For most of us, coffee is a part of our morning routine – it’s one of the main things that individuals don’t want to go without. Nothing brings me back to life each day better than a hot cup of fresh, automatically brewed coffee.
Recently while on a camping trip with my cousin, he asked me if I wanted some coffee. I laughed to myself at the thought of us hauling his Keurig up into the Smoky Mountains only to realize there was no power at our camp site. Seeing my amusement, he said “I don’t need a fancy machine to make great coffee!”, and he was right – there are actually plenty of methods out there for making coffee when you don’t have an automatic coffee maker on hand.
Table Of Contents
Rules To Brew By
Now, before we start discussing a few different techniques to prepare and brew your coffee, I want to point out a few good “rules to brew by.” These pointers will help ensure that your brew turns out as delicious as a pot from your coffee maker at home, if not better.
First, you always want to use the freshest ground coffee you can find. This should be a no-brainer, but if you use old or stale coffee grounds you will taste the difference. Always try to purchase fresh ground coffee, or purchase whole beans if you have access to a grinder at home.
Coffee beans begin losing their freshness quickly – within 15-20 minutes after being ground.
Beans that have been roasted within the most previous two weeks are most desirable. Again, the fresher the beans and the roasting, the more delicious the coffee will be. How you store your beans and/or ground coffee can greatly affect how fresh it will taste when brewed.
Finally, the temperature of your water is crucial. If your water temperature is too low, the flavors and caffeine in the beans will not be extracted properly. If your water is too hot, you will scald the beans and ruin your brew. A general guideline is to use water between 195-205 degrees Fahrenheit, but depending on the method used to make your coffee, this temperature can vary.
That should cover the basics of yielding a quality brew. Now, let’s take a closer look at three different techniques for brewing coffee without a machine. You may be surprised by how simple but effective these techniques can be!
The technique my cousin used on our recent camping trip is commonly referred to as Cowboy Coffee. Long before Mr. Coffee and Keurig brewers were even conceived, coffee was brewed and enjoyed by generation after generation and is found in many cultures throughout history. Cowboy Coffee is considered a “classic” method of brewing coffee. This technique was most likely started by the cowboys of the old American western stories we hear as young kids. Typically only carrying the necessary supplies and sleeping under the stars, Cowboys did not have the luxury of an automatic brewer in the kitchen. So how can you make Cowboy Coffee yourself? The easy answer is: boil water using the campfire and a pot, but let us take a closer look at this process.
For this technique you will need: a pot or saucepan, a spoon, a measuring cup (preferred by some), freshly ground coffee, fresh water. If you are in an environment where there is no power, you will need to carefully build a campfire for your heat source. If you have access to a stove, you can also use that as your heat source.
Now, once you have all of the necessary supplies, the first thing you will want to do is measure out the amount of water you will need. This will vary depending on how many servings you are looking to brew. A standard individual cup of coffee is typically 6 – 12 oz depending on your preference, but be sure to add a little extra as some of the water will evaporate, and some will be absorbed by the ground coffee during the brewing process.
The next step is to measure out the required amount of coffee. A good rule of thumb is 1 – 2 tablespoons of grounds per 6 ounces of water, depending on how strong you like your coffee. I prefer a slightly stronger brew, so I tend to use 2 full tablespoons.
Once you have both the coffee grounds measured out, set them aside and bring your water to a boil using your heat source. Once the water is boiling, remove it from the heat source and let it cool off for 30 seconds or so. Then, add your coffee grounds – the water temperature will be about 200 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the perfect temperature for brewing coffee without scalding it or under-brewing it. Brew for 5 minutes.
All of the coffee grounds will gently sink to the bottom, but you can also tap the saucepan to assist any of those grounds that are clinging to the sides. After sitting for two to five minutes, give the pot another stir and then let the grounds settle out again. Serve by gently pouring, or with a ladle.
Some individuals will also use a filter or fine cheesecloth to pour the mixture into before the coffee makes it to the cup. This is primarily a preference, and will not affect the quality of your brew.
For a longer, more in-depth look at cowboy coffee, check out our post on how to brew cowboy coffee.
