The cheapest alternative to a single cup coffee maker without pods is a tea strainer that looks like a small version of a regular strainer, but with a finer mesh. These cost $3 – $5. You can brew the coffee in a saucepan.
You can use it as-is, but its easier to use a coffee filter or paper towel filter, because it traps some oils, and makes clean-up easier.
Brewing is simple:
- Fill your cup or glass with water, and then pour it into the pan. This assures you will get the right amount of water.
- Bring the water to where it just starts to boil, with tiny bubbles. The ideal temperature is 85C/185F. Water boils at 100C/212F, so you don’t want it boiling.
- Add coffee. For a pint, I use three heaping teaspoons of dark roast. Adjust to taste.
- Stir or swish it around a minute or two.
- Pour it into the filter on the strainer. It’s good to have a towel around for spills. I lay the towel down on the counter, because I always spill.
- Some of the grounds will stay in the pan. I shove them into the filter for easier cleanup.
- The coffee will filter out in a minute or so.
- Remove the filter and coffee waste, and put it into the trash or compost. They say coffee grounds help compost out – it might act a bit like biochar.
Places to Buy Coffee Filters Cheap
The key to “lifehacking” the coffee filter part is to understand the basic fact: people often quit drinking coffee because it’s not the healthiest habit. Also, different restaurants are always going out of business – and they get rid of the filters. So the usual disposals end up with filters:
- Thrift stores: I got around half of an industrial sized stack of filters for $4. There must be 600 filters in there.
- Estate sales: people pass away or move, and often have left behind coffee filters.
- Online, Craigslist, Freecycle, FB Marketplace, OfferUp: just look for them. Maybe they’re selling below cost just to get rid of them.
- Coffee quitters: if someone you know quit drinking coffee, ask if they have filters they can give you. Nothing is cheaper than free.
You can also use a paper towel instead of a filter.
With this strainer, you can also just use it without a filter. It’ll work okay, but the cleanup is a hassle.
How to Brew Without a Strainer, but with a Filter
You can fold coffee up into a little filter bag. Then, steep it like a teabag.
How to Brew Without a Strainer or Filter: Cowboy Style
You can also just pour off the coffee, trying to leave the grounds in the pan.
The trick to this is to simmer the coffee a bit until the grounds settle. The air and oils in the coffee grounds come out, and the heavy parts sink to the bottom. You let it settle for a couple minutes, then pour off the liquid.