When people think of cowboys, a few things come to their minds. They think of rugged individualists who ride horses, wear cattleman hats, eat beans and brew coffee over an open flame. Although many of these points about cowboys have historically been true, the one thing many people get wrong is the quality of the coffee they made.
Cowboy coffee is usually thought of as thick, bitter mud that only the toughest of outdoorsman could choke down. However, nothing is further from the truth. Just because cowboys have traditionally been known as rugged outdoorsman doesn’t mean that they wanted to down gallons of poorly made coffee. The reality of it is that since they were so far from the comforts of their homes, they probably wanted to drink a coffee that was made correctly and reminded them of said home.
We should know because we’ve enjoyed cowboy coffee for quite some time. Sure, it’s a coffee that’s simply made, but that doesn’t mean that it’s unsophisticated. Sometimes, some of the best things in the world are simply made and cowboy coffee is one of those things. All the coffee enthusiast needs to make a great cowboy coffee is a proper coffee pot, some coffee, quality water, and a campfire. Oh, and the know-how needed to make it—information we’re going to supply you with right now.
The Definition Of Cowboy Coffee
Okay, before we start, we should probably start with a proper definition for cowboy coffee since so many people may be unfamiliar with the term. In our opinion, true cowboy coffee is a coffee that’s made over a wood-burning fire. If the coffee is made in your kitchen, then guess what? The coffee isn’t cowboy coffee it’s just plain ole’ coffee.
Having said that, there’s also something else that differentiates cowboy coffee from other types of coffee. And that something is how it’s brewed. Cowboy coffee is made with a process called a decoction. What is decoction? Well, put simply, it simply means that the grounds are placed directly into boiling water and this allows the water to extract the compounds from the coffee grounds directly and without the need of a filter.
How To Make Cowboy Coffee
Okay, now that we understand just exactly what cowboy coffee is, it’s now time to turn our attention to making this type of coffee properly. As most people will likely realize from our cowboy coffee definition, this coffee isn’t that difficult to make. However, it’s extremely easy to mess up, so you’re probably going to want to follow this guide if you’re preparing it for the first time. As you become used to the process of making this type of coffee, you can then add your own variations to the brewing process as you see fit. Okay, let’s get started and jump right into the thick of things and make a great pot of cowboy coffee.
Step One: Assemble Your Equipment
Before you can even make a quality cowboy coffee, you first have to make sure that you have the proper equipment. Below are some of the things that you are going to want to have on hand when making this type of coffee.
- The Best Camping Coffee Maker
- The Best Ground Coffee
- Quality Water (Preferably Filtered)
- A Coffee Cup
- A Roaring Campfire
Step Two: Add Water To Your Camping Coffee Maker
The next step to cowboy coffee bliss is to add your water to your camping coffee maker. In our opinion, and it’s only our opinion, filtered water is the best for any type of coffee but especially for cowboy coffee. That’s because with making this type of coffee, poor tasting water can make some truly poor tasting coffee. Of course, if you have access to quality well water or an artisan spring, then you won’t have to filter your own water. However, if you don’t, then do yourself a favor and filter your water.
Step Three: Bring The Water To A Rolling Boil
Once the water has been added to the camping coffee maker, it’s time to set it on the fire and get the water up to a rolling boil. Once the water has begun to boil, remove the water from the fire and allow it to sit for approximately 30-seconds. Why? Well, that’s because the perfect temperature for brewing coffee is 200-degrees Fahrenheit and 30-seconds after boiling water is removed from its source of heat, it’s exactly in the 200-205 degree Fahrenheit range. The perfect brewing temperature for cowboy coffee.
Step Four: Add The Ground Coffee To The Water
The next step is to add ground coffee to the water. This means adding approximately 2-ounces of ground coffee to the pot for every 8-ounces of hot water. Yes, just stir it right into the hot water. Although some people might prefer a stronger or a weaker pot of coffee, we feel that this is the perfect ratio for great cowboy coffee. Of course, once you’ve gotten the hang of making this type of coffee, do feel free to adjust the coffee to suit your tastes.
Before we move on to the next step, however, we would like to take a moment and talk about grinding your coffee beans. It’s our opinion that freshly ground coffee beans make the best cowboy coffee, but many people instead use ground coffee because they don’t want to carry the extra weight of the coffee grinder. And while we understand that fact, we do think that you should try to grind your coffee beans because it produces the best flavor. Besides, most of the coffee bean grinders made for campers don’t weigh all that much, so it’s something that should be considered.
Step Five: Properly Mix & Brew
Okay, once you’ve stirred the coffee grounds into the water, then be sure to let the coffee brew for approximately 2-minutes. This means just letting it sit and not messing with it. After the 2-minutes has elapsed, give the mixture another stir and then let it sit for another 2-minutes for a total of 4-minutes of brewing time.
Once the 4-minutes has elapsed, add cold water to the mixture. Why cold water? That’s because cold water will help the coffee grounds sink to the bottom of the coffee pot. Coldwater sinks to the bottom of the coffee pot and takes the ground with it. Some people swear by adding a raw egg to the water to get the grounds to settle, but we feel cold water is the best method for settling the grounds.
How much cold water should you use for settling the coffee grounds? Well, while we’ve found that each person has their own personal preferences, we find that approximately 1/2-cup to 3/4-cup of cold water poured down the coffee pot’s spout per 3-quarts of coffee is enough to get the coffee grounds to properly settle. At least, that’s been our personal experience with the process.
Cowboy Coffee Brewing Tips
Before we conclude this article, we would like to offer up to you and the rest of our readers some tips that should help you improve your coffee brewing skills. The following tips will ensure that you get the most out of your cowboy coffee and help to elevate it to the next level.
- Use Filtered Or Quality Water
- Start With The Best Possible Coffee
- Grind Your Own Beans (If Possible)
- If Using A Cast Iron Coffee Pot, Make Sure It’s Seasoned
- Keep Your Coffee Making Equipment Clean
- Don’t Over Brew The Coffee
- Immediately Place Into A Coffee Thermos For Best Results
As we think that we’ve pointed out, making cowboy coffee isn’t a very difficult process. If you use quality tools and ingredients, there’s no reason why you can’t create a pot of coffee that you and your fellow cowboys are going to love. Once you do, you’ll quickly realize that the myth of cowboy coffee being thick like mud and bitter was exactly that: just a myth.