boiling (or just boiled) water.

We'll show you how to do it from your home - you don't actually have to be around a campfire or be wearing a cowboy hat to make it.

It's simply a matter of making do with what you've got - a pot, a heat source, ground coffee and some water.

Obviously, cowboy coffee is popular on camping trips, which is how it earned its name. (new age cowboys have a few great makeshift coffee brewing methods that you can see here)

It's perfect if you don't have a coffee machine, and just like a french press it brews an excellent cup of joe. But of course it's important to remember that the quality of coffee is essential.

What You'll Need

  • Ground coffee beans (medium/fine)
  • Stove/heat source (campfire?)
  • Pan or pot (its easier with a pan)
  • Mug or cup

How To Do It

Step 1 - Fill a clean pan with a bit more water than what you normally use when you brew your coffee. For example, if you use two cups of water, add about 3/4 of a cup extra this time.

Do note that with this method, some of the water will be left in the pan. (this water will house the used grounds/sludge)

Step 2 - Place the pan on your stove and turn on the heat. When the water comes to a boil, add your coffee.

A conservative ratio is about two tablespoons for every 6 ounces of water, but you can adjust that depending on how strong you want your coffee.

Following cowboy tradition, i'm just doing it by eye:

Step 3 - Remove the pan from heat and cover it immediately. Wait about four to five minutes before you uncover the pan. Once you see that all grounds have settled to the bottom of pan, you’re ready to serve your coffee.

Once you see that all grounds have settled to the bottom of pan, you’re ready to serve your coffee.

Step 4 - No fancy kettles needed here - you can just pour off the top onto your cup. You can also opt to use a ladle for more ‘filtered’ servings.

If you're going camping in the near future, here's another list that will show you how to brew coffee when you're in the great outdoors.

#2 - A Makeshift Coffee Filter

No Hario, no Chemex, no Kone, and no Kalita Wave - they are all great manual pour over brewers, but how the hell do you create pour-over without one?

Try the makeshift coffee filter, which lets you make use of this brewing method using materials you most likely already have in your kitchen.

What You'll Need

  • Freshly ground coffee (go for a similar grind to a pour-over, which is medium-fine)
  • Hot water (just below boiling)
  • A Standard coffee filter (or something similar if you don't have one - see below)
  • Large mug
  • Paper clips, binders, or elastics - anything to securely hold the makeshift filter in place

Makeshift Filter - Kettle - Mug - Ground Coffee - Clips or band

Pro Tip: If you don’t have actual coffee filters, try one of the following as an alternative: A handkerchief, a paper towel (great absorbency which is perfect for filtering. However, you have to make sure that the variety you use is thick enough to manage the pour) or a cheesecloth (a finely-graded one to ensure that no grounds find their way to your brew)

Ultimately though, a handkerchief is best for this method as it is both easily available and durable enough to withstand the temperature and pressure of water being poured over.

If you have a filter - great! This is me using a Hario Filter

No filter? Try a hanky or cheesecloth, but make sure you wash it out first! 

How To Do It

Step 1 - First, prepare your filter. Get your clean handkerchief (or alternative filter) and fold it into a square that will fit the mouth of your mug or cup. Make sure to leave a margin of cloth, around two inches, that should hang over the sides of your cup.

Step 2 - Clamp the handkerchief securely to the sides of your cup. Check the tightness of the clips to ensure the cloth stays in place while you’re pouring hot water.

Step 3 -  What you’re aiming for next is getting a medium-coarse, almost sand-like grind. It is best to use a good quality burr grinder that gives you consistent results.

Step 4 - Depending on the grinder you’re using, grind until you reach the first marking or first cup symbol.

Step 5 - Once you have enough coffee to reach the target measure, place the ground coffee onto your filter set-up. Give it a little shake to spread the grounds equally on the filter.

Step 6 - Boil two cups of water and once it reaches boiling point, take it off the heat source. Let the water cool off for thirty seconds.

You can then pour a bit of the water on the grounds, just enough to wet the coffee. Let it bloom for about thirty seconds before doing another slow pour, this time half of the remaining water for another thirty seconds.





During the first pour you’ll most likely see a thin foam start to form on top of your grounds. This is called ‘blooming’, a process common to pour-over methods, and shows your coffee is fresh and is releasing CO2 gases.

Do four slow pours after until you have used up all the remaining water. If you're using a thick makeshift filter, you may need to tease the grounds a little to help the drip flow using a spoon.

