Cowboy coffee, coffee’s that’s made around a campfire with nothing more than beans, water and a pot, can be terrible. It also can be as good as the coffee you made from hand-ground beans carefully brewed with 200-degree water in your artisan glass French press. Below are two recipes for cowboy coffee. One’s for when you want to send those pesky campers who invited themselves to your fire back to their own campsite, spurting grounds out of their teeth. The other’s for when you want to enjoy a fine cup of coffee around a peaceful fire.
Serving Up Bad Cowboy Coffee
Cowboy coffee isn’t known for tasting good, because many people make it using this recipe. If you want to taste truly awful coffee, just follow these steps:
- Disregard the coffee-to-water ratio guidelines, because the coffee won’t be good enough for the ratio to matter. Just add some grounds to a pot and fill it with water.
- Place the pot on the fire and bring the water to boil. When done correctly, the grounds will float to the top, so most of them aren’t being brewed, and the pot will boil over.
- After burning your hand while trying to adjust the pot so that it doesn’t boil over again, let the “coffee” sit for a few more minutes.
- Remove the pot from the fire, and sprinkle a handful of cold water into it. Not only will the cold water help the grounds settle on the bottom, but it will also give the appearance that you know what you’re doing. Perhaps you’ll recover some of the dignity you lost in Step 3.
- Serve the coffee. There are two strategies for this step. You might pour your cup first, so you have as few grounds as possible in your mug. Alternatively, you can save yours till last, hoping that the coffee will be gone by the time you get to your cup.
Brewing Great Cowboy Coffee
Cowboy coffee doesn’t have to be bad. After all, you have all the supplies needed to brew great coffee: high-quality grounds, water, a heat source and a pot for brewing. Here’s how you can make cowboy coffee that would rival what you brew at home:
- Add water to your pot and bring it to a boil.
- Once the water’s boiling, remove the pot from your fire and let it sit for 30 seconds. This will lower the water temperature to 200°F — the perfect temperature for brewing coffee.
- Add 2 tablespoons of finely ground coffee for every 8 ounces of water. (You may want to measure how much water your pot holds and how much coffee a spoon you bring holds before going camping so you can measure accurately.)
- Stir the grounds into the water.
- Let the brew sit for 2 minutes and stir again.
- Let the coffee sit for 2 more minutes.
- After a total of 4 minutes of brewing, sprinkle a little cold water on the grounds. Yes, this actually does help them settle to the bottom.
- Slowly pour the coffee, so the grounds remain on the bottom of the pot.
Your coffee will taste best if it’s poured immediately after brewing. Coffee that sits in a pot with grounds will quickly become over-extracted and bitter. If you’d like a second cup, either brew another pot or pack a thermal carafe to keep your coffee hot in.
Although cowboy coffee gets a bad rap, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy great-tasting coffee while camping. You have everything you need to make a good cup with you already. Just follow the second recipe, not the first one.
Do you make coffee while camping? What equipment do you use? We’d love to hear in the comments section below.