coffee mill, hand crank, coffee
Photo by Rawpixel
A hand-crank coffee grinder provides a fresh grind and better tasting coffee.

Self-reliance takes on many forms, and one of the simplest ways to gain control over our daily lives is to choose off-grid appliances for every day tasks. Although electrical appliances are touted to make our lives easier, in reality, many times it’s easier to grab a simple machine to do the job instead of hauling out larger gadgets. It makes sense to look at these time-tested and reliable off-grid appliances to help us around the house.

Coffee Mill

Grinding your own coffee beans allows you to brew a beverage with fuller flavor than pre-ground coffee, with the bonus of a dreamy aroma. This makes a hand-cranked coffee grinder a wise investment for any coffee lover. Grinding your own coffee beans also bring a certain sense of satisfaction to the morning routine.

Percolating Coffee Pot

One of the worst aspects of a power outage is not having coffee in the morning, but having a percolating coffee pot that works on the stove (or

even a camp stove in a pinch) saves the day. Usually found in glass or stainless-steel types, it works the same as the electric version. Pour the water in the bottom half, add coffee to the basket on the top, and turn on the heat. The water percolates through the ground coffee, growing richer in flavor the longer you brew it.

Slicer, Dicer, Juicer

This appliance uses a variety of steel plates for each process. If you’re juicing a lot of citrus, say for homemade lemonade on a hot summer’s day, this is an excellent tool to have in the kitchen since it quickly and efficiently squeezes out most of the juice. It can also be used to slice potatoes to make French fries, and works fairly well at slicing apples and pears.

Apple Peeler

Hand-peeling apples is an arduous task, but an apple peeler makes quick work of it, especially when you have a bushel or two awaiting your attention. Simply clamp the peeler to a countertop or table, push an apple on the corer and start turning. Within seconds, the apple is peeled, cored, and sliced into perfectly sized rounds to use in pies or any apple snack. If you’re really good, you can peel an apple in a single, long slice.

Pasta Maker

Once you make your own pasta, you will be spoiled forever, and a hand-cranked pasta machine is the simplest way to make delicious culinary creations from homemade pasta for ravioli to your own spaghetti or fettucine.

Butter Churn

Butter is one of those decadent necessities, particularly when it’s homemade. It’s also one of the easiest delicacies to make, is great fun for kids to help with and offers a good use of extra cream if you have your own cow. A small butter churn is a simple appliance that will make a small batch in less than half an hour.

To make your own butter, start by setting out your cream to warm to room temperatures for a couple of hours. If it’s too cold, it will take seemingly forever to churn. Pour your heavy cream into the clean churn and start turning. In most cases, it should begin to separate within 10 minutes or so. Once it does, pour off the buttermilk in a jar or glass to drink or use in baking. Scoop out the butter and place it in a mixing bowl. Add cold water, even ice cubes if necessary to help rinse off the butter. Be sure to squeeze out the buttermilk completely or the butter might taste bitter. Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt and form into a ball or desired shape.

Off-Grid Appliances: Grain Mill

Baking is a nutritious art that brings people together, especially when you start with whole kernels of wheat.

For avid bakers, a grain mill is a valuable tool for grinding fresh flour, as well as for making a multitude of other cereals and food items. A hand-cranked model is convenient to use at any time, and is far quieter than electric options. Look for a grain mill that can make finely ground flour, along with grinding corn, seeds and nuts. It should be easy to dismantle in order to clean it thoroughly. If you grind a lot of flour at a time, opt for a model with a flywheel to make the process easier.

Meat Grinder

Making your own sausage or ground meat (whether beef, pork, or venison) puts you in control of its texture and flavor. While there are excellent electric meat grinders, including attachments for stand mixers, an old-fashioned hand-cranked meat grinder is something every kitchen should have, particularly for small batches.

To grind your own meat, cut it into 1-inch cubes, place them on a cookie sheet or tray and freeze until partially firm. This makes the process much easier. Once you’re ready, clamp the meat grinder to the countertop and place a bowl within a bowl of ice below the exit point for the meat in order to keep it cold throughout the process. Add a few chunks of the frozen meat into the hopper and turn the handle.

Wonder Wash

If you have a few items of clothing to wash at the cabin, apartment, or RV, the portable Wonder Wash is a compact means of handling the chore. Standing only 16 inches tall, it’s very portable, yet can handle five or six shirts or a couple pairs of jeans (depending on the size and thickness of

the fabric). It uses less water than washing clothes out in the tub or sink and only requires a few minutes of tumbling. After the initial wash with detergent, drain out the dirty water and add fresh water to rinse. Keep in mind that since clothes are not spun dry like they are in an electric washing machine, they will be wetter than normal, so you might want to wring them out a little before hanging them up to dry.

Laundry Drying Rack

Air drying is the gentle way to dry your clothes. That the greatest threat to a wardrobe is heat, and every time we empty the lint screen, we’re throwing away bits of our clothes.

Even when you can’t hang your laundry on the outside line, you can dry clothes effectively on a folding drying rack. Simple unfold the rack and set it upright in an area where it doesn’t matter if water drips onto the floor, then place the laundry over the horizontal rods. The time it takes to dry depends on the heat and humidity level in the house, but t-shirts and small towels are usually ready to fold and put away within a few hours.

Part of the appeal of using non-electric appliances is the added sense of self-reliance they impart. You may never want to go back to appliances powered by electricity again.

This article is from the summer 2018 issue of The New Pioneer Magazine. Grab your copy at

Up Next

Red Hot: New High Temperature Records Set This Summer

High temperature records have been set all over the Northern Hemisphere this summer as...