Step 7 - Once this two-minute process is complete, all the coffee grounds should be fully saturated. When all the water has seeped through the handkerchief, you can carefully remove the clips and your makeshift filter.

how to make coffee without a coffee maker

And you've done it - if you followed the above steps + the 3 rules at the beginning of the article, you should have a nice DIY brew!

#3 - The Coffee Bag

Coffee bag

This method makes use of your favorite coffee bag - it’s similar to a tea bag, but with coffee grounds inside.

Its one of the simplest and quickest ways to make coffee without a machine. Any coffee bag, along with hot water and your go-to mug, is all that you need.

What You'll Need

  • Coffee bag (Buy from any supermarket)
  • Hot water (just below boiling)

How To Do It

Step 1 - You can heat water using a kettle, pan, or pot - or you can simply put your cup in the microwave. Get your water to boiling, and then immediately turn the heat off.

Let the boiled water cool for about 30 seconds.

Step 2 -  Place your coffee bag in a clean cup and do a slow pour of the water into it. Make sure to get your grounds-filled coffee bag saturated with the hot water, up to your desired level.

Step 3 - Let the coffee bag stay immersed in the hot water for around 4 minutes. You can adjust the the strength of your brew by managing the steeping time. 2-3 minutes will give you a weaker cup, and 5 to 6 minutes will yield a stronger cup.

Step 4 - Once you’ve reached your desired steep time, carefully remove the coffee bag, and discard it.

Brutal? Maybe. But it's quick, easy and does not require anything that even resembles a coffee maker.

#4 - The DIY Coffee Bag

This method is very similar to the one above (The Coffee Bag) regarding the brewing process, only this time it has a bit of a DIY twist.

What do you do when you realize you have no coffee bags left? No, you don't cry or drink instant coffee...just make a damn coffee bag yourself!

If you have any type of coffee filter lying around (and some coffee, of course) you easily can make a decent coffee.  You can even use a tea bag and carefully replace the tea with coffee grinds. I prefer this method to the store-bought coffee bag since you have the option to freshly ground your beans.

Its simple really: you're making a tea bag and replacing the tea with medium-course coffee grounds.

What You'll Need

  • Hot Water (just below boiling)
  • A heat source (electric pot, stovetop kettle, saucepan, or microwave)
  • String (preferably not plastic coated or anything that will melt when heated)
  • Coffee grounds (anywhere from medium to coarse)

How to do it:

Step 1 - Get your clean water to a boil using any available heating source. Once it boils, remove from heat immediately.

Step 2 - Scoop out the amount of grounds you use for your usual cup of coffee. Around two tablespoons for every 250 ml of water is a good estimate.

Place the grounds in the middle of your coffee filter, and make your own ‘coffee bag’ by tying the top tightly with a length of string. Leave a bit of free string long enough for you to easily pull the bag out of the cup later.

Making a coffee Bag:

Step 3 - Place your coffee bag into the cup, and pour the hot water directly over it. Fill the cup to your desired level, and make sure to completely submerge the bag to ensure equal extraction of your grounds.

Step 4 - Keep your coffee bag in the cup and let it steep for about 3-4 minutes. You can shorten it to 2-3 minutes if you want a weaker brew, and make it 4-5 minutes if you want something stronger.

Step 5 - When the steeping time is up, simply tug on the string to remove your coffee bag, and enjoy your brew.

Pro Tip: Give the coffee bag a bit of squeeze with the back of a spoon before pulling it out. This will get the remaining coffee juices out of the grounds into your brew, making it a stronger blend.

#5 - The Improvised French Press

This one's handy for those times when your French press is not readily available, but you still want to enjoy the rich, oily and flavorful brew a damn good french press offers. It's similar to the cowboy method, just with a little more finesse required.

We'll mimic the French press process using readily available kitchen items such as mugs and hot water. It will be almost as good as a french press, but not quite. 

What You Need

  • Hot Water (just below boiling)Freshly ground coffee (medium/fine will do)
  • 2 x clean mugs (one for brewing, one for drinking. If you have something with a spout, even better)

How To Do It

Step 1 - Grind your beans as your normally would but go for a coarse grind. You're aiming for something to similar to sea salt. You'll need a good burr grinder to achieve this type of grind (however a good hand grinder will also do) A safe estimate will be about two tablespoons of grounds for every 250ml (aka a cup) of water. More or less depending on how strong you like it

Step 2 - Throw your grounds in a clean, empty cup. Pour in enough hot water (ideally cooled down for thirty seconds after boiling) to cover the grounds - you're just trying to wet them. Wait for about thirty seconds before doing the next pour.

