Cowboy coffee

Cowboy Coffee – Everything You Need To Know

Giddy up, folks! Cowboy coffee – a rugged brew of coarse grounds, boiling water, and bold flavor.

No fancy machines here, just the ingenious method of old west cowboys. Saddle up for everything you need to know about cowboy coffee: the recipe, the history, and tips to keep the tradition alive and your brew awesome!

What Is Cowboy Coffee?

Cowboy coffee is a traditional way of brewing coffee by boiling water and coarse coffee grounds together without any fancy equipment. It’s perfect for outdoor camping where your resources are limited.

Also, authentic cowboy coffee does not include extra additives like milk or sugar, which may be attributed to the challenges of keeping and storing milk in the Old West.

The process is fairly simple, but you may require a bit of practice before you can brew a cup that cowboys would be proud of. Cowboy coffee has a smooth consistency and a slightly bitter, full-bodied taste, much like French press coffee but without a plunging filter.

What Is Cowboy Coffee Made Of?

What is cowboy coffee made of

Image credit – © 88studio

Cowboy coffee is as simple as it gets, having only two ingredients: water and coffee. However, it’s true that some people may add a pinch of salt or baking soda to the brew to help reduce bitterness and acidity, especially when using lower-quality or more acidic coffee beans.

What Kind of Beans Or Grounds Are Used For A Good Cowboy Coffee?

Cowboy coffee is made from coarse grounds. This makes sense, as cowboys in the Old West wouldn’t have had powered grinders back then. You can use any type of coffee beans; however, higher-quality beans will undoubtedly yield better results. When it comes to the roast, any kind works, but lighter roasts require slightly longer brewing times.

How Much Caffeine Is in Cowboy Coffee?

The caffeine content in cowboy coffee varies but is generally higher than regular drip coffee or French press coffee due to longer brewing time and coarse grounds. An 8-ounce cup may contain around 100 to 200 milligrams of caffeine.

How Many Calories Are in Cowboy Coffee?

Cowboy coffee is a low-calorie beverage, typically containing only water and coffee grounds. Black coffee, without any additives, has negligible calories.

The History of Cowboy Coffee

In 1775, the American Revolutionary War laid the foundation of the United States as an independent nation, and as the 1800s rolled in, the nation’s growth and expansion soared, paving the way for its remarkable journey into the future.

It expanded westward, acquiring new territories and eventually becoming a continental nation. Cowboys moved to the West for opportunities, freedom, and adventure, shaping America’s history and culture. Cowboy coffee emerged in the Wild West during this era.

With limited resources, cowboys brewed the drink in a simple pot over a campfire, using coarse grounds for a robust flavor. It fueled weary riders on cattle drives, symbolizing camaraderie and forging friendships around campfires.

Over time, cowboy coffee’s lore spread, becoming an iconic symbol of the American frontier. Today, coffee lovers honor this tradition, savoring its rich history and keeping the spirit of adventurous cowboys alive.

Fun Fact: Many Eastern coffee beverages, like Arabic and Turkish coffee, have similar brewing styles.

Who Invented Cowboy Coffee?

Well, cowboys, of course! It’s in the name. During the 1800s, these cowboy folks explored the western frontier for opportunities. To stay energized on their long journeys, they ingeniously devised a simple way of brewing coffee with limited resources.

Where Is the Cowboy Coffee From?

Cowboy coffee comes straight from the American West! Those rough-and-tumble cowboys in the late 1800s brewed it on the trail, using simple pots and campfires. Coarse grounds, robust flavor – a must-have for their wild adventures!

How To Make Cowboy Coffee? — 4 Easy Steps

Cowboy Coffee has a simple recipe, so you don’t need any fancy equipment like an espresso machine. Although simple, there are tips and tricks to enhance the flavor profile, which we’ll discuss.

Traditionally, cowboy coffee is brewed in large pots for the whole crew. However, for now, we will focus on making two cups. You can easily adjust the recipe for bigger servings.

Step: 1 Heat the Water

Start by heating two cups of water in a coffee pot or percolator. You can use a stove, but for that authentic cowboy touch, try brewing it over a campfire – that’s the secret to adding an extra smoky flavor to your brew!

Step: 2 Add Coffee

Once the water is warm but not boiling, add the coffee grounds. For cowboy coffee, coarser grind size is essential. Use approximately one tablespoon of coffee grounds for an 8-ounce cup; in this case, add two heaped tablespoons into the pot.

Since it’s a rustic brewing method, the coffee ratio isn’t fixed. Feel free to adjust the amount of coffee to your liking.

Step: 3 Let It Boil

Let the water come to a rolling boil. When it’s almost about to boil over, turn down the heat slightly. The brew will start bubbling and swirling, which is what we want. Let it brew for at least 4 minutes, and then remove from the heat source.

Step: 4 Final Preparation

Your cowboy coffee is almost ready. Use a strainer to filter out unwanted coffee grounds while pouring the cup, or pour a quarter of a cup of cold water over the surface.

The cold water will sink to the bottom due to higher density along with the coffee grounds. Wipe the inner ring of the opening with a clean cloth or paper towel to remove any residual coffee grounds.

Pro tip: Add a pinch of salt or baking soda to the cowboy coffee for an even smoother brew. This clever trick helps reduce acidity and enhances the overall flavor of your final cup. Happy brewing!

How To Make the Right Cowboy Coffee Strength?

Typically, one tablespoon of ground coffee is enough for one cup of coffee. But you can increase the dose for extra strength. In the end, it all depends upon your liking. Increasing the brewing time also enhances the strength but mind you; it also adds extra bitterness.

