Cowboy coffee is an old fashioned beverage made by cowboy enthusiasts on the wild west trail. It is made by boiling coarse long-grained coffee beans with hot water, then slowly brewing it in a small metal cup.

The resulting beverage is stronger than instant coffee as it retains more of the flavor of the coffee grinds. The longer the beans are roasted, the more flavors and aroma are sealed in the bean. A typical cup may contain one teaspoon of the desired coffee essence per 8 oz cup.

A Little Coffee History

Outlaws invented the first version of cowboy coffee. These bandits would boil kettles full of water and serve it to their comrades after a long hard day of patrolling. The practice soon spread to other areas of the West and eventually to the rest of the United States.

While there are many versions of this beverage, there is one drink that deserves a place in every American’s memory bank, a hot cup of Joe. There are many variations on the original cowboy coffee recipe, but two stand out as being the best:

  • One uses instant coffee while
  • The other uses a slow-boil coffee pot.

Regardless of what you use as the heat source, the resulting coffee is always hearty, rich, and tasty. For a true “coffee” experience, try combining the two ingredients and brewing a pot over an open fire – you’ll taste the difference!

cowboys sitting in front of an open fire

After the revolutionary war in 1812, tea was the symbol of British oppression of American colonists. Also, they rejected tea and became coffee drinkers. Coffee was a robust drink that provided more energy to them rather than tea. So, over time, it became the drink of choice for individuals in the west.

How The Cowboys In The Old West Drank Their Coffee?

Cowboys drinkers in the west like strong, scalding hot and barefooted (black) coffee. That’s why the cook did not remove the ground and added new grounds to the old to make it stronger. Also, coffee was served as a tradition after every meal. It was always strong and hot.

According to West Magazine, they called weak coffee dehorned belly wash or brown gargle. To work late at night, they drank coffee to gain energy. Trail boss George Duffield wrote that his men were in the saddle for 60 hours straight during one storm. However, “hasty rations” of bread and coffee is what helped keep them going on the road.

Also, to build a strong bond between the communities, they drank coffee together around the fire. Talk about good times.

Further Reading

How Do You Make Cowboy Coffee?

authentic cowboy coffee

Back in the old west, cowboys would head to the general store and get their ground coffee. These rough and tough cowboys made their coffees in an open fire or on a bed of hot coals. So, if you have to make coffee for 10 to 12 people, then a 3 to 5-gallon pot of tinned iron, blackened by smoke, would be good.

You would pour the ground roasted beans into the pot, mix in water and wait until it started to boil. They would serve it piping hot.

Note: Some camp coffee men used a secret ingredient salt in their coffee (just a pinch).

What You Need:

  • Bed of hot coals
  • Large pot
  • Coffee grounds


  • 1/4 cup coffee grounds
  • 1-quart warm water


  1. Add the coffee grounds and bring to a boil. To prevent the water from boiling over, you can reduce the heat when boiling. Boil for about 4 minutes. Keep in mind, the longer the boil, the stouter the coffee.
  2. Remove the pot from the heat and let rest 2 minutes. Also, pour in a little cold water to settle the grounds.
  3. Serve hot.

What Is Kent Rollins Cowboy Coffee?

Kent’s ability to cook and transport folks to another time through vivid stories of cow camps and the cowboy life is yet another way that he is a truly unique character.

Cowboy Kent Rollins shows you in the video below how to make perfect cowboy coffee.

There are complaints about cowboy coffee; it’s like pudding, it’s stout, and it’s so thick. But Kent Rollins explained that if it is made right, it will be the smoothest coffee in the world and give you the best taste in the world.

Kent Rollins is from a lost time and a dying state of mind when life was simple and character was king.

Is Cowboy Coffee Bitter?

We all have those days, like Woody, where we ponder things. Things like cowboy coffee bitter. No, cowboy coffee is not bitter; it is actually smooth coffee. However, you must follow the simple instructions.

Camp Coffee With Woody

Plenty of people complain about cowboy coffee that it upsets their stomach. It can upset your stomach if the water is not boiled but lukewarm. So, keep an eye on the strength, pot, and the ground coffee used.

Best Cowboy Coffee Beans

Mayorga Organics Café Cubano Roast, 2lb. Bag, Dark Roast Whole Bean Coffee, Specialty-Grade, USDA Organic, Non-GMO Verified, Direct Trade, Kosher, 100% Arabica Beans

Cowboy Coffee Mayorgacoffee shop lady

Kicking Horse Coffee, Cliff Hanger Espresso, Medium Roast, Whole Bean, Certified Organic, Fairtrade, Kosher Coffee

Kicking Horse - Cowboy Coffeecoffee shop lady

Best Cowboy Coffee Pots

Stansport Enamel Percolator Mugs

Percolator Mugs for Cowboy Coffeecoffee shop lady

Stansport Coffee Pot (20 Cup)

Cowboy Coffee - Coffee Potcoffee shop lady

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Sherry Harris

Sherry Harris, a bonafide coffee brewing and tasting enthusiast, is the founder of Coffee Shop Lady. She writes for regular coffee drinkers who like being informed about the best coffee beans from around the world, espresso machines, coffee makers, grinders, and delicious coffee drinks and recipes.