Step 3 - Once the thirty-second steeping time is up, you can then pour the rest of your water onto the grounds in order to fill up your cup

Step 4 - Start your timers and let the coffee brew for about four minutes.

Pro Tip: If you want a stronger cup, extend this to another minute, if you want a less aggressive brew, deduct one minute.

Step 5 - Once time is up, slowly and carefully transfer your coffee to the cup you will be drinking from. This requires finesse, but should be so hard with a steady hand. Your wet ground will have sunk (mostly) to the bottom of the steeping cup, so don't pour in the last 30 or so millilitres. 

how to make coffee without a coffee maker - our favourite method

Look – I’m not saying you have to start brewing coffee with a pot and pan, however isn’t it great having the peace of mind? One of the above tricks just may come in handy during those times on the road, traveling somewhere, or camping with your buddies.

Even if you’re not into outdoor adventures you’ll never really know when your coffee machine may decide to kick the bucket - and a saucepan, hot water, and your trusty coffee grounds may be all you have in left. It's times like these you'll be thankful that HomeGrounds taught you what to do.

And that’s how to brew coffee without a coffee maker. What do you think about these methods? Do you have any of your own you want to share? Feel free to mention them in the comments. If you liked this article, share it and help your fellow caffeine addicts in there quest to brew awesome coffee.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 15 comments
ruzza - April 22, 2016

or… you can make Kopi Tubruk. it’s an indonesian style where fine ground coffee just poured with hot water and stirred until the aroma filled the whole room. wait for a while so the coffee is steeping and then just slurp it

    Home Grounds - April 23, 2016

    Good point! I Do love me some Bali kopi (thats what i’ve always called it) but I don’t love those moments when you get a mouthful of coffee near the end of your cup!

    bali kopi

Chances' R - July 7, 2016

I don’t think any of these methods leave me with a hot cup of coffee.
Between the 30 sec wait and the another 4 minutes of steeping or whatever the coffee would be not be hot after 5 minutes.

    Alex - July 10, 2016

    They all leave me with a hot cup of coffee! You should try pre-heating you cup in that case, it makes a huge difference.

Ivah - June 29, 2017

Thanks for the info. However I’m more curious as to why you have a globe on your kitchen countertop. Hmmmm

    Adm - September 4, 2017

    Placing a Globe on countertop is essential, when you brew a good cup of coffee.
    Try that and you’ll taste the difference.
    Pro tip: For best results, you should turn the globe so that the country you live should face away from you while brewing.

Nil - July 20, 2017

You don’t have a globe in your kitchen?

Bonnie - October 11, 2017

Bravo, bravo for the jolly good humor and all the helpful info! 🙂
Question: Aside from ensuring that the globe is facing in the right direction, does it matter about the size of it? Am wondering if there’s enough counter space for the one I have…

Israel Chisholm - November 2, 2017

To Bonnie: (In response to your question about globe size for DIY counter coffee brewing)… 80’s deadpan comedian Steven Wright, PARAPHRASED, would say “Actual size”

Gerry - January 22, 2018

Great tips – thanks very much. I use the cup-to-cup method, buy my first vessel is a gravy separator – the grounds stay in the bottom because of the position of the spout.
Thanks again,

Roland the coffee guzzler. - May 26, 2018

Grandma used to put a fist (or two) in a pot till it begins to boil. Let it settle then pour.

NuYorker - June 22, 2018

I dropped my coffee carafe this morning and it shattered. I wasn’t even fully dressed yet. So I loaded up the coffee in the filter part and I had a different carafe that did not fit my coffee pot so I just held the plastic filter portion over the other carafe and poured boiling water boiling water through it. It did the trick.

Fimbrethil - August 12, 2018

Cowboy coffee is my favorite, nothing tastes as good. Here is a tip that I’ve never seen written, if you pour a little tepid or cool water into the pot shortly before you pour it into your cup; the grinds will settle immediately. I generally put the grinds in the water then put the pot on the stove, bring it to a boil and then after it is roiling take it off and pour the tepid water in…then without waiting it goes right into my cup….never had a problem with “Grindy” coffee

Beth Esteban - November 11, 2018

Very useful info, thank you for sharing. God bless 🙂

Todd Kraines - November 16, 2018

I just recently bought a Felicita Coffee Scale online maybe you should give it a try, it’s a pretty good product I thought it was going to be one of those cheap products that stopped working 2 weeks in, but 4 months later my scale still works just fine and i has a cool design. I would totally recommend it, we use it in my coffee shop every day.

If you are interested here is the website:



Leave a Reply: