Off the Grid Coffee
Imagine that you had to give up real brewed coffee – cold turkey – starting tomorrow morning. When the lights go out one day in the future, and whatever happens does indeed happen, most of us aren’t going to want to give up coffee suddenly. And instant coffee, for many of us, just won’t cut it – especially in a stressful situation.
If you are a coffee drinker, now is the time to take a very important preparation: start making your coffee today like you would in that scary “tomorrow.” Now, I don’t mean you should go out on your back porch in your slippers and blaze up the wood hacked from your desk to start a fire and make some wild-harvested chicory brew. Instead, what I suggest is that you set your coffee procedure up today to be able to move into a world without power with ease.
Here’s 5 ways that will help you move from totally grid-dependent coffee to partially grid-dependent coffee, which will transition into off-the-grid coffee should the worst case scenario happen. The bonus: these are really tasty ways to prep.
1. Unplug Your Coffee Pot For Good
Get rid of it. Unless you have a bad-ass solar energy solution that will survive an EMP blast (and I know some of you folks do), your plug-in coffee pot won’t be helpful. When this dawned on us a few years ago, I did a ton of research on stove-top coffee pots. My first solution was a camp-style percolator. That was nice, but the coffee could be bitter and a bit chewy for my taste – not something for every day. Then, I went back to my old standby: the french press. But again, the coffee was too sludgy for me. My tastes have refined a bit as I get older, and while I like my coffee bold, I also like it free of grounds.
So the solution I found and one we’ve been using now for over year is a coffee “siphon”. The siphon makes for a clean, full-bodied cup of coffee, free of sludge. Here’s why it’s awesome:
- Coffee can be made on any type of stove, including an outdoor one.
- There’s no contact with metal or plastic.
- It’s easy to use and get really clean (have you ever successfully cleaned your plug-in pot???).
- The coffee tastes nearly as good as it smells while brewing, which has eluded me in previous brewing solutions.
- The coffee siphon we chose is easily less than 1/2 the price of a nice plug-in pot.
Since we make this every day, I show you how to do this outdoors in this post. In a nutshell, here’s how it’s done:
- Grind coffee to medium ground (finer will result in stronger coffee).
- Put the coffee in the top of the carafe, fill the bottom with water.
- Set the pot on to boil. As it boils, the water will move to the top of the carafe. Give it a quick stir and remove from heat.
- The coffee will siphon back to the bottom of the carafe after a few minutes, leaving the grounds in the top and leaving you with perfect coffee.
I bought my off the grid coffee pot at Amazon – there’s lots of other options there too, like a french press or a camp-style pot. Coleman also makes a drip style camp coffee pot that’s pretty cool too (H/T to Ani) who suggested it in a comment, thanks Ani!).
2. Buy Coffee in Bulk
Storing roasted coffee can be difficult – the oils on the surface of the bean can go rancid easily, and will produce a not-so-fresh cup of yuck if you’re not careful. And I’m not a fan of keeping it in the freezer – it just never seemed to keep it fresher for me, just colder. But the solution I’ve found this year lies in buying it correctly – and for us, that’s by the 5lb bag on Amazon. My experience has shown that keeping coffee in its factory-sealed bag helps keep it longer.
I buy 2 bags of this every 3 months, with 2 bags in reserve. They have not gone bad. I keep them in a gasket box in a cool, dark place in my food storage. When I open one, half of it goes into a “working container” that we draw from daily, and the second half gets put in an airtight storage container and gets put back into food storage.
I’m burying the lead here a bit, but I have to say that the most exciting part is the price. We found a smashing coffee at Amazon that works out to be just over $7/lb. The coffee is very high quality, and buying it this way saves us quite a bit. It’s been perfect.
This method of purchasing and storing coffee will get you over any short-term emergency. But for the long term, there’s a different solution: green coffee beans.
3. Store Some Green Coffee Beans for the Long Term
Green coffee beans are coffee beans that have yet to be roasted. Because they’re still green, they store like a dream in Mylar bags. I’ve heard of folks storing this for 20 years and still drinking it just fine. Your mileage will vary, but it’s a very important part of my long-term preparedness plan. You can roast them easily in an old-fashioned popcorn popper – a Whirley Pop is our favorite – over any stove top, such as a volcano stove.
4. Get an Old-Fashioned Popcorn Popper
You may already have one of these in your cupboard. If you use it for popcorn often, then you may want a second one just for coffee (so as not to mix flavors). Our favorite, the Whirley-Pop, can be used on any stove, and the procedure for roasting using this couldn’t be simpler:
- Place about 1/2 lb beans in the bottom of the popper;
- Turn heat to medium-high;
- Rotate the handle to agitate the beans.
- As you do, the beans will go from green to yellow, and then brown and start to crack and make popping noises. This is the “first crack” stage. Then, your beans will darken and crack again (“second crack”). Stop there (as you become experienced, you can keep roasting to your liking).
- The key is to cool them off quickly. Toss them in a colander and fan them to cool them down. Once room temperature, allow 24 hours before grinding, so that the gasses from the beans release and the flavor develops.
If you want lots of details on how to do this, here’s my detailed article with lots of pictures on how to do roast coffee without electricity.
