Cowboy/Camp Coffee

A little research shows me that “camp coffee” and “cowboy coffee” are the same thing, but maybe originated in different locations.

Basically, each involves a fire, a pot, some water, and some ground coffee. Even the more intricate efforts involve these basic items. Most people who enjoy this type of brew like it for the flavour and the setting where it is enjoyed. Often, sippers of lattes, Americanos, and cappuccinos are delightfully impressed with the rich, full-bodied flavour of camp coffee.

The fire needs to be not-too-raging, and the pot can be any cooking vessel, including a coffee can with two holes on opposite sides of the rim, wherein a piece of wire looped above the can is inserted, forming a handle, or, as it is often called, “a bail”. A lid is not essential for the preparation, but is handy to keep the brew hot afterwards.

Some recipes call for the coffee to be put into the pot and cold water added and brought to a boil, but the most common routine is to add the ground coffee to water at a rolling boil. The heat should be reduced (by moving the pot) after the coffee (coarse ground, 3 out 5 strength level) has been added to the water-filled pot. The ratio of coffee to water depends on your preference, but for a start, three or four rounded tablespoons (some suggest one additional spoonful for the pot) for 8 cups of water will get you started. The rolling-boil-brew-time should not be more than a couple of minutes or you risk the coffee turning bitter.

Now the brewing is done, but the coffee grounds will be suspended in the brew so a natural or encouraged settling of the grounds is necessary. A natural settling should take place away from the fire because heat will just reactivate the boil and keep the grounds in suspension. This can be encouraged by swinging the pot in a circle (by holding the handle), allowing centrifugal force to cause the settling. Egg-shell added to the brew will cause the grounds to settle, as well, but the most common method is to add a cup of cold water to the mixture to cause the settling.

This coffee is not “good to the last drop,” because there will be grounds in the last mouthful from the cup, as well as the last cup from the pot.

Two important tips regarding camp coffee: an intense boil during the brewing will cause the grounds and liquid to spill over the top and out the spout leaving lots of grounds in the spout and therefore in your cup when you pour; and putting the pot back into the fire to reheat the brew will re-suspend the grounds and give you coffee you can chew on.

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