What is Cowboy Coffee?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2019
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Cowboy coffee got its name from the way that cowboys or other travelers might make coffee on the open road with few supplies. Essentially all that is required to brew this caffeinated drink is coffee, water and a cooking pot. In the true cowboy way, percolating pots, which can be bought and carried on camping trips, are eschewed in favor of the rich, dark coffee that is made without separating water from grounds.

The basic recipes for cowboy coffee can vary depending upon final strength of the coffee a person wants to achieve. Most recipes recommend a tablespoon of coffee per about two cups (.47 liters) of water. Water is boiled and then the requisite amount of coffee is added. The mixture is then brought to a boil again. Usually the next stage is waiting, and setting the pot off the heat for about five minutes so the coffee gains in strength and the grounds sink to the bottom of the pot.


A few different ingredients for cowboy coffee may then be added. Some people suggest placing an egg in the coffee, and sometimes with shells to separate grounds from the rest of the drink. Others say a half-cup of cold water will help separate the coffee grounds. Others simply let the coffee sit, and most drinking cowboy coffee recognize that the bottom of the cup is going to have quite a few grounds. Unless people want to chew on these bitter grounds, they usually don’t drink the last two or three sips out of the cup.

A similar method is used to make Turkish coffee, though Turkish coffee is usually thicker. This is because the coffee grounds used are finely powdered, which allows it to mix better with the water. Yet again, most people who enjoy Turkish coffee, which is thick and very strong, leave the last few sips in the cup to avoid getting a bunch of coffee grounds in their mouth.

Lots of people need their coffee when they’re camping outside, but really don’t want anything to do with the grounds. They may not care for cowboy coffee because this will pretty much guarantee that a few grounds will be consumed. There are small inexpensive percolators that can be used instead, and provided these aren’t allowed to boil over, the resultant coffee will be mostly free of any grounds.

Alternately, people can bring a small plastic filter top with them, and a few paper filters, and simply pour the coffee and grounds through it to filter out the grounds. Of course there are many people who feel cowboy coffee is the only acceptable coffee to have when cooking outdoors. The many fans say this method of coffee making is the best way to make proper outdoor coffee over a grill or cook fire.


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Post 2

If you don't know what to do with the leftover grounds, simply throw them on a compost pile. Coffee grounds are relatively rich in nitrogen, providing bacteria with the energy needed to turn organic matter into compost.

Coffee grounds make an excellent substitute for manure. Unlike manure, coffee grounds do not give off worrisome pathogens.

Post 1

A barista at a local coffee shop used to also refer to this type of coffee as "John Wayne coffee."

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