What does camping mean to you? To many Girl and Boy Scout parents, it means “cowboy coffee”. Some look forward to week-long mountain excursions as a chance to enjoy this delicacy engineered and perfected years ago by our cow-herding friends.
Understand – cowboy coffee isn’t better than a café mocha from the corner Starbucks – the experience and atmosphere in which it is enjoyed sets apart this hot beverage. You’ll find almost as many recipes for cowboy coffee as you’ll find cowboy hats in a western store, each one created out of necessity and that primal urge for a jolt first thing in the morning.
What Is Cowboy Coffee?
The essentials of a pot of cowboy coffee are few and easy to come by. You’ll need a pot of some sort – a saucepan, metal carafe, or even a metal coffee cup will do. Find something that holds water and withstands campfire heat.
Next, you’ll need some water. As much as you think you and your coffee friends will be drinking. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it should be clean water. Finally, you need some coffee grounds. If you’re boiling a quart of water, figure 1 cup of grounds for a very strong pot or half a cup for a weak one. If you are using single-serving cups, figure two teaspoons of grounds per 6 ounces of water.
Fill your container with water and push it on the fire. Once your water comes to a boil, add the coffee grounds. Return to almost boiling and then remove from heat and cover. Wait a few minutes (five to seven minutes) until the grounds sink to the bottom. That’s it! Time to serve.
Cowboy Coffee Variations
If you are above 5000 feet elevation, you need to add the grounds before the water boils, when it just starts to give off a little steam. This is because the boiling point of water is lower at higher altitudes. Interesting right? Those who are adventurous like to pack a cinnamon stick and add it to the water before placing it on the heat. This gives the coffee a Starbucks or Dunkin’ flavor and aroma.
Swallow, Don’t Chew
You want to avoid taking in the bitter solids that settle to the bottom of your carafe and cup, at all costs. After brewing, let your container set for a few minutes, preferably somewhere near but not in the fire, so it will stay warm. When pouring, remember that slow and steady win the race, don’t dump out the java into the cups in quick, short movements. Drink your cowboy coffee slowly, especially as you near the bottom of your cup.
Fancy Get Ups
There are some fancy gadgets on the market that can make a tastier cup of coffee if you are willing to spend a little money. From percolators to vacuum-type contraptions that suck water up through the grounds as it heats, you can find any number of ways to make cowboy coffee. We recently purchased an Aeropress that is perfect for camping trips or when spending time with mother nature.