What is cowboy coffee? Simply put, it's when corse coffee grounds are heated in a pot of water and then settle to the bottom. Basically French press coffee sans the heavy French press. As the name suggests, the cowboys used this method because it was simple, lightweight and convenient for travel. And now, we backcountry adventurers get to reap the same benefits of this simple way to make a good cuppa Joe!
The best part about cowboy coffee? It's lightweight! No need for filters, a heavy, bulky French press, no extras. Just bring your coffee grounds (corse grind is best, but I've definitely done it with medium grind), your kettle, and a cup. Or if you're like me and want to keep it real simple, just make it right in your titanium or stainless steel mug and enjoy your coffee once the grounds settle! The only con to cowboy coffee? It's technically not "good 'til the last drop"... A very small price to pay I say!
First thing you'll need is a source to boil water. Like I said, there's no need to bring extras, so I like to keep it simple and just use a fire safe kettle or titanium or stainless steel mug to boil my water right on the campfire, either by setting it right on the coals or making a pot hanger as pictured above, but if you tend to bring a micro burner, twig stove or jetboil with you, have at 'er. You can even try this at home right on your stove if you want to master it before you get into the woods!
How to make it:
Step 1) Bring water to a boil (I typically don't measure my water out there but I usually add about 500mls - ish).
Step 2) Add your grounds into the boiling water. If you need to take it off the heat source to do so this is okay. Once grounds are added, bring water to a boil again, but watch carefully because it will certainly boil over if the kettle is very full. (Again, I don't measure my grounds, but I try to put roughly 4 tbps for the 500mls of water, but you'll figure out how you prefer it after a few tries).
Step 3) When the water with the added coffee grounds returns to a boil, let it go for about 30 seconds and then remove it from the heat.
Step 4) Let it sit for 2 minutes and then add a little bit of cold water to the top and let sit for another minute or so. This step is really important as the cold water helps the grounds settle to the bottom.
Step 5) Pour into your cup slowly and enjoy!
Making the perfect cup of cowboy coffee certainly takes practice, but once you master it, you'll love it! The finer the grounds you use the more sediment you'll get in your resulting coffee, but if you're a die-hard coffee lover like me and fine grounds is all you got, you'll be just fine.
Highly recommend giving it a try whether you need to or not. You'll thank me one day when you're in a pinch with no coffee filters and all the stores are closed.