Never in my life did I own an automatic drip coffee maker.
Coffee that comes out of one of those pump holding containers, well, tastes like the container.
Coffee is a ritual in my life. I enjoy the process. I don’t want to wake up to already-made, and every cup has to be fresh.
A couple years ago I had a disturbing epiphany. My single cup of morning coffee was not doing it for me. The only thing I can attribute this to is being peri-menopausal. I attribute much of the mayhem that occurs in my present life to this.
I really wanted to appreciate my coffee again. During this same period I was desirous of getting the benefits of green tea into my body on a regular basis. I tried adding an afternoon cup into my routine but the extra caffeine later in the day was not conducive to my sleep habit.
I decided on alternate days to trade between tea and coffee. I’m excited to tell you I so look forward to the coffee days! I also find that my coffee supply lasts twice as long! When I wish a tea day was a coffee day I opt for my own blend of chai instead of my standard green Earl Grey . It kind of looks like coffee…
It took about four months to acclimate to the lesser amount of caffeine on those alternate days. But during that time I was detoxifying from a lot of things: coffee, too much alcohol, a bad relationship, noisy, disruptive town life…hard to know how much of the headaches were caffeine related.
Coffee and tea are made in my off grid sitch, not by any unusual means, just old fashioned. No electricity required.
When I was first married, my husband and I would make a pot of really strong coffee, like we did when we went camping; in a stainless steel percolator, with a little glass bubble on the lid. I have fond memories of coffee being made this same way in the house when I was a kid. (I’m sorry I don’t have one of those pots now.) This would be the ultimate way to brew a perfect cup of coffee as the fragrance and steam would fill up my little cabin space.
It felt like a confirmation of sorts to find my favorite local coffee roaster serving up fresh made cups at the local farmers market with the rustic drip method. And this is typically how I make it at home. I boil water from my solar powered well. While waiting for that, I put fresh roasted beans into my wall mounted 100 year old hand-crank grinder. I could plug in the auto grinder, but hey, I’m living off grid. And I love the little cardio workout first thing in the morning. Two handfuls of beans is equal to about 120 cranks. I can hone the degree of grind by turning the center screw to the right to make fine, left for coarse.
I use either bamboo #2 filters, or Melita recycled, or a paper towel works in a pinch.
Sometimes I feel a need for a chewier coffee.
When that mood strikes me I have various options in my off grid situation: cowboy coffee; boil water, throw in two handfuls of roughly ground coffee and boil for at least 4 minutes then strain thru a paper filter. The spoon should stand up in the pot when it’s ready!
The French press is a classic way to make an excellent cup, there is plenty of sediment in the bottom of the cup. But really, cleaning all the parts, is almost more trouble than its worth. Finally there is the little Italian espresso maker. Three parts to it: a basket that holds the very finely ground beans, the base which holds the water, and the top receptacle that screws onto the basket-nested-base is the receptacle for the distillate of the steamed bean. A marvelous contraption!
All these methods can be utilized at your house on the stove top or in the case of a power outage on a single burner camp stove or open fire. I admit that I do cheat a little in my use of a two burner propane fired cook stove for coffee and cooking.
If I were truly off grid, I’d go out and light a camp fire each morning and set my pots to boil on it.
One time when I drove off in a huff breaking up with the boyfriend I ended up at Monture campground. I woke in the morning and found I’d managed to bring water, single burner cook stove, coffee beans but no grinder or means to filter! I am nothing if but resourceful. I found the perfect Ponderosa branch piece and put it to work as my rolling pin,
crushed the beans right there on the picnic table. I used an aluminum can, top cut off, and holes punched in the bottom, lined with a paper towel to filter it. I was pretty pleased with myself. And I had a great cup of coffee! Hell, had there been a milk cow or goat or even a wild sheep near-by I’d have stolen a squirt of milk, would even have pinched a bee for some honey ‘cuz I prefer mine blonde and sweet.
Off grid coffee: fresh boiling water, whole bean, some way to grind the bean, some ingenious method to filter it into your cup. You better hope you can find a cup in that rig of yours, or you’re gonna have to carve one out of the burl of a tree! Did you bring your pocket knife?
Who needs electricity? Forget the auto drip coffee maker with timer. Where’s the magic in that?
A fierce, and unusual storm blew through the mountain town where I do business.
I moved from there out to the country, 45 miles away, a couple years ago when I was evicted from the last affordable apartment. Actually, I refuse to afford what is in the offing anymore, especially when the land and cabin I own are bought and paid for thanks to money my mother left me.
I keep in touch with friends and local happenings through social media sites such as facebook.
After the storm, with its hurricane force winds of 74 mph many large trees were left toppled and so were power lines. Much of the grid went down in a town of 70,000+. This, of course was the main clamor of the morning’s posts.
It took three days for clean up crews to restore everyone’s power, and of course by then most everyone had grown weary of lighting candles rather than walking into a room and flicking a switch for light. We Americans are ever so spoiled.
A major power sub-station was hit by lightning in the country a few nights later, and everyone’s power was out here too.
Having lived this way a couple years, off grid just part of my routine, I realize how unaffected I am by power outages. “Is your power out across the valley?” One friends texts. “No, my power doesn’t go out but with the sunset and only then after having drained my two deep cell storage batteries. I’m so conservative anymore, that’s never happened .”
Outages of all kinds may be a wave of the future in an overpopulated world with already taxed grid, water, and ecosystems.
I never pictured myself living this off grid life. It was a matter of necessity, but it’s become mighty convenient and sustainable. It goads me to be responsible and resourceful.
A series of blog posts will show you how I do it, and how you can too.
This is my power box. I have a very basic and simple system, but then I’m living in a one room shack that measures 77 square feet. This system can be adapted to any size house by adding more solar panels and more batteries to your block of storage.
The silver box on bottom brings (dc/direct current) power direct from the solar panel. It is wired to the two batteries outside which allow some residual storage of sun power. You see, I can charge my electronic devices: tablet, phone, etc. with a cigarette lighter plug in.
The box on top is also wired to the storage batteries. This is a transformer which takes the solar energy stored in the batteries and switches the current from dc/direct current to ac/alternating current) and allows me to plug in a number of things: computer, Ipod stereo, small battery chargers for power tools, and motorcycle. I have limited power use of a printer and even a sewing machine. The dust buster blows the fuse.
This is the battery block. Sun power can be stored in here so the cabin can be electrified past sunset. I keep them off the ground so they don’t drain. And in winter when it gets dark at 4:30 p.m. and I need just that many more hours of light to read and write by, I attach the tractor battery which feeds it a charge as well.
This is the small set of three solar panels. They can be found for sale on line but these were purchased at Harbor Freight along with the two power boxes. With a coupon it’s a pretty good deal. I’ve begun installing a kit on each of my out buildings. This simple system makes a great backup for your grid systems in emergency situations. And I gotta thank this guy for his assistance with my installation.
I don’t even notice when the power goes out. My lights don’t go off, I don’t lose copius amounts of food in the thawing freezer, I can still cook dinner, listen to my radio, grind coffee beans, get hot water, and the only light for the toilet comes from the moon and the stars anyway.
Next week: Making a Good Cup of Off Grid Coffee
This is not something I typically do, but wouldn’t neglect it all-together after researching for the article. Thanks Penny Hoarder!
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I wrote this piece and am grateful to Elephant Journal for posting it this April 2014.