Caveman Coffee


Or, How to Make A Great Cup of Coffee With No Electricity

We survived Snowpocalypse 2! The 2-4 inches of snow forecast for Atlanta overnight Friday never materialized. We did get a few flakes during the middle of the night. And the trees were decorated with thousands of teeny-tiny icicles during the morning hours.

After the craziness of the 2014 ice storm – when people were trapped in their cars overnight on the interstate and others sheltered inside drugstores and fast food joints – I understand why people were freaked out and preparing for the worst.

We were still living in Michigan at the time so we missed that storm. But I still remember three days and nights without power after an ice storm in 2000, the last time I lived in Georgia.

That was in the final days of my heaving drinking career. Fire department personnel were going door to door through the neighborhoods making sure no one was injured or freezing to death. On Day 2 of the power outage, two firefighters showed up at the house around mid-morning. I was still asleep but they knocked so long and so loud I finally got up and staggered to the door.

The female firefighter took a good look at me and then asked, not unkindly, “Uh, is there anyone cognizant at home?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Let me check…”

An Important Omission

I joined the throngs raiding the local grocery stores on Friday morning to stock up on the essentials: bottled water, toilet paper, and coffee. Because you never know. The store I stopped at didn’t have any coffee I wanted and I needed to get to school by noon to pick up my son since all of the schools were closing early.

Back at home in my temporary office I went back to work and forgot about the outside world. Until late afternoon when I looked up and realized it was 4:30 p.m. and I still didn’t have any coffee reserves. Probably wouldn’t need them but I do love my coffee and…you never know.

So my boy and I ventured out in search of. The nearest Starbucks had closed at 3 p.m. Not taking any chances. So we went to the Publix across the street.

The parking lot was packed with cars. Back in the winter of 2014 – when school was closed in anticipation of a snowstorm that never came –  we had showed my son some YouTube videos of the 2014 ice storm to help him understand what everyone at school was talking about. He watched the people scurrying into the store for a minute and said, “Some of these people are here to shop and some of them are here to stay the night. Right, Daddy?”

We got the beans, he got a treat, we went home and had a normal evening. But we woke up before dawn because the house was freezing. The power had indeed gone out. Fortunately we’re all still sleeping on mattresses in the front room of the house, so we were able to huddle together for warmth.

But when I went into the kitchen to make coffee this morning, I realized I had forgotten to grind the coffee beans. The horror!

So, should you ever find yourself in a similar predicament, here’s my instructional blog on how to make a great cup of coffee when the power goes out.

How to Make a Great Cup of Coffee When the Power Goes Out

What You’ll Need


  • 1 bag of coffee beans (preferably organic fair trade)
  • 1 medium size container for holding excess beans
  • 1 plastic zip bag, clean on the inside
  • 1 rubber mallet (or other suitable large-headed beating instrument)
  • Pour-over cone (which you should already own if you really love coffee) and cone filters
  • Spring water (or other fresh, non-chlorinated water)
  • Gas stove and matches or lighter (feel free to substitute open fire and flint if you’re seeking the more authentic caveman experience)

Step 1

Empty most of your bag of coffee beans into the medium container. The fewer beans you’re ‘grinding’ with your mallet, the easier it is to achieve a nice fine consistency.


Press the air out of the bag of coffee beans, flatten and reseal it. Place the bag inside the plastic zip bag, press out excess air and seal. Double-bagging the beans ensures you don’t accidentally rupture the original coffee bag with an overzealous or misplaced hammer blow, thus blasting a jet of partially ground beans across your floor.

make coffee no electricity

Step 3


Great coffee beater; also useful for removing carpet tack.

Place the double-bagged coffee beans on a hard surface (such as the unfinished cement floor of your basement) and begin to smash the beans with your mallet. Work your way from one end of the coffee bag to the other, making sure to feel for pockets of un-smashed beans.

Step 4

Once you feel you’ve achieved your desired consistency, open the bags and rub the ground coffee with your fingers. If the grind is still too coarse, repeat steps 2 and 3.

Step 5

coffee cone pour over filter

The pour over filter is a must for the true coffee gourmand.

Place the appropriate amount of ground coffee into your pour-over cone and filter (placed atop a coffee cup, of course). Add spring water in a small saucepan and place on stove burner. Light the burner on your gas stove and heat water until until it’s just about starting to boil. (You want tiny bubbles, not a full-on boil!)

Step 6

Carefully pour your hot water into a glass measuring cup or other suitable pouring container and slowly pour the water into the cone until you have a nice, hot, organic cup of caveman coffee.

Step 7

Enjoy your delicious cup of caveman coffee!

3 thoughts on “Caveman Coffee

  1. JJ says:

    Just practice for when the grid goes down! Pre-ground coffee is a good thing to think about!!! Thanks, DK! Hope you’ve warmed up since this morning!

    • DK Brainard says:

      Hi JJ, nice and toasty now. If the grid goes down and stays down a while, I’ll be much less snobbish about my coffee! But why not enjoy it the way I like it while I can, right? xox

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