Coffee - "Camp Coffee" AKA "Cowboy Coffee"

Discussion in 'Camping, Hiking, Cooking' started by Trapper Badovinac, Feb 19, 2013.

  1. Trapper Badovinac Author, Writer, Photographer

    Posts: 411
    Helena, Montana
    Ratings: +523 / 0
    I end up making gallons and gallons of coffee each year. Typically, in hunting camp for 12 guys I'll make 2 gallons of coffee each morning. If it gets cold or wet, I'll double that amount.

    I've had hours of discussions with outfitters about coffee. Many of them think coffee is no big deal - "just dump another scoop in the pot and reboil it. No body cares about coffee."

    I point out that even small towns have coffee shacks all over and that Starbucks changed everything. That many people are buying $150 coffee machines and don't blink about paying $3-$7 for a cup of Joe. They tell me I'm a coffee snob. That's probably true to a certain degree.

    So, help me out. Give me your input. Don't sugar coat it. If you're in an outfitter's back country camp hunting or fishing, what would you expect the coffee to be?

    Trapper
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  2. jimmydub Active Member

    Posts: 197
    Mill Creek, WA
    Ratings: +61 / 0
    I want my coffee to be strong, but it needs to be decent. I press my coffee every day, and I think it makes a stronger and tastier cup of coffee.

    I wouldn't expect too much from camp coffee, but good coffee in camp is gold. It's so nice to crawl out of a warm sleeping bag, get taken by the cold air, and then start that first cup of coffee. Mmmm. I guess I too am a certified coffee snob, I don't really get it though. I have taste buds, after all.
  3. bitterroot Love vintage graphite!

    Posts: 1,426
    Snohomish, WA
    Ratings: +213 / 1
    Only two possibilities in my book...
    Cowboy coffee (which can be excellent) or Perked coffee.
    I've been known to french press in camp but only when the crowd is very small.

    I like to have Steve Call in camp cuz he wakes up at the crack of dawn, starts a fire and has coffee made early!
  4. Patrick Gould Active Member

    Posts: 2,250
    Ellensburg, WA
    Ratings: +635 / 0
    Back country trips aren't cheap. I would expect some good coffee, but at the very least I'd expect lots of coffee.
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  5. Jack Devlin Active Member

    Posts: 1,159
    Western Washington, Puget Sound area
    Ratings: +868 / 1
    I'm not sure what "Cowboy Coffee" is but the way I made coffee at camp for large groups was what we called "Guides Coffee" or "Rolled Coffee". Perhaps the same as Cowboys. It entailed boiling water in large, tall pot (like a big percolator coffee pot without the parts inside), dropping in the coffee grounds and some egg shell, allowing time for brewing, and then pouring in some cold water to settle the grounds to the bottom.
    Next best coffee at camp is definitely a percolator on a coleman stove. Pumps out a lot of coffee aroma throughout the camp and helps one get out of the sleeping bag.
    Jack
    PS Good-quality and taste- coffee is important today. We have become quite sophisticated when it comes to coffee. So, use good quality and take care in preparing it. Can't get away with stale or burnt coffee. Your clients will appreciate your efforts. A good "cuppa" at camp or on a trip will long be remembered.
    J
  6. speyfisher Active Member

    Posts: 1,039
    State of Jefferson U.S.A.
    Ratings: +129 / 2
    Nothing beats the smell of coffee brewing and bacon cooking to lure one out of a sleeping bag on cool morning. And a cup of especially good coffee is sure to make a lot of points. I like to add a gourmet blend to the ordinary stuff. Pick your own poison, for me it's about 60% regular, 20% Cinnamon Hazelnut, 20% Cinnamon Toffee. BTW: something I picked up in my travels: a good cup of coffee is one that tastes good not only freshly brewed, but still tastes good after it has cooled down. Dark roast doesn't get it. Only a good light roast is capable of doing that. (when Juan Valdez visited the coffee plantations of Costa Rica, he preferred their coffee to his own countries)
  7. JesseC Active Member

    Posts: 1,914
    seattle, wa
    Ratings: +684 / 0
    If you're already using good beans and a good roast, the two biggest problems with camp coffee are temperature and freshness.

    If you heat the water to 190 degrees (right before boiling typically)
    If you store your coffee beans in an air tight tupperware
    If you grind your beans right before you press the coffee. Ground should be coarse... cracked pepper size.

    You'll experience a world of difference. The other really important thing to think about before you head out is, what's the appropriate amount of coffee to use for a particular roast? The perfect ratio is French Press: 1.6 - 2.0 grams of coffee per fluid ounce of water.

    Each coffee roast is a bit different on weight depending on a ton of factors. It's important to measure it out and get it right and then you can duplicate it in the woods.
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  8. Salmo_g Active Member

    Posts: 7,286
    Your City ,State
    Ratings: +1,391 / 0
    MT,

    I haven't been on many outfitted trips, but when I go I do expect coffee. If it's good coffee, that's a definite plus, and I take note of that. Good coffee is either drip or French press, not cowboy coffee.

    Sg
  9. Jerry Daschofsky Moderator

    Posts: 7,581
    Graham, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +578 / 5
    Cowboy Coffee is usually grounds boiled in the coffee, then left to settle before pouring.

    I'm a HUGE proponent of lots of fresh hot coffee in the morning. Like you, I have pots brewing like crazy. I usually run 2 36 cup percolators, with usually a very dark roast. Then I perc the living crap out of it to get every drop of coffee out of those grounds.

