AUTHENTIC COWBOY COFFEE: THE RICH HISTORY OF A SIMPLE RECIPE
The American Southwest desert is hot and dry, the nights are sleepless, and the coffee is strong, scalding hot and barefooted. We are in the early 1800s, a few decades after the American revolution and in the middle of the exploding gold rush. Cowboys spend long days on the road tending to their cattle and traveling - and, most importantly, searching for coffee chuckwagons devised by cooks to keep them energized and hydrated. This is the story of the first cups of authentic cowboy coffee brewed in the Wild, Wild West…
Back when the US was still a British colony, the British Empire imposed high taxes on British tea brought to America by boat. Frustrated Americans responded with the iconic Boston Tea Party, a political and mercantile protest where Americans stormed British ships and dumped millions of dollars worth of tea in the sea. From then on, drinking tea was seen as unpatriotic as it was the favored drink of the British, and the American Revolution in 1776 only further cemented this notion. Coffee now had free reign to win over the hearts of the American people, and it sure did.
Today, coffee is a commodity, an art form, and a science all in one. But back in the 19th century in America, coffee was a symbol of defiance and rebellion, and cowboys were the perfect customers for it. With their unruly ways, no-frills lifestyle, hard physical labor and bold patriotism, coffee seemed to have been made for them, and they were undoubtedly the most devoted group of coffee drinkers in the West.
All it Takes is a Pot and a Campfire!
To make coffee just like the cowboys used to do it, you must leave all your preconceptions of how “good” coffee is made behind. This technique requires no special equipment - just what a cook in the desert would already have on hand. A large pot or kettle, an open fire and finely ground coffee is all you truly need. Some cowboys also liked to add a pinch of salt to their brew for extra hydration, and others would even throw in some eggshells mixed in the grounds (the albumin residue in the shells would help the coffee grounds coagulate and settle at the bottom of the pot, and their high alkalinity helped to reduce bitterness, as well). The coffee was strong, and after the first round was poured, they would add even more coffee grounds to the pot to keep it dark. Brewing coffee was their way of relaxing, catching up and socializing at the end of a long day. Seems like our end-of-the-day habits haven't changed much since then!
How to Make Cowboy Coffee
Cowboy coffee is an immersion brewing technique made with fine coffee grounds, no filters and boiling hot water, similar to Turkish coffee. It has a rich history and is unfortunately becoming a dying craft - so we’ve made this quick guide for you to make a perfect, authentic cup of cowboy coffee on the trail or at home. It’s important to note that every cowboy had their own special method for making their brew, but this one seems to be the most common.
A large pot or kettle, preferably well-seasoned (like a cast iron skillet)
An open flame, such as a campfire or a gas burner
1/2 cup of finely ground coffee
4 cups of cold water, plus about 1/4 cup of water reserved on the side
- Fill your large pot or kettle with 4 cups of water.
- Bring your water to a boil on an open flame and remove immediately.
- Wait 30 seconds to one minute before adding your coffee grounds. This will ensure your water temperature has gone down to about 200F, which is the perfect temperature to brew coffee.
- Add your coffee grounds directly to the pot and place back on an open flame.
- Allow your coffee to come to a rolling boil. This step is important, as the high temperature will take the acidity out of your drink.
- Once the coffee is at a rolling boil, remove from the flame, place the pot in a hole dug in the ground, and allow to steep for about 5 minutes. Placing your pot in a hole allows the heat to be retained inside to achieve a perfect extraction. If you are using coarse grounds instead of fine ones, steep your brew for a little while longer or else you’ll end up with a weaker coffee.
- Once your coffee has finished brewing, pour about 1/4 cup of cold water down the spout of your pot. This will allow the grounds to sink to the bottom, ensuring you don’t get any grainy bits in your cup.
Is Cowboy Coffee Good? Our Verdict is Yes!
A well-made cowboy coffee will be very smooth, dark, and boiling hot. The allure of cowboy coffee is truly in its simplicity. The next time you’re away from all fancy brewing equipment and yearning for a good mug of coffee, give this traditional wild west method a go. Make a cowboy proud today!
Check out our origin and blend coffees, perfect for making a great cup of cowboy coffee!SHOP ALL COFFEE