How to make coffee without a coffee maker: Expert tips for home brewing
It's well into the morning, you’ve got a pile of to-dos and your head is beginning to pound as you try to stay awake at your desk. Don't worry, we’ve all been there.
But what happens if you don't have a state-of-the-art coffee maker? What if your beloved Keurig is broken? What if you’re stuck at home with no way of zipping to a coffee shop?
Whether you’re in desperation mode or you’re looking for techniques to up your brewing game, here's your guide to at-home coffee making to keep those caffeine withdrawals at bay.
If you’re in a pinch and lack a coffee machine and a grinder, you can try making what's called "cowboy coffee," says Alex Kaplan, head of coffee product at coffee company Cometeer. This might not be the tastiest cup of joe, but it’ll certainly get the job done.
To make this, grind up your beans with a mortar and pestle (or something similar, like crushing with a meat hammer or rolling pin) and put them in a pot of boiling water. Or, if your coffee beans are pre-ground, just place them in water.
After this, use a filter to separate the grounds from the liquid and pour into a mug. If you don't have coffee filters on hand, try using a strainer, a thin cloth or even a DIY filter with a couple of paper towels.
You can also try out coffee that doesn't require you to grind and boil at all. Instant coffee is freeze-dried or quick-dried to produce a powdered coffee extract that dissolves in hot water or milk. Or you can take a stab at a product like Cometeer, which is a frozen coffee capsule that dissolves in water and doesn't require any machinery.
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Have you ever made coffee at home and wondered, "Why doesn't this taste as good as it does at a coffee shop?"
Making coffee is an art and a science, says Kaplan. It's not just a journey in your kitchen. It begins on farms and is written in the harvesting of the coffee bean, the roasting, the temperature and the quality of the water used to make the coffee. And with the advent of specialty coffee, more people are investing time and money into their at-home methods.
"Consumers are starting to gain a better understanding of what quality means in coffee and (we’re seeing) more people taking that into their own hands," Kaplan says.
Distilled water makes a big difference in the quality of your home-brewed coffee, but the easiest switch you can make at home is using filtered water.
"You want to keep your water up to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit, a little off the boil," Kaplan says. "And pour that water over freshly ground coffee, trying to pour it somewhat evenly so all the coffee's brewing similarly."
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Kaplan has worked on a coffee farm and is one of the world's youngest Coffee Quality Institute graders. He recommends starting your coffee expertise by visiting a local cafe or coffee roaster.
"Get to know the staff there and they can help guide you through something you might like," Kaplan says. "One of the great things about coffee and coffee shops, in particular, is they are this great medium for connection and meeting people."
There are a few things to know about purchasing coffee beans, and it comes down to your personal flavor preference.
If the bag says "coffee blend" on it, it means the beans come from a few different places. If it says "single origin", it comes from one place, and has a more "distinct, unique flavor of that origin," Kaplan says.
You also have to take into account how light or dark the coffee is.
"Generally, the darker the coffee is roasted, the richer chocolate or caramelly or nutty flavors you’ll get," Kaplan says. "The lighter it's roasted, you actually end up tasting more of the origin of the beans … so if you have a really interesting coffee from Costa Rica and it's really light, we may taste more of how the farmer picked and harvested and processed that coffee."
And finally, take into account the way the beans were processed. Coffee beans grow as a plant known as a coffee cherry, and the bean is inside the pit of the fruit.
"Wash process" means the bean has been removed from the cherry and then washed off, and "natural process" means the bean has been dried inside of the cherry, leaving it with a fruity flavor, according to Kaplan.
And, if you've had enough of experimenting without a coffee maker, Kaplan suggests a pour-over coffee maker, French press or AeroPress for beginners.
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