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Saturday, May 18, 2013

How to Make Coffee During a Power Outage without Electricity

How can you make a cup of coffee during a power outage?  

There are ways to make coffee without electricity during a power outage.  First are instructions for using your coffee maker without electricity during a power outage.  Second are instructions for making cowboy coffee without a coffee maker.

Method 1: How to Use your Coffee Maker without Electricity

Of course, coffee makers need electricity to work.  But there is a way you can still get a hot cup of coffee without electricity.  These instructions also work if your coffee maker is broken since you can by-pass the parts of your coffee maker that require electricity to operate.

Hot cup of coffee
Make Coffee without electricity!
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

The functions of a coffee maker that require electricity are the clock/electronics, the heating element that heats water for brewing, the pump that delivers hot water to the filter basket, and the burner that keeps the coffee warm in the pot.

If you need to make coffee without electricity, you can heat water using a method that does not require electricity.  You can pour the hot water directly into the filter basket, eliminating the need for an electric pump.  You’ll need to do without the burner to keep the pot warm- you can pour the hot coffee into an insulated container or simply drink it right away.  And you won’t need the clock or buttons on the coffee maker when using it during a power outage.

So how exactly can you make coffee using a coffee maker during a power outage?

Step 1.  Place a paper filter in your coffee maker as usual

Step 2. Fill  the filter basket of your coffee maker with coffee grounds as usual

Step 3.  Heat water using a method that does not require electricity:
  • If you have a gas oven, use the stovetop to heat water in a tea kettle.
  • If you do not have a gas oven, use a gas grill to heat water in a pan.  Important- use the gas grill outdoors only to avoid carbon monoxide hazard.
  • If you don’t have a gas oven or gas grill, you can use a camp stove to heat water.  Note that camp stoves are safe for outdoor use only.  You can also build a campfire and heat water by suspending a pot over the fire or using a camp grill.

You’ll want to boil the water and let it cool slightly for a moment.  Heating enough water for a pot of coffee will take about 10 minutes.  The ideal water temperature for brewing coffee is about 200 degrees F.  Don’t use boiling water, it will make the coffee taste bitter.  You’ll want to let boiling water cool for 30 seconds to 1 minute before pouring it into the filter basket.

Step 4. Slowly pour the hot water directly into the filter basket of your coffee maker.  Coffee will begin filling the pot.  Continue pouring hot water into the filter basket.  If you used a pan in step 3, it may be easier to use a coffee cup or measuring cup to scoop the water from the pan and pour it into the filter basket.

Pouring hot water from a tea kettle into the filter basket
How to make coffee during a power outage
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

The coffee maker shown in the picture- a Melitta 10-cup with thermal carafe- has easy access to the filter basket by lifting the lid on top.  Some coffee makers do not have such easy access.  On these you may need to remove the filter basket, fill it about 3/4 full of hot water, and carefully replace it so that coffee will flow into the pot.

Step 5. Enjoy hot coffee during a power outage.

If you have a thermal carafe on your coffee maker, you can drink your coffee as usual.  If you have a glass coffee pot, you’ll want to pour the coffee into insulated coffee cups or a thermos right away to keep it warm since the burner on your coffee maker will not keep it warm without electricity.  You may want to adjust the amount of grounds and brew one cup at a time.

This method for making coffee is a variation on a technique for making coffee called pour over coffee.   I have been using this method to make coffee for a few days since my coffee maker broke.  My broken coffee maker produces steam, but hot water does not reach the filter basket.  I couldn't bring myself to buy a cup of coffee for over $2 at a coffee shop, so I decided to improvise.

A coffee maker designed to work without electricity

If you plan to frequently make coffee without electricity- for example when camping- you can get a coffee maker powered by a propane cylinder.  This is an automatic drip coffee maker that works without electricity at all- amazing!

Method 2: How to Make Cowboy Coffee without a Coffee Maker

If you don't have a coffee maker, you can make "cowboy coffee".  Heat water to boiling in a pan, then let it cool to about 200 degrees F.  See step 3 above.  Add the coffee grounds into the hot water and stir.  Let the grounds settle and pour the coffee out of the pan after about 5 minutes.  You can also use a coffee cup to dip coffee out of the pan.  If you remove the coffee carefully, most of the grounds will stay on the bottom of the pan.  If the grounds are getting in the coffee, you can stuff a coffee filter into your coffee cup, pour the cowboy coffee into the cup, and slowly lift the coffee filter to strain the grounds.  This method can be a bit messy, but some coffee is better than no coffee at all!

Copyright © 2013 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved. Coffee Maker Journal

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