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Cowboy Coffee: The Ins and Outs

Afternoon gents, it’s Max from The Young Gentleman’s Guide here! Yes, I know this is going to be yet another article about coffee, but I’m a coffee snob, so sue me! In any case, today, I want to go into a bit more detail about one specific method that I went over in The Gentleman’s Guide to Brewing Coffee. That method is cowboy coffee. There was a lot more detail about the method that I wanted to go over, but I only had so much time to do so in an article with four other entries included. So today, I wanted to go into more detail about this coffee brewing method, and also address some of the misconceptions that people have made about it. So, without any further delay, let’s get started!

Before we get started with the actual brewing process, it’s important to point out that the term “cowboy coffee” is a bit of a misnomer. The reason most people here in the U.S. call it this is because making coffee with this method was the method of choice among cowboys when they were making their way out west. However, it was not just cowboys who preferred making coffee this way. In most cases, this was the only way coffee could be prepared before the invention of things like the French press, coffee filters, and modern coffee makers that most people use today. Some of the most famous users of this method are old-fashioned coffeehouse baristas before most modern coffee amenities were invented, fur trappers out on weeks-long wilderness expeditions, and even encamped Civil War soldiers. Coffee was made using the “cowboy” method for centuries by multiple demographics of people, it’s just called “cowboy coffee” since most people in the U.S. associate the method with the cowboys on the frontier. So with all that out of the way, let’s get into the details of making cowboy coffee, for which there are actually two different methods of making. I’ll refer to these two methods as the “boiling method” and the “steeping method”.

The Boiling Method

Those who watched the Cowboy Kent Rollins video that I linked to at the end of my article about brewing coffee would have seen that this is the method that he chose to go with. This method requires quite a lot of careful attention, but it can result in a strong and delicious cup of coffee if done correctly. To start, fill your liquid vessel of choice with enough water and place it over high heat. Said liquid vessel can be a traditional coffee pot, a teapot, a regular saucepan, or even something like a tin can if that’s all you have access to. Once the water is warm, but not yet boiling, place the coffee grounds in the water (generally about 1 tablespoon of coffee per 8 ounces of water). After that, keep a close eye on the pot to make sure it doesn’t boil over. Once you see the pot just getting ready to boil, turn your heat source down slightly to keep the coffee at a good rolling boil. Keep the pot boiling in this manner for about 3 ½ to 5 minutes, depending on how light or dark your coffee beans are. This will also help determine how stout your coffee will come out. After letting the coffee boil, take the pot off the heat and let it settle for a couple minutes. Once you’ve let it settle, add a small helping of cold water to the pot. This step will help force the coffee grounds floating around in the water to the bottom of the pot, keeping any grounds from getting in your cup when you get to serving the coffee. This way of making coffee can be great for boiling the acidity out of the coffee, which can be very beneficial for those prone to acid reflux, plus it allows greater control over how stout you want your coffee to be. However, it does require some very careful attention, and can end up with a very weak cup of coffee if done incorrectly. It also may not be possible when using a heat source that can’t be easily adjusted, so that’s where the second method can come in handy.

The Steeping Method

This second method is much easier to work with, though it is a bit less versatile than the boiling method. It is also helpful if you’re using a heat source that can’t be easily adjusted, like a campfire or a JetBoil. This method starts the exact same way as the boiling method. Fill the pot with water and then place it over the flame. This time, simply let the water come to a boil without putting any grounds in the water. Once the water is boiling, take the pot off the heat and let it stand for about 30 seconds. This will bring the water down to a temperature of about 200o F which is perfect for brewing coffee. Once the water has cooled down, add the coffee grounds to the water (this will generally require 2 tablespoons of coffee per 8 ounces of water instead of just 1), lightly stir them into the water, and then let the coffee stand for 2 minutes. After those 2 minutes, give the coffee another stir and then let it stand for another 2 minutes. Finally, do the same thing you would do with the boiling method; add a small helping of cold water to the pot to settle the grounds to the bottom. It’s important to keep in mind that this method usually works better with darker roast coffees, like a standard dark roast, a French roast, or possily even an espresso roast.

So there we have it! There are the two main methos of making cowboy coffee. Below this article, I’ll also link to some videos that give a tutorial about each method. These can help those of you reading who learn more visually get a better grasp on each method. Both videos also go into more detail about each method than I was able to. In any case, I hope you enjoyed reading today’s article. Please be sure to share the article, follow the blog, and follow The Young Gentleman’s Guide on the aforementioned Facebook and Instagram pages. And on that note, this is Max from The Young Gentleman’s Guide, and I’ll see you next time!

Boiling Method (Video from Cowboy Kent Rollins)

Steeping Method (Video from Georgia Pellegrini)

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