Even hard-core coffee geeks are sometimes forced to make do without their usual brewing accessories. A power loss or broken machine can leave you frantically seeking out a way to get your caffeine fix. Alternative brew methods are also helpful when you’re traveling and can’t access your usual amenities. Whatever the reason, these 3 stovetop methods are easy ways to get your morning Joe without a machine.
Coffee has been around a lot longer than most brewing methods. All you really need to release the flavors from the beans is water—in fact, it doesn’t even need to be hot, which you know if you’ve ever made cold brew. Of course, without heat, you’ll be brewing for a while.
Adding heat to the brew shortens the extraction time down to 10 minutes or less, as opposed to the 12-24 hours required for a cold brew. Pressure reduces the time even more, which is the premise behind brewing methods like espresso machines and Moka pots.
Depending on what tools you have in your kitchen, there are a few methods for brewing by hand. If you have a pour-over dripper, Chemex, or French press, all you’ll need is hot water and ground coffee. But you’re not out of luck if you don’t have this equipment. You can also brew coffee directly in a pot. Let’s go through the details of how to make it happen.
However you brew coffee, the underlying concept is the same. Coffee flavor is a complex mix of carbohydrates, oils, and acids. Heat and water release these compounds from the beans. Different brewing methods control the heat and water in different ways to extract them at different levels. That’s why the same beans often have a different flavor depending on which brewing method you use.
Before the days of espresso makers and artisan pour-over, cowboys on the range got their daily caffeine fix using a simpler brewing method. In the modern day, so-called cowboy coffee is the preferred brewing method of campers and hikers because it doesn’t require any filters or special equipment.
What you’ll need:
The main disadvantage of stovetop brewingis that the coffee isn’t separated from the brew, and that means you’ll likely get at least a few grounds in your mug.
You can lessen the amount of grounds by splashing a bit of cold water into the pot just before serving, which can help settle the solids to the bottom.
Alternatively, you can strain each cup through a cheesecloth bag or coffee filter held over your mug with a funnel, if you have those supplies available.
The Moka pot was developed in Italy in the 1930s as a way for average citizens to make café-level beverages at home. These affordable devices use steam to get more flavor from the grounds, similar to the concept behind espresso machines.
Compared to espresso machines, they’re far more affordable and easier to use, and they produce a similarly strong and delicious cup of coffee.
What you’ll need:
If you notice the coffee has a metallic or bitter taste, you can add an extra step and pre-heat the water in a kettle before putting it into the Moka pot.
Just be careful if you do this not to touch the bottom chamber of the brewer after, as it will get quite hot very quickly.
Of the three methods here, Turkish coffee requires the most specialized preparation. True Turkish coffee has a layer of foam on the top, similar to the crema at the top of an espresso. To get this foam, you’ll need a specialized pot known as an Ibrik.
For those without an Ibrik in the house (which is, admittedly, most people), you can still get a brew of approximately the same flavor and consistency in a standard saucepan. A kettle without the lid can also work, especially if it’s narrower at the top than at the bottom. The smaller the diameter, the better and closer to the traditional flavor it will be.
What you’ll need:
Traditionally, the grinds are left in the cup when serving Turkish coffee. They’re fine enough they should settle easily to the bottom, though you may still get some in your mouth while drinking.
The filter used in drip and pour-over methods does two things. Its primary purpose is to prevent ground coffee from getting through. Filters also trap some of the compounds, specifically the lipids, which are released from the beans during brewing but aren’t actually water-soluble.
This is the main reason French press tastes different than other brewing methods. The coffee is in direct contact with the water, allowing all those flavors into the brew.
Lipids affect the mouthfeel of coffee more than the flavor. They’ll give it a more viscous, mouth-coating quality than paper-filtered brewing methods. If you want a texture more similar to drip coffee, you can use cheesecloth or paper filters to create DIY coffee bags.
Put the coffee into a filter then gather up the edges and secure the packet with a piece of twine or rubber band. Wet the bag before you start heating, massaging gently to break up any clumps and ensure a more even extraction.
If you have re-usable cloth teabags, you can use those, too—just don’t expect to use them for tea again after, since the coffee flavor will linger after cleaning. You can buy pre-made disposable coffee bags, too. These are less ideal, however, for the simple reason that the coffee is pre-ground and won’t have the same fresh taste.
One other thing that’s important to pay attention to with stovetop brewing is the heat. Ideally, coffee should brew between 195°F and 205°F. If you remember your chemistry, the boiling point of water is 212°F. That means you’re already scorching your grounds as soon as the water comes to a boil.
The best solution is to use a lower heat level and limit the amount of time the coffee is in contact with boiling water. You may also have a better experience using lighter roasts, as opposed to dark roasts.
Since light roasts don’t have as many carbon and roasted flavors, they’re more forgiving if the coffee does burn slightly during preparation.
People have been enjoying coffee made on the stovetop for generations. It may not be a method you’re familiar with, but that doesn’t make it any less valid as a way to enjoy the beverage.
Stovetop methods also give you a lot of freedom to experiment with different ratios, grind levels, and temperatures. Even if you’re not in dire straits, you may find it fun to try cowboy or Turkish brewing and experience a whole new way to enjoy your coffee.
How to: Coffee Without a Machine
How to Make Cowboy Coffee that Actually Tastes Good
How to Brew in a Moka Pot
How to Make Turkish Coffee (With or Without an Ibrik