What Is Cowboy Coffee? (How to Make It + Recipe)

Westerns have produced some of the best movies put on screen. However, this isn’t about movies. It’s more about the moment when the cowboys set up camp and fix a hot cup of cowboy coffee to while away the cold night or to set off at daybreak. Forget fancy franchise frappucinos. We’re making good old regular cowboy coffee.

Cowboy coffee is simply coffee brewed in a pot over a wood fire. It’s popular among campers and outdoor lovers. You need clean water, coarsely ground medium roast coffee beans, and fire. It’s boiled and steeped to perfection and served hot.

What is Cowboy coffee?

Cowboy coffee is a traditional beverage made by cowboys when camping or on the trails. It is brewed by heating coffee grounds — fine or coarse — in water and pour the brew into a cup after the coffee grounds have settled.

What is cowboy coffee? How to make cowboy coffee

Cowboy coffee is seen as a preservation of American simplicity and history. Also, for most proponents of this coffee-making style, it is a great way to remove the acidity from coffee and have a nice cup of brew without worrying about stomach upsets.

How to make and serve Cowboy coffee

Despite its humble appeal, making cowboy coffee has a particular process. However, good cowboy coffee needs the right tools.

1. Select the right coffee pot

The right coffee pot has no holes or cracks. The last thing you need is a leaky coffee pot. Hold the pot against a light. No light coming through any holes? You’re halfway there. Fill it with water. If there are no leaks, you have the right coffee pot.

You can use an iron cast coffee pot, or you can be fancy on the trail and use an enamel coffee pot.

Ensure your coffee pots have a suitable fitting lid. Bugs and gusts of dust are common outdoors, and you don’t want any of that in your brew.

2. Season your coffee pot

Season it to get that new pot smell out of the coffee if it’s a new pot. A new pot that has never had any coffee made in it is usually shiny inside and does not smell of coffee. The first cup made from an unseasoned pot might have a peculiar taste.

  • Set the pot on a heat source, fill water in and let boil for a few minutes. Once the water is hot enough, pour a generous amount of coarse or fine coffee grounds.
  • Bring the coffee to a boil and mix it well with the water. Boiling the coffee for seasoning can take up to 15 minutes, as this brew is not for consumption.
  • Once the time is up, take the pot out of the fire and let the brew settle for hours or preferably overnight.
  • Pour out the coffee the following day, and rinse the pot with clean water without scrubbing it with a scouring pad or soap. Thorough cleaning of your pot removes the seasoning, affecting the taste of the desired cowboy brew.

Your pot is now ready to make a nice cup of cowboy coffee. Always rinse your coffee pot with clean water and flip it over to dry out all the water before storing it to prevent mold.

The more you brew coffee in your pot, the more seasoned it becomes.

How to make Cowboy coffee

Measure water per serving number. Knowing how many people you are brewing for is essential to avoid excess coffee that might end up stale.  

How to make cowboy coffee, serve Cowboy Coffee

Here is how to make a cowboy coffee brew.

  1. Fill your coffee pot with water according to your measurements. The golden coffee ratio is two tablespoons of ground coffee for six ounces of water.
  2. The water temperature is vital in extracting caffeine and bringing out the right flavor. Warm the water on your source of heat, do not bring the water to boil as the best temperature to start brewing coffee is 200°F. Hold your hand above the steam. It is not warm enough if you can hold your hand for more than five seconds over the water. Alternatively, you can carry a thermometer while on the trail.
  3. Choose your coffee grind and roast level, then pour it inside the warm water. If you choose coarse grind, you must brew your coffee for longer. Coarse grind medium roast is the best combination for cowboy coffee. You’ll drink less sediment and get the right coffee balance.
  4. After adding your coffee to the water, let it boil, mix for 4 minutes, and carefully take the pot out of the fire. Let the brew cool for 2 minutes before pouring half a cup of cold water into the hot beverage. You can use more or less cold water, depending on the coffee you brew.

The cold water settles the coffee grounds so that you have less sediment in your cup of coffee.  

  • Serve in a mug. You can strain your coffee or use a filter when serving the brew.

Pro tip: Using eggshells to settle the coffee grounds also lowers the acidity.

Cowboy coffee recipe

A good cowboy coffee brew may look simple. However, the little details separate a great cup of joe from a drab cup of regular coffee outdoors.

Let’s make some cowboy coffee.


  • 4 cups of water 
  • Half a cup of course grind, medium roast coffee
  • Optional salt or sugar.
  • Half cup of clean cold water
  • Optional crushed eggshells


  • Seasoned iron-cast or enamel pot
  • Wood
  • Stovetop or open fire
  • Serving cups


  1. Add water to your clean seasoned pot. You can add a pinch of salt at this point. It’s optional.
  2. On a source of heat, warm the water in the pot to get it warm enough but not boiling. Alternatively, boil it to 200°F.
  3. Add in your coffee grounds. Mix the grounds in the water and let it sit for 2 minutes. Let it steep and release maximum flavor and body.
  4. Stir the coffee again and let it sit for another 2 minutes.  
  5. Slowly pour cold water into your pot across and around the edges. The cold water settles the coffee grounds. Alternatively, you can use the egg shells to remove the acidity.
  6. Let your coffee cool and settle for 2 minutes.
  7. Slowly pour your coffee into your cup. You can also strain if you’re the traveler that packs a sieve or cloth.
  8. Sit back and enjoy your good brew.

Pro tip: Don’t leave any coffee sitting in the pot. Overextracted coffee tastes awful. Make a fresh pot when you need coffee again.

Original tips: How did cowboys make coffee

  • It is tradition for cowboys to have a cup of hot coffee first thing in the morning, whether at home or out on the campsites. Cowboys brew their coffee in their traditional method of using water, coffee, fire, and a well-seasoned coffee pot.
  • Seasoned pots are the ‘secret’ trick to getting the cowboy coffee taste. It is common for cowboys to rinse out the pots instead of washing and scrubbing, which helps preserve the coffee taste and smell. This makes the new brew taste and smells much better than coffee made in a clean or new pot.   
  • The cowboys typically brew on campfires over wood.
  • A clean sock makes a great sieve if you REALLY need one. It’ll be our little secret.
  • Don’t add sugar. Coffee tastes best when it’s just the roast flavor, smoky wood accents, and outdoor air.

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