If you’re headed for an outdoor adventure, there’s no need for you to drink day-old coffee or consider packing up your brewer with you. Camping should be a fun experience and a chance to try new things, so why not make an authentic cowboy coffee for you and your camping group? Making coffee over an open fire might seem intimidating at first, but with this guide, you can learn how to make cowboy coffee that tastes just as good as any coffee that you would make at home.
What is Cowboy Coffee?
What is cowboy coffee? Cowboy coffee was originally created to give energy to cowboys after a long day, but these days, it has become an art in itself. While aside from the method of preparation, cowboy coffee is just like any other brew with coffee grounds brewed in hot water, the main difference is that it is made outdoors over a campfire. You make the coffee by mixing coffee grounds with the boiling water during the brewing process, wait for the fragments of coffee to sink down to the bottom before pouring yourself a fresh and tasty cup of coffee. While it might sound like a straightforward way to make coffee, anybody who has tried to prepare it will tell you that it can be easier than you think to fail if you don’t get the preparation method right.
The Historic Appeal of Cowboy Coffee
American colonists turned to coffee thanks to the high taxes on tea put in place by King George. After the Revolutionary War, Americans were mainly coffee-drinkers as a result who only served tea on occasion. The cowboys were the most devoted group of coffee-drinkers, and they liked their brew to be black, piping hot, and as strong as possible. However, they were often in a position where they had to drink mock brews as finding good coffee at the time was quite expensive. This was the case until the 1860s, when the coffee industry was revolutionized by Arbuckle, and coffee drinking became more affordable thanks to the ground, roasted beans. Coffee was often boiled in pots of five gallons over hot coals and was available around the clock. When drinking these energizing cups of coffee, the long working hours of the cowboys seemed a lot easier. Although this is an understandable brewing method for coffee in the wild west, cowboy coffee has managed to stay appealing over time due to today’s traditional cowboys and people who are nostalgic about it and want to preserve the old culture.
The Art and Science of Making Cowboy Coffee
How to make campfire coffee? While at first glance, cowboy coffee seems quite rough and very easy to make, it’s not just simply dumping the coffee in the pot, adding water, and bringing to the boil. To make an authentic cup of cowboy coffee, it needs more ingenuity and art, along with some science. To begin with, you need to get your choice of coffee right. The best coffee for a cowboy coffee that is genuine and satisfying needs to be coarse grounds. When the coffee is coarsely ground, it won’t be fully extracted during this brewing process, which leads to coffee that is less bitter, smoother, and has a more pleasant mouthfeel. The brewing process for cowboy coffee is straightforward; however, there is an art to it if you want to get it right. The traditional method cowboy coffee recipe involves the following:
- Place a large coffee pot (usually at least two gallons) over an open fire and fill it with water
- When the water begins to boil, add around one to one and a half cups of coffee per every four cups of water
- Stir the mixture and take the pot off the heat
- Add around one cup of cold water to encourage the coffee grounds to sink to the bottom of the pot
What to Consider When Making Cowboy Coffee
How to make coffee over a fire taste great? Despite what you may have heard about it, cowboy coffee isn’t tasteless and grainy when you use the right brewing method. When you get the technique right, you are guaranteed a cup of coffee that is satisfying and not bitter. Regardless of the amount of cowboy coffee that you want to brew, keep the following tips in mind to get the best results.
When it comes to getting the best taste from your cowboy coffee, it’s important to follow a certain coffee to water ratio. For every four cups of water that you use, you should add around three quarters to one cup of coffee. If you are only brewing a couple of cups of coffee, cut the amount in half.
The Coffee Grinds
Over-extraction is the worst thing that can happen when you are making cowboy coffee. If your beans are finely ground, then you will fully extract them during the brewing process which can lead to your coffee being too bitter. On the other hand, coarsely ground beans are not going to be so extracted while brewing, which leads to a more balanced and satisfying taste.
The Water Temperature
While you do need to bring the coffee to a boil when you’re using the cowboy coffee method of brewing, you’ll also need to make sure that it drops to 200 degrees Fahrenheit since, otherwise, this will lead to overextraction and kill the flavor of the coffee. This is the main reason for taking the pot off the heat and adding cold water to it at the end, as it brings out the best taste.
Methods for Making Cowboy Coffee
The brewing method that you use will also have an impact on how your cowboy coffee tastes. While it’s important to stick to the above rules for brewing to guarantee a delicious, smooth cup of coffee, there are a few different options for brewing cowboy coffee depending on your preferences.
The Stirring Method
If you want a simple and familiar brewing method, the stirring method is the authentic way to make the best cowboy coffee. Simply pour a quart of water into your coffee pot and bring it to a boil, and remove the pot from the heat to let it sit for half a minute. Add three-quarters to one cup of coarsely ground coffee to the pot, then stir the mixture and allow it to sit for two minutes. Repeat this step again, before adding some cold water to allow the grounds to sink to the bottom.
The Clean Sock Method
Did you know that you can make cowboy coffee using a clean sock? Start with adding a quart of water to the pot, place it on the heat, and bring it to a boil. Then, add the coffee to a clean sock, and close it. The fabric will act as a coffee filter when it is placed in the hot water. Wait for the second boil to start, then remove the pot from the heat and allow the coffee to steep for around five minutes.
The Eggshell Method
Broken eggshells can also be used to brew cowboy coffee as they will encourage the grounds to settle. Follow the same steps as the other methods, but for this one, break eggshells into crumbs and mix them with your ground coffee before adding them to the pot.
Best Coffee Pots to Use for Cowboy Coffee
If you are planning a camping trip and want to make cowboy coffee over the fire, then getting your coffee pot right is an important step in the planning process. These are some ideal coffee pots that work well for cowboy coffee:
Coleman 9-Cup Aluminum Coffee Pot
While this cowboy coffee pot looks great, bear in mind that using it over an open flame over time might cause some discoloration. However, this is more than made up for with the richness of the cowboy coffee that you can make in it. If you’re not too concerned about the look, you’ll be glad to know that this pot will only be stained, rather than damaged by the fire, and is a very durable choice.
OuterEQ Camping Coffee Pot
If you want a stable, kettle-style coffee pot, then this one is likely to be your best option. While it might require a little bit more space in your bag compared to other options, it has a wide opening that you can actually use to put your camping gear inside the pot when it is not in use. It holds up to a quart and is a great choice for campers.
Granite Ware 3-Quart Coffee Boiler
If you want a pot that not only makes great coffee but also looks like an authentic pot that real cowboys would have used for brewing coffee in the Wild West, this is a great choice. It is ideal for using both over an open fire and in your home and will brew up to four cups of coffee at a time. One of the main things that makes this pot stand out from the crowd is the insulation, which will keep your brew hotter for longer.
Simple and energizing cowboy coffee is a great option for camping and other outdoor adventures.