Learn to make a great backcountry coffee the old-fashioned way for your camping adventures. This technique, often called cowboy coffee, has been used by wilderness travellers for generations. John Langford of Voyageur Quest shows us how it’s done on Surprise Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park near Access Point #1.
Brew cowboy coffee in 6 easy steps
All you need for a strong brew is water, coffee, a good pot with sturdy handle, a pair of sturdy gloves and a cooking fire. Not only does cowboy coffee free you from packing extra gear, it can also taste darn good. But you have to brew it right. Here’s how.
1 Add your grounds
Add medium ground coffee to cold water. Coarse grinds will work too, but don’t use fine grinds. The coffee pot should be tall rather than squat.
2 Get the right mixture
Use about one tablespoon of grinds per cup of water. Add an extra spoonful if you’re making more than four cups.
3 Bring to a boil
Gently bring to a rolling boil. If the brew boils violently the grounds will stick to the sides of the pot, and end up in your coffee. Reduce heat or move the pot so it simmers.
4 Add cold water
After five minutes of simmering, remove from heat and add one tablespoon of cold water. The colder the better. The cold water makes the coffee grounds sink.
5 Go for a spin
A more dangerous technique is to tie a short rope to the bale of the pot and whirl the pot of boiling coffee like a windmill. If whirled smoothly, the centrifugal force will keep the coffee in the pot, even without a lid. Make sure the bale is securely attached and that your partners are out of the way. Finally, weigh the relative pros and cons of coffee with a few grounds in it versus second-degree burns.
6 Enjoy your cowboy coffee
After a few dozen rotations, the grounds will have settled to the bottom, and you’ll need a cup of tea to settle your nerves.
This article originally appeared in Paddling Magazine Issue 65. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions here, or download the Paddling Magazine app and browse the digital archives here.
Cowboy coffee has been brewed by wilderness travellers for generations. | Feature image: Canoeroots/YouTube