Espresso Without Electricity

Ditch your Senseo or Nespresso! Let’s make coffee without an electric machine!

Of course you already know that there are plenty of ways to make your morning coffee or espresso without a plugged in machine. But it seems that many people have come to rely on pods and pads and plugs to get their caffeine fix. Whatever happened to simply heating water and filtering it through those ground up beans?

It’s not that making a cup of coffee requires tons of energy, or even that the following ideas are more environmentally friendly than an electric coffee maker. But sometimes it is nice to think of different ways of doing things. You never know what you might discover.

Espresso Without Electricity

Let’s start with some ground up coffee. Buy the best fair trade, organic coffee you can afford. Grind it at home yourself, or buy it already ground.

If you would like to grind your beans by hand, give it a try in a mortar and pestle, Hario Hand Grinder or Porlex Hand Grinder. Fun!

French Press

Pros: easy to use
Cons: not strong enough for espresso junkies, coffee may be bitter or gritty
Energy use: just boiling water
Trash factor: none, except coffee grounds for the compost

There is something so beautiful about the simplicity of the French press, also known as a cafetière à piston. Toss the coffee grounds in the glass carafe, top with water and then cap with the metal filter and press mechanism. Let it sit for a while, then press down, removing the grounds from the water, producing a smooth coffee. There are many brands of French press on the market, try Bodum, Ritual or the all stainless steel Cymas. The presses comes in many sizes, from single serving to larger capacity. This lovely apparatus will last for many years if you take care not to bend or distort the metal mesh filters, or break the thin glass.

Moka Pot

Pros: easy to use, sturdy equipment
Cons: maybe not strong enough for serious espresso junkies
Energy use: just boiling water
Trash factor: none, except coffee grounds for the compost

Have you ever used a stovetop moka pot? These beauties were first patented in 1933 by Bialetti. The original designs are aluminum, but if you’d like to avoid that there are several designs in stainless steel. I have the Bialetti “Kitty” and I love it! To use moka pot, fill the bottom reservoir with water, the metal filter basket with coffee, screw the top on, and fire up the stove! The water percolates through the grounds to produce a nice strong coffee or espresso in the top carafe. One of the best things about the moka pot is that there is nothing to throw away except the used coffee grounds and those can be composted in your garden. Some even say that used coffee grounds make a good exfoliant in the shower. Just take care not to plug up your drain.


Pros: low-acid tasty brew, can make coffee or espresso
Cons: another plastic gizmo
Energy use: boiling water
Trash factor: get the stainless steel filter and your trash is only coffee grounds

Invented by Alan Adler, the simple AeroPress gadget brews espresso without electricity. Just put in your finely ground coffee, add boiling water, and push the liquid through to make 1-4 servings in less than minute. Buy a stainless steel filter instead of the disposable paper ones and you have a more eco friendly option. Check out this AeroPress how-to video by Stumptown Coffee Roasters. (PS definitely stop by Stumptown if you are in Oregon, their coffee is amazing!)


Pros: smooth coffee
Cons: lighter coffee, not strong enough for espresso lovers, have to use the pricey filters
Energy use: boiling water
Trash factor: those paper filters are not so good, but can usually be composted

The Chemex device consists of a lovely glass flask with a wooden necklace, resembling a science experiment mixed with a dreamcatcher. It was invented in 1941 by Peter Schlumbohm to make the perfect drip coffee. The flask takes proprietary paper filters that are thicker than usual. A small amount of hot water is poured over the coffee grounds to “bloom” them and then the remainder of the water is added to filter through the grounds. It is a very simple drip process but there is an art to it regarding water temperatures, amounts of coffee and quantity of water. Chemex has a cult status and can be seen in many films and TV shows of the 1960s.

Pour Over Drip

Pros: makes coffee without electricity
Cons: takes some time
Energy use: boiling water
Trash factor: coffee grounds and filters, unless using re-usable filters

If you prefer the lighter, fresher flavors of drip coffee you might already use some of these products. Baristas are fans of the Hario V60 the  while campers like the portability of the GSI Outdoors Collapsible Java Drip. The most basic method of pourover would be just dumping the water into the coffee grounds. But of course, if you want perfect coffee there are few tricks and tips, which you can read more about here. 

Pour over in style with a gooseneck coffee pot like the Hario Pouring Kettle. It’s so pretty!

Learn how to make the best iced coffee using the pour over method here.

Cold Brew

Pros: smooth, low acid coffee
Cons: some people think the taste is flat, and obviously – it’s cold
Energy use: refrigeration and ice making optional
Trash factor: depends on the method, some people use a coffee filter for the final step

One of the latest crazes is cold-brewed coffee. Places like Blue Bottle Coffee use fancy equipment but you just need French pressAeroPress or a few jars and a wire mesh filter. Add medium roast coffee to a jar or French press and top with cold water. Stir and then just let it sit for about 24 hours in the refrigerator. Filter the coffee through the press and then again through a mesh filter. Dilute with water or the milky substance of your choice.

Some companies sell concentrated cold brewed coffee in a glass jar. It keeps for up to 2 weeks. Kickstand in Brooklyn will even deliver by bicycle to your door if you live in the neighborhood.


Pros: makes a double espresso without electricity
Cons: takes muscle power
Energy use: boiling water
Trash factor: none, except coffee grounds for the compost

Formerly known as the Presso, this electricity-free espresso maker is quite interesting. Just add hot water and espresso coffee, and use those muscles to press the water through. The ROK is mostly made of metal with a few plastic parts, and comes in a reusable metal tin for easy transport. People enjoy taking the ROK on the road with them for espresso while camping, in a boat, or just a long road trip. Check out this demo video.

 Handpresso Wild

Pros: makes a nice espresso shot
Cons: takes muscle power
Energy use: boiling water
Trash factor: coffee grounds for the compost or ESE pods if you use those

The Handpresso Wild Hybrid is a techie’s dream. This gadget is pumped by hand like a bicycle pump to reach the desired pressure, seen on a little gauge on the end. Pop in an ESE pod or your own espresso and press a lever to discharge a shot. The small device can be taken anywhere, and only needs hot water and espresso. Amazing!

Do you have a favorite way to make coffee without pads, pods and plugs?

These methods of making coffee without electricity can be awesome for car camping or when in campervan or RV. or maybe even if you live on houseboat! 🙂

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