Cowboy Coffee

Cowboy Coffee: What It is, and How to Make It

Whether you are trying to get the sleep out of your eyes, or just looking to keep an old tradition alive, you should learn how to make cowboy coffee.

Watch any old western movie and you are likely to see a weathered-looking camp boss discussing plans with some cowhands huddled around a wagon as soft morning light bathes the scene.

As the discussion wraps up, the camp boss stares off into the sunrise, takes a final swig of his tin cup, and, in one swing of the arm, empties the last remaining drops of his morning treat: coffee.

If you are one of the millions of Americans that start their day with a steaming cup of liquid paradise, you might have wondered at some point how these old trail cowboys used to make coffee on the trail.

Coffee was in fact a staple of the cowboy diet, as well as a staple at nearly all outdoorsman camps of hunters, mountain men, and trappers in the past.

What is cowboy coffee?

The coffee the old timers drank has earned the nickname "cowboy coffee" and learning how to make it is about as simple as it gets.

But be warned: it's strictly for cowboys and cowgirls. Got it?

It consists of only a few ingredients, including the obvious water and ground coffee beans, but also an egg shell and some salt, if you want it.

The main difference between cowboy coffee and your typical cup of joe is that it isn't filtered or strained, and the grounds can (and usually will) get into your mouth and get ingested rather easily.

There's a bit of an art to the preparation and drinking processes, and when you get good at it you barely notice the grounds. But to a rookie, cowboy coffee can be a disappointing way to drink a caffeinated beverage.

How to make cowboy coffee

This coffee recipe isn't exactly difficult, and it's based on the bare minimum attitude that pioneers had to adopt.

There's a lot to learn from the old chuckwagon cooks, especially if you're into backpacking light and looking for an easy brewing method rather than a cup of really great coffee.

You aren't going to drag a percolator into the backwoods, so here's how to do it without a coffee maker.


  • 8 Cups of Cold Water to Boil
  • 1/2 Cup of Cold Water after Boil
  • 1/2 Cup of Coffee Grounds
  • 1 Egg Shell
  • Salt/Sugar optional



1. Fill a dutch oven, saucer, or otherwise cowboy coffee pot with the eight cups of cold water, and add the coffee grounds. Place on the stove, portable heat source, or open campfire and bring it to a slow boil.


2. As the water reaches a rolling boil, drop the eggshell into the pot. Old timers say this helps to draw the grounds, which can help you avoid getting them in your cup.


3. Once water is boiling remove from heat immediately.

4. Allow for the boiling water to settle and cool, then add 1/2 cup of cold water. This helps to send suspended grounds to the bottom of the pot.


5. Ladle into a coffee cup and enjoy!


WARNING: Cowboy coffee is not for the faint of heart. This isn't the watered down stuff the baristas sell downtown, this is the real McCoy. It's great for camping trips or backyard cookouts.

Make a man a cup of cowboy coffee and reinvigorate this old style of brewing coffee. Teach a man how to make cowboy coffee, and help him for life. Enjoy!

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