One Cup Coffee Brewing, Cheap (Free!) and Easy!




Introduction: One Cup Coffee Brewing, Cheap (Free!) and Easy!

At my work we have a Mr Coffee, and it works great. We've also got a $5,000 espresso machine, it too, works great. Sometimes though, I just want one damn cup of drop brew coffee. Late in the afternoon, when the Mr Coffee has gotten to the scary 6 hour mark, or like these past two weeks, when I've been the only coffee drinker around, it's just not worth brewing a whole pot.

Sure sure, they make single cup brewers, as well as over the mug doodads that do exactly this. This, however, was FREE, made of stuff sitting around. Figured I would share. This is my first instructable, be gentle with me.

Coffee Mug
Two toss-away coffee cups
Paper coffee filter (basket type is probably easier to use than the "wedge" style ones
Coffee (whatever sort you'd use to brew drip coffee, in my case, Folgers is what we keep in the cupboard, and since this is all about being cheap, it'll do)
Rubber band or paperclips
HOT water (a little more water than you want of a final volume of coffee)
Knife or other cutting instrument

Step 1: Step One:

Enter the empty coffee mug. So sad. So lonely. So without purpose. Not to mention you, also without coffee!

Step 2: Step Two:

Here we see ye olde toss away coffee cup. We keep these around for when people stop by the office so we don't have to wash up after them. Flip it upside down and cut out the bottom. I used a folding box cutter, you use whatever works for you.

Step 3: Step Three:

Take the filter, and poke into a vaguely cone shape. Stuff that into the bottom of the toss-away cup, and fold about 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch over the lip. Use a rubber band, or paperclips, or whatever, to secure this in place. You HAVE to secure it in place, or you'll just make a mess later. Also, the slight point in the filter is important, otherwise the brewing coffee will run down the side of the toss-away cup, and generally all over the counter as it flows over the edge of the mug instead of /into/ the mug. Found this out the hard way.

Step 4: Step Four:

Put in whatever quantity of coffee grounds you would use for a single cup. This might take some experimentation. I use about two tablespoons. If it's a little strong you can always dilute a little.

Step 5: Step Five:

Carefully prop the loaded toss-away cup / filter on top of your empty mug. Our toss-away cups are spot on for my mug. You mileage my vary. I've tried to come up with a good way to secure this more, but nothing great's come to mind yet. Honestly. I only had one wipeout using this method, and I sneezed as I was pouring. Just try not to be an oaf on the next step and you should be fine.

Step 6: Step Six:

CAREFUL! BOILING WATER! I use water from the espresso machine (it's got a button and a spout for just water. Comes out screaming hot). You could nuke water, use a kettle, whatever. It's important that you have a bit more water than you want coffee and it should be pretty hot. Slowly and carefully pour the hot water into the top of the device, until it's just about to the rim. It should drip brew pretty quickly, actually. As it empties out, add more of the water until you've added it all. Revel in the lovely smell of fresh brewing coffee.

Step 7: Step Seven:

Voila! Coffee! Fresh brewed, and only enough for you, so no sharing necessary! Be careful! Since this brews so fast it'll likely be quite a bit hotter than you're normally used to (depending, of course, on the water you used). Cream and sugar as you like (or don't) and enjoy!

All told, I can fire up a cuppa like this in a minute or two. Beats the heck out of waiting for the machine, plus this way I don't throw away most of a pot of coffee.



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    66 Discussions

    Although I commend you for your ingenuity, Melitta makes a Pour-Over 1-Cup Brew Cone, designed to be set on top of a mug or cup. They use Melitta #1 disposable paper filters, into which one would put a tablespoon or two of ground coffee and then slowly pour boiling water over it. These gadgets have been around for decades, but the improved version has a cut-away section near the bottom, so one can see into the mug to prevent over-filling. If I were working in an office, I'd keep one of these in my desk drawer.

    Not being much of a coffee connoisseur, in the absence of proper paper coffee filters, I would risk using a piece of paper towel. One can also buy "permanent" filters in various sizes, although I'm not sure if anyone makes one equivalent to the Melitta #1 paper filter. Cleaning permanent coffee filters can be a messy undertaking, so, for convenience at work, disposable paper filters that contain the wet grounds is the best way to go.

    1 reply

    Thanks for the comment! And definitely. While I didn't specifically call out the brand, I did mention the existence of such things in my introductory remarks, too. This had the advantage of being made for free from on-hand materials at the time. The added bonus being that it also killed a few minutes of mid-afternoon boredom at work.


    3 years ago

    I just use something called t-Saks made for loose leaf tea. I just put in 1 tablespoon per 6 oz water. You can buy them online.

    1 reply

    Thanks for the tip, but it would help if you'd spell the name of the
    product correctly to give us a fighting chance of finding it with a
    search engine. Search for "T Sac Tea Filter Bags". These single-use
    natural paper filter bags are made in Germany and distributed in the
    U.S. by Harold Import Company, Inc. According to the description at, they're made in four sizes, although only the
    #1 and #2 size are shown on their site.

    Very nice. I love when someone puts up a real world hack. Since I'm not addicted to Ardino or 3D printing.

