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How to Make Cowboy Coffee That Tastes Great

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Make Delicious Cowboy Coffee

Headed out for an outdoor adventure? Who says you have to drink a day-old brew or drag your multiple-part brewer with you? Camping should be fun and daring. Let’s be bold and surprise your camp buddies with an authentic cowboy coffee! Don’t let your past failures discourage you. With this guide, you will make coffee over an open fire that will be just as satisfying as the brew from your fancy maker.

What Is Cowboy Coffee?

It may have been born in the wild and created to give energy to physically-challenged cowboys, but cowboy coffee today has become a real art. But, what exactly is it?

If you take the method of preparation aside, cowboy coffee is just like any other brew. It Is coffee grounds brewed in hot water. That’s it. It will not give you a head start in your Cowboys-and-Indians game, nor will it force you on a country-clothes shopping spree. But will it enhance your mood and boost your energy? Absolutely!

Cowboy coffee is made outdoors, under the starry sky, and over a campfire. You make the coffee by mixing it with the bowling water during the brewing, then wait for the coffee fragments to sink to the bottom and pour yourself a fresh cup of Java.

It may sound straightforward, but ask anyone who’s tried to prepare it, and you will see that miserable fails are less likely than tasty brew.  Where’s the catch? In the right method, of course!

Cowboy Coffee’s Historic Allure

With detest for tea (thanks to King George’s high tax), American colonists turned to coffee. So much so, that after the Revolutionary War, Americans became die-hard Java drinkers and served tea only from time to time, usually to the ladies.

The most devoted group of coffee consumers were the cowboys. They preferred it as strong as possible, piping hot, and always black. But since finding good coffee was expensive, most of them were forced to drink mock brews. That all changed in the 1860s when Arbuckle revolutionized the industry of coffee. Thanks to his ground and roasted beans, coffee drinking became a more affordable luxury.

Coffee became available around the clock, usually boiled in five-gallon pots over hot coal. The long hours worked seemed a lot easier when washed down with energizing gulps.

But even though this brewing style is understandable for the wild west, it has still managed to keep its allure. Thanks to die-hard cowboys and nostalgic people wishing to preserve this old culture, cowboy coffee has somehow found its way back to the campfires.

Cowboy Coffee – Both Art and Science

Although at first glance cowboy coffee appears rough, you cannot just simply dump the coffee in a big pot, mix with water, and bring to a boil. The authentic cup requires a little more art and ingenuity, and a splash of science.

For starters, you cannot use just any coffee. The best Java for a genuinely satisfying cowboy coffee should not be finely ground. Instead, the best taste comes from coarse grounds. By using coarsely ground beans, the coffee will not get fully extracted in this brewing process, providing smoother, less bitter, and pleasing mouthfeel.

The brewing process is straightforward, but it requires a dose of art to get it right. Ask an experienced cowboy to brew you a pot, and they will most likely fall a recipe similar to this:

  1. You take a large coffee pot (at least two-gallon one).
  2. You fill it with water and place it over an open fire.
  3. When it starts boiling, you add about 1 to 1 ½ cups of coffee per every 4 cups of water to it.
  4. You stir and take the pot off the heat.
  5. You add about a cup of cold water to the pot to help the grounds sink to the bottom.

Whatever method used, the point is for the grounds to settle at the bottom.

Best Camping Coffee Pots for Making Cowboy Coffee

Going camping and want to bring the best pot for cowboy coffee with you? You cannot go wrong with either one of these:

Granite Ware 3-Quart Coffee Boiler

For those that want a pot that will not only make an excellent brew but also look like something real cowboys would have used in the Wild West, the Granite Ware Boiler is the best bet.

Perfect for both, open fire and the burner at your home, this pot will serve four energy-craving cowboys, anytime and anywhere.

Proper insulation for keeping the brew hot for a decent time is what makes Granite Ware stand out.

OuterEQ Outdoor Camping Coffee Pot

If you are looking for a kettle-style pot that is a bit more stable, then this is probably your best pick. It may require more space in your backpack, but its wide lid opening makes up for the bulky look –  you can easily sneak some of your gear inside.

Brews up to a quart and is very simple to use—all in all, a decent buy.

Coleman 9-Cup Aluminum Coffee Pot

Open flames may discolor this fancy-looking pot, but the richness of the cowboy coffee brewed in it is more than you’d hope for. If you don’t care about the look, though, know that this is one durable pot, as the fire can only stain, not damage it.

The Coleman Aluminum pot brews up to nine decent cups.

How to Make Great Cowboy Coffee

Despite what you may have heard, Cowboy Coffee is not grainy and tasteless by default. With the right brewing method, a bitter-free and satisfying cup is guaranteed. 

But what if you are not brewing for a posse of energy-craving cowboys? Can you brew to perfection even for a couple of cups? Absolutely! Regardless of the number of people you are brewing for, you will always have a great cowboy coffee if you follow some brewing rules:

The Ratio

There is a coffee to water ratio that you should always follow for the best taste – ¾ -1: 4. This means that for every 4 cups of water used, you should add about ¾ to 1 cup of coffee. Obviously, if you need a couple of cups, you cut the amount in half (or double it if you need more).

