How to Make Cowboy Coffee—An Easy Guide for Coffee Lovers

cowboy coffee

There’s no question about it: today’s coffee industry caters for every type of coffee lover. You can find different flavors, machines and brew strengths whether you’re making it yourself or ordering in a restaurant.

But isn’t it worth it to occasionally try methods that can be viewed as ‘outdated’? The little effort you put in will make your appreciate the coffee even more than usual.

So, can you make a quality brew without fancy gadgets and expensive machines?

If you say no you probably haven’t tried Cowboy Coffee yet. Yes, some may say it tastes a bit grainy. Or perhaps you’ve been served this drink but it looked more like sludge than coffee? This usually happens when it’s not made correctly. If you get this right it can be one of the best brews you ever taste:

Best of all is that it’s interesting to make so the whole family can have a bit of fun with this one.

Our easy guide will give you the right recipe and handy tips to enjoy a real cup of Cowboy Coffee. Let’s find out why people in the Wild Wild West enjoyed this so much.

Why the Name ‘Cowboy Coffee’?

As the name suggests, Cowboy Coffee was the cowboys’ drink of choice. This brewing method was used years ago and wasn’t simply done for leisure. Cowboys had to stay alert to protect themselves and their belongings, whether it was on the road or at night when they set up camp. The caffeinated beverage was ideal to keep them awake.

With limited utensils at their disposal they needed a unique way of brewing their coffee. This method can still be used today and chances are you have the necessary items in your home to do what cowboys did in the wild.

How to Make Cowboy Coffee the Right Way

What You Need

This simple method only requires the following:

  • Coffee grounds: The better quality bean type you use the better your coffee will taste. Grind up the beans; don’t use whole beans for this brew.
  • A heat source: You can use fire or your stove
  • Container: A tin pot or kettle
  • Water: You may be tempted to use a natural water source out in the wild, but you run the risk of drinking contaminated water. Rather use bottled water.
  • Protective wear: Oven mitts or a dishcloth must be used to protect your hands when picking up the warm pot or kettle.

You can see not much is needed which is why this is a popular brewing method for many campers.

A handy tip before you start: some coffee experts say you should consider adding salt or eggshells. This may make the brew less bitter.The salt may also be an age-old trick to replenish the body’s nutrients after a hot day on the back of the horse. That’s a perfect solution for a cowboy!

cowboy coffee

Making Cowboy Coffee on a Campfire

Cowboy Coffee is delicious, but you need to me meticulous to get the right ratios and to prevent it from becoming sludge. Below we’ll describe how to make it on a fire, but similar guidelines apply when working on a stove:
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Servings 4


  • Kettle
  • Firewood
  • Stand for kettle
  • Hand Gloves


  • Coffee grounds
  • Water
  • Sugar Optional
  • Cream Optional


  • Heat it up: Both firewood and coal campfires produce enough heat. Make a fire and when you have some coals, place a grill over them.
  • Get a pot and water: Add water to a tinpot or camping kettle and place it on the grill.
  • Removing it the fire: When the water boils, remove the pot from the fire. Note that you don’t put coffee grounds in the water beforehand. You need to let the water cool down first or else the extreme heat may ruin the taste. The ideal temperature for the next step is when the water reaches 200°F.
  • Add your grounds: Measure two tablespoons of coffee for every 8oz of water. Add the grounds to the kettle and stir for about 15 seconds. You can also add broken eggshells at this stage.
  • Back on the grill: Now the brew can go back onto the grill but only for a short simmer.
  • Take if off again: When the brew is boiling again you can remove it from the fire. A smart idea is to dig a hole in the ground and place the kettle or pot inside. This will prevent it from cooling down too quickly.
  • Wait: Don’t drink the brew immediately because it will taste gritty. You need to wait for the grounds to sink to the bottom. Usually, a waiting period of two to five minutes is enough.
  • Pour your brew: Precision workmanship is important when you pour because you don’t want the grounds to rise up in the brew again. Pour slowly and carefully without making jerking movements like picking the kettle up too quickly.
  • Don’t let it sit: Your kettle may keep the brew hot for quite a while, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll enjoy another cup a few hours later. The brew will change in taste over time as the grounds become over-extracted. This results in bitter coffee. Rather pour it into another container making sure the grinds stay at the bottom of the pot or kettle.


Most people drink Cowboy Coffee in the original way it was intended: black. But you can add sugar and cream to taste if you prefer.
Keyword campfire coffee, cowboy coffee

Tips for Your Second Brew

Ideally, throw away the grounds after your first brew. You can use the leftover coffee, but your coffee will taste more bitter than the first batch. This is because the grounds get more extracted the longer they’re in the hot water.

Rather rinse out your kettle and start from scratch.

Last Words

You can see there’s no reason you can’t enjoy rich, flavorful coffee the next time you’re out in nature; without even using electricity. Or you can try making Cowboy Coffee in your kitchen at home: live like a cowboy no matter where you are!

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