Monday, August 17, 2009

Cowboy Coffee - a tough cup o jo

During my high school years I developed a love/addiction for two things that today is still present in my life: coffee and backpacking. These two things easy go together and compliment each other well. Enjoying a fine cup of coffee out in the mountains is very pleasant, however making coffee without a coffee maker isn't always so easy.

Over the year I have used various methods to brew coffee. There are many drip filters as well as fancy espresso makers, I have even used an old sock, but after years of testing and countless numbers of devices, I ended up with using no special "coffee maker" at all. Instead I simply bring coffee grounds and my cook pot.

Like one would expect from a cowboy of yesteryear's, there is nothing fancy about his coffee. Hot water and coffee is all it takes to make mug full of our favorite morning beverage. By coffee I do not mean freeze dried instant coffee either. That is an option in making a cup, however it takes extra for thought to purchase instant coffee when I readily have coffee beans at home.

Making cowboy coffee begins at home. Ideally you already purchase your coffee by the whole bean and have a small grinder. I know fresh grinding your bean every morning doesn't sound very cowboy like, but then again I never said I was. Grind your coffee finer than you would usually for a drip maker. Large coffee bean chunks tend to float, while finer grounds will settle. You do not need to grind your beans as fine as you would, as when making Turkish coffee; though Turkish and Cowboy coffee is very close to being the same thing. If you already buy your coffee beans already ground, no sweat just use that.

At camp bring a pot of water to a boil and dump in your grounds at the first sign of bubbles. Once the coffee starts rolling remove from heat. It's not rocket science, however prolonged boiling of the coffee will lead to bitterness. I usually boil just long enough to get all the ground wet. Set the pot on the ground. Ideally tipped slightly down towards the pour spout or side. The key to Cowboy coffee is to allow the grounds to settle. I have heard that a dab of cold water, egg shells and even egg yoke will help the settling. I don't do any of that stuff. A minute or two is all it takes to settle out the grounds. When pouring be very careful as to not stir up the ground. Do not pour the last 1/10 of the coffee pot. Once in your mug allow time for a little settling, but the temperature of the fluid usually takes care of that. And the same thing do not drink the last little bit of coffee from your mug.

When planning to make CC, I usually bring at least two cooking pots. A coffee pot and a cooking pot since I usually will have several cups in the morning. You will also inevitably end up with a few grounds of coffee in your mouth which you need to spit out. Some find this aspect of CC unacceptable. However for its convenience, you need to give up some thing, and a few grounds in the mouth is worth it in my opinion. Anyways it is called Cowboy coffee, not Sissyboy coffee.
Update: This morning the power was out and I wanted a cup of coffee. Being Saturday, I usually make coffee at home. I had two options, one boil water and run it through the filter of the coffee maker, or two: Cowboy it up!! Thinking of this post I opted for the later. I discovered that I left a few thing out in my initial post.
After the coffee settles for a little bit, you might notice floating clumps of coffee grounds on the surface. You might blow on them and it might sink. However it is best to scoop these grounds out before pouring. Being so close to a mug full of morning delight, I often rush and pour the floating mass straight into my cup. I mean come on, I read on some blog that the grounds were all suppose to settle out right. Wrong. This floating mass is made up of grounds that are light and large or for some reason do not sink. Taking the time and doing it right, I did not have a single coffee ground that I had to spit out. Ahhh Perfect!


  1. Amen Brother!!! Alisha wouldn't listen and brought us terrible tasting instant garbage. Of course I was not willing to carry both so I ended up drinking the rubbish. Never again. Thanks to Cowboy Coffee! :-p

  2. Next you should tell us how to make Sissyboy coffee.

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