5. Grind Baby, Grind!
If you are one to grind your own coffee beans, make sure you can grind up your beans with a hand coffee grinder. Get a modern one instead of one of those crusty antique ones you see at flea markets. Antique coffee grinders can be problematic: they’re old and the mechanisms can be tough to turn and the millstone may be bad, etc. The last thing you want to do after you’ve stored coffee for an emergency is to have to deal with a tool that doesn’t work.
Make a habit of using it once a week. That way, should the time come that you need it, you’ll be comfortable with it. It’s a great device to take camping, too. It’s small, so it packs well, and it’s easy to find a little spot in your kitchen for it. After much research, I bought the Kyocera ceramic mill on Amazon because it had great reviews, is easy to clean, and it’s easy to turn and grind.
UPDATE: After a year of using this hand coffee mill weekly, it still works like the day we bought it. I’m very happy we have this coffee mill in our “prepper’s kitchen”.
So consider making your coffee in a new way. If you set yourself up to make coffee without electricity now, then it’s going to be much easier to do in the event of no power at all. And the benefits of saving money and getting better-tasting coffee will be realized with your first cup.
Are you brewing coffee in a electricity-optional way? Drop me a comment and let me know!
My favorite ways to brew coffee off-the-grid:
Good article, ut the link in the paragraph about green coffee beans is bad; it links to something about pet alert stickers. I was disapointed because I have been looking for a source of green coffee beans at a reasonable price for a while now.
Fixed, thank you! These beans are great and at a good price – we have stocked up with these (we put them in 5 gallon barrels).
Another type of coffee maker thats just like your plug in is the Coleman drip coffee maker. Has metal base, goes over any focused flame.
I use this camping and feels like home. Thank you for the buy in bulk coffee beans info.
Hi Ani, I updated the post with your suggestion, thank you!
I don’t own a plug-in coffee pot (although my coffee grinder is electric, so I may get one of those). I use a coffee press for regular coffee, I even have a couple that are travel mugs for on the go. I make lattes with a moka pot for “espresso” and a battery operated whisk for frothing. I will bring both these things with for camping. It’s a nice luxury. I may get one of these siphon things for my non-plug in coffee maker collection!
I love the idea of a battery operated whisk, and the travel mug for on-the-go coffee pressing is a great idea!
You pin board is lovely too. Thank you for sharing it with us!
Store green coffee beans? Here’s an idea. How about you store instant coffee. The water is taken out of it, it’s light as hell. It will last forever. Add water and you have coffee. Done.
Thanks for stopping by! Yes, you could store instant. However, a lot of us enjoy brewed coffee enough to take the extra steps! 🙂
I use a press as well as the old camp stove percolator. You can still find the old camp stove percolator filters and those keep the grounds down. I also purchased 2 coffee plants from Amazon with plans to purchase 5 more. They make great house plants and will bear coffee fruit to roast and grind into beans for coffee.
Thanks for stopping by! What a great comment! I never knew coffee plants could be grown at home and they’ll bear fruit! Off to research on that more…..
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Thanks Nancy. I’m older than the hills, so I have used the syphon coffee pots, and I’m sure down in the basement, I have more than two of them. I know I have an old corning ware pot, and thought I would be fine when it hits with my rocket stove, numerous coffee pots, and all that coffee stored in the basement way back on the back shelf where I thought if would store for my enjoyment. I think my morning pot with heavy cream as my creamer is my one luxury that I still indulge in and was hopping that would keep my world together in the coming bad times. I have found a place to buy heavy cream that is shelf stable for a year. How bad does rancid coffee taste?
My, you are a party pooper sometimes. Thanks for the info and keep it coming…..John R
Not a party pooper!!! 🙂 Drink up, man! Then go get yourself some green coffee beans for your long term storage.
I’m not sure what rancid coffee tastes like. I am the type of gal who rotates her stock – even if it means canned meat stroganoff every once in a while. 🙂
Thanks for popping by again, and don’t be a stranger.
Are you telling me those container of Folgers that I buy at the grocery, and placing in my food storage are going to go rancid? I’m not talking about coffee I have to grind, punch, or poke, just coffee I buy and put in my coffee maker each evening and set it to come on at 7:00 AM.
I’m afraid that yes, coffee will go rancid. And ground coffee will go faster than whole bean. Why? Because ground beans have more surface area exposed. A roasted bean’s surface area contains all those yummy coffee oils, and that’s what will go bad after some time.
Unless you are on solar, your convenient coffee maker won’t work so well in the event of a power-affecting disaster. 🙁
If it were me, I’d use up the stored coffee now, but try using an off-grid coffee solution, such as a siphon. Maybe even just use it on weekends, so you get the feel for it.
Then, move into a more robust coffee solution when it’s time to restock.
It’s all about making the pain of a sudden disaster-induced transition easier, and getting your coffee off the grid will help ease that pain.
Thanks for dropping by, this is really fun to discuss! 🙂
The best method I have found has been a simple press. I also have learned how to do old fashioned percolators that go on wood fires or other types of fire. I have to have a cup when igo camping and we either have a pot of water boiling or the percent going. I always grind finer just to get stronger coffee.
A friend has been roasting his own coffee for some time using a hot air popper. He stated that the coffee has been the best tasting he has ever had.
Thanks for commenting! I also like a press, but as I’ve gotten just a bit older, I prefer a bit more filtering. The coffee siphon uses a little fabric filter, and that takes the oils out of the brew.
I still keep my french press around, but I think it’s going to go into the charity bin soon. 🙂
Thanks again for stopping by and leaving such a thoughtful comment.