It’s among the most terrifying morning realizations. You begin your morning coffee routine, only to find you’re out of one or more of your tried-and-true ingredients. Filters, creamer, sugar, flavor syrup - they’re the things we never need, until we really need them. Fortunately, a little ingenuity with some common household items can help save the day.
What to do if you’re out of coffee filters
You’ve probably heard that paper towels can suffice for coffee filters in a pinch, but be careful. First, never use brown paper towels or napkins, and avoid using any with designs on them. Next, keep in mind that the paper towel absorption game these days is strong. They’re designed to trap and hold water, not let it through. So, your brew is likely to take a little longer - especially if you have a “quilted” roll - as the water struggles to make its way through the grounds and into the carafe. Not only does this increase the likelihood that the water may back up and spill out of the maker, but your coffee may be over-extracted and bitter as a result.
If you have some on hand, the better bet is to go with cheesecloth as a makeshift coffee filter. Fold it over once and place it in the basket. Of course, paper towels work, but they’re not without their drawbacks.
What to do if you’re out of creamer
Half and half, the dairy product heavier than whole milk but lighter than cream, has long been a coffee staple. It adds just enough body, richness, and a subtle touch of sweetness to coffee, and finding an apples-to-apples substitute is difficult. Most people settle for milk, even if they only have 2% or skim on hand. The difference is noticeable.
If you’re up for trying something different, you might like butter in your coffee. It definitely has all the rich flavor of half and half, and can actually add some nutritional benefits to your brew.
Others have substituted Cool Whip. Obviously, this would add a considerable level of sweetness to the cup, but it may be a welcome change of pace from your routine, especially if you’re the kind who adds sweetener to your coffee in the first place.
What to do if you’re out of sugar
Speaking of, the odds that you’ll run out of all forms of sweetener in your house are pretty slim, but it does happen. When there’s no sugar, Truvia, Sweet-n-Low, etc. in the pantry, you might find solace in your standard clover honey. Honey, for what it’s worth, is infinitely healthier than sugar and arguably more so than artificial sweeteners. And, it never goes bad. Honey that’s been in the cupboard a while needs only a warm up to loosen it and make it ready for consumption once again.
What to do if you’re out of flavor syrup
So your Torani vanilla bean is out. Don’t panic. Try this alternative: melt a couple tablespoons of butter some maple syrup (the real stuff, not Mrs. Butterworth’s) in a bowl. Mix it into your cup of brewed coffee with a hand blender. The result is a steaming hot cup of butterscotch coffee. You probably won’t go back to the syrups.
Or, if you’re the plan-ahead type, there are plenty of great recipes for DIY flavor syrups.Of course, a lot of us will simply hit up the Starbucks on the way into the office if we can’t brew at home. But in the rare instances that’s not an option, it’s nice to know that being out of your morning coffee staples doesn’t mean you have to be out of luck.