5 Off-Grid Coffee Brewing Methods for When the Power Goes Out

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By the author of  An Arm and a Leg and The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications

Caffeine is the one addiction that’s socially acceptable. You can have somebody that needs coffee so badly that they start to go through withdrawal symptoms within a matter of hours if they don’t have yet another mug.

So what do you do to get your brew if the grid goes down? If you’re used to sauntering inside of the local coffee joint to cast a spell at the counter (“A biggo-mocha-soy-half-caf-light-ice-extra-cream, please.”), or are used to having a machine on your kitchen counter heat up little plastic cups so that plastic leaches into your mug, what are you to do?

How do you make off-grid coffee?

Here are a few options that you may want to consider.

off-grid coffee
Backpacking out with a bit o’ coffee.

The best off-grid coffee at home: French press

This is the low-hanging fruit here. All you have to do is dump in your grounds, pour in your water, and wait. I’ll boil a pot of water on the stove, put it in here, and wait about seven minutes. Then, press the plunger so that the grounds are filtered out of the coffee.

Zero plastic is involved, and if you’re using a wood stove, there’s zero electricity required either. The only negatives with using a French press are that it’s not a very portable means of brewing coffee (you’re not going to have one in your bug-out bag), and they typically are made of glass and are, therefore, fragile.

As far as off-grid coffee at home, though, this is my favorite method.

The fastest off-grid coffee: instant coffee packets

Some of ya’ll (never apologize for your Southerness) in the comments made fun of my always having instant coffee packets on me a while back. That’s alright. When the grid goes down and you’re on your knees begging at the locked door of Starbucks with your sissy man bun and wearing your girlfriend’s jeans, I’ll still give you a cup. (It’ll be decaf, but I won’t tell you.)

Honestly, I’ve never had instant coffee that tastes good. I always manage to overwater it. Someday I will find the magic ratio of water to brown powder, but until then, I will drink brown water brew when I’m in a coffee bind.

You may have better luck than I here, but the point is that all you have to do is put this in a water bottle and shake it. You’ll get your caffeine fix with minimal fuss so that you can once more return to the land of the living.

(Looking for information on getting out of town quick? Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide on emergency evacuations.)

Light backpacker coffee: The Aeropress

A buddy and I just returned from a backpacking trip where he used one of these. The same buddy who got his booty kicked in Monopoly Deal and Quarto. It’s a fairly simple concept that packs down well with minimal risk of breakage. First, you have to heat up your water. Once you’ve got the water to where you want it to be, you add your grounds to the bottom of the Aeropress and then pour your water into the tube as well.

Stir everything around and let it sit for whatever your preference is, press down on the plunger, and coffee will be pushed through the bottom. It’s a pretty cool design that gives you a nice, smooth brew.

No space? No problem. The Snowpeak Collapsible Coffee Drip

If you prefer drip coffee and don’t like the idea of your hot coffee sitting in something plastic, you may want to consider this device from Snowpeak. Provided you have plenty of filters on hand, you’ll be good to go here for quite a while.

The entire contraption collapses down flat and is as light as it gets, so it will fit in your backpack easily. All you have to do is open it up, put it on top of your mug, drop a filter in, and then pour hot water into the top.

You’ll end up with brown gold dripping down into your mug.

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My favorite off-grid coffee: cowboy coffee

off-grid coffee
I was out there with only one pot this trip, so I couldn’t make my oatmeal for a long time till after this had cooled down.

This is the most low-tech means of coffee brewing on this list and typically what I use. All I do is boil water (typically with a rocket stove or the like) and then pour it into a mug with grounds resting at the bottom. Let the brew sit for a few minutes, and then tap the side of the mug with your fingernail. This causes all of the grounds to sink to the bottom.

Drink up. When you get to the last sip or two, your coffee will be chunky style, so I typically just throw this away.

These off-grid coffee options will keep you in caffeine even when you’re in the woods. 

I’ve tried all of the above, and these are what I would recommend if you end up in a no-power situation. Admittedly, most of the time, I just make cowboy-style when I want off-grid coffee, but you have to hope you don’t need to take any family pictures or run across somebody you like in the immediate aftermath. (“What’s in your teeth?”)

