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How to Make the Best Cup of Cowboy Coffee

Dave Carter

Published: July 21, 2021

Last updated: October 30, 2022

Cowboy coffee has had a long and celebrated history in America, beginning from cowboys traveling vast trails, campers in the wild, to friends in a living room. It's a historical brew eliciting nostalgia and a one-of-a-kind comfort wherever and whenever consumed. Although it isn't the easiest and most common way you can make coffee, it's a celebrated part of coffee culture. A common misconception about the drink is that it's too stout, thick, and bitter, to the point where you can stand a spoon in it — all of which aren't true. When made right, this specialty coffee is one of the smoothest brews you can get your hands on.

Moreover, if you have a sensitive stomach, this brew allows you to enjoy a good cup of joe without any worries. That's because the coffee cowboy brewing process includes boiling it, taking out the bitterness from the coffee beans used, making it the perfect mellow beverage anyone can enjoy. This drink has had a reputation for being something rough — to the point that it's barely drinkable. However, it isn't that way at all.

With a little patience, great beans, and patience, you'll be making the best-tasting cowboy coffees in no time.

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What Is Cowboy Coffee

What is Best Cowboy Coffee Recipe

Generally, brewing coffee is essentially the process of transforming beans into the beloved cup of joe everyone knows and loves today. While many are accustomed to their favorite brewing methods, there are several unique ways you can create fantastic brews — and that includes cowboy coffee. 

But what is cowboy coffee? While its name may inspire visions of adventures in the wild old west, many people use this method from all over the world. It serves various purposes and situations, from fun camp trips to trying something more unique for your morning brews.

Cowboy coffee is like any other coffee you'd make, with the only difference is how you brew it. You can make this drink over a campfire or stove using a few tools, taking advantage of the extraction technique named 'decoction.' In this method, the coffee grounds intermingle with boiling (hot) water in the pot while brewing. When you finish, you wait for the ground coffee to sink to the bottom of the pot, then you can pour yourself a cup of coffee.

While the concept is relatively simple, you'd be surprised at how many people mess it up when doing it for the first time, leaving it as the last-resort type of method for many. However, when you do it right, you can get a gourmet and great coffee that you'd come back for more.

How did Cowboys Make Coffee in the 1800s?

Coffee got served alongside every meal for American cowboys in the 1800s, with many considering it water. You would always see a coffee pot boiling over a fire since that's how most of the cowboys preferred their brew served — piping hot. These individuals drank coffee regularly and lived on the drink. After all, most of them worked late at night and required the jolt of energy that coffee gives. However, if you're wondering how to make coffee without a coffee maker? In this case, the cowboys. They brew their coffee in a pot over open campfires or on a bed of hot coals.

These people typically made it in a large pot of tinned iron blackened by smoke. Three to five gallons of coffee pots was the standard for working groups of 10 to 12 cowboys or more. They usually pour freshly ground roasted coffee beans in a pot with water and wait until the drink starts overflowing outside the top. Once the brew became piping hot, they'd pour the coffee in cups to serve with their fellows.

To make a brew cowboy style, add coffee grounds to a pot and fill it with water, and bring it to a rolling boil and serve. You don't need to consider the coffee to water ratio as cowboys back in the day didn't care for this aspect.

What Happens When You Boil Coffee?

Most people do the regular brewing routine, including bringing water to a boil, adding your favorite coffee grounds, and then brewing your coffee. So, whether it's blonde roast coffee or regular logo brand brews, many individuals brew coffee this way since it's the quickest and simplest method you can do. However, what happens when you boil coffee, and does boiling water hurt your brew? When brewing, the sweet spot for water temperature is usually around 202 to 206°F. Since boiling water exceeds the ideal boiling temperature and becomes too hot, pouring boiling liquid directly to ground coffee can cause them to extract too fast, destroying the flavor compounds and leaving a bitter taste in the brew.

Plus, the violent bubbling water present in boiling can agitate the coffee grounds, leading to uneven extraction. Since most people don't have a temperature-controlled kettle, many rely on its telltale whistle, meaning it surpasses the 'sweet spot,' resulting in a less-than-ideal cup. In essence, when talking about 'boiling coffee,' this refers to brewing it in hot water.

