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How to make Cowboy Coffee

Updated on April 16, 2010

What is Cowboy Coffee?

As you might imagine the term 'cowboy coffee' comes from a time when cowboys in the late 19th century would boil coffee over an open flame out somewhere on the range.

Today cowboy coffee can mean making outside over a fire or it can also mean roughing it a little bit at home over the stove but made in a similar fashion.The latter usage is one that my father would make famous in our family of of 3 boys.

My parents were divorced as I was growing up a teenager, and me and my other 2 brothers used to stay with my dad. We used to work with him a lot fixing up empty apartments that we would stay in. We pretty much were homeless during these stretches of working with him and were living out of a duffel bag.

But we were never without our cup of coffee. We didn't have a coffeemaker during this stretch so one of the ways that we would brew coffee was to make cowboy coffee.

What was needed to make cowboy coffee

Several things were necessary to make cowboy coffee, luckily we just so happened to have them.

  • One medium sized pot or percolator
  • Access to a clean water supply (yes we always had at least a gallon of water from the store)
  • coffee filters or cheesecloth (*Note: True cowboy coffee isn't filtered, we only drink it unfiltered though once in a while.) It depends on if you prefer to chew your coffee after you drink it or not...  ;)
  • freshly ground coffee of your choice
  • cream and sugar if preferred (we all preferred to drink our coffee black)
  • Source of heat whether it be an oven range or out on the range with a fire

Now for the Brewing!

1. If you plan on brewing this at home, you'll want to get the medium sized pot out and place 4-6 cups of clean drinking water inside. (* Note: For safety reasons you want some clearance space on the top of the pot since you will be boiling the water and coffee mixture; If under 18 make sure your parents are supervising this).

2. Turn the range on high to medium high. If you put it on high make sure that once it gets to a rolling boil that you turn it down to medium high.

3. Now take 1 tablespoon of coffee grounds per 2 cups of water and place into boiling water for a few minutes, then turn off stove and let coffee sit for a minute or two.

4. Now take cheesecloth or coffee filter and place on the top of either a coffee thermos or coffee pot. Next push in the center so that it recesses into the coffee holder somewhat.

5. Slowly pour the cowboy coffee through the filter and wait a few seconds for it to squeeze through the filter. When you have squeezed all of the coffee through there should only remain the grounds from the coffee leftover in the filter. Promptly discard the coffee residue.

6. Now pour the coffee into coffee mugs and enjoy! This should produce a medium strength coffee. If it is too strong, simply add some hot water to dilute the strength.

Tablespoon to water cup ratio

Tablespoons of Coffee Grounds
Hot Cups of Water
1 Tablespoon
2 cups
2 Tablespoons
4 cups
3 Tablespoons
6 cups
4 Tablespoons
8 cups

This really works well when camping

  Some of you may never be in a situation where you would want to do this in your home. An ideal place to do this would be when camping outdoors. The biggest difference is it will be over an open flame or controlled campfire of some sort.

  Make sure precautions are taken when dealing with an open flame so you do not burn yourself. You will want to use a glove to grab the pot handle since it will be very hot and can burn you.


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    • profile image

      John Q. Public 

      6 years ago

      When me and my five brothers and one sister were living out of a canvas-bag with my uncle Bob, we always made coffee when we were on the road using a method Bob called "bean-can coffee".

      To make bean-can coffee, one takes a large empty bean can and boil water in it. Then Bob would reach into his canvas bag and pull out a jar of instant coffee. It was like magic.

    • profile image

      Mike Chronos 

      8 years ago

      Great hub! I'll have to try to brew my next batch like a cowboy! Thanks hubberman. -Mike Chronos,

    • sheptastic07 profile image


      8 years ago

      I feel like Clint Eastwood now. Well tell something, do you feel lucky...punk.

      well do ya. j/k!


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