Why Is My Cowboy Coffee Bitter?

Possible reasons for bitter cowboy coffee and their solutions:

  • Over-extraction: brewed for too long or with too fine grounds.
  • Solution: Shorten brewing time or use coarser grounds.

  • High coffee-to-water ratio: too much coffee for the water used.
  • Solution: Reduce the amount of coffee grounds.

  • Stale or low-quality coffee beans: old or poor-quality beans can contribute to bitterness.
  • Solution: Use fresh, high-quality coffee beans.

  • Uneven distribution of grounds: some parts of the coffee bed may over-extract.
  • Solution: Stir the coffee gently for even extraction.

  • Residual coffee grounds: some grounds may remain in the cup.
  • Solution: Use a strainer or cold water method to settle the grounds at the bottom.

  • Hard water: minerals in water can affect the taste.
  • Solution: Use filtered or bottled water if possible.

  • Coffee grounds stuck in a percolator: grounds may linger and over-extract.
  • Solution: Clean and maintain the percolator regularly.

By addressing these potential issues, you can improve the taste of your cowboy coffee and enjoy a smoother, more flavorful brew.

Straining Methods for Cowboy Coffee

Cowboy coffee is easy to make, but you might end up with some coffee grounds in your cup.

Of course, you can use a strainer, but if you are outdoors and don’t have the right tools, then try these methods for a smoother final brew so you don’t have to deal with grounds sticking to your teeth.

Cold Water Method:

Pour a bit of cold water down the pot, the grounds will settle with the cold water, and you’ll sip smooth coffee. No more grit in your cup!

Clean Sock Method:

Grab a clean sock, stretch it over the pot, grounds get trapped, and you’ll savor a clean, grit-free cup of cowboy coffee.

Eggshell Method:

Crack an eggshell into the pot; it acts like a filter, attracting grounds, leaving you with a smooth, flavorful cowboy coffee without any unwanted grit.

How To Store Cowboy Coffee?

You can easily save the extra cowboy coffee for later in a refrigerator or an ice box if you are outdoors. To reuse, simply reheat it in a coffee pot or microwave it.

Cowboy Coffee Recipe

Cowboy coffee recipe

Cowboy Coffee

Print Pin
Prep Time: 3 minutes


  • Pot or coffee percolator
  • Stove or campfire (for heating water)
  • Measuring spoon or tablespoon
  • Strainer (optional for filtering out coffee grounds)
  • Clean cloth or paper towel (for wiping the opening)


  • Freshly roasted coffee beans - Coarse Grind
  • Filtered water


  • Heat two cups of water in a pot or coffee percolator.
  • Once the water is warm but not boiling, add coarsely ground coffee (approximately two heaped tablespoons) for that robust cowboy coffee taste.
  • Let the water come to a rolling boil, and when it's about to boil over, reduce the heat slightly. Allow the brew to bubble and swirl for at least 4 minutes to ensure a full-bodied coffee flavor, then remove it from the heat source.
  • Strain or pour cold water over the surface of the brew to settle the grounds.
  • Wipe the opening of the pot or percolator to remove any residual coffee grounds. Enjoy your rustic brew!

Frequently Asked Questions

What's The Secret Ingredient in Cowboy Coffee?

Add a pinch of salt or baking soda to cowboy coffee – the secret ingredient! This clever trick reduces acidity and enhances the overall flavor, giving you a smoother, more satisfying cup. Yee-haw!

Is Cowboy Coffee Strong?

Yup, cowboy coffee is strong and bold! Boiling coarse grounds for a while gives it an intense flavor. Adjust the ratio for your preferred strength. Typically, it contains 12.5 - 25 mg of caffeine per ounce. So, you might want to avoid drinking one before hitting the bed.

How Long to Let Cowboy Coffee Boil?

The ideal brewing time for cowboy coffee is typically around 4 to 5 minutes. After bringing the water to a rolling boil, let it brew for this duration to extract the full flavor from the coffee grounds. However, the brewing time can be adjusted based on personal preference for a stronger or milder cup of coffee.

What Is the Ratio of Coffee To Water For Cowboy Coffee?

We recommend using two heaped tablespoons of standard coffee for a single serving. However, the coffee ratio is flexible, so feel free to adjust the dose to match your preferred strength and taste.

Why Did Cowboys Put Eggshells in Coffee?

Eggshells act as a natural filter, sticking to the coffee grounds and settling at the bottom of the pot. Cowboys used this trick for a smoother cup of coffee. Although it doesn't add to the taste, some say eggshells reduce the coffee's acidity.

What Grind Is Best for Cowboy Coffee?

According to Kent Rollings, a YouTuber, experienced chuck wagon cook, and an actual cowboy, using a coarser grind reduces the risk of over-extraction. This results in a cleaner, less bitter brew, making it ideal for brewing in outdoor settings.

Can You Make Cowboy Coffee in A Percolator?

Yes, you can make cowboy coffee in a percolator. A percolator is a great option for brewing cowboy coffee, especially in outdoor settings, as it allows you to control the brewing process and extract a strong and flavorful cup of coffee.

Final Thoughts

Kudos if you stuck around till the end. We’ve covered all the nitty-gritties of cowboy coffee and how to make the perfect brew. Once you master this method, you might find yourself swapping the everyday drip coffee for the bold and rustic flavors of cowboy coffee.

It may take a few tries to find the right coffee-to-water ratio, but with practice, you’ll be sipping on that satisfying cup in no time.

So, whether you’re gathering ’round the campfire or simply craving that robust flavor, remember, cowboy coffee’s got you covered. Yee-haw!”

Main image credit – © APchanel