One of the worst feelings in the world is waking bleary eyed only to find your coffee machine isn’t working.

Well, that’s nothing to worry about if you familiarize yourself with a variety of methods of making yourself a cup of joe even if the espresso machine lets you down.

We’ve got a lot to get through today so we’ll get straight down to business.

I. 9 Ways To Make Coffee Without a Coffee Machine

  1. Cowboy Coffee in a Pan
  2. Coffee Bags
  3. Instant Coffee
  4. A Makeshift French Press
  5. Strainer Method
  6. Cotton Cloth Method
  7. Homemade Filter
  8. Microwave
  9. Cold Brew

1) Cowboy Coffee In a Pan

Man cowboy hat drinking morning coffee in countryside

The cowboy method of making coffee gets you right back to the fundamentals of great beans and near-boiling water for a lip-smacking caffeine fix.

This is a flexible method giving you plenty of room to improvise with heat source or container.

The quality of the coffee beans is central to getting great coffee cowboy-style so don’t sell yourself short here. Buy the best you can find and grind directly before brewing.

What You Need

  • Coffee beans (medium/fine grind)
  • Stove
  • Saucepan

What To Do

  • Fill a pan with a bit of extra water than you’d normally use for brewing coffee. Some of the water stays behind with this method so build in a buffer
  • Place the pan on the stove and bring the water to a boil
  • As the water nears boiling point, add your coffee. As a rough benchmark, use 2 tablespoons of coffee for every 6oz of water. Tweak this ratio depending on how strong you like your coffee
  • Remove your pan from the heat. Cover it immediately. Allow to sit for 5 minutes then remove the cover
  • When all the coffee grounds have settled at the bottom of the pan, coffee is ready to serve

2) Coffee Bags

Coffee bags work on precisely the same principle as teabags and come filled with coffee grounds.

Making your coffee this way is a bit like a Keurig minus the trademark K-Cup.

What You Need

  • Coffee bag

What To Do

  • Boil some water in a kettle or pan then let the boiling water cool for 30 seconds or so
  • Pop your coffee bag into a mug and slowly pour the water over it. Make sure all the bag is completely soaked by the water
  • Allow the bag to steep for 3 to 4 minutes. If you want a particularly weak coffee, 2 minutes steeping time is adequate. For a stronger brew, leave the bag in for 5 to 6 minutes
  • Remove and throw away the bag

3) Instant Coffee

Cup with hot water and instant coffee spoon, brown sugar on wooden table.

While coffee purists might sneer at instant, it certainly comes in handy if you have no coffee maker of any type, a few granules can certainly save the day.

It goes unsaid, you’re not going to win any prizes for quality with a mug of instant so peg your expectations and embrace the ease of making coffee in this way.

What You Need

  • Instant coffee granules

What To Do

  • If you don’t have a coffee maker to hand, you can boil water for coffee using a kettle, a pot, a pan or even the microwave. Boil some water up using your preferred method
  • Measure 1 to 2 teaspoons of instant coffee granules for every 6oz of water and put them in yoru mug
  • After allowing the boiling water to sit for 30 seconds, pour into your mug and stir well. Add cream and sugar to taste

4) A Makeshift French Press

One of the most effective, enjoyable and user-friendly methods of making top-notch coffee is to use a French press. While not mechanical, we have to discount these cafetières for the purposes of today. They are, after all, still considered coffee makers.

What can you do if you want that unmistakable oily and flavor-packed brew that only the French press provides?

Well, you can mock up a version of your own using items already to hand in the kitchen. So, what do you need, exactly?

What You Need

  • Freshly ground coffee (medium/coarse grind)
  • 2 mugs

What To Do

  • Grind your beans somewhere between medium and coarse. Shoot for a consistency roughly comparable with sea salt
  • If you’re measuring your coffee by eye, use roughly 2 tablespoons of coffee grinds for every cup of water. Tweak to taste
  • Place your ground coffee in a mug
  • Boil some water and leave it to cool for 30 seconds. Pour enough water into the mug to cover the grounds and allow them to bloom for 30 seconds or so
  • Pour the remaining water into the mug all the way up
  • Let the coffee brew for 4 minutes. For a weaker brew, 3 minutes is enough while extending the brewing time to 5 minutes will give you a punchier and more aggressive coffee
  • Now comes the time to carefully transfer your coffee into the mug you’ll be drinking from. Most of the grounds will have sunk to the bottom so don’t pour in the dregs. You can use a spoon to help press the grounds down as you decant your drink

5) Strainer Method

If your coffee machine is on the blink and you haven’t got any filters to hand, have you got a strainer in the drawer?

You’ll need a strainer with extremely small holes to stop the grounds from escaping into the mug.

What You Need

  • Coffee grounds
  • Saucepan
  • Double-layered mesh strainer

What To Do

  • Boil enough water for the quantity of coffee you’re making and allow it to continue boiling for 2 minutes
  • Spoon enough coffee grounds into the pan for your needs
  • Hold your strainer over your mug then pour the coffee solution through it. Using a strainer will save you time over the cowboy method since you won’t have to wait for the grinds to settle

6) Cotton Cloth Method

For a makeshift coffee brewing method that’s far more eco-friendly than using a single-serve Keurig, why not consider using a handkerchief or cotton cloth as a filter?

