Making Ranger Coffee




Be warned: coffee snobs, avert thine eyes now. For what follows may cause you to gag or even smash your computer in disgust with me.

With that out of the way, I set to show you the method for making what has been called Ranger or Marine coffee. I was neither, but I was in the army and we did (unfortunately) drink this stuff. Just dont call it Air Force coffee. (They have personal baristas that bring them fresh starbucks and bagels every morning)

The army even features this in a cadence:
"They say that in the army, the coffee's mighty fine
It looks like muddy water, and tastes like turpentine."

Sayings like that dont just appear out of thin air. This one has its roots well based in reality.

Step 1: Coffee

Choose coffee:

This should be the cheapest, nastiest stuff you can find. (should make folgers look expensive)

Must absolutely be stale, none of that uppity whole bean stuff that you need to grind yourself. open the bag and leave it sitting out for a while.

Step 2: Filters


If you use a paper filter, you're wrong. This should be a paper towel at best. Realistically, you should use a sock or t-shirt (or even underwear) cut to approximate size of filter. 

The cotton blend filter should be dirty for authenticity along with having a hole in it somewhere to allow copious amounts of coffee grounds to seep into the carafe. If a soiled filter isnt available, running a few dozen pots of coffee through it should do the trick.

Step 3: Maker

No fancy presses, espresso makers, keurig devices. Just a good 'ol mr coffee. Or a black n decker in my case.

Step 4: Brew

Brew your coffee just like you normally would

Step 5: Re-brew

Now the twist: take that coffee you just brew, pour it back into the resevoir, dump out the old coffee grounds, put fresh(ish) in, and brew it again. 

You read that correctly, make coffee, with coffee. what you get should be dark, murky, and taste horrible. The smell should burn your nose and eyes. Just dont spill it on any painted surface unless you plan on repainting. But if it doesnt wake you up, you are most certainly a zombie.

Add cream and sugar to taste and enjoy.



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    21 Discussions


    1 year ago

    You are right about what Marine/Ranger Coffee should taste like.As a Marine 1956-1962 the only kind of other coffee that could get close to it was "Minnow Bucket Coffee" .Coffee that is cooked in a used minnow bucket with creek water by your drunk uncle that measured the coffee grounds by shaking the coffee can into the bucket along with maybe a few forgotten minnows along with the grounds.Served bubbling ,scolding hot.Burnt lips are a must.


    6 years ago on Step 5

    Us in the field artillery world call this TOC coffee. Officer coffee in other words. Us NCOs just heat water on the engine block and add old grounds to the water. Great instructable and funny cause its true.


    6 years ago on Step 5

    official 1970s USAF coffee:

    1 x industrial-size percolator (scrubbed clean, please)
    1x fill water for above percolator
    1x pound Folger's or Maxwell House (whichever is cheaper at the BX)
    1x white paper towel
    1x lockback knife model 110 Folding Hunter
    1x Airman, female, 18 years old, with attitude

    Step one: dump out the coffee that's been in there for the last week.
    Scrub the basket, stem, inside of the lid and inside of the percolator thoroughly.

    Line the percolator basket with a white paper towel folded into thirds, so that 1/3 sticks up all around the center stem and 1/3 sticks up all around the outer rim

    Pour the pound of coffee into the paper towel, and tuck the edges in so that the grounds are covered and sealed into the paper (if you have paper filters you can substitute 2 each, 1 under and 1 over the coffee grounds).

    Plug the coffeemaker in and push the "on" button.

    Equip the airman with fingernails needing cleaning and the model 110 knife.
    Lean said airman against the table where the coffee brews until the coffee is done. Once the "ready to serve" light turns red, have the airman announce "Coffee's ready" and clean the fingernails, ostentatiously, with the knife blade, while drinkers serve themselves.

    Do not add salt to the coffee grounds.

    The purpose of the airman having the knife is to prevent old NCOs from harassing the person who made the coffee about "ruining the coffeepot when you washed it!"

    This will make approximately six servings of coffee.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    You know your coffee is ready to drink when it starts crawling over the side of the pot.

    Our Mess Sergeant used to keep crackers in the sugar dispensers to keep it from lumping up from humidity.

    Just don't add salt to it like the Navy does. Worst cup of coffee I've ever had...


    7 years ago on Step 5

    OK - one coffee cup/ one styrofaom bowl/ and a filter paper/cloth or paper towel or napkin if ya got it / dark roast coffee,please / and a pot full of boiling campfire water.

    make slits in the bottom of the styrofoam bowl in a circle not bigger than the cup lip
    put in a filter of some sort see above sit on top of the cup add coffee pour water into the bowl of coffee - let drip .

    for group coffee make a filter over a larger / taller container .

    if you only have a glass container put a big metal knife, spoon or something in it to help absorb heat so it won't crack.

    PS: only use undies if they are all cotton. Tee shirts work great.


    7 years ago on Step 5

    Gosh, Ranger--we used to just boil a quart of water with a cup of cheap ground coffee for a couple of hours...You fellows are a lot more refined than I would have expected...I mean sometimes we would throw in an eggshell for some reason I never understood, but that underwear filter thing is a bit precious, don't you think? ;)
    Really enjoyed your instructable,
    Ol' Miz Womack

    the combination of high levels of testosterone and sexual deprivation are what makes us ferocious. the caffeine is merely an enabler.


    The verse I remember was:

    The girls at the dances, they say are mighty fine,
    Most are over 60, the rest are under nine.

    They say that women in the army are mighty fine
    they look like philis diller and walk like franenstein!
    My dad taught me that cadance back in the '70'

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    They say that in the army, the chow is mighty fine.
    The chicken jumped off the table, and started marking time

    I just read this, and out of laziness I re-used my old grounds, and then ran it a second time, and god is this stuff nasty tasting..

    1 reply

    really, that is the most common way i do this. re-brewing with the same grounds. it usually comes about when i realize too late that I dont have enough grounds to do a full pot to my liking, so ill just brew and re-brew to get the strength up there. this method is only for the most dire of situations


    8 years ago on Step 5

    Wow, looks like the coffee we had every night {via percolator} at the shop when I was in the Air Force. One of the guys spilled the pot on the floor and stripped it to the bare tile instantly! We spent the rest of the night stripping the rest of the floor and waxing it before inspection the next morning.

    For those of you that don't know what a percolator coffee pot is - it takes the coffee in the pot and pumps it back up into the grounds basket. It will keep doing this until you open it and take the basket and the pipe out. By morning the coffee will peel the paint off of a radar dome! Man, I miss that old percolator. It could make the hottest, blackest coffee imaginable.

    Fond memories!

    Thanks for the reminder!

    1 reply

    8 years ago on Step 5

    Fave'd love ranger coffee . I drank a cup back in 96 and I am still running in circles.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I wasn't a Ranger, but I was in the Army. I always thought Ranger coffee went like this...

    1. Tear open instant coffee pack from an MRE
    2. Pour instant coffee into mouth.
    3. Wash it down with a swig from the canteen.