Cowboy Coffee

cowboy coffeeA cowboy will tell you this is not only a necessity but it’s a given at the wagon: good coffee. It’s the first thing on the fire in the morning and the last thing off every night.

Now there are all kinds of coffee making gadgets nowadays: The spitting, spewing, drip coffee maker that often sounds as loud as the Beagle snoring at night. There’s the percolator, which is about extinct, but was one of my favorites for a long time. There’s the fancy ones that make a fast cup at a time, but try that at the wagon and you’ll get a *chapping. But for me it’s my old reliable graniteware coffee pots. No gadgets, knobs, beeps or spits – just good boiled coffee. I prefer Folger’s but any brand will do.

Sometimes I forget what a mysterious thing good cowboy coffee is to some folks. I’m reminded every year while Shannon and I cook for a festival at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. At this festival we can serve up easily 300 cups of coffee a day.

We have folks come by everyday and they usually are a little skeptical at first glance looking at my ol’ warn pots, but once they try the coffee they are hooked. They can’t believe how smooth it is, and I tell them when you boil coffee it boils the acid out of the bean and it becomes smooth. Folks will tell me, “I can drink your coffee because it doesn’t give me heart burn.” I just look at them and say well its boiled coffee, but we can boil it another hour and call it Starbucks!

I noticed one day a feller came and got a cup of coffee and stood over in the corner. He came back for a few more cupfuls and just kept assessing the situation. I finally went over to him and asked, “Your coffee alright, sir?”

He replied,  “I have to tell you I’m a coffee snob. I am very particular about my coffee and I have to import it from Venezuela to get the right kind. You’re coffee is incredible, so I must ask where do you import your coffee from?”

I knew it was going to break the poor feller’s heart when I told him, “Wal Mart.”

You could see the disbelief and agony on his face. “I don’t drink Folgers!” he demanded. “Well sir, you just drank about six cups!” I answered.

We had a good laugh about it, but it just goes to show that you don’t need gadgets, gizmos or high price coffee to have a good cup.

Boiled coffee has been around forever I think there are a lot of folks that have never had the chance to taste it or knew how to make it.

What’s the recipe you ask? Coffee, water and fire.

I was on the Gulf Coast of Alabama cooking for a festival and making about 20 gallons of coffee every day. One feller was at the wagon each and every morning,cowboy coffee and he wanted me to teach him to make this black magic that was so smooth. I explained to him you fill the pot up to the bottom of the spout and let the water warm. Add about three handfuls of coffee and let it come to a hard rolling boil. Pull it off the fire and let it set for a minute and then pour about a cup of cold water down the spout, which will settle all the grounds to the bottom.  A lot of people ask me, “Did you put the grounds in pantyhose?” I sure don’t use that method, because who wore the hose before I got them? No eggshells or horseshoes either, why mess with all that other stuff when cold water will do the trick to settle the grounds.

Anyway, as I was saying…

The feller from Alabama responded, “That’s all you do? It’s so simple.” Well next morning there he was a waiting for me at the wagon for his morning 12 cups of coffee.

I said, “Well I guess you’re full of coffee since you probably made you some at home.” He looked a little disappointed and said, “I couldn’t drink it. You must have told me something wrong or left something out of the recipe.”

I asked, “Did you fill the pot below the spout with water and let it warm, then add three handfuls of coffee? Let it boil and then pour some cold water down the spout?”

“Yep, but it was so stout I couldn’t even stir it ‘cause it was so thick.”

So I asked the obvious question, “How big is your pot?”

He looked at me and said, “It says 4 to 6 cups.”

I just looked at him and grinned and said, “Well sometimes you have to be smarter than what you’re messing with!”cowboy coffee

I guess part of the secret too is my well-seasoned pots.  Just like my cast iron, they’ve never seen a drop of soap and they’ve served thousands of gallons of coffee to cowboys and people just anxious to try a sip of history.

Get yourself a rolling boil and try it out, ‘cause I guarantee you there’s nothing better than a good cup, a good porch and a good sunrise to start the day.

 UPDATE: We’ve had a lot of folks ask about the coffee to water ratio. On my pots it’s roughly 2 gallons of water to 1 1/2 cups of coffee grounds. Once that has boiled, let it set and pour about a 1 – 1 1/2 cups of cold water down the spout. 

*chapping: When a cowboy is beaten on his backside with a pair of leggings or chaps (pronounced shaps). Usually done in joking, but can be used as a method to put a man in his place or for an attitude adjustment.

26 thoughts on “Cowboy Coffee

  1. Wonderful story, I was schooled out on Terlingua Creek to never empty it just add more water and coffee,, gets real good about day 3.

