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Popular Methods for Brewing Coffee at Home

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Making a Coffee at Home

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.

How to Make Coffee On The Stove

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.

3 Proven Coffee Making Methods

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.

Method 1: Making “Cowboy Coffee” on Your Home Range

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 process:

  1. Grind your coffee if you’re using whole bean. You can use any grind level you want, though the finer it is, the stronger it will be. A medium grind, like you’d use for a drip machine, is a good starting point for most.
  2. Measure out your water and pour it into your pot or kettle. Use about 10 ounces of water for each cup of coffee you’re making.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every 10 ounces of water. Again, you can adjust the ratio of water to coffee to change the strength of the brew. Adding the coffee to the water before you boil it avoids the risk of burning the coffee, making it bitter. It also allows for some pre-infusion, giving you a more balanced and complex flavor.
  4. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat. You don’t want a rolling boil—just enough so it’s bubbling regularly.
  5. Let the coffee boil for a few seconds then remove it from the heat and allow it to sit covered for 2-3 minutes. This both lets it get down to a drinkable temperature and gives the grounds time to settle, so you’ll have less grit in your mug.

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.

Method 2: Using a Moka Pot for “Stovetop Espresso”

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:

The process:

  1. Unscrew the top chamber from the Moka pot and remove the filter basket.
  2. Fill the bottom reservoir with water up to the water fill line, being careful not to fill past the pressure release valve.
  3. Grind your coffee if you’re using whole bean. A medium-coarse grind is preferred, though you can also use a drip grind. Don’t make it too fine or you’ll risk clogging the pot.
  4. Fill the basket entirely with coffee grounds. Level it off with your finger and wipe away any loose grounds on the top edge to ensure a complete seal once it’s reassembled.
  5. Screw the top chamber onto the Moka pot and tighten just until it’s firm.
  6. Open the lid and place the Moka pot on your burner, then turn on the heat. As the water in the bottom chamber heats, it expands and turns into steam, forcing the water up through the grounds and into the upper chamber.
  7. Depending on the size, a Moka pot will take between 3 and 7 minutes to brew once it’s hot enough to pressurize. You’ll know it’s time to remove the pot when the liquid coming out of the spout lightens from a dark brown to a honey-colored yellow.
  8. Remove from the heat and close the lid. For the best-tasting cup, wrap the bottom reservoir in a cold, damp towel. This will force the brewing process to stop, limiting the back-end bitter flavors that make it into your cup.

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.

Method 3: Making Turkish (or Greek) Coffee at Home

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:

  • Ibrik (or saucepan/kettle substitute)
  • Spoon for stirring
  • Finely-ground coffee
  • Sugar
  • Water

The process:

  1. Grind your coffee to the finest possible setting. Many burr grinders have a Turkish setting, which is even finer than espresso grind. You can also find coffee pre-ground to this powdery consistency at specialty shops and coffee roasters.
  2. Add sugar to the Ibrik. About 2 teaspoons per brew is a good starting level. You can adjust to taste (or leave it out if you prefer a bitter brew).
  3. Fill the Ibrik with water up to the neck. If using a kettle or pot, use around 8-10 ounces of water.
  4. Add 1 heaping tablespoon of coffee to the water. Let the grounds float on the surface without stirring; they’ll blend into the water as it brews.
  5. Pre-heat your burner to a medium-low setting, then Put the Ibrik or pot on the stove. You don’t want to let the water boil, as this could scorch the fine-ground coffee and make it bitter.
  6. If you’re using an Ibrik, the coffee will foam as it brews. Leave on the heat until the foam reaches the top, then remove it, let it settle, and stir it. Repeat this process 2-3 times. If you’re using a kettle or saucepan, you won’t see as much foam. Allow the coffee to simmer for about 7 minutes. Lift the pot from the heat and gently stir it every 2 minutes or so to help prevent the grounds from clumping and regulate the heat.
  7. Remove the coffee from the heat and allow it to rest for 1-2 minutes, so the grounds have time to settle.

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.

More Tips for Making Coffee Without A Machine

  • Use freshly-ground coffee if you can. This will improve both the aroma and the flavor of the final cup by capturing as many of the volatile compounds in the beans as possible.

  • Most stovetop methods (Moka pot excluded) give you freedom to adjust the ratio to suit your tastes, adding more coffee for a stronger cup or less for a weaker one. This is a better way to adjust the strength than changing the grind level.

  •  The finer the grind, the harder it will be to filter the ground coffee from your cup. If this bothers you, consider using a coarse grind and increasing the amount of coffee. This will allow you to strain out the majority of solids before drinking.

  • Both Moka pots and Turkish brewing result in a very concentrated and thick brew. If it’s too strong for you, you can dilute it with hot water after brewing.

  • Pour the brewed coffee into mugs or a carafe as soon as you can after brewing. The coffee will continue to extract as long as it’s in contact with the water, and most of these “back end” flavors are very bitter and not pleasant on the palate.

Things to Keep in Mind When Brewing Coffee

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.

Summary and Conclusion

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.

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