What Is Cowboy Coffee And How Do You Make It?

What Is Cowboy Coffee And How Do You Make It?

Sean Gregory
5 minute read

So you've hit the wilderness and set up your campsite. You're ready to rough it for a few days the old school way. After unpacking your survival flashlight and packaged beef jerky you realize something terrible!

You do not have an outlet for that Mr. Coffee maker you packed and simply can not survive without your favorite cup of caffeine. Now it's time to panic. After trying to find a Dunkin Donuts within hiking distance you realize something....

Coffee has been enjoyed for centuries and electrical power is a relatively new thing in human history. So you remember while glued to the tv watching cowboy shows like Yellowstone and 1883 that you saw them brewing coffee without and power. 

This has long been known as Cowboy Coffee.

What Exactly Is Cowboy Coffee?

An American tradition Cowboy coffee refers to any coffee brewed over an open flame without the use of electrical power, a French press, Keurig machines or even filters. 

This type of coffee brewing method was typically used by Cowboys on the open trail, those on the Oregon Trail and in modern times by those camping and hiking in places without power.

As all brewing is the art of extracting coffee flavor from coffee beans, this method can work great when without power but does run the risk of producing some terribly tasting coffee if not done right.

How Do You Make Cowboy Coffee

  • Start by boiling water in a pan, pot or any other container that can withstand an open flame. (Here is a classic hanging pot for a campsite)
  • Once reaching a boil, remove the pot from the open flame and let sit for a few minutes. This will help bring your water temperature back about 200 degrees which is ideal for brewing coffee. Water that is any hotter will risk producing a burnt or bitter flavor.
  • Add between 2 and 2.5 tablespoons of coarsely ground coffee for every 8 ounces of water. While the American Specialty Coffee Association suggest 2.5 tablespoons per every 6 ounces for standard brewing methods, the extra water will likely boil down. Do not add the grounds before boiling the water as this will create a bitter and burnt taste.
  • Stir your grounds into the water to help quicken extraction. Continue this for about 2 minutes.
  • Let your coffee sit for another two minutes.
  • Remove your coffee from the heat source and let sit for a minute to cool slightly. Pour into your mug and enjoy.

If you are looking for a perfectly ground coffee we have two great options. For highly caffeinated check out Black Insomnia Coffee and for a bold dark roast check out Black Powder's Prospectors Gold.

Tips To Remove The Grounds From Your Coffee

Since your are brewing the coffee right in the water without a filter attachment you will have a coffee mug full of coffee grounds. While this will not hurt you in anyway, not everyone will want to taste used grounds in their coffee. Here are some tips to lower the amount.

  • Use a paper coffee filter if you have one. Place it over your mug while pouring from the pot. You can also use other material like paper towels if you absolutely need to remove the grounds.
  • At the end of your brewing just before you remove from the heat you can sprinkle some cold water into the pot. This will actually help the grounds sink to the bottom.
  • Another method, although not ideal, is to pack the grounds into a paper filter and place it in the pot. This will work similar to steeping tea. Just make sure you are not using material that can contaminate your water.

Once the coffee is done you should get a dark and full bodied cup of coffee. 

Why Did Cowboys Add Egg Shells To Their Cowboy Coffee?

Adding broken egg shells while brewing actually serves two purposes. The shells will help sink the grounds to the bottom of the pot making it easier to avoid a mug full of used grounds.

Another benefit is the shells will help reduce the bitterness of your coffee making it more enjoyable. This is great in case you over heat your grounds while brewing.

You can also add a pinch of salt to help reduce bitterness and increase flavor.

How Is Cowboy Coffee Different Than Instant Coffee?

While they appear similar at first glance due to place the grounds directly into the water, instant coffee differs from Cowboy Coffee in that instant coffee is freeze dried brewed coffee which dissolves in water and cowboy coffee is brewed using the actual grounds placed into the pot.

Is Cowboy Coffee Strong?

Because of the use of coarse grounds cowboy coffee will actually produce a less caffeinated beverage with a smoother less in your face coffee flavor. So depending on what you call strong coffee (flavor or caffeine content) the result will be the same and usually slightly lower than french press coffee.

This brewing method will however produce a less acidic and bitter coffee so there is a positive trade off.

So there you have it. You are ready to become an American Outlaw and brew coffee the old fashioned way. A little grit in your cup never hurt you...in fact ingesting the grounds make actually increase your caffeine intake.

If you are not the type to mess with this style of brewing you can check out these single use pour over filter bags which are perfect for brewing when all you have is hot water.


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