How To Make Cowboy Coffee

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Enjoying Cowboy Coffee

True camp coffee is nothing but real grounds-and-water-in-the-pot coffee. Bring water to a rolling boil, take it off the heat source, dump in one generous tablespoon of coffee grounds per cup of water, and let it steep (covered) alongside the campfire for approximately five to ten minutes. To settle the grounds, tap a spoon on the side of the pot three to five times.

The most crucial element of brewing “true grit” is never letting the coffee boil once you’ve taken it off the heat source. Old-timers used to say that boiled coffee tastes like rotten shoe leather—and they’re right! The reason for the bad taste of boiled coffee is the bitter tannic acid and flavouring oils it contains. The tasty oils are released at 86 C (205 F), just below boiling point. The bitter acids, however, are released right at or just above boiling point.

Never let the coffee boil once you’ve taken it off the heat source.

Another important factor is how to settle the grounds before serving the coffee. Some campers throw pieces of eggshell or toss in a few round pebbles. A teaspoon of cold water seems to do the trick as well. Or plunge the pot up and down while doing knee squats (watch the video above). Finally, there’s the most common method, simply tapping the side of the pot three or four times with a knife or spoon.

The classier way, however, is to believe in the physics of centrifugal force. Take hold of the wire handle on the pot, swing it with the speed of an aircraft propeller, and have complete faith that the quick motion will force the grounds to the bottom of the pot and keep the boiled water from spilling out on top of you. This suicidal action isn’t as effective as all the other options—but campmates will be more impressed with it. Just make sure to give the first cup of coffee to the person in the group you don’t necessarily like—and the last cup, where all the grounds are still floating freely about.

The last touch, of course, is a healthy dash of sweet-smelling Irish Cream liqueur.

Add one healthy dash of Irish Creme Liqueur and you’ve made the perfect cup of Cowboy Coffee!

Kevin Callan

Kevin (aka The Happy Camper) is the author of 18 books; his latest being Once Around Algonquin: An Epic Canoe Journey. He is an award winning writer and a keynote speaker at outdoor events across North America. Kevin is also a regular guest on several television morning shows – including The Outdoor Journal. He has won several film awards and was listed as one of the top 100 modern-day explorers by the Canadian Geographical Society. He was also made Patron Paddler for Paddle Canada.

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