How to Make Coffee in the Microwave (no coffee maker needed!)

how to make coffee in the microwave

Why would you want to know how to make coffee in the microwave? There are any number of reasons, my friend. Maybe your beloved coffee maker just went kaput and you need a caffeine fix NOW. Or, you’re in a location that lacks coffee brewing gear.

simple ways to make coffee in the microwave

You might be feeling a little lazy at the moment and want to conjure up a cup of joe without putting too much effort into the process. No worries. We’ve got you covered.

It’s always possible to brew a tasty cup of coffee at home, and minimal ingredients are required: ground coffee and water. Well, a microwave is also an essential element in this simple how-to article, so we’ll assume you’ve got one in the kitchen, ready and waiting.

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The Fundamentals of Making Coffee

the fundamentals of making coffee

Let’s review the basics of brewing a good cup of coffee. Making coffee is quite simple, and only a few essentials and simple steps are needed:

  1. Ground coffee (freshly ground is best)
  2. Heated water (filtered is the way to go)
  3. Brewing/steeping time (this is where the magic happens)
  • There are so many different roasts and blends of coffee, and we all have our preferences. So the specific roast that you select (light, medium, dark) is really up to you. If you are a newbie to making and drinking coffee, a medium roast is a good place to start.
  • The size of the grind will make a difference, and for the absolute best tasting java, grinding the whole coffee beans just prior to brewing, no matter the method, is always my recommendation. By the way, your brewing method will determine the size of the coffee grind.
  • The ideal water temperature for brewing just about any method is 195 degrees to 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • When the heated water first comes into contact with the coffee grounds, it should be allowed to bloom for about 30 to 45 seconds, allowing the gases to escape and create the flavor that we crave.
  • Depending on the brewing method, the grounds may steep in the water, the water may pass slowly through the grounds, or be forced through at a high temperature.

That is a very simplistic way of describing how to make coffee, but it works.

So let’s take those basic principles and apply them to learning how to make coffee in the microwave, because that’s what you really want to know. 🙂

Using a Microwave to Heat Water

When making coffee in the microwave, you’ll be heating the water first, so there is something you need to know about that process. Heating water in a microwave is not the same as heating water on the stove. Here’s why.

When water is heated on the stovetop, there are two things happening simultaneously. The heat transfer from the stove to the pot is being conducted into the water. Simultaneously, evaporation of steam is occurring, which helps maintain a boiling effect inside of that vessel.

When you place your vessel of water in a microwave, heat is being transferred to the water to raise its temperature, but not enough to create steam. You don’t see the usual signs of boiling like you would on the stove top. And, there may be pockets of hot water that are heated more than others.

To avoid overheating your water in the microwave, you can do this:

  1. Choose a microwave-safe mug. 
  2. If possible, place a non-metallic object in the coffee mug. This could be a chopstick or popsicle stick, which will prevent the water from superheating.
  3. Heat in short intervals. Stir after each 1-minute interval until the water has come to an almost-boil. This is particularly important if you do not have a non-metallic object to place into the coffee mug.
  4. Tap the side of the mug to check for superheating. Tapping the side of the mug disturbs the water molecules and releases trapped heat.
  5. Carefully remove the mug. Use hot pads to avoid burning.

How to Make Coffee in the Microwave

using a microwave to make cofee
Retro Style Microwavevery cool

Total time: approx 8 min.

1 | Use the right type of coffee mug

First, make sure your coffee mug is microwave-safe.

2 | Prepare the coffee

Then, either grind your whole bean coffee medium coarse, or use your pre-ground coffee. Try to avoid using coffee that is very finely ground as it may result in a over-extracted cup of coffee.

3 | Use enough ground coffee

Use two tablespoons of ground coffee for each 6 ounces of water to start; more if you like your coffee strong.

5 | Heat the water

Now, pour your filtered water (always use filtered) into the microwave-safe coffee mug and heat it as noted above for at least two minutes. Modify the heating time to your specific appliance if needed.

6 | Remove the mug from the microwave

Take the heated mug out of the microwave very carefully. Let the hot water sit for about 30 seconds.

