Ask the Coffee Lab: What is Cowboy Coffee

By Winston
Cowboy Coffee from National Archives

Cowboy coffee is essentially coffee prepared outdoors, unfiltered, by fire. You don’t have to wear a cowboy hat to prepare cowboy coffee, but why should anyone pass up the opportunity to wear one anyway? Cowboy coffee shouldn’t be considered the finest, cleanest way to prepare coffee, but whether you are camping, or being a real cowboy, it’s hot, it’s coffee and it’s just fine. Plus you are outside drinking coffee, which means you are not working at your desk like I am right now.

How do you make it?  Easy: You put coffee grounds with water, let it boil for a while in the fire, take it out of the fire, try to get the grinds to settle a bit, pour and enjoy.

The photo above from the National Archives is from the 1800s and shows some gentleman enjoying breakfast with a nice cup of coffee, presumable cowboy coffee, though they probably didn’t call it cowboy coffee back then.  The description reads: 1849 – William Whiting, a lieutenant in the United States army, states, “Give a frontiersman coffee and tobacco, and he will endure any privation, suffer any hardship, but let him be without these two necessaries of the woods, and he becomes irresolute and murmuring.”

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