  2. Enjoyed this post immensely, Kent. It took me back to the Red River Chuck Wagon Boot Camp that Rob and I participated in near Byers, Texas. You DO make a mean cup of coffee — in a pot that never seemed to run dry. No matter the time of day, there was always coffee for the cowboys. May I add that your instructions on how to clean and maintain cast iron (never use soap, only water and a stiff brush, applying olive oil after every use) is one of the most useful tips we gleaned from the camp. Our cast is coming along nicely, every bit as non-stick as the fancy store-bought kind.

    • well I know there’s 2 things you got a lot of that was wind and coffee! Glad the cast iron is working well, send a biscuit when you get a chance.

  3. yup, that was some good coffee at your camp. that last picture of you by the fire is almost exactly what I picture in my mind when I think back about the cooking school, just struck me as funny. miss you and your lovely wife.

  4. I was lucky enough to have you sit and talk a spell in Kamloops, BC back a number of years ago, Kent. . I kinda wish I hadda asked how you make your coffee back then. I drank a way too many terrible cups of coffee since then when I needn’t have.

    Ol’ Ugly

  5. Yo Kent;

    I sure enjoyed this “episode,” From the Chuck Wagon. It takes me back in time to a place we used to live. Dad and I were out in the back yard [boonies], he made a fire, goes to the house and comes back bringing out a pot of water. He starts it boiling, and here I am full of questions, and not getting very many answers. He puts in a couple of handfuls of coffee, sits back, and continues his whistling.

    I was in the 4th grade at the time. After a bit, he hands me a small portion of his brew. Now remember, I’m only 8-9 years old and drank milk, soda, or most likely, water. This stuff he made was strong, and bitter [he didn't add sugar or cream] for me but, we spent an hour or so around that fire, him telling me about some of his early life on the farm back I OK.

    I hope I never forget that time together. I like my coffee barefoot now, have since, way back yonder.

    Kent, keep these tales rolling our way.

    God Bless.

    • always a pleasure to have you in camp Stan. There have been many a great conversation happen over and fire and a cup of coffee

      • I wholeheartedly agree with you on great conversations over a fire and a cup of coffee. I was going to ask you the question about the water to coffee ratio when lo and behold you had already answered the question since I last read this article.

        Well, I don’t have a coffee pot that big so I’m gonna have to do a bit of math here. My largest is a 14 cup pot, so I don’t have the occasion to make more than that.

        Thanks again Kent. Wishing you and yours the best with the upcoming Holidays.


  6. Kent, what an enjoyable story! Which festival on Alabama’s Gulf Coast did you come to? If you come every year maybe we (Jon, David and I) can plan to be there next time. Was it the Gulf Shores Shrimp Festival they have every October? Glad to hear you’ve been in our territory! (Alabama) :-) I’m going to have to try coffee your way. To keep from the “4 to 6 cups” experience you mention, about how big IS your pot?

    • Leslie, it was called Heritage HArbor Days in Foley, they don’t have it anymore it’s been about 4 years since I’ve been down there. I’ve had ?s about how much coffee and water exactly, I’ll check tomorrow and update the post

  7. Hello Kent,
    We visited Silver Dollar City last week and took in two of your cooking classes. Enjoyed them both very much and Hal really enjoyed a couple of cups of your coffee-said it was the best he has ever had!! Good cowboy coffee served up by a true cowboy-you sure can cook and keep the audience entertained with your stories! Hope to see you at Silver Dollar City next year!

  8. Hello Kent, what a fabulous post about your delightful coffee. Can you share with us your schedule at Silver Dollar City this year ? Last year in October my nephew from Rhode Island and I were able to see you and Shannon there, my nephew being a true coffee snob being from the East Coast. I remember him trying your Cowboy Coffee and saying to me, “Aunt Sue, this is the best coffee by far I’ve ever had. I wonder how Kent eliminates the bitterness ?” He asked, and you shared your story with him. He will be here again next month, and we would love to come back for a visit, and stay the day with you and Shannon to see the entire show you all put on. Most of all, my nephew would love to sit a spell and sip your coffee while enjoying the entertainment you provide. Many Thanks for sharing your stories. Silver Dollar City schedule please ? Sincerely, Simply Sizzlin’ Sue

    • Hi Sue- we will sure have the coffee on. Currently the schedule is 11, 1 and 3, but we’re usually at the wagon all day. Come say hi

  9. Kent, I received your book, “A Taste of Cowboy”, as a birthday gift and am about half through it already. I would never have thought I could read a cookbook like a novel, but there you go! And the story about boiled coffee was great. As one of your other readers, it brought back memories of Dad brewing coffee on the campfire at various Boy Scout camps. Thanks so much for all of that. And I ran across this: “Water is the most essential element of life, because without water, you can’t make coffee.”

  10. Thank you for taking me back to a time i wished i had lived. You have made me interested in cooking outside with the dutch ovens. My question is where can i find a coffee pot like yours? What i see on ebay they appear too small.

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