When most people hear the words cowboy coffee they may picture a gaggle of tough unwashed men in wide brimmed hats sitting around a campfire, or wonder “is this just the newest hipster, trendy way to get your caffeine?” Cowboy coffee is in fact a term used to refer to the old fashioned way of brewing coffee over the campfire.

The old fashioned method of making cowboy coffee is pretty easy and requires little effort. Maybe this is why it was labeled cowboy coffee, it is a no-fuss, no-nonsense way to brew coffee while out in the wilderness.

  • First, you get a couple heaping tablespoons full of coffee for every 8 ounces of water and put it in the pot
  • Next, add the water for the amount of coffee you have added
  • Third, place the coffee pot full of coffee and water over the fire and carefully let it come to a boil. The coffee grounds float to the top in this process and form a dome that will quickly cause the pot to boil over.
  • While watching carefully, allow the pot to boil for a few minutes and then remove from the heat.
  • After pulling the brew from the heat, let it sit for a few minutes and then sprinkle with a palm full of cold water to get the coffee grounds to settle to the bottom.
  • Finally, slowly pour the coffee into a mug leaving the grounds in the pot.

While this method works to make a cup of coffee in a primitive environment, it usually comes out with a robust yet bitter flavor. The reason this happens is that the boiling water scalds the coffee releasing the unpleasant bitterness. The coffee is in contact with boiling water far too long as well making it very strong. Strong coffee is not a bad thing especially for those of us from the Pacific Northwest, but bitter and strong is not a good combo.

There is a way to make a good cup of cowboy coffee. The method just needs to be tweaked a bit. Here is a much better method for brewing your coffee on the campfire with pleasant results.

Note: Do not let the coffee grounds come in contact with the water while it is still boiling. This makes all the difference. The second (or third if brewing the whole pot for yourself) cup of coffee is going to be stronger than your first as it will have been in contact with the grounds longer.

  1. You want to make sure you use a fine grind coffee ( sometimes labeled as auto-drip). The finer grounds settle to the bottom easier than coarse ones which tend to float. Use two tablespoons per 8 oz of water.
  2. Start out with the coffee pot and water, pour the measured amount of water into the pot and place on the fire; no coffee grounds just yet. Bring the water to a boil.
  3. Once the water is at a good boil, remove it from the flames, being careful as the pot is very hot. Let the water sit for about 30 to 40 seconds to come down from a boiling hot temperature.
  4. Now that the water has cooled down a little it is time to add the coffee. When added, the grounds will float to the top so you will need to stir them into the water a bit.
  5. Let the coffee sit covered for about 2 minutes and no longer; you don’t want to over brew.
  6. Stir the mixture again and then let it sit covered for another 2 minutes. After this second two minutes the coffee has had plenty of time to brew and you can now sprinkle the palm full of cold water to help the grounds settle to the bottom.
  7. The last step is to slowly pour some coffee into your mug and enjoy!

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