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.
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.
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.
My favorite off-grid coffee: cowboy coffee
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?”)