What are your thoughts here, though? Are there other options out there you would recommend? Let your fellow coffee-loving patriots know in the comments section below.

About Aden

Aden Tate is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com. Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has four published books, The Faithful Prepper An Arm and a Leg, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

 

Aden Tate

Aden Tate

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  • Back when I was a kid (1965) all I had was a Hi-C can with a clothes hangar bail and a loosely woven cloth bag that I have since learned is old Acadian way to brew coffe called a “coffe sock” . I have yet to find a way to make a better tasting cup of coffe . I carry a small linen bag in all my go/inch bags for herbal decoctions and coffe. TRY IT!

  • We love our coffee. I have a cold brew pot that we’ll use if the power goes out. Four Sigmatic has instant packets that taste pretty good and have added nutritional benefits of mushrooms. We keep those on hand for camping and such.

  • A French press is how I normally make coffee at home. Though, I keep meaning to get an Italian expresso maker, they’re great. If I was out and about, I’d stick to tea, it’s simpler to just have a bunch of tea bags.

  • Nice to consider a pleasurable prep in these times 🙂
    We have a manual grinder for beans, and a French press as well as a small drip with filters. Interested to learn about cowboy coffee – makes sense!

  • Why not just pack paper coffee filters a little bigger than the size of your cup? Set the filter in your cup, add coffee grinds, pour boiling water over it, let it brew, then carefully remove the soggy (and hot) coffee filter and gift it to Mother Nature. She’ll love it. 🙂

    • Wild Woman if you try it expect the whole thing wet paper filter and grounds to fall into your cup long before the coffee is ready. Cowboy coffee without the fully brewed benefit.

      There are cup sized drip filter holders that work well. I’m not plastic phobic so mine I’ve used in my military service for several decades still works when I’m camping.

      BTW I’ve used actual tea bags filled with coffee grounds to make coffee. I wish I knew where to get more. Maybe that sock idea might get resurrected.

  • if you have a strainer, just full boil the water and coffee for 3 mins. add a bit of cold to settle the grains if you want, and then strain into your cup. we drink this daily.

  • First and foremost, Aden, I believe this is the single most import article you have ever written.
    Daisy, this needs to be pinned to the top of the site!

    That said, I have used a few French Presses. REI used to have insulated personal French Press, with a compartment in the bottom to hold a single serving of coffee grounds. GSI Outdoors makes one similar, but a bit more $$.

    I have used and currently using a percolator. Dont skimp. Get the one with the glass insert. The plastic ones dont last long. Mine cracked and fell apart in 3 pieces in less than a few months.

    If you HAVE to have a cold camp, but near a running stream of water, you can secure a French Press half way up the craft, at the waters edge. Let it sit over night. In the morning plunge it, and you will have cold pressed coffee. I find it to be actually smooth. Also, great on hot summer mornings in the fridge.

    One thing not mentioned: how to grind the coffee beans if grid down?
    Pestle and mortar? Sometimes a errant bean will jump the mortar.
    Hand crank grinder? I have one. It works okay. Good enough for a French Press (i.e. course grind). There are newer ones out there I may have to invest in.

    • Totally agree 1stMarineJarH.ead. The OPSEC issue of having a fire, might incline me to having instant coffee crystals in cold water. They are also great on ice cream, esp. chocolate before SHTF, that is.

  • I joking agree with 1stMarine. Very important! I picked up one of those stovetop boil perculators but I am more likely to do cowboy coffee. I like it strong.

    Once on a car camping trip, I drove 22 miles one way, to get my morning coffee. I now have some in my go bag and enough in the pantry for “awhile”. It stores pretty well.

  • We would boil the water, add the ground coffee. Allow to rest awhile. Slowly pour a bit of cold water on top. That would force any floating grounds to lose temperature and sink to the bottom. If one is careful not to shake the pot too much and the grounds should stay at the bottom. Oldbat’s suggestion works the same way. I should carry a strainer since it would work for tea too.

  • I need to get a French Press. My go-to is a Corningware percolator. I have 2 in case something happens. I do have a couple smaller aluminum ones as well.