    I've actually become fond of Swedish Coffee (it's like Cowboy Coffee, just you use an egg slury with the grounds). Lighter in color, no acid, and strong.

    And Jesse is WAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY overboard. He doesn't rough it enough. No need for exact measurements. A few days in a hunting or fishing camp where it's cold, wet, and miserable and if it's hot and strong it tastes super damned fantastic. ;)
  10. Jerry Daschofsky Moderator

    Posts: 7,581
    Graham, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +578 / 5
    I forgot to add. I expect the coffee to be strong and thick. Unfortunately there are a lot of coffee weenies out there. I usually make two pots as mentioned, one strong and the other marginally weak.
  11. Jack Devlin Active Member

    Posts: 1,159
    Western Washington, Puget Sound area
    Ratings: +868 / 1
    Jesse, are you a yuppie? :)
    Jack
  12. Evan Burck Fudge Dragon

    Posts: 6,288
    Duvall, wa
    Ratings: +1,497 / 2
    I'm a real snob... I take my french press. If the coffee beans are more than a month past their roasted date, I chuck em. Stale coffee = no bueno... though that's all most people have had. I stick to local roasters, and get stuff fresh.
  13. Trapper Badovinac Author, Writer, Photographer

    Posts: 411
    Helena, Montana
    Ratings: +523 / 0
    This is the way I make my "Cowboy Coffee".

    -- Boil 2 gallons of water in a very large pot while I'm starting two woodstoves and doing breakfast prep. (In very cold weather ie, sub zero temps, even on a 5" 60,000 BTU burner, this can take a while.)
    -- Remove from heat and stir in 2.5 cups of coffee grounds.
    -- Bring water to a roll for 2 - 4 minutes.
    -- Dump 2 cups of cold water into the pot to knock the grounds to the bottom.
    -- Let set for a few mintues.
    -- Pour coffee off into pre-heated air pots.

    (Note: no eggshells. I see no earthly advantage to putting garbage in my coffee.)

    I have a very nice stainless steel press. It's what I make my coffee in. To make 2 gallons of coffee for an 0430 breakfast, I'd have to get up at 0230. I don't typically hit the rack until ~ 2200. You try cooking for weeks at a time in primitive conditions with 5 - 6 hours sleep a night and see how anxious you are to forfeit 1 or 2 of those hours every night.
  14. Jack Devlin Active Member

    Posts: 1,159
    Western Washington, Puget Sound area
    Ratings: +868 / 1
    Jerry's post where he mentions "Swedish coffee" and mixing an egg with the grounds jogged my memory and that is the way I made "Guides" or "rolled" coffee. The egg sort of keeps the grounds in clumps - acts like a binder. However, I can understand not wanting to use the egg/shells.
    Jack
  15. Patrick Gould Active Member

    Posts: 2,250
    Ellensburg, WA
    Ratings: +635 / 0
    My wife's a bit of a coffee nut. At one point we had a $800 Gagia machine. Over time we just stopped using it and went to a $25 French Press. Sometimes simple is better. After reading Jesse's post I think we're using to fine of a grind.
  16. Dan Nelson Hiker, Fisher, Writer, Bum

    Posts: 761
    Puyallup, WA
    Ratings: +254 / 5
    Dead on. Fastest way to screw up good coffee is to BOIL the water. The flavorful oils in coffee are released at 190-deg F to 205-deg F. At 212-deg F (Boiling point) you get all the bitter acids releasing from the beans.

    So if you want to focus on the best flavor, get yourself some quality beans and DO NOT boil (that means no percolating, folks). If you don't mind bitter acidity, go ahead and boil the crap out of your coffee. The upside of boiling: you can go cheap because if you boil (which includes use of percolators), you might as well use the cheapest Hills Bros. coffee because you are getting more bitter acid than flavorful oil regardless of your bean.
  17. JesseC Active Member

    Posts: 1,914
    seattle, wa
    Ratings: +684 / 0
    Jerry. I just lost a ton of respect for your camp cooking. Holy shit boiling the coffee so you get the last drop out of them. Holy mother of god.

    ;)
    I use Starbucks coffee to wash road tar off my fenders. ;)
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  18. Jack Devlin Active Member

    Posts: 1,159
    Western Washington, Puget Sound area
    Ratings: +868 / 1
    Jesse, I like your new Avatar photo.:cool:
  19. Jerry Daschofsky Moderator

    Posts: 7,581
    Graham, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +578 / 5
    Swedish coffee is totally different. You don't toss egg shells in, you literally take an egg, scramble, mix into grounds, and pour into hot water (just barely boiling then pull from heat). No shells. Makes the best cup of coffee, and must coffee snobs haven't heard of it (but wine makers have). .Causes a chemical reaction with no egg drop soup effects. It gives you that French press effect but can be done in bulk. Plus coffee looks super weak yet is strong. And yes it isn't bitter nor does it have acid in it, yet is put in boiled water. My friend Butch makes it all the time, been doing it a lot myself. But 33 years of making coffee in a percolator in camp is hard to give up.
  20. sweetlou Member

    Posts: 100
    La Quinta, California
    Ratings: +11 / 0
    I have been French Pressing for years, however when I get the chance to percolate the coffee, it somehow tastes better. I percolate for exactly 4 min at a low heat once it starts. Never a miss, however due to medical reasons, I can only use Decafe. Ugh! I guess I am forced to be a weenie.