The resulting brew from the Turkish Coffee technique is delicious, but to clarify up front, Turkish Coffee is the technique used to prepare the coffee, and is not technically a type of coffee. This preparation method comes from the Eastern European region and is highly popular in Arab countries as well. The traditional method used for “Turkish Coffee” originated as a symbolic ritual that took place during the Turkish marital process, where the bride and groom talk through the details as to whether they are a good match for each other. Even if you are not looking for a marriage partner, this technique is certain to produce a satisfying cup o’ joe. If you are enjoying coffee with friends, this is also a great way to discuss cultures and a variety of other interesting coffee facts.
When preparing this brew, you will need: a small pot or saucepan, a measuring cup, a spoon, a very finely-ground coffee, and fresh water.
This technique is used to make individual servings. Turkish Coffee does result in smaller servings, but each serving will pack much more flavor and caffeine than other brews.
To get started, you will first want to measure out approximately 6 ounces of cold water. A measuring cup can be used for precision, or you can also use an espresso cup to estimate your pour.
Pour the water into your pot or saucepan and add a large, heaping teaspoon of your choice coffee and place it over a medium heat without stirring. You can also add sugar as you desire at this stage of the process. Again, you want to avoid stirring the ingredients for this process.
Before the water reaches boiling point, you will notice the coffee will naturally settle. Also, any added sugar will begin to dissolve. At this point you can stir the contents together and allow the mixture to begin to simmer. Do not allow your mixture to ever come to a boil.
Once the surface of the mixture begins to foam, you can begin slowly pouring the coffee into your cup. Each time you pour some of the mixture into your cup, you will notice that it thickens while cooling. You will typically make three or so pours for each serving. Patience is key here.
Allow a few moments for the mixture to settle in your cup, to allow for the coffee grounds to hit the bottom. Now you can sit back and enjoy!
The Coffee Bag
If you like to keep things simple, particularly when you wake up and your automatic coffee brewer has apparently broken overnight, then perhaps the Coffee Bag will suit your style. Making coffee truly does not get much simpler than this this. The coffee bag method works basically the same way a tea bag is used for single serve tea. Historically, this method for brewing coffee originated during the 18th century in France, but coffee drinkers everywhere have been able to enjoy the ease and convenience ever since.
When brewing your coffee with this method you will need: a small pot or saucepan, a measuring cup, a coffee filter, string (make sure it does not have a wax coating) coffee grounds and of course, fresh water.
The first step for this process is to place your coffee filter on a flat surface such as a table or countertop.
You will then place the desired amount of coffee grounds onto the filter. For a single serving, approximately two and a half tablespoons will suffice. You can always add to this if you prefer a stronger brew.
Next, you can wrap the filter and tie it shut using the string. Make sure there are no openings or holes which coffee grounds can pass through. Also, be sure to leave the string long enough that it will hang over the outside of your cup, much like a tea bag. This will prevent you from having to put your fingers in your fresh cup of coffee once it has steeped to your taste.
Once your Coffee Bag is complete, drop it into your cup. At this time, you can bring your water to a boil. If you prefer, you can start the water on medium heat while you complete your Coffee Bag.
Once the water is boiling, pour just enough water to completely saturate the Coffee Bag and allow the grounds to soak in the water for about thirty seconds. Then, top off your cup. Let your coffee steep for about four to five minutes and it is ready to drink. For a higher content of caffeine, allow the brew to steep for a longer amount of time.
Take out the Coffee Bag and voila! Your coffee is ready to enjoy!
Now that we have covered three of the more common methods of preparing and brewing coffee, you can see that even without the technology we often take for granted, you can still enjoy your favorite morning brew. There are a few other variations of the techniques discussed in this post, but essentially, they differ mostly in the name people attribute to the process, rather than the processes themselves.
Of course, thanks to technology and determined coffee lovers everywhere, there is no need to use one of these techniques a majority of the time. These techniques are great for camping, power outages, or waking up to find a dysfunctional coffee maker. They are also a unique way to bring coffee lovers together in a more engaging way. Does that mean that we have to avoid the convenience of our Keurigs and Bunn coffee makers? It certainly does not. Sometimes I even have to hit up the local coffee shop to get my morning fix, because I forgot to set the timer, or ran out of coffee without realizing it.
Overall, making coffee is a balance of chemistry that determines the end result. Temperature, steep time, how freshly ground your coffee beans are, all play a part in the overall flavor, and each technique deals with these aspects differently.