Tuesday, November 6, 2012

UNPLUGGED: How to Make Coffee with No Electricity (and post-Sandy thoughts) from Cleo Coyle

Cleo Coyle, unplugged but
not undone, is author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries.
For those of you who live in areas of the country that routinely suffer hurricanes, tornadoes, and major snowstorms, I don’t have to tell you about losing electricity, phone service, or worse. You guys are veterans at making do and getting through.

Here in New York, however, we may be hardened when it comes to crime and commerce, but we’re sometimes soft in the head when it comes to the weather. The conveniences of cities tend to spoil us, and it’s easy to forget the power of nature.

Ironically, Marc and I just wrote about this phenomenon in Holiday Buzz when a dangerous winter storm descends on the Eastern seaboard and our protagonist (Clare) faces a challenging situation after an important person in her life fails to take the deadly storm seriously.

In New York, most of us did take Sandy seriously, but she slapped us awake all the same, reminding us what it’s like not to have electricity, internet, cable—and underscoring how grateful we are to have shelter, food, and each other.

Thanksgiving will hold special meaning for us this year. Although we had some damage to our home, it is minimal and fixable—and our hearts and prayers continue to go out to those who lost their homes and more.

Many organizations, national and local, are pitching in to help. City harvest, which works tirelessly to feed New York's hungry, is now working to feed those hurt by the storm. To learn more about their efforts, donate, or volunteer, click here. Ditto for New York's Food bank, which you'll find here. For a roundup with many more links to organizations, drives, and ways to help, click here.

Since I've been unplugged (off and on) all week, I thought it would be a good time to go back to basics and share instructions for two incredibly easy ways of make coffee without electricity*. With these methods, whether the lights are on or not, you can still…

Drink with joy!
~ Cleo

*Of course, you must be able to boil water for these methods. We have a gas stove, which works without electricity. If you have a gas grill, you can do the same. Otherwise, a good old outdoor charcoal grill and heavy duty pot will do the trick.

How to Make Coffee 
in a French Press

My new Coffee Pick
Lenana from Kenya
features notes of
blackberry, cherry,
and strawberry.
You can sign up
to win it in my
weekly drawings.
Scroll down
to find out how.
This "press" method is easy, low tech, and elegant. Although pressed coffee has a different flavor than filtered coffee (it's not for everyone), professionals say it comes closest to matching the cup tasting experience. Cup tasting or "cupping" is the way the industry tests new beans for quality and flavor. 

This is a wonderful method for showcasing my newest Coffee Pick, by the way, a premium Kenyan coffee with amazingly fruity notes, sourced by a highly respected coffee hunter named George Howell

COFFEE IQ - Kenyan coffees are wine-like and medium- to full-bodied. More than half of the coffee produced in the country comes from thousands of farmers with small farms, many having only a few hundred coffee trees. They form cooperatives and their coffee beans are graded and sold in small lots via the renowned auction system, which is run on a weekly basis by the Kenyan government. 

Below is a fun little video that shows you
how easy it is to make coffee in a press pot.

To sign up for my weekly Free Coffee Drawings,
all you have to do is subscribe to my free e-newsletter,
which comes every two months or so with a new coffee pick and
bonus recipes. 
To sign up, simply send and e-mail
that says "Sign me up" to this address:



How to Make Coffee
with a "Pour-Over" Cone 

If you listen to young coffee geeks, this "new" pour-over method of making coffee is "the very best way" to make coffee. Except, it's far from new! For those of us who've been drinking coffee for decades, we called this the "Melitta" method, after the brand name of the company that originally made the equipment. 

So how did Melitta make such a trendy come back? Via independent coffee houses, that's how...

These independent coffee shops were in need of a way to fresh-brew a single cup for a customer--especially those who would rather have brewed coffee than espresso. With "single-origin" and seasonal coffee varieties now showing up more frequently on shop menus (attracting customers eager to sample them), it's no wonder the "slow bar" was born. 

The pour-over, manual drip method is easy and does indeed produce an outstanding cup of joe. It's a bit more trouble than using an automatic drip machine; then again, pour-over can be made in a blackout (as long as you have a gas stove or grill to boil the water), and that's okay by me.

COFFEE IQ - The first coffee filter was invented in 1908 by a 35-year-old housewife from Dresden, Germany. Her name was Melitta Bentz. Her patent registration for a "Filter Top Device lined with Filter Paper" was filed in the Berlin Patent Office and her company was quickly established. In the 1930s, she tapered the filter into a cone shape—and a cone-shaped filter is still one of the features you should look for when buying an automatic drip maker. The cone design is the best and, scoop for scoop, the most economical way to filter coffee.


Below is a short video that shows you
how to make coffee using the
pour-over method.

Are there more ways to make coffee without electricity? Absolutely, and I'll share more of them with you in the near future. Until then....

Drink with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me - Cleo Coyle
Learn about my books here.

Friend me on Facebook here.
Follow me on Twitter here.

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are national bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the 
added bonus of recipes. 


Holiday Buzz

On Sale
December 4th

Includes holiday
and cookie recipes!


  1. Here in WNY, we made it through Sandy without major issue. By now almost all of my friends in NJ and NYC have gotten their power back-and were finally able to gas up their vehicles. Thankfully none had catastrophic damage. The first thing my friend Vinnie did when his power returned-he made coffee!

  2. I use a cone shaped to filter coffee. It is the best way to drip and make a cup of delicious coffee.

  3. About 20 years ago, we had an ice storm come through here. Ice thick enough to bring down the high power lines that run cross country, and left us without power for over a week. Camping out one night is fun, a whole week is not! Cleo, I am so glad to hear you and Marc and fur children are well! There was a whole lot of worry for you guys coming from the Midwest!

  4. I'm glad you came through well, all things considered. It's frightening to think what all the people whose homes were destroyed are facing now. There's no quick solution--and that has nothing to do with which government officials are in charge.

    Now you've got me confused. I've been using a Melitta cone system since the early 1970s--about as long as I've been drinking coffee seriously (for that matter, I've been using beans from the same place nearly as long). Over the past year or so I've been seeing a lot of the French presses around, in restaurants, on television.

    Now, I'm happy doing what I've always done, but in my books, my characters drink a LOT of coffee. How are they supposed to be making it these days?

  5. We use the cone drip method too Cleo--with a gas stove it makes weather emergencies tolerable. Just think how desperate I'd be with only an electric coffee pot.

    Here's hoping all the power is restored soon--and stay way Nor'easter!!!

  6. I love, love, love my French Press! I have the exact model that is in the picture, and it makes wonderful coffee. Plus, it goes in the dishwasher. Perfect!

    ~ Krista

  7. So very relieved to learn that you and Marc suffered only minimal damage to your house. The blackout, I took for granted! Yes, a lengthy outage really does teach you a lot..for instance, to avoid using strongly-scented candles, because you are going to get really sick of that scent! Thanks for the links so that we can easily help.

    My son uses a French press; I don't know why, but his always has sediment in the bottom. All in all, I prefer the Melitta method, and have been using it for decades. I like being able to make each person's cup individually.

  8. I always pre-infuse the coffee in the press pot for 30s before adding the rest of the water.