Cowboy Coffee

“Cowboy coffee is a form of black art, and getting a good cup of coffee involves any number of chants, prayers, and even a dead chicken, or two.”

That is to say, the most obvious feature of Cowboy Coffee is that it is made without a filter. There is no physical barrier between the coffee grounds and your coffee cup. The grounds are boiled while free-floating in the water.

The trick then becomes how to get the coffee away from the grounds. Here is where the black magic comes into play. Sometimes, if you say the right words, you get get the grounds to settle out on their own. You can skim off the top, and carefully avoid pouring off the bottom, and you will get a decent cup, with only a small puddle of grounds in the bottom of the mug.

Some people claim that you throw a raw egg into the mix. The egg binds the grounds as it cooks. I have even heard of using objects like rocks or pebbles to somehow scare the grounds out of suspension.

As I said, it is a black art.” –mdwyer (http://everything2.com/title/Cowboy+coffee)

Recipe

Adapted from: http://www.ineedcoffee.com/04/cowboycoffee/

Bring the water to a boil and add the grounds. Return the water to a boil. This should happen nearly immediately and the ground may cause the water level to rise. If a boilover is imminent, remove from heat, stir the grounds, and use a larger pot next time. Boil just long enough to wet the grounds. Optionally stir the surface to ensure that all the grounds are wet. Remove from heat, put the lid on, and let sit in a warm place for five minutes. Pour carefully to avoid shaking up the settled grounds. Do not pour the grounds at the bottom.

You should not feel any grounds in your mouth while drinking the coffee. But don’t drink every last drop or you will end up with a mouthful of grounds!

For an entire breakfast in a pot, boil eggs in the water for two minutes before adding the grounds. Rinse the eggs after you serve the coffee. Now you can enjoy coffee and soft boiled eggs!

Comments

Using a coarse grind may seem intuitive because cowboy coffee is essentially unfiltered french press. However, in my experience, coarser grounds tend to float, creating an extremely unpleasant brew. The drip grinds seem to be a good balance.

There are many reports of throwing in an eggshell or a whole shelled egg into the coffee to remove the grounds. Although I thought it helped once, I don’t think the eggshell helps. I think people throw in an eggshell because they misunderstood that they were supposed to throw in a whole egg. I’ve never thrown in a whole egg. It probably collects a lot of the grounds, but it wastes an egg and I don’t have a problem with grounds anyways. I’d be happy to hear about other people’s experiences with eggs though!

Earlier Experiments

Espresso Grind

Recipe

Adapted from: http://www.ineedcoffee.com/04/cowboycoffee/

Bring the water to a boil and add the grounds. Bring the water back to a boil. In my experience, this happens nearly immediately. Continue boiling (you may need to move the pot around to boil strategically) until all of the grounds are wet, but not more than a minute or the drink will become too bitter. Remove from heat, put the lid on, and insulate for five minutes. Pour carefully.

Review

This ended up being more of a Turkish style brew. However, the grounds did not settle very well. Some remained floating on top and transferred to my cup. The first sip was rather grainy–but not too unpleasant. The coffee tasted delicious with limited bitterness. There were a lot of leftover grounds in my cup at the end.

Coarse Grind

Recipe

Review

The coffee tasted more bitter than the espresso grind, but still tasty. The coffee had no graininess–it was much like a French press coffee. When I first opened the lid, there were a lot of grounds on top, but then I put the lid back and opened it again some seconds later and the grounds had settled. I don’t know how the eggshell does it, but I think it definitely helps as I tried to make cowboy coffee without