So, the next time you're making a cup at home, when boiling cold water, let it chill out for around 30 seconds. Doing this helps you reach that 'sweet spot' and helps you achieve a milder and great-tasting cup of coffee. Understanding this and knowing the tricks to avoid getting a bad cup can go a long way.

How to Make Cowboy Coffee

Tips on How to Make Cowboy Coffee

When it comes to brewing, you may have several questions in your mind, from where does coffee come from to how to make cowboy coffee? Today, we're going to help you with the latter. Whether you're going camping with friends and family or want something robust to pair with your favorite cake or killer mozzarella panini, a coffee bar quality brew is always ideal — and what better brew to make than cowboy coffee? It's like the French Press method, but it doesn't require any filter.

It helps you make more than a single cup of coffee, giving everyone a chance to enjoy the brew. Besides that, it also helps you feel nostalgia, as the method was used by many cowboys in the past, whether they were lying on a stone smoking tobacco or moving west, energizing their adventures more. So, what are you waiting for? It's time to add cowboy coffee to your brew menu for today.

Before you start and decide on the amount of coffee you're planning to use, gather the things and ingredients to make cowboy coffee. These include:

  • Fresh coffee grounds (coarse preferably)
  • Water
  • A small pot
  • Campfire
  • A measuring cup

To put a stop to bad-tasting cups while enjoying your time outdoors, the following are the different steps you need to make to brew the perfect cup of coffee — cowboy style.

  1. Gather your things, then add water to your coffee pot while measuring how much liquids it can hold as you add the warm water.
  2. Place the pot over a heat source and wait until it starts to boil.
  3. Once boiling, remove the pot from the fire and let it sit on the side for half a minute, lowering the temperature to the optimal level ideal for brewing cowboy coffee.
  4. Put 2 tablespoons of grounds into your pot every 8 ounces of water your coffee pot can hold. Doing this distributes the flavor more, giving you delicious coffee.
  5. Stir the grounds into the liquid gently but thoroughly.
  6. Set aside the pot with the brewed coffee and let it sit for 2 minutes, then after another 2 minutes, stir the brew again.
  7. After stirring, leave the pot alone for another 2 minutes to let the grounds settle at the bottom efficiently.
  8. After 4 minutes of brewing, add a bit of cold water to help it settle on the bottom more.
  9. Pour the freshly brewed cowboy coffee slowly into your favorite cup or mug, ensuring the grounds stay at the bottom.
  10. Enjoy!

The brewing process is relatively easy, allowing you to brew a pot of great coffee, whether you're at home chilling or going on a long road trip, allowing you to make brews even a chuck-wagon cook would approve.

However, one of the biggest and most common complaints people have when brewing cowboy coffee is that their products often come out tasting too bitter or potent. That's because of the acidic nature of coffee. There are plenty of tricks to address this, but adding some eggshells to your drink is the most efficient one. Since eggshells are alkaline, they can reduce your coffee's acidity while keeping grounds out of your cup when pouring it.

What's the Secret Ingredient in Cowboy Coffee?

Cowboy coffee is a classic favorite among many Americans, making it a staple drink to enjoy around the campfire with friends. The best part is, you don't need a fancy brewer to make this historical brew. All you need is access to boiling water (between 195 and 205 °F), good quality coffee beans, and fire from a wood stove or campfire. Moreover, contrary to popular belief, this drink isn't as thick and strong as you think it is and only uses the simplest ingredients, good coffee, and water. However, just like discovering how much coffee for 12 cups you need to use, making cowboy coffee is an art — and the biggest secret to this famous western brew is in the boiling.

When you boil brewed coffee in a pot, you take the acidity of its beans, making it the perfect mellow drink for individuals with sensitive stomachs, saving them from indigestion and acid reflux. It's drastically different from your drip coffee maker or automatic brewer as they don't heat liquids enough to do any good. So, if you want to make authentic cowboy's coffee like the ones you'd find at the cache st Jackson hole, boil it.

