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How to Make Cowboy Coffee That Actually Tastes Amazing!

Pouring coffee from kettle

It’s 9.26am and you’ve just spent hours driving out into the middle of nowhere after a pre-dawn departure from home. You’ve taken more time than is probably necessary to find the perfect camping spot, and on sitting down to get a well deserved (and much needed) coffee on the brew, you discover that the worst has happened: you’ve forgotten to pack your coffee maker and have no means of turning the teasingly delicious smell of your coffee grounds into something drinkable. Knowing how to make cowboy coffee would come in mightily handy right now!

Take a breath. Try not to panic, and take yourself back to the good old days of making-do with what you have. The days when hot water mixed with ground coffee was a like gold dust on the lips of weary cowboys working the land. The days before percolators, aeropresses and cafetieres. The days of cowboy coffee!

What is cowboy coffee?

Cowboy coffee is the simplest way of making coffee that there is, unless you’re fond of the instant kind! It is ground coffee brewed in hot water with no filtration. Simples! But knowing how to make cowboy coffee so that it actually tastes good needs a little instruction.

Why drink cowboy coffee?

In a world where we can choose several dozen different ways to take our coffee, the appeal of pouring it from a rusting coffee pot into a metal mug straight from the flames of a roaring campfire is somewhat lost. When you know just how good coffee can taste why on earth would you risk making it any other way than the tried and trusted methods of people who are paid to refine the brewing process? A fair question. And one that most folk won’t ever be able to answer for themselves for fear of a ruined coffee break. God forbid.

But what if cowboy coffee actually tasted really good? Yep, I went there!

What if, like the cowboys themselves, we all became quite fond of such primitive brewing methods? Even grew to prefer them? Maybe all these complex and convoluted methods of making that ‘perfect’ cup of Joe are just a ruse by French press manufacturers to fool us into thinking we need their latest and finest filtering systems as much as we need the coffee itself?

How to make cowboy coffee

Having recently found myself in the uncompromising situation of coffee making without a coffee maker, I gave the cowboy coffee method a go. With trepidation, I might add.

I didn’t have a campfire, only a small backpacking stove And I was without a rusting coffee pot, only a small metal camping kettle. But otherwise my cowboy coffee setup was as it should be: ground coffee and hot water, with no means to filter one from the other.

Coffee making kit on the coast

In all honesty I was expecting my cowboy coffee making experiment to fail. Surely the coffee grounds are just destined for inadvertent consumption? I’m no scientist, but I’ve watched coffee grounds dancing around in my French press many times before without them ever voluntarily submitting to the bottom of the pot. Why should this method be any different?

Well somehow the unfiltered cowboy coffee making method IS different, and it actually works!

Not only did I find the sum total of zero coffee grounds lurking at the bottom of my mug once I’d guzzled it all down, I also found that I really, really enjoyed my brew. I know, right?

So how did I do it?

Cowboy Coffee

This method works perfectly well using any heat source, but to get the full cowboy coffee experience, it should be made over an open campfire in a vintage enamel coffee pot!

Pouring coffee
Serves 2 – based on a 240ml (8oz) mug of coffee per person.


  • 240ml water per person
  • 2 tablespoons of ground coffee per person

how to make cowboy coffee

How to make cowboy coffee

  1. Add about 480ml (16oz) of water to your cooking pot (rusty or not) and bring to the boil.
  2. Take the pot off the heat and leave it to sit to cool for 30 seconds or so.
  3. Add four tablespoons of finely ground coffee to the water and give it a good stir.
  4. If your pot has a lid, then put it back on (or use a plate or chopping board if it doesn’t), and leave it to sit for two minutes.
  5. Stir again, and leave it to sit for a further two minutes with the lid on.
  6. The grounds will have floated to the top of the pot, as is their way. So sprinkle some cold water over the top to encourage them to the bottom of the pot. (Sounds like witchcraft, but it does actually help!)
  7. As soon as the grounds have drifted (miraculously) down to the bottom of the pot, gently and slowly pour your brew, and enjoy – not a ground in sight.

Do’s and don’ts of making cowboy coffee


  • Add coffee to the pot before you bring the water to the boil
  • Rush it
  • Be put off by the cowboy coffee doubters out there


  • Have belief in the miraculous ways of cowboy coffee
  • Be patient
  • Measure the water and coffee properly
  • Add a lid to your pot to prevent the coffee cooling too much

Camp coffee making kit

If you’re not ready to take the plunge into the murky world of cowboy coffee then you’d better make sure your camp coffee setup is up to scratch. Take a read of this lightweight coffee making setup that is ideal for backpacking, hiking and camping.

Stirring coffee in pot

Time to enjoy cowboy coffee

So there you have it. Now that you know how to make cowboy coffee you’ll never be left stranded in the wild without your coffee fix again. And you never know, you may just end up really enjoying the simplicity of your new-found cowboy coffee brewing method. Enjoy!

Woman drinking coffee on sea cliffs

About the author


Joey is based in Cornwall, UK, and runs Cool of the Wild. She can’t get enough of being outdoors – whether that’s lounging around the campfire cooking up a feast, hitting the trail in her running shoes, or attempting to conquer the waves on her surfboard – she lives for it. Camping is what she loves to do the most, but has also spent many many hours clinging to the side of a rock face, cycling about the place, cruising the ski-slopes on her snowboard and hiking small mountains and big hills.

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