Keep the caffeine train going – how to have coffee when Eskom’s turned the power off


load shedding coffeeLook, there are a few things that keep a country, a workplace, a household going. We’re not talking about love or togetherness or teamwork. No, no, no, we’re talking about coffee, the brown substance without which nothing gets done. The acceptable way to drug yourself during the day. The cause of an entire global industry revolving around hot water. The… okay, you get the point.

But it’s hard to have coffee when you’ve woken up to load shedding Stage Whatever-it-is-this-week, which means it’s hard to get your brain out of neutral and focused on your job. Because you feel the urge to gut any human being in range without the magical go-fast bean in your brain. Right? Well, if you’re feeling the pinch thanks to Eskom, we’ve got a few ways you can create coffee when there’s no electricity around to do it for you.

Fire at will

The first, and most obvious, method of coffee creation is one your distant ancestors created way back when electricity was only used to kill people standing in open fields who somehow managed to anger the gods – fire. Which, if you think about it, was probably the first serious technological innovation (after the rock).

Flames will get you your brew. All you need is a lighter, some wood, and a place to connect the two. You don’t even need a coffee pot, just a dishtowel, an empty coffee tin and some water and you can create coffee anywhere – though the security guards at Sandton City will probably complain if you try it there. Flame-brewed coffee is probably best reserved for evenings, where you can also throw some meat on the coals, or for weekends. It’s cheap, but time-consuming and labour-intensive.

A case of gas

Open flame is a popular method but lugging around wood and coal is so very… lumberjacky, and you forgot your shirt in the Canada wilderness. We get it. It happens. If you’re one of those fancy people, you’ve probably got a gas range at home and didn’t even bother clicking on this article. You’re too busy sipping on your coffee.

But those with a) camping gear in the garage and/or b) a gas heater in their homes already have most of the ingredients to brew a pot of coffee on short notice without any electricity. All you need is a gas bottle (R490 for a 3kg Cadac bottle,, the correct fitting (R145 for a cooker top, and a camping kettle (R300 for a Natural Instincts stainless steel kettle, You can also combine your gas bottle and fitting for R650 ( if you don’t feel like shopping around. For extra authenticity, grab yourself a set of ceramic mugs (R70 each, and you can gather the entire family around a central point sipping warm liquid while looking at the sunrise. Just like the obnoxious TV ads.

Be Batman

Batman doesn’t have to work. Not really. And not just because Bruce Wayne has a metric buttload of cash. It’s because he’s already put in the hours, and he’s prepared for whatever comes his way. When whatever’s going down goes down, he’s ready because he did the work ages ago. All he needs to do is react, calmly and without fuss. Always be Batman.

You can do this by boiling your kettle before the power goes out. Heck, you can even do it the night before, if you’re sure of your equipment. This method does require a little equipment. What’s Batman without his utility belt, after all? Grab yourself a hefty-sized thermos (like the very popular Stanley 1.9l vacuum growler, R1400, and you’ll have enough hot water to escape from Victor Fries’ grasp – or just make some coffee for the family. You can also emulate Bruce Wayne by securing a Wacaco Nanopresso portable espresso maker (R1,500, and only have seriously good coffee when the power’s out. A thermal travel mug (R110, also works if you’ve only got a Peter Parker-sized budget (and don’t care if anyone else gets some coffee – which is not very heroic, but okay).

Charged with battery

By now, you probably have several additional power sources at home. They might take the shape of a 20,000mAh battery pack (R305,, or maybe you opted instead to go large and you’ve got a couple of deep-cycle batteries rolling around on a trolley somewhere (like this Ellies inverter/UPS system for R10,800, for when the world goes dark. Someone’s doing rather well for themselves.

In the second instance, you could just plug in a kettle and boil up a pot of water. Your neighbours aren’t sniffing longingly at the scent of fresh coffee at all. Promise. But it’s worth remembering that an electric kettle has a significant (though brief) power draw so you’d best be certain that your battery backup system can handle it. Or perhaps you can switch to a generator, in case you have an entire 1,250W Rocket Espresso Appartamento (R35,000, to keep going.

And if you’re only rocking a lowly 20,000mAh battery pack, we’ve got an absolutely terrible idea for you. Connect it to a USB warming mat (R260, or an actual USB-powered coffee mug (R400, and you’ll at least have something that’s a little warmer than room temperature. Hey, caffeine is caffeine, right? Who cares if it never boils? Stop… stop crying. Please?

Order out (or get out)

Look, there are two ways this can go. Both involve having other folks make your coffee. If you’re sure you can stave off the road rage for long enough, it’s the work of a few minutes to hop in a car and head to a gas station or somewhere else with a generator and have them make you some delicious brown water. The family can come along, or you can play the benevolent hero and return home with a tray of coffee and enough snacks to take care of breakfast.

Or you can pay someone else to be your hero (no, not like that). The folks at Mr. D, Uber Eats or Bolt Food will be more than happy to deliver piping hot caffeine canisters to your door, provided you don’t lunge at them like a polar bear that hasn’t eaten in weeks when they arrive. The only downside? You’ve gotta wait for them to turn up. But the power’s out, all you have is time. And soon you’ll have time and coffee – that’s got to be worth something, right?


About Author

Brett writes for Stuff's digital platform and edits Stuff's print magazine, in between reading science fiction and every Batman comic he can get his hands on.

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