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How to Make Cowboy Coffee


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How-to Make Cowboy Coffee – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Camping Tips

Just mention cowboy coffee and most people get mental pictures of cowboys or campers hunched down around a campfire with an old-time fire-blackened coffee pot bubbling over, (or in), the dancing flames.

Each waiting for a delicious cup of camp coffee made the real old-fashioned way.



But the truth is…
…made the way most people picture it, cowboy coffee can taste really bad

…making really good tasting cowboy coffee really is very easy

Both methods for making cowboy coffee on your next camping trip are listed below – pick your poison…


How to make bad cowboy coffee…

  1. Use two tablespoons of any kind of coffee per 8oz of water
  2. Toss the measured coffee amount into the coffee pot, then add the measured amount of water
  3. Bring this mixture to a boil -carefully, the coffee grounds will float to the top, and the dome that forms will cause the pot to boil over very quickly
  4. Boil a couple minutes, then remove from the fire
  5. Let sit for a couple more minutes, then sprinkle a small palm-full of cool water into the coffee pot. This combination of sitting and cool water will help the coffee grounds settle to the bottom of the pot
  6. It’s as easy as that. Now pour each cup slowly, trying to leave the coffee grounds in the pot.

Typical results; Strong and bitter coffee.

The reason; boiling water scalds the coffee, bringing out all the bitterness, and the coffee is in contact with the heat of the boiling water too long, making it too strong.


How to make good cowboy coffee… a better way
Key points:

  • Most coffee recipes call for 1 tablespoon of coffee per cup – but they are talking about a 6oz cup. Since you will probably be drinking from a mug, use 2 tablespoons per cup and use the mug to measure your water
  • DO NOT BOIL your coffee! Boiling water scalds coffee and brings out the bitterness
  • DO NOT EXPECT the second cup to taste as good as the first – it will be stronger because it has remained in contact with the coffee grounds.


  1. Use two tablespoons of fine grind coffee, (or auto-drip grind), per 8oz of water
    • *The finer grind will allow more flavor extraction in less time, and the finer coffee grinds will sink to the bottom easier than more coarse grinds that float more.
       
  2. Pour your measured amount of water into the coffee pot, (just the water – no coffee yet), put the pot on the fire and bring the water to a boil
     
  3. Remove from the fire, let sit 30 or 40 seconds to come off full-boil temperature
     
  4. Add the measured coffee amount into the coffee pot – it will float on top so you will have to carefully stir the water to get the coffee to mix in
     
  5. Let the pot sit for two minutes – really, the two minute part is important. In the end you want to have a total of only four to five minutes brewing time
     
  6. After two minutes, stir the mixture again, re-cover and let sit two more minutes
     
  7. Now you are ready, the coffee has had enough time for the flavor to brew, and the grounds have began settling. Now take a palm-full of cool water and sprinkle it into the coffee pot.
    ** this small amount of cool water will not make your coffee cold, but it will help the grounds settle quicker
     
  8. It’s as easy as that. Now pour each cup slowly, trying to leave the coffee grounds in the pot.

Typical results; A much more flavorful and less bitter cup of coffee.

The reason; You didn’t scald the coffee with too-hot water, and by simmering the coffee instead of re-boiling it you didn’t bringing out all the bitterness.

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Tip: A small pinch of salt in the pot, or a single quick shake of the salt shaker in a cup will reduce the bitterness of coffee. The keywords were small pinch and quick shake, you don’t want too much or it will taste salty.

Here are some examples of camping and campfire coffee pots.


 
Only make enough coffee for the first round, or maybe a little more for a couple quick refills, because the grounds are still in contact with the water in the pot, and it will get more bitter the longer it sets. – It’s much better to make a second pot for heavy coffee drinkers. If you want good fresh coffee that is.

Or, you could bring a thermal carafe to pour the coffee in after it’s made.

If you are really really roughing it and don’t have a coffee pot, or just want to use the Hobo can and wire method, or even just a saucepan of water – this method still works for them too!


Here’s an example of a really unnecessary Cowboy coffee maneuver:
Don’t do this to settle the coffee grounds!





And don’t do this:
This fellow has a nice video presentation, but… boiling the coffee in the water, especially from cold to boil, will make some really bitter coffee – no matter what he says.(but that’s my opinion – try it yourself, or not)




Want a real cowboy coffee pot for camping?

camp coffee pots for cowboy coffee

Camp Coffee Pots
Nothing beats the authenticity of a real pebble porcelain coffee pot on a campfire. And if you’re going to be a Cowboy Coffee aficionado – you’re going to need one.

But if you must, the stainless steel or aluminum bail-handle coffee pots will work just fine too.
Don’t forget – you get FREE shipping with Amazon.




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Here are some samples of other camp meal and campfire cooking gear you can find on Amazon that you can use with your cast iron camping recipes. Once you have any of these camp tools you will wonder how you ever did without it. Especially when you see how inexpensive they are when you buy them online.


*Note – all shopping links are my own Amazon affiliate links – which I only use to recommend good-quality camping gear – Gus