The Grind

The worst thing that can happen to Cowboy Coffee is over-extraction. If your beans are ground finely, you will have them fully extracted during the brewing process, which will result in a bitter and not-so-pleasing taste. However, If they are coarsely ground, the flavor will be on a whole different level. A most satisfying one, of course.

The Temperature

You bring the water to a boil, that’s true, but if you do not drop it to 200 degrees F, over-extraction will, again, kill the flavor your taste buds crave. That is why we take the pot off the heat, and we add cold water to the brew – to bring out the best of the taste.

The Method

How your Cowboy Coffee tastes also depends on the brewing method used. The previous three rules all guarantee smooth and delicious sips, but depending on your unique preferences, there are a few different ways in which you can prepare your cowboy coffee.

The Eggshell Method

You might take your coffee and eggs separately at breakfast, but combine your Java with leftover eggshells, and the flavor will surprise you pleasantly. This isn’t a weird brewing hack, but a science-based trick that seriously improves the taste.

How can eggshells help? Broken eggshells work like wonders because they draw the grounds to settle to the ground. But that is not the only reason. Eggshells are naturally alkaline, so they balance the acidity of your brew, providing a deeply-satisfying taste.

Here is how you can make authentic cowboy coffee with eggshells:

  1. Pour a quart of water in a flame-resistant pot, and bring it to a boil. If brewing outdoors, try not to place the kettle inside the fire, but on a grate over the flame.
  2. While the water is boiling, break your eggshells into crumbs and then mix with your ground coffee. You will need about ¾ to 1 cup of coffee per 4 cups of water.
  3. Once boiling, add the coffee/eggshell mix to the pot but do not stir just yet.
  4. When the water starts boiling again, remove it off the heat and set aside.
  5. Allow the coffee to steep and settle on the bottom, which should take about 5 minutes.
  6. If the coffee isn’t sunk to the bottom after 5 minutes, just add a splash of cold water to speed up the process.
  7. Pour immediately and gently. Enjoy!

The Clean Sock Method

Want your cowboy coffee to knock you off your socks? Then, grab a clean sock! That’s right, you can also use a coffee sock or a muslin bag to brew one killer cowboy coffee, and here is how:

  1. Just like the previous method, we start the brewing process by adding a quart of water to the pot.
  2. Place the pot on a grate over the open fire (if brewing outdoors), and bring it to a boil.
  3. Meanwhile, add the coffee to your clean sock – the fabric acts as a coffee filter, and close it.
  4. Once boiling, dump the sock into the boiling water and wait for the second boil to start.
  5. Then, remove from heat and let steep for about 5 minutes.
  6. Finally, pour yourself a cup and do not worry about squirting coarse Java out of your teeth – because there will be no coffee at the bottom of the pot.

The Stirring Method

Looking for a brewing method that you’re more familiar with? Then this authentic-Cowboy-coffee-making process might be just for you:

  1. Pour a quart of water into your pot, and bring it to a boil.
  2. Once boiling, remove the pot from heat and let sit off-heat for half a minute. The temperature should come down to 200 degrees F for the best taste.
  3. Now, add ¾ to 1 cup of coarsely ground coffee to the pot.
  4. Give the mixture a good stir and let sit for 2 minutes.
  5. Stir again, and let sit for another two minutes.
  6. Finally, add a splash of cold water to help the grounds sink to the bottom.
  7. Pour immediately and very carefully – the grounds should remain at the bottom. Enjoy!

Do's and Dont's of Making Cowboy Coffee

Just because you are out in the dirt doesn’t mean that you don’t get to enjoy a decent cup of Joe. Whatever the brewing method and regardless of the pot you are using, there are some things you should and shouldn’t do if you care about the taste.


  • Take your time. Cowboy coffee isn’t a magical drink; it requires time to prepare, just like your specialty coffee.
  • Stick to the ratios and always measure. Don’t forget to measure the amount of water so you can add the proper amount of coffee to it.
  • Remember the grind – coarsely ground Java will give you more satisfying results.


  • Don’t let your past failures or other people’s opinions keep you from enjoying your coffee cowboy style.
  • Don’t add your coffee too soon – Boil first, add your Java second.
  • Do not rush it – Allow the full five minutes so the coffee can steep properly.

Bonus trick: If your pot isn’t well-insulated, you can dig a hole and keep your brewed batch there. The ground will keep your brew hot longer.

Time to Enjoy Your Cowboy Coffee

And voila! Without any special requirements or overwhelming brewing processes, you get to put your feet up and enjoy an authentic cowboy coffee in less than 10 minutes from start to finish. 

Sleeping under the stars shouldn’t change the rule of drinking coffee – and that is that you shouldn’t settle for a burnt taste.

We hope this article helped you realize that cowboy coffee does not represent a rough beverage of Java beans tossed together. If you add a pinch of love to the brewing, it yields in the most fulfilling flavor. Bottoms up!

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