How Long Should I Let My Coffee Percolate?

Percolation is when you filter liquids, whether it's cold water or scalding liquids, through a porous item. In terms of coffee, similar to breve, the grounds get filtered using water. The 'soluble' (dilutable) compounds then leave the filter and become a good-tasting brew. The compounds leaving the filter is what gives the brew its unique taste, aroma, and color. Brewing using a stovetop percolator can take around 5 minutes and 7-10 minutes for an electrical one.

What stays in the filter are the coffee ground particles that can't get dissolved with water. Before using the pourer, remove the filter basket with the used grounds, then serve. That's because when you leave it on, your grounds will end up in your cup.

Besides knowing how long percolating should take, if you'd like a hand on how to determine if a percolator is finished brewing, you should listen for the grounds 'jumping' up and down. For instance, when using a stovetop percolator, begin on medium to medium-high heat. Once you hear the water bubbling up, reduce the boiler heat to where you can listen to it 'perking' every few seconds. Leave it like that and the grounds to settle at the bottom for 5 to 10 minutes, and your percolated brew should be ready.

Easy to Do Cowboy Coffee Recipe

Best Cowboy Coffee Recipe

Although the traditional cowboy coffee recipe calls for you to brew the drink over a campfire, you can always make it over any kind of heat source or what's most convenient for you. All you need is coarse grounds, cold water, warm water, and alertness to avoid ending up with bitter coffee. It's similar to the French Press method, minus the filter.

Whether you're camping in river rock mountain and wanting to enjoy the sunrise to the fullest or staying indoors during the winter and wish to be more energized for your painting session, here's an easy recipe you can follow to make a cup of delicious cowboy coffee.

  1. Add warm water to the pot and bring it to a boil.
  2. Once it starts to boil, remove the pot from your heat source and let the brew sit for half a minute. Doing this lowers the water temperature, ideal for brewing coffee.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of grounds for every 8 ounces of water used. You'll need to know how much water your pot can contain and how much coffee a spoon can hold before going to your camp.
  4. Gently mix the grounds into the hot water.
  5. Let it sit for 2 minutes, then stir and let them sit again for 2 more minutes.
  6. After 4 minutes of brewing, add a bit of cold water to the ground coffee to help the grounds sink to the bottom of the pot. However, if you are brewing a whole coffee pot, use a cup of cold water.

After knowing each step, when planning your camping menu, cowboy coffee should be on the list. Keep in mind the brew will taste best if you serve it immediately after brewing. That's because when you let the grounds sit in a pot for too long, it will get over-extracted, resulting in a bitter brew.

Although the cowboy coffee's silhouette has always had a bad reputation, there's no good reason why you can't enjoy gourmet coffee at camp. You have all you need to make a good cup, so follow the recipe, and you'll be whipping up tasty brews that you can find your favorite coffee shop in no time.

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Cowboy coffee boasts a rich history, and ever since cowboys started traveling trails with the clear skies over their heads, more people started loving the unique brew. Back then, cowboys were the most devoted coffee drinkers in the west and often loved drinking a robust piping hot coffee cup filled with authentic cowboy coffee. However, even though much time passed and the world drastically evolved, the brew remained one of the most beloved drinks served in different situations.

Most people typically try coffee cowboy for the first time when going out on a camping trip, seeking the feeling of drinking an authentic cup, or experiencing a cultural draw. There's nothing better than a cup of this robust brew in the good morning or pleasant night around a campfire. But more individuals are discovering the unique blend and are enjoying it.

We hope this article helped you appreciate the art behind cowboy coffee more and how to make it yourself, helping make your mornings more energized and camping trips better — and enjoy a cup of coffee like never before. If you haven't already, try whipping up a cup of this specialty coffee at home following the step-by-step guide above and grab your coffee bag, you'll be surprised by the results!

Dave Carter

As a coffee enthusiastic Dave share with you his latest and greatest coffee news and insights. He es always interested in trying out new things about the best bean of the world!

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