A Cowboy's Guide to Brewing Coffee

I, for one, am a huge camping fan. What I wouldn't give to be out on the frontier, where the howl of unattended children harmonizes with the static undertones of portable TVs, and where the smell of charcoal only just covers the exhaust fumes of the forever rumbling campervans.

Here is where all the action takes place; along the riverbanks, where planted trash cans brimming with blue and silver bouquets of Coors Light cans and the wind tastes of bug spray.

One thing is often forgotten about when enjoying the great outdoors: a hot cup of coffee.

While there are numerous strategies for brewing coffee without a machine, I'll be discussing just one here. I'm going to show you how to make cowboy coffee so that you can have delicious coffee even when you're far from the nearest town.

Coffee for Cowboys

a dog by the campire a canine cuddling up to a mug of hot tea by an autumn campfire

There are many different "best methods" because, like most country recipes, they originated in the wild, before the advent of the internet. That's how it is when there are so many ways to prepare a cup of coffee, " she said.

Finding the perfect cowboy coffee recipe can be as divisive as a debate between your mother and aunt over how much sugar to put in the key lime pie.

Despite the muddle, three recipes stand out as clear winners. I'm going to show you three different recipes (cue cheesy salesman music), and you can pick the one that sounds best to you.

Use of a Hypothetical Eggshell

eggshells in a bowl

What You'll Need

  • A durable pot for boiling water or brewing coffee - i e something that can't melt plastic
  • depending on your altitude, 3/4 to 1 cup of ground coffee
  • A quart's worth of water (4 cups)
  • Whatever you have left over from cooking eggs, including the shells.
  • A source of heat
  • Use a small amount of cold water to aid the sinking of the coffee grounds after brewing.

Kent Rollins has a suggestion (1) if you want to make this coffee in the great outdoors, cast-iron kettle and all.

A well-seasoned coffee pot will produce the best coffee.

Just a quick note about the coffee grounds: high altitude may require more than usual. The boiling point of water decreases with increasing altitude, so you may need to use a higher coffee-to-water ratio (but no more than 1:4).

First, bring the water to a boil.

Prepare a boiling kettle by filling it with 1 quart of water. Avoid putting your kettle in front of a fire if you can help it; you'll need to retrieve it quickly.

Instead, set it up on a grate in front of the fireplace:

Dig a small hole in the ground while waiting for the water to boil. After you're done brewing coffee, this is a great spot to put the kettle so it stays warm.

As a second step, incorporate the eggshells.

Don't just leave the eggshells sitting on top of your coffee grounds; break them up and sprinkle them in.

Albumin in eggshell residue is coagulative, so it will help keep your grounds together and out of your cup.

A pinch of salt was added to some traditional recipes in the hot, dry deserts of the American Southwest to make up for the salt cowboys lost while roping, riding, and sweating. With the addition of a pinch of salt, your camp coffee can serve as a sort of outdoor sports recovery beverage after a long day of climbing or hiking.

Third, throw it into the stew

Toss the coffee grounds and eggshell mixture into the boiling water without stirring.

Stop stirring the soil and wait for the water to boil again. Here is the optimal time to boil water for your coffee, whether you prefer it cowboy-style or not.

Finally, Step 4: Sit Back, Relax, and Take Pleasure in Your Steep

Removing the pot from the heat as soon as the water begins to boil again is a good safety precaution.

In the next five minutes, the grounds will steep and (hopefully) settle to the bottom of the pot.

If your grounds are stubborn and refuse to sink, try drizzling some cold water over them.

All that's left to do now is serve up some hot coffee. If you want to keep the grounds in the bottom of the pot, pour very slowly and gently.

You can use this method for each recipe: if there is any coffee left in the kettle, place it in the shallow hole you dug earlier and push dirt or sand up around the sides to keep it warm.

The Concept of a Clean Sock

how to make cowboy coffee using a coffee sock

What You'll Need

  • A durable pot for boiling water
  • 1/3 to 1 cup of coffee beans
  • The equivalent of 4 cups of water (one quart)
  • Use a clean muslin bag, a pair of coffee socks, or a regular pair of socks.
  • A source of heat

First, bring the water to a boil.

