how to make cowboy coffee

Cowboy Coffee: How to Make Coffee Over A Fire

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Coffee over a fire? What’s that? Well, as our not-so-subtle title suggests, you are about to find out. This article is all about the art of brewing coffee while out in the wild.

We are going to answer questions like how to make cowboy coffee while camping, the difference between this type of coffee and French press coffee, and some bonus tips on making good coffee, etc. By the time we are done, we are sure you’ll be craving a hot cup of coffee. Or, as Mr. Geller suggested during his first visit to Central Park, sit down son, have a cup of joe! (Do we have any F.R.I.E.N.D.S fans here?)

What is Cowboy or Campfire Coffee?

Simply put, cowboy coffee is coffee that has been brewed over a campfire.It can be completely terrible or it can go on to rival the kind of brew you’d get at a standard coffeehouse. There are multiple ways to brew coffee at camp as well. You can use instant grounds, an automatic coffee maker, a drip cone (for drip coffee), a French press, or a percolator.

Coffee while camping


Most of these options will get you a cup of coffee without too much hassle. Nevertheless, if you are going camping anytime soon, then learning to make cowboy coffee is something you can try. Strictly speaking, this type of coffee involves brewing coffee through the process of infusion. It is frequently confused with French press coffee for the same reason. Nevertheless, these are two distinct methods, and we will be discussing their differences later in this blog.

Making Coffee over Fire: How Do You Go About It?

Like most things, making a good cup of coffee when you are out camping is also easier said than done. A lot of people settle for an average-tasting brew in the name of campfire or cowboy coffee. In reality, you can still enjoy a great cup of coffee whilst out in the wild if you know what you are doing. Here’s how:

How Do You Make a Fire for Cowboy Coffee?  

The first thing you need to do is make a fire. Sounds simple enough, right? After all, all you have to do is throw together some hot coals and logs and you are good to go. Wrong. Building a campfire for making coffee can be a tad tricky.   You are going to need a fire that is hot but also small. The principle here is to build the same kind of fire that you need when cooking food.

Cowboy coffee


Additional tip: Try to place your coals together to form a circle. This will let the water warm up more efficiently.

Once you get the campfire going, let it burn for a while before placing the coffee pot in place. This will help make sure that the water gets the necessary amount of heat required.

How Much Coffee and Water Do You Need?

Next, measure the amount of coffee and water you will need. A lot of people struggle with this part. The trick is to balance 2 tablespoons of coffee against 8 ounces of water. The right proportion will get you a nice, hot cup of strong coffee instead of something weak that makes you gag.



When Do You Add the Coffee?

Once you have settled on the proportion of water and coffee that you’ll need, it’s time to put the pot over the fire. Once the water is almost about to boil (195 to 200 Fahrenheit), you can add the coffee. Wait until the mixture comes to a boil and then take the pot off the heat.

Additional tip: Avoid adding coffee to boiling water. This will end up burning it and give you a bitter taste.

 How Do You Get the Coffee Grounds to Settle Down?

If you Google about this type of coffee, then you’ll see a lot of talk about how the coffee grounds end up floating to the surface. As a result, you’ll find them in your cup while you drink. This can be very unpleasant. It’s also why campfire brews gets a bad name. To get the coffee grounds to settle down, you need to add some cold water through the spout (a cup should suffice). This also helps improve the taste of the brew because it stops the extraction process.

Additional tip: If the coffee grounds don’t settle, try stirring. You can open up the lid, stir the coffee grounds, place the lid back and let the pot sit for about 2 minutes. Repeat this at least twice to make sure they get dissolved.

Time to Pour Out the Coffee!

The hard part is over and your coffee is nearly ready. Try to pour the coffee slowly. This will help keep the coffee grounds at the bottom of the pot. Too much movement and they’ll rise again and all that effort will be wasted. The result may not be perfect since you’ll still get a few coffee grounds that refused to settle in the boiling water, but you will still be able to brew a decent pot of coffee.

Cowboy Coffee vs. French Press Coffee: What is the Difference?

As mentioned earlier, both cowboy coffee and French press coffee involve the process of infusion. The water is boiled to 195 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The coffee grounds vary between a coarse mixture and a fine to medium grind. You will also need a press pot to make French press coffee.  We have already discussed about making cowboy coffee.

To make French press coffee, you must heat the water until it is about to boil. Add the coffee grounds (medium to coarse grind) to the water and let them sit for 4 minutes. Next, use the plunger to push down on the coffee grounds. This is built inside the coffee pot. It has a wire filter screen that presses the coffee grounds to the bottom. The use of this plunger to make sure the coffee grounds do not mix with the brewed coffee is the main point of difference between cowboy coffee and the French press coffee.

Cowboy coffee uses techniques like careful straining or adding cold water to keep the coffee grounds from rising and mixing with the coffee brew. The French press technique uses a mechanical plunger to do this instead. Technology is a beautiful thing after all. Of course, since you are out camping, knowing how to make traditional campfire coffee is likely to serve you better.

Are you Ready for a Quick Review?

Cowboy coffee

You may not be able to make a perfect cup of coffee while camping from the get-go. Nevertheless, keeping these additional tips in mind should help you out:

  • Set up a small but hot fire for preparing the coffee
  • NEVER add coffee grounds to boiling water
  • Make sure you steep the coffee in the water for at least 4 minutes
  • Add some cold water through the spout to make sure the coffee grounds settle down
  • Remember the coffee to water proportion (2 tablespoons of coffee for every 8 ounces of water)
  • Handle the coffee pot with care when pouring the coffee out

Have you ever tried to brew coffee while out camping? Is there anything you did differently? If so, drop us a comment to let us know how it turned out. We’d love to hear from you!