This method does demand that you pack a little patience. The end result, though, should be a drink free of coffee grounds so what do you need to make it happen?

What You Need

  • Fresh coffee grounds
  • Clean handkerchief, cotton or linen cloth
  • Paper clip or clothespin
  • Mason jar or mug

What To Do

  • Drape the cloth over the top of the mug. Press down in the middle so you form a pouch large enough to accommodate your coffee grounds
  • Use the binders to secure this in at least 3 places so it won’t end up tumbling into your coffee
  • Add enough coffee grounds for a single cup to the pouch
  • Boil some water and allow it to sit for 30 seconds
  • Pour a small amount of this near-boiling water over the grounds and leave for 30 seconds so the coffee has time to bloom
  • Slowly pour on the remaining water keeping a close eye on the cloth
  • Remove the cloth and serve

7) Homemade Filter

If you don’t have a coffee machine to hand, you can harness a homemade filter to make a serviceable cup of coffee.

What You Need

  • Freshly ground coffee
  • Filter

What To Do

  • Heat enough water for your drink using a kettle, saucepan, hot pot, or microwave
  • Scoop enough coffee grounds for your drink into the filter then tie it into a little package using some string. Make sure you tie it tightly enough to stop any grounds from escaping and contaminating your drink. Leave enough spare string so you can hang it from the mug and pull the makeshift coffee bag out when you’re done
  • Pour your water over the bundle and allow it to steep for 3 to 4 minutes. You don’t need to stir your drink at all as it brews. Leave for another couple of minutes if you prefer your coffee stronger

8) Microwave

Along with instant coffee, making a cup of joe in the microwave is just about the worst way you could rack up a coffee. This method is certainly not one we’d recommend except in an outright emergency.

What You Need

  • Microwave
  • Fresh coffee grounds

What To Do

  • Microwave some water in a microwave-friendly mug with a handle for at least 2 minutes
  • Remove and add 1 tablespoon of coffee grounds for every 6oz of water
  • Let your mug sit steeping for 4 minutes. The grounds should sit at the bottom. Either strain or drink being careful not to drink right the way to the dregs in the bottom. We reiterate, this really is not the way you should be making coffee!

9) Cold Brew

One drink Starbucks manage to nail perfectly is big-batch cold brew. Luckily, you can recreate this at home with relative ease.

As with all coffee made using this method, you’ll need to pack plenty of patience. This is the opposite of single-serve convenience but returns an absolutely delectable cup of cold coffee.

What You Need

  • Fresh coffee beans (8oz)
  • Grinder
  • 8 cups filtered water
  • 2 jars with lids
  • Cheesecloth
  • Rubber bands

What To Do

  • Grind your beans to a coarse grind. You should be looking for a consistency in line with demerara sugar
  • Place the grounds into the jar along with the water then stir thoroughly. The coffee should initially float to the top. Make sure you saturate all the grounds
  • Pop the jar in the fridge. Cover and leave it for 24 hours
  • Use the cheesecloth to strain the coffee concentrate. You might need to do this in batches depending on how much you’re making
  • Serve with ice or store refrigerated for up to 2 weeks


These are the most effective alternatives to making a coffee without using a coffee maker.

If your definition of coffee maker only included electrical machines, we’d suggest using one of these brewing methods:

  • French press
  • Moka pot

We didn’t include these in our above breakdown since, strictly speaking, they’re both coffee makers. As they’re certainly not machines, what do these simple brewing methods offer?

II. Other Methods of Making Coffee Without An Electrical Machine

If you like the idea of sidestepping the machine but you’re not quite ready to sink to the depths of instant coffee, consider a French press or moka pot.

French Press

The classic French press is an icon launched in 1929 that remains enduringly popular today.

One of the key selling points of this method is the incredible ease. The other prime benefit is the way you remain in complete control of the process.

After many design changes over the years, a modern French press is a tall, narrow cafetière usually made from borosilicate glass or stainless steel.

All you need to do with a French press is add some coarsely ground coffee, leave for 2 to 4 minutes, then press down on the plunger. This separates the coffee grounds and keeps them pressed down to the bottom.

If you’re looking for a deep, rich coffee that’s remarkably easy to make and comes in a travel-friendly form and bargain-basement price, get yourself a French press at the earliest opportunity.

Moka Pot

A moka pot is a stovetop device that delivers coffee along the lines of espresso.

Named for the Yemeni city of Mocha, the moka pot is most commonly used in Europe and Latin America.

Unlike the French press, this method is a little more volatile and involved.

Fill the pot up to the release valve with water. You’ll often find a line marked here to make your life easier. Insert the permanent filter then tightly screw the upper part and the base together.

Add your coffee grounds.

