Cowboy Coffee

Arbuckles, bean juice, joe—whatever the name, just make it strong.
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Arbuckles, bean juice, joe—whatever the name, just make it strong.

There are many things that a cowboy can do without. Coffee is not one of them. There are several variations on technique, but most methods call for boiling water, adding grounds, and re-boiling, before repeating the process. Since no filter is used, various field recipes—see below—are employed to make the grounds sink. Who knew that albumin residue from egg whites “clarifies,” or coagulates, the grounds and makes them settle?


• Equal ratio tablespoons of ground coffee to cups of cold water; half the ratio of empty eggshells, crushed (i.e., five eggshells for 10 tablespoons coffee and 10 cups water)

Or for larger groups:

• 1 1/ 2 cups of ground coffee to four quarts (one gallon) of water, and one eggshell.

Cold Water Infusion

This is the easiest and most popular method.

Throw grounds into water, and bring to a slow boil; immediately remove from fire (allowing coffee to boil will result in an acrid, burnt taste), and steep for one minute. Add eggshells, and allow grounds to settle. Right before serving, add a bit of cold water to the pot to further settle grounds.

Dave Dohnel, owner of Frontier Pack Train based in California’s High Sierras, says this method is also the best to use at high altitude, where cold water is plentiful. Bonus: cold water doesn’t extract the essential oils from the beans and also allows the grounds to steep longer.

The Morning After Method

Take pot of grounds from night before, add water, bring to a boil; remove from fire. Add fresh grounds and follow above instructions.

Dohnel, like many camp cooks, allows the grounds to build up in his coffee pot. “It’s just retread,” he says. “Reheat the grounds from the previous night(s), and drink it the next morning [to save time and energy]. It’ll put hair on your chest!”

The Sock Method

Also known as “hobo” or “open-pot” coffee, this calls for putting the grounds into a (clean) sock and chucking it into the coffee pot. Bring to boil, and follow same preparation instructions as above (minus the eggshells). If you’d rather not use one of your socks, use a muslin bag or a commercially made coffee sock. Let steep until desired strength is achieved.