    I have a hot water tank and tap for my kitchen sink. Something like this will work good enough to make a cup of brewed coffee. You have given me ideas. If I make something, I will put it here. Thanks!

    Great idea, I was bored and wanted to search and see if anyone was brewing the same, cheap way I was. After my coffee pot broke, then my french press which I freaking enjoyed until it also broke when banging out the coffee grounds and tapped the canister too hard. Couldn't stand being without coffee for a morning and didn't want to go make another purchase. My solution... had a bunch of coffee filters left over from my coffee machine days and I drink coffee from a Einstien's coffee mug (~2 cups). My steps 1) Boil water. 2) Prep mug by slightly tucking in filter into the mug and add 4-tablespoons of choice coffee (mine is currently italian roast). Adjust the filter in/out of the mug so the top of the coffee grounds sits ~1/4" below the rim of the mug. Flourish the filter out and over the edge of the mug. I didn't have any rubber bands handy for a collar to hold the filter around the mug so I ended up cutting a strip of velcro that acts as a collar to secure the filter. 3) Pour boiling water into either another mug or measuring cup so your not pouring directly from a hot pot. 4) slowly pour water over coffee grounds. You'll know when to stop because the water will stop settling through the grounds where you can't add anymore. Simply and carefully remove filter collar, remove filter with grounds in it and DONE!. Great tasting coffee. No grounds wasted, no brewing a full pot for a mug of coffee, and no cleanup. Seems like alot of work but it really is simple and in lament terms. Boil water, add filter over mug and secure, add grounds and pour hot water over it.

    This is very clever. Just be sure that the cup you use is designed for hot liquids and is not wax-coated, otherwise it will melt and you will have waxy coffee.

    Not that anyone asked, but if you see that ceramic coffee mug? If you fill it with boiling water right after Step 1, then do Steps 2-4, and pour the water out just before Step 5, you will be brewing your coffee into a nice hot coffee mug, which will keep your coffee warm for that much longer.
    (I actually use this method every morning, except that I lay the basket from an old coffee machine [with a filter in it] on top of my mug rather than this clever disposable cup rig.)

    3 replies

    Great tip, actually. At the place where I made this instrucable the espresso machine had a heating / drying rack for cups, so the mugs were nice and toasty, though I also tend to drink my coffee fast enough that cool down never was an issue, hehe.

    Wait . . . there's such a thing as a heating rack for coffee mugs? And nobody told me?
    Thank you, good sir.

    Well, it /was/ a $6000+ fancy pants espresso machine. The heating / drying rack was just a metal rack over top of the boiler. Ever notice how some coffee shops stack the teeny espresso cups on top of the machine?

    Not that anyone asked, but if you see that ceramic coffee mug? If you fill it with boiling water right after Step 1, then do Steps 2-4, and pour the water out just before Step 5, you will be brewing your coffee into a nice hot coffee mug, which will keep your coffee warm for that much longer.
    (I actually use this method every morning, except that I lay the basket from an old coffee machine [with a filter in it] on top of my mug rather than this clever disposable cup rig.)

    Great ible. I'll have to give this a spin. One question though: Do the words "$5000 Espresso Machine" and "Folgers" really belong in the same environment? Sacrilegious I say. Just down right sacrilegious.

    1 reply

    Thanks! And yeah, I know. The best part being that there's a high end conical grinder right next to the espresso machine that was used for locally roasted beans, so it's not like we couldn't wrangle something decent for the non-espresso coffee. But hey, it wasn't my dime paying for it.

    I just made this at home. Being single I didnt want a brewer. I want a small cup of coffee that doesn't taste like acid. Which a lot of instant coffees do. This was so smooth!! The coffee and the simple away to make it. Thanks.

    1 reply

    Thanks! Glad to see that this 'able is still helping folks out. I eventually just ended up getting a small french press, but I've revisited this method a few times when away from home. It's quick, easy, and cheap.

    was looking around and came across this. my question is why bother wasting a cup and cutting and all that when you can just put the filter over the mug itself and secure with the rubber bands.
    i think youll save the time cutting and wont waste a cup either

    Nice! Worked well. Thanks.

    I made 2 improvements:

    1. Avoid the balancing act: cut the end of the paper cup that sits on the mug shorter, until the diameter is small enough so it acutally goes a little INSIDE the mug. This works probably on most coffee mugs, especially if it flares open a little wider at the top.

    2. instead of rubber bands, try 2 small binder clips - faster and easier.

    I've heard Tea is better for the environment (less water to produce), than coffee. I inherited to canister of coffee, so this is how I'll use it up. But if you're sticking with coffee, why not use a bit of reusable cloth, like a handkerchief, like some people have suggested, and skip the filters.

    1 reply

    Tea may be better for the environment, but for those who live for coffee, the environment and all the humans on it are most likely safer if we stick to coffee...

    I've made my own 'coffee bags' ahead of time, and they work alright, although I don't ever know how much extra room to allow for grounds expansion. It's a guessing game. A cloth that would work well would have to be tight enough weave to prevent the grounds/fine powdery residue from seeping through, and it should be a dark color - visual aesthetics.