  • I use a fine metal gravity filter. It does have some plastic round the edge but mostly metal. I put some coffee grounds in the filter, put it atop my (travel) mug and pour the water over, SLOWLY. It takes a little time and attention as I wait for the water to go through, pour more, wait again–maybe 2-3 minutes total for my 16-oz travel mug.

  • Boil the coffee in your pot. Let it cool a minute. Pour off the coffee, the grounds stay in the pot. Whip the pot to clear out the grounds. Make oatmeal. Take pot to creek and swish. Pack and go.

  • How about a Drip -a -lator you can find on ebay. Metal ones available for travel and glass for home. My Grandparents had several and the coffee was always great along with the canned milk they used in the coffee.

  • +1 with 1StMarine here.

    Excellent topic. Espresso addict here.

    Aden, have you tried the Wacaco mini-espresso machines? Perfect for off-grid creamy espresso, no kidding.

    https://www.wacaco.com/pages/collection/#nanopresso

    They have the Minipresso, then the Nanopresso (which I own), and now the Picopresso.

    These things pump out 18bar of pressure with a hand pump, that’s more than Nespresso home machines. The Nanopresso even has an adapter for Nespresso-style capsules. Pretty neat.

    It’s extra weight and bulk but what the hell, there’s no price for the joy of being able to brew a thick espresso in the middle of nowhere.

  • We have a French press that’s insulated stainless steel. Nothing breakable, no plastic, perfect for camping plus it’ll give us about 2 cups each before brewing another batch.

  • Living in Brazil a while, the “coffee sock” was vital, reusable, easy to wash. Just boil the water and pour it down the coffee in the sock nested in the pot. This made a strong “cafesinho” that we know as espresso. The strength depended on the amount of water, of course.

  • Oh me loves my coffee! I have french press, a camping stove, filter baskets/filters and another I can make expresso on stove or fire. I do have some starbucks packets my daughter gave me and instant coffee so would do if needed too. I definitely have to stock up on more coffee. I like making my coffee out over the fire when I can. No use waiting till shtf to enjoy it that way.
    My kids thought I needed a stove so for Mother’s Day last year they got me one. I insisted on one without electronic ignition so can use the batteries in it or a match. That is as long as there is gas. With supply chain issues I didn’t even get it until March lol
    I am getting more and more leery of relying on anything electric or gas operated anymore.

  • “When the grid goes down and you’re on your knees begging at the locked door of Starbucks with your sissy man bun and wearing your girlfriend’s jeans, I’ll still give you a cup”

    Yes, but will it be double pump vanilla chai, triple foam with soy milk?? I had to compose myself after reading that. Don’t know what would be worse for them- drinking plain coffee or not having WiFi

    But I digress…. I keep small snack size ziploc bags filled with instant coffee, sugar and powdered creamer. When you need your coffee and you can’t brew, this comes in handy. We have alternative ways of heating water so we’re good to go!

  • You taught me something about “Cowboy Coffee.” (The first time I saw this, it was called “Hobo Coffee.” We don’t have hobos today. We have “homeless,” but “Homeless Coffee” just isn’t going to work for most people.) I was unaware of the effect of tapping the side of the pot.

    When I saw it used the first time, the cook simply poured a cup of room temperature water into the steaming 5-gallon stainless steel tub of coffee. I suppose that it was a temperature inversion that drove the grounds to the very bottom. Since then, I have been using that method with my old-fashion 1-gallon campfire “cowboy” coffee pot.

  • Thai coffee and Thai tea are traditionally made with a muslin/cotton “sock” with small handle
    You can also make your own coffee bags so put it in a square of cheesecloth and tie it and brew in hot water ( or disposable ones with coffee filter)

  • You can cold brew coffee or even make sun coffee if you want. It won’t be hot but the brew will be smooth and full of caffeine. Put grounds in vessel of your choice, add water, let sit at least overnight. Can either filter it through a cloth or just pour off the top like cowboy coffee. You can also get reusable tea bags as mentioned above and use those, or there are single use versions. I’d reccommend a coarser grind of coffee in that case so you get less sludge in the bottom of your cup.

  • As long as it doesn’t involve a percolator. I’d rather drink decaf than have coffee that was percolated!

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