Pop your moka pot on the stovetop and heat until the water hits boiling point. This creates steam inside the boiler. As pressure builds, the water is forced up into the upper chamber through the coffee grounds.

This method requires a little practice until you get the feel for it but you’ll be rewarded with a dark and rich coffee that’s incredibly moreish. We’d strongly recommend one of these stovetop coffee pots if you love the taste of espresso but don’t want to invest in an espresso machine.

Well, you’ve now got a bewildering array of brewing methods to choose from and the confidence of knowing you’ll never be caught short again.

Next, we’ll look at some general pointers to improve the quality of the coffee in your cup.

III. Making a Perfect Golden Cup of Coffee

Regardless of which brewing method you choose and whether or not you use a machine, there are some simple things you can do to improve the end result.

  • Use fresh beans: You should always buy fresh beans and grind them directly before brewing. No more than 15 minutes after grinding, beans start to lose some of the flavor and punch you’re looking for in a great cup of coffee
  • Get the water temperature right: Try to get the water between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have a kettle with an integrated thermometer, boil the water then leave for 30 seconds. It should now be within the required temperature band to get the drink of your dreams
  • Improvise: If you don’t have your preferred machine to hand, experiment with other brewing methods. You never know, you might find yourself a convert to the cold brew method and save yourself a fortune at Starbucks.

OK, now we’ve thoroughly explored how to make a tasty cuppa without a coffee maker, we’ll highlight some of the advantages of choosing a coffee machine.

IV. 6 Key Benefits of Using a Coffee Machine

  1. Get Gourmet Coffee At Home
  2. Ease of Use
  3. Speed of Delivery and Convenience
  4. You Can Use Fresh Beans
  5. Consistency
  6. Cost-Effective Alternative To Daily Coffee Shop Visit

1) Get Gourmet Coffee At Home

Perhaps the leading reason driving people to invest in a coffee machine at home is the way machine allow you to replicate that trademark coffee shop beverage at home.

While a potent cafetière of French press coffee is undeniably tasty, how about if you want a caramel macchiato or a cappuccino? Well, machines allow you to enjoy these specialty drinks whereas without a machine you’ll be limited to very basic brewed coffee.

2) Ease of Use

Another chief advantage of using a coffee machine is the fact the vast bulk couldn’t be easier to use.

You should base your buying decision on how comfortable you are with tech and make sure you avoid any intricate machines. The average espresso maker or cappuccino machine, though, are a cinch to operate.

The exception here is something like a semi-automatic espresso machine. These have a relatively steep initial learning curve and you’ll need to get fairly hands-on.

At the other end of the spectrum, you’ll get literal push-button simplicity if you opt for a single-serve machine like a Keurig or Nespresso. You’ll need to do nothing beyond inserting a capsule and filling the water reservoir. Hit the button and you’ll have a coffee shop style drink in less than a minute. And this brings us to the next advantage of a coffee machine…

3) Speed of Delivery and Convenience

While instant coffee might be quick and easy to make, the results are disappointing to say the very least. You’ll get a drink very far removed from those short shots the Italians love.

If you start getting involved with more laborious brewing methods like pour-over, you’ll need to devote a fair chunk of time and effort.

Regular coffee machines, by contrast, are typically user-friendly and yield your coffee in anywhere from seconds to minutes.

Bottom line, using a machine guarantees shotgun delivery and makes your life much easier at the same time.

4) You Can Use Fresh Beans

If you use a machine – single-serves notwithstanding – you’ll have the opportunity to use freshly ground beans. This ensures your coffee is the best it can be.

While you could purchase pre-ground coffee, you’ll get inferior results.

All you need to do is invest in a conical burr grinder and buy fresh, whole coffee beans. Then, grind what you need directly before brewing and maximize your chance of getting that perfect golden cup.

5) Consistency

If you have a great deal of patience and you hone manual brewing methods, it’s possible to dial in the variables and get a consistent brew to replicate.

In order to do this, though, you’ll need to weigh your coffee using scales, ideally use a kettle with an inbuilt thermometer and be prepared to experiment.

By using a coffee machine, you can sidestep this and get consistent results each and every time with the very minimum of user input. What’s not to love?

6) Cost-Effective Alternative To Daily Coffee Shop Visit

Many coffee machines are far from cheap. What else isn’t cheap is visiting Starbucks and other coffee shops on the regular.

Why not consider a coffee machine as an investment? If you think about the price in relation to that stiff weekly bill at the coffee shop, it soon starts to seem like a bargain rather than an expense.

V. Conclusion

Well, you should be absolutely confident now of making a coffee whatever the circumstances. As long as you’ve got any of the basic above to end, there’s no need to leave the house without your caffeine fix!

And don’t feel bad about using a coffee machine if that makes most sense for you. The point of today was not to suggest crude manual methods are best, merely that you do have options.

Don’t forget to bookmark BestCoffee. We’re hard at work building out this site to bring you everything you need to know about your beloved beverage. We’ve got a busy holiday season lined up, too, so come back soon!

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