You can make cowboy coffee, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
No need for any fancy coffee pot. Just a bag of coffee beans, a little cold water, a saucepan, and fire. You can impress your fellow campers by producing a cup of Joe from nothing.
There’s not really any way to get it wrong. Sure, you can make a bad cup of coffee, but with practice, you’ll certainly be able to some great coffee without a coffee maker in sight. When you get the nack of it, the brew can turn out similar to french press coffee.
The old-time-y art of cowboy coffee making isn’t a secret. It’s just good old-fashioned improvising.
What Is Cowboy Coffee?
If the name isn’t enough of a hint, cowboy coffee goes back to the days of the old wild west. You can just imagine a cowboy bubbling up a good cup of coffee in a cast iron pan over an open campfire on a lone prairie.
It may not be the best coffee, but it’ll get you that much-needed caffeine hit in a pinch while out on camping trips. With some practice, you genuinely can brew a pretty good coffee.
Cowboy coffee is the epitome of cobbling together a cup of java. Improvising your brew is the heart of a cowboy coffee. There are some who say that a cowboy coffee absolutely needs crushed eggshells (I’ll talk more on that soon), frankly, I’m not wholly convinced.
Cowboy style coffee is usually made by brewing up coarsely ground coffee in a kettle or saucepan over a campfire or camping stovetop. No percolator, no paper filter, or mesh strainer. Cowboy coffee is something you might make while out backpacking or camping.
How To Make Cowboy Coffee
Cowboy coffee, like the wild west, is just as wild. There’s no single way to make cowboy coffee.
With that said, it’s no problem to tweak the method to your own style.
The overall plan for making cowboy coffee is: you’re going to make some coffee in a kettle, or any cooking pan, with no filter or gadget to strain out the grounds. Does that sound like a gritty, dirty coffee? You’re not alone.
The magic trick in cowboy coffee is getting all those loose grounds to clump and settle so you can just pour out your brewed Java.
Use A Whole Egg
I know what you’re thinking. An egg in coffee. Well, it’s exactly as it sounds only it doesn’t taste anywhere near as bad.
You take your dry coffee grounds, and smash a whole egg through it, shell and all.
If you’ve ever tried poaching an egg, you’ll know that, even if it breaks up a bit, an egg will turn into a big sticky clump when boiled in water. Mix in some coffee grounds and you’ve got a big boiled ball of egg and coffee grounds. That should make separating the grounds from the coffee a bit easier.
While it certainly sounds gross, the egg does lend a pleasant, albeit a little strange, creaminess to the brew.
Use Egg Shells
The jury is out on the exact order of this one.
There are plenty of people out there who will say to mix eggshell with dry coffee grounds before adding any water. There are also lots of people who will say to drop the eggshell on top of the coffee after it has simmered for a while.
Personally, I’ve had a hard time getting either of these methods to work. If you’ve managed it, I’d love it if you left a comment below to share your secret!
I’ve found that I just end up with a mix of gritty coffee grounds with eggshell floating around in my coffee. It wasn’t a good time.
The idea is that the eggshell helps the coffee grounds to settle to the bottom so you can just pour out some fresh clean coffee.
No Egg At All
I don’t blame you if you’re not keen on mixing an egg with your coffee. The grounds can still settle, and you can scoop the floaters off the top.
I’m no cowboy-history expert, but I don’t imagine cowboys carried many eggs around with them. They just seem too fragile for rough and bumpy journeys. Then again, I’m sure there were plenty of chickens in old Western towns.
Cowboy Coffee Recipe
- A kettle or any saucepan
- A small stove, campfire, or any improvised heat source
- An egg
- 4-10 minutes of brewing
- Grind: Coarse
- Ratio: 2 Tablespoons of coffee per mug of water
Cowboy coffee is all about improvising a coffee brew whilst out camping on the wilderness. So here’s the plan to get you going.
- First thing’s first. You’re going to want to make the right amount of coffee. About two tablespoons of coffee per mug of water will see you right.
- You’re going to want this coffee to be ground up super coarsely. Sure, it’s easy to buy a bag of pre-ground coffee beans, but that stuff is usually far finer than is ideal for this brew method. Of course, you’re not going to have a coffee grinder with you. In the spirit of cowboy-ness, smashing your whole beans up with a rock until they’re around the size of peppercorns will give you a great grind size.
- Next up, load those ground beans into your kettle or saucepan. If you’ve been egged on to try the egg mix it in at this stage.
- Pour in your water.
- Bring your kettle or saucepan to a simmer over your open fire. Many will say to bring your coffee to a rolling boil. I found that keeping it closer to a gentle simmer gave a less-harsh flavor.
- How long you simmer your brew is your call. You’ll want to simmer it for at least 4 minutes. If you like it stronger, and depending on how coarse your grounds are, you could simmer it for up to 10 minutes before it’s harsh enough to grow hair on your eyeballs.
- Take your coffee off the heat and let extra sediment settle to the bottom of the pot. If you’re opting for adding eggshells after boiling then wait for the simmering to stop and sprinkle away. Having tried a few variations, I found that adding eggshells at this point didn’t help at all, but be my guest.
- After allowing your coffee to settle for a few minutes, gently pour the brew into mugs. I recommend using a spoon to hold back any rogue floaters that may have escaped.
- Sit back and enjoy your cup of cowboy coffee
Bonus Tip: If you pour your coffee out and find it’s still too gritty, try letting it settle in the mug a little longer and then gently pour it into another coffee mug.
Having tried brewing up cowboy coffee with a whole egg smashed in, with just eggshells, and without; I feel it’d be no problem for anything whip up a batch of camp coffee with a little knowhow.
I was surprised. When I managed to get the grounds out, it was a surprisingly good batch of coffee. I found that method of mixing a whole egg mashed in with dry coarse ground coffee worked best for me. The grounds turned into strange eggy clumps that were easy to sift out and it was some pretty great tasting coffee to boot.
It might be pretty tricky to make espresso around a campfire, but call me a pushover, I’ll still be trying my darndest to pack a little french press or Moka pot in my rucksack somehow.