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The Best Way To Make Coffee In An RV – Without Electricity!

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This post has been sitting in my idea bin for over a year now, continuously demoted in favor of other topics. But then yesterday we bumped into some fellow Airstreamers staying in the same northern New Mexico RV park as us who were facing a bit of a coffee catastrophe. Only a few days into their week-long stay, the voltage coming out of their electrical pedestal dropped below safe levels, effectively leaving them without power. That meant no air conditioning, no microwave, and—most traumatic of all—the prospect of no morning coffee. 😱 Why bother even getting out of bed?

We’ve favored a non-electrical method of making coffee ever since we first got our Airstream, but not because we feared potential electrical problems at RV parks. Rather, we knew there would be days without electricity depending on where we stayed for the night. Harvest Hosts, for one example, don’t normally have electrical hookups. We didn’t want to carry two coffee appliances, one for when we had electricity and another for when we didn’t. We just wanted one that could be used regardless of our electrical circumstances. Our neighbor’s unfortunate situation was yet another good reason to prefer a coffee making protocol that isn’t dependent on the juice.

Our Method

Spoiler alert: there’s nothing Earth-shattering about our method. It’s just a good, old-fashioned pour-over technique. There are tons of different pour-over coffee makers available on the market to suit just about anyone’s particular fancy. If our setup doesn’t strike you as The Best Thing Ever™️, just know there are many, many other non-electrical options that might suit you better. With all that said, here’s what we do.

1. Big Joe Coffee Maker

Big Joe Large Pour Over Coffee Maker w/ 50 Filters
Brews large batch quantities of barista-quality, pour over coffee – up to 2.2 liters or 75 ounces. Perfect for home, work, travel, camping, RVing, hiking, hunting, boating, dorm rooms, brunches, and more. The durable, lightweight, BPA-free, food-grade plastic makes it perfect for the outdoors and fits easily in backpacks and gear bags.

Big Joe has two important qualities that we love. First, as the name implies, it’s BIG. It can brew up to 75 ounces of coffee at a time. While we normally only brew about 40 ounces, I really like having the ability to brew nearly twice that much in a single go—just in case we have some thirsty friends or family in the vicinity. The other thing I love about the Big Joe is that it’s unbreakable. It’s thick, strong plastic. So it doesn’t matter how roughly we handle it or how much it’s jostled around during travel, there’s zero risk of it breaking or cracking.

2. 40oz Stanley Thermos

Stanley Classic Vacuum Insulated Wide Mouth Bottle
Our Stanley Classic Vacuum Bottle is made with superior insulation that keeps liquids (soup, coffee, tea) hot or cold drinks cool for up to 24 hours. This is an ideal bottle to throw into your truck, work bag or travel with it. It is designed with a leak-resistant lid, so you can put it in your backpack without worrying about any spills. The wide mouth of the thermos helps with easy pouring.

We brew our coffee directly into one of these Stanley thermoses. It keeps it hot for hours, which is great because Jill often won’t take her cup until several hours after I’ve gobbled down my first 20 ounces. Compared to a normal glass coffee carafe, a stainless steel thermos is basically immune from cracking or other damage that could suddenly interrupt your ability to produce everyone’s favorite morning beverage. (There are only two types of people: those who think coffee is the best morning beverage, and those who are wrong. 🫢) Plus, storing this thing is a synch. We just throw it in a bin in the cabinet above the sink with the other coffee paraphernalia.

Note that there’s nothing particularly special about this specific thermos. There’s a huge variety of different models available on Amazon. Any one of them will do as long as it has your desired capacity. I picked ours mostly because it reminded me of one my grandparents used to have when I was a kid.

3. 40oz Gooseneck Stovetop Kettle

Coffee Gator Gooseneck Kettle with Thermometer, 40 oz
Make the perfect cup of coffee with every pour. Crafted from high-quality stainless steel with a goose neck spout for a steady water flow, our BPA-Free kettle for pour over coffee works on all stovetops. Designed for practicality, our stovetop and induction kettle has an elongated spout for precise water flow, and an ergonomic cool-touch handle to protect you from the heat.

