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Cowboy coffee is a way to brew a cup of joe with no coffee maker! It’s the simplest way to make coffee on the road.

Cowboy Coffee

Want to make coffee with no special tools? Try Cowboy Coffee! This primitive method for making a cup of joe requires no coffee maker: just boiling water and coffee grounds. It’s ideal for hiking or camping, or when you’re away from home with no coffee making tools in sight. Here’s how to do it!

What is cowboy coffee?

Cowboy coffee is the traditional name for coffee made over an open fire, likely descended from the way cowboys made the stuff while out on the trail. It’s an ideal method for making coffee when camping, hiking or backpacking. You can also make it when you’re travelling and don’t have access to coffee making tools! All you’ll need is the following:

  • 3 tablespoons ground coffee, medium coarse ground
  • 1 pinch salt
  • Boiling water
  • Strainer or other straining method (see below)

How to make cowboy coffee

Cowboy coffee is incredibly simple to make. While it’s not something we’d recommend on the regular, it makes one decent cup without any special tools. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Boil the water using whatever method you have access to: campfire or stove!
  2. Allow the coffee grounds to bloom: Add the coffee and salt to a small pot, jar, or coffee mug. Add enough boiling water to just wet the grounds and let sit for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, fill the mug with boiling water and stir.
  3. Brew the coffee: Wait 4 minutes.
  4. Strain out the grounds: Here’s the challenging part! We recommend using a strainer to strain the coffee into a mug. If you don’t have a strainer, dribble a bit of cold water across the top of the hot coffee, which makes the grounds sink to the bottom.

Give it a taste and you might be surprised! It’s a pretty darn decent cup of coffee.

Cowboy Coffee

Straining methods

The traditional way to strain cowboy coffee is to pour a little cold water right on top of the hot coffee. But we didn’t find this to be effective! Here are our notes from testing these methods:

  • Pouring cold water on top works, but makes a crunchy sip. This trick is supposed to let you avoid a coffee filter by making the coffee grounds sink to the bottom. When we tried this, the sip was still very crunchy. But feel free to try this trick! You can also wait several minutes for the grounds to settle to the bottom before drinking.
  • Straining the coffee is the best method. Strain it right into a mug! Of course, you may not always have a strainer at your disposal.
  • A clean sock also works (in a pinch!). If you’re out camping and you don’t have anything for straining, here’s a non-traditional option: try a clean sock! Keep in mind that coffee does stain, so use a dark colored sock if you have one. (Of course, you may have to relegate it to being the coffee sock after this!)

And that’s it: how to make cowboy coffee! Let us know in the comments how you get on with this recipe…did it work for you?

Cowboy Coffee

More coffee drinks and methods

Love a good cup of joe? Us too! Here are a few more coffee making methods we make on the regular:

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Cowboy Coffee

Cowboy Coffee


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x

Description

Cowboy coffee is a way to brew a cup of joe with no coffee maker! It’s the simplest way to make coffee on the road.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 tablespoons ground coffee (medium coarse ground)
  • 1 pinch salt (optional but recommended to reduce bitterness)
  • ¾ cup (6 ounces) boiling water

Instructions

  1. Boil the water (on a campfire or stovetop).
  2. Add the coffee and salt to a small pot, jar, or coffee mug (if not straining; see step 2). Add enough boiling water to just wet the grounds and let sit for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, fill the mug with boiling water and stir.
  3. Wait 4 minutes.
  4. Strain out the grounds: If you don’t have a strainer, dribble a bit of cold water across the top of the hot coffee, which makes the grounds sink to the bottom*. But this works best with a strainer (or a clean sock!): use it to strain the coffee into a mug. Enjoy immediately.

Notes

*In our experience, the cold water trick doesn’t work effectively: you end up with a crunchy sip!

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Boiled
  • Cuisine: Coffee
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Cowboy coffee

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you’ll want to make again and again.

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3 Comments

  1. This is not the way I was taught to make cowboy coffee, if you really want to know how to make real cowboy coffee, google cowboy Kent Rollins now that is how you make real cowboy coffee.

  2. Cowboy coffee sounds a lot like French press coffee:
    – Add the number of scoops of grounds for the number of cups to be made.
    – Boil water.
    – Add the boiled water to the grounds in the French press.
    – Stir a few times.
    – Let it steep for 4 minutes, then press the plunger (screen/strainer) down.
    – Pour into a cup.