7 | Stir in the coffee

Stir in the ground coffee and let it sit and brew for a few minutes. The coffee will settle to the bottom of the coffee mug as it steeps.

8 | Pour the brewed coffee into another mug

When the coffee is ready, carefully pour the brew into another coffee cup, leaving the coffee grounds at the bottom of the brewing mug. If you have a strainer and the coffee grounds are medium-coarse, it may work quite well, too.

9 | Add cream or sugar if desired

If you fancy, add cream and/or sugar to your brew. I’m a fan of black coffee, but we all have our own preferences!

10 | Enjoy!

Now enjoy your brewed coffee…the most important step!

Use a Coffee Filter and the Microwave to Make Coffee

If you have a coffee filter and want to make coffee in the microwave, you can create a simple brewing bag to steep your cup of coffee.

Here’s how:

Take your coffee filter and fold it until it can be used as a small pouch. It’s simple to do – just fold until you have small cone-shaped filter that can fit into a coffee mug.

For example, a standard drip coffee filter can be folded in half, then in half again so it forms a V-shape. A filter that is used in a pour over dripper can simply be folded in half to create a mug-sized filter.

It will look something like this (if you really need to MacGyver the filter portion, check out these coffee filter alternatives):

how to make a filter to use with microwave coffee
  • Now, follow the instructions above for heating your water in a coffee mug.
  • Then, take your little filter, put 2 tablespoons of coffee in it (or the amount you prefer), fold over the top and use a binder clip to hold the coffee in. Make sure that the clip secures all of the opening or the grounds will float out.
  • Place the filter into the coffee mug and let it steep for a few minutes.
  • Start with a 4 minute steep time and adjust accordingly based on how strong you like your coffee. I found that it took about 4 minutes to get my cup of coffee strong enough.
  • Discard the filter bag and enjoy your cup of joe!

How to Froth Milk in the Microwave

how to froth milk in the microwave

If you’re going to use the microwave to make your cup of joe, why not use it again to froth your milk? It is very simple and requires only your handy microwave, a mason jar with a lid, and of course your milk. Those in the know recommend either 2 percent or nonfat milk, but it should work with any kind of milk.

Here’s how to froth your milk in the microwave:

  • First, pour your milk into the jar, screw on the lid, and shake it well until the milk starts to froth.
  • Remove the lid (this is important!) and pop it into the microwave for about 30 seconds.
  • That’s it! Use your frothed milk right away or the foam may start to collapse.

More Easy Ways to Make a Cup of Coffee

French press and pour over coffee are easy brewing methods

If you’re willing to put in just a little bit of time and effort, as well as invest a few dollars into a simple piece of coffee gear, you can brew a fantastic cup of java. Here are a couple of suggestions:

Pour Over Coffee

This is a wonderful way to brew a fresh, crisp, clean cup of coffee for one or two people. It is my go-to when I want to simply enjoy the flavor and aroma of the java.

There are different types of coffee drippers. Some are made from ceramic, others are glass, some are plastic. They all use the same principle, though: hot water is slowly poured over ground coffee that has been placed in a filter, and it drips through a small opening in the bottom of the dripper into your coffee cup.

pour over coffee vs french press

To brew a cup of coffee using a pour over dripper, you’ll need:

  • the dripper
  • filters that fit the type of dripper you have
  • ground coffee, preferably freshly ground to a medium coarseness
  • hot water, heated to about 200 degrees
  • a coffee cup

Learn more about how to make a cup of coffee using the pour over method.

French Press Coffee

An elegant, kind of cool way to prepare a rich cup of coffee (impress your friends), French press is very simple, only requires the press (no filter needed because it is built into top of the press), and it is easy on the budget. You can make a single cup, or several cups of coffee depending upon the size of the press.

how to make espresso coffee with a french press

To brew a cup of coffee using a French press, you’ll need:

  • the French press
  • coarse ground coffee
  • hot water, heated to about 200 degrees
  • a coffee mug

Learn how to make coffee using a French press

the coffee files

Sum It Up: How to Make Coffee in the Microwave

So there you have it, a simple how to make coffee in the microwave explanation. It may not be the method that you’ll use every day, but when you need a cup of joe and the resources are limited, it will get you to the goal!