A gooseneck kettle is essential here. If you’ve never used one before, I’m telling ya, you’re missing out. Other spouts just dump water out like a violent waterfall, sputtering and splattering everywhere. Gooseneck spouts produce a steady stream of water, controlled and civilized, like one of those jumping jet fountains you see at fancy hotels. Once again, there’s nothing particularly special about this exact model. You’ll find a large variety of similar gooseneck kettles available on Amazon. There’s just a few key things you should look for when shopping: your desired capacity, a built-in thermometer, and—of course—it should heat by way of your stovetop, not an electrical outlet.

I wish these kettles could whistle when ready, but gooseneck spouts and steam whistles are apparently mutually exclusive features. Unfortunately, that means you can’t put them on the stove and walk away without risking water bubbling out when it starts boiling.

Did he say ‘boiling’??

Indeed I did, astute coffee nerd. I know ideally you’re not supposed to use boiling water for brewing coffee, but I’ve never noticed a difference. However, for those to whom it is important to use water within a specific temperature range, you’re in luck. The kettle featured above includes a thermometer that highlights the established ‘ideal’ temperature range for coffee. I can’t attest to its accuracy, but it’s there for those interested.

4. OXO Creamer Dispenser

For years I mocked anyone who ‘polluted’ their coffee with the likes of sugar or creamer. Bleh! Then a few Christmases ago I spotted some leftover heavy whipping cream right as I was pouring myself a cup of coffee. I don’t know what came over me, but the next thing I knew I was dropping a few plops of cream into my coffee. Just for kicks, I told myself. To see what it was like after all these years of taking it black and being quite snooty about it.

Well. What can I say? The moment that delicious, creamy concoction passed my lips and swept over my tongue, I knew I was a goner. It reminded me of my first turkey sandwich after four years of vegetarianism. It was the sort of culinary nirvana that one can only achieve following years of dedicated deprivation. I was instantly a changed man, unable to return to black coffee ever again. Unless we’re out of cream. Then I’ll make an exception. But only then. Who knows, maybe pigs will fly and sugar will be next.

Anyway, I hate how those little cartons of creamer get all crudded up after a few days of use, so I recently bought one of these glass dispensers. Pretty happy with it so far. Looks nice, pours well. That said, the jury’s still out on whether the lid will stay firmly shut while traversing roads that bounce you around like popcorn in a popper. I’ll add an update on that front after a another thousand miles or so of use.

OXO Good Grips Glass Creamer
  • Drip-free spout for a clean, controlled pour
  • Two silicone seals keep cream or milk fresh
  • 12 oz. capacity
  • Hand wash only
  • BPA free

A 52oz Upgrade?

I learned a few things while writing this post. First, my new creamer dispenser is apparently not dishwasher safe. Whoops! (It seems fine, but won’t do that again.) Second, in the time since we bought our kettle, the manufacturer has started selling a 52 ounce version! This was an exciting find because large capacity, non-electric gooseneck kettles don’t seem to be very common and lately we’ve been wanting just a biiit more coffee in the mornings. So in the course of writing this up we decided it might be time for an upgrade. If you’re in the market, you might want to jump straight to the bigger kettle now!

Coffee Gator Gooseneck Kettle with Thermometer, 52 oz
Engineered in high-quality stainless steel with a goose neck spout for a steady water flow, our goose necked kettle works on any stove top – from induction, to ceramic, to electric! Take the guesswork out of brewing at the optimal temperatures with our easy-to-read thermometer.

Happy Brews!

And in case you’re wondering: Yes, the kitchen counter in our Airstream is always as clean as it is in the video above. Always. 😬

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Comments (2):

  1. Rose

    September 4, 2023 at 8:15 pm

    A French Press is also a great alternative to an electric coffee maker. I have one made of metal so no fear of it being broken. They come in lots of different sizes and very easy—basic starter recipe is: add fresh coarse ground coffee beans (3-4 tablespoons for about 12-16 oz, add boiling water and let sit with lid on and plunger up for about 4 minutes). Then plunge and pour coffee. You can experiment with the amount of ground coffee to water ratio to time steeped depending how strong you like your coffee. Of course roast level of coffee beans makes a huge difference. Enjoy! Easy storage and clean up too!

    • Nick

      September 4, 2023 at 8:53 pm

      Hey Rose! A French press is definitely another good, non-electric alternative. The only thing I never liked about them is the messy clean up. With the Big Joe, it’s so easy to dump the clump of used grounds directly into the trash right along with the filter, then give it a rinse and you’re done. How do you get all the grounds out of the bottom of the French press without making it a production? (And without letting too many slip down the drain?) Maybe I’ve been doing it wrong…


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