What Is Cowboy Coffee? (Traditional American Method)

Last Updated on October 6, 2021 by John Moretti

There is a phrase that many have heard but not quite understood its meaning. If you have grandparents of a certain age, or if you are interested in American history, you may have heard the term “cowboy coffee” and wondered what it meant. Let’s take the time to explain this phrase and to earn how to make this type of coffee.

Cowboy coffee refers to a traditional American method of brewing filterless coffee over an open fire. Ground coffee is added to water in a metal pot and boiled over a fire. The coffee is boiled, allowed to cool, and given time to sink to the bottom preventing any grounds from entering the cup.

Cowboy coffee is not a type of coffee or a brand of coffee, but it is rather a way to brew coffee. This method is designed for brewing coffee without the use of filters or machines of any kind. Let’s take a closer look at this brewing method and learn how to make cowboy coffee at home.

What Is Cowboy Coffee?

cowboy coffee brewing

Cowboy coffee is a coffee brewing method that originated in the old American West. This method of brewing coffee enables the coffee drinker to brew a very good cup of coffee using nothing but an open fire, water, and a pot.

This method does not use any filters, does not require electricity, does not require any coffee machines or any other modern coffee brewing luxuries, yet it still yields an excellent cup of coffee.

This method of brewing coffee is centuries cold, but it is still used today by many who enjoy an excellent cup of coffee in the outdoors or by those who do not have access to modern coffee brewing methods and equipment.

Hunters, campers, farmers, and even modern cowboys employ this method of brewing coffee regularly. This method is not something that is lost to the history books, but it is very much alive and active today. 

Cowboy coffee is said to be especially smooth and easy to drink. The boiling process that the coffee undergoes while brewing is said to reduce the acidity of the coffee, which makes this coffee easy to drink and more suitable for those with sensitive stomachs or those who are prone to reflux and heartburn. 

This method of brewing coffee is old school, but it is still relevant for many reasons in the modern world of coffee brewing.

How Is Cowboy Coffee Made?

The method for brewing cowboy has remained largely unchanged for many years. However, it has been refined to perfection over generations of coffee brewers.

Cowboy coffee is brewed with only a metal coffee pot or some other type of metal pot, water, grounds, coffee beans, and fire.

The method is quite simple. Water is placed into the pot, and the pot is placed over the fire. Once the water is warm to the touch but not hot, ground coffee is added to the water.

The amount of coffee grounds used varies depending on how much coffee is being brewed and for how many people.

The coffee must remain in the pot of hot water and be allowed to heat up slowly. After some time, the water in the pot will begin to boil. This is an essential part of brewing cowboy coffee. 

Allowing the coffee to boil will remove any excess acid from the beans ad make the drink far smoother and easier to drink.

The coffee is then allowed to stay at a rolling boil for at least four minutes. After four minutes, the coffee is removed from the fire and allowed to cool for a minute or two.

At this point, some brewers will add a small amount of cold water into the hot coffee to help draw the coffee grounds to the bottom of the pot.

After this, the coffee is allowed to sit still for a good while to allow all of the ground coffee beans to sink to the bottom. This process prevents any coffee grounds from being poured out into the cup when pouring the coffee for drinking. 

This process can be used to brew very large pots of coffee, or it can be used to brew as little as a single cup of coffee. The method remains the same regardless of the quantity of coffee produced. 

What Is Cowboy Coffee Like To Drink?

Cowboy coffee is very smooth and very clear. The boiling process is enough to reduce the acidity of the coffee and make it very smooth to drink while preventing the coffee from burning.

This allows all of the lighter flavors notes in the coffee to shine. The natural flavors of coffee are often disguised by burnt, bitter, or sour flavors from improperly prepared coffee. However, cowboy coffee allows all of the sweet flavors of coffee to be easily noted. 

Cowboy coffee is often sweet, and subtle flavors such as fruits, spices, caramel, or chocolate are easily apparent due to the brewing process.

This coffee is also very clear. If the coffee is prepared correctly, there are no loose coffee grounds present in the coffee when drinking, and the coffee is strong while remaining very light.

How To Make Cowboy Coffee At Home

The method for making cowboy coffee at home is very similar to making cowboy coffee over an open fire.

The required components are coffee grounds, a heat source such as a stove, a metal pot (it does not have to be a coffee pot – any regular pot will do), water, and some time.

Place the desired amount of water into the pot and place the pot on the stove on low heat until the water quite is warm. 

At this point, place your preferred amount of coffee grounds into the water. Do not stir the coffee. Turn the heat up until the coffee reaches a rolling boil.

Allow the coffee to boil at this temperature for four minutes. After four minutes has passed, remove the pot from the heat. Pour a small amount of chilled water into the pot to draw down the coffee grinds.

Wait an additional five minutes for the grinds to sink, and pour yourself a fresh cup of cowboy coffee. It really is that simple.

The Final Word

Cowboy coffee is one of the best brewing methods for making coffee without a filter, a machine, and even without electricity.

This method is used by many people internationally, and some even prefer it to more modern methods of brewing coffee and choose to make coffee this way even if they have access to modern amenities.

It is well worth learning to perfect this brewing method for your next camping trip or even to use it the next time you host a barbeque.

Cowboy coffee is well worth the effort.