This is the same as in the preceding step of the recipe. Heat up four cups of water, and then dig a small hole to keep your coffee toasty.

Second, get your coffee bag ready.

Prepare your coffee grounds by placing them in a sock or bag while waiting for the water to boil.

The fabric acts as a filter, similar to a homemade tea bag, preventing the grounds from entering your mug (a common problem with cowboy coffee recipes).

Third, throw it into the stew

When the coffee has reached a boil, drop the makeshift coffee bag into the pot and wait for it to re-start boiling.

Step 4: Discard and Take Pleasure

Just like before, once the water comes back to a boil, turn off the heat and let it steep for about five minutes.

Once the coffee has finished steeping, you can pour it into mugs and share it with your fellow campers without worrying about anyone getting any grounds stuck in their teeth.

Formula for a Fiery Dish

person stirring coffee in a pan

What You'll Need

  • Insulated pot for boiling water
  • 3/4 to 1 cup of coffee grounds
  • Approximately 1 quart (4 cups) of water
  • Around a half a cup of ice water
  • What's generating the heat?

First, bring the water to a boil.

In contrast to the other two recipes, this one is more typical of the beer most of us drink. The first steps of this recipe are standard, so do the same thing you would with any other: bring one quart of water to a boil.

Second, refrigerate your water.

When the water reaches a rolling boil, take it off the heat and let it cool for a while. Allowing it to rest for a minute or so will reduce the temperature to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit, ideal for brewing coffee.

Method Three: Stirring Twice

After waiting for the water to cool, add the coffee and stir for about 15 seconds. Then, after two minutes of sitting in the hole you dug (to keep the heat in), stir it once more.

Brew it for two more minutes after the second stir. Allowing your coffee to steep for so long will release all the flavorful oils from the beans.

The Fourth Step: Pour and Savor

Your coffee is ready to be served after the final two minutes have elapsed.

For this recipe, the eggshell or homemade sock trick won't work as well as usual, so you'll need to be extra careful not to spill any grounds into your cup as you pour. A cup of hot, freshly brewed cowboy coffee is the perfect way to start (or end) a day on the trail.

The Basics Of Making Coffee Should Never Be Forgotten...

We get it; cowboy coffee has a bad rap for being sloppy and unappealing because it's often made under less-than-ideal conditions and served to the cowboys. However, that's not how things have to be.

a kettle being used outdoors

If you've spent any amount of time perusing our site, you already know that we're serious about producing high-quality java using any and all methods available. We're not just about the average cup of coffee, whether you're brewing it in a Mason jar or an automatic espresso machine that costs more than a midsize sedan.

You don't have to forget everything you know about coffee just because you're sleeping in the dirt and gathering bundles of sticks to scorch your dinner over a pile of rocks. Don't settle for burnt-tasting mud when you can make delicious coffee with a little effort and some good quality coffee beans, some boiling water (well, hot water - the rules about keeping it between 195 and 205 F don't change just because the stars are your canopy).

Even though the ratio of water to coffee is not as exact as when using a pour over, it is still important to pay attention to it. As the old adage goes, "science works whether you believe in it or not," and scientific knowledge is crucial to producing high-quality coffee.

Here are some alternatives to cowboy coffee if you're not a fan: https://www.homegrounds.co/the-complete-guide-to-coffee-brewing-methods/.

The "secret" ingredient in cowboy coffee isn't secret at all; in fact, most cowboys just use salt and/or eggshells. Adding salts to coffee served two purposes for cowboys: it cut the bitterness and it replenished the salts they lost through sweat. Meanwhile, the eggshells accelerate the process by which the coffee grounds reach the bottom of the coffee pot. The acidity of the beverage can also be tempered by adding eggshells. (2)

Cowboys do more than just herd cattle; they also round up strays, perform in rodeos, and more. Because of the strenuous physical demands of their work, they require caffeinated beverages of the highest quality in order to keep going throughout the day.

Cowboy coffee is made by bringing water with coffee grounds to a simmer for three minutes or until the water is almost boiling. Then, they season it with salt and pepper (and sugar, if the chuck wagon has any). After that, eggshells are added to the pot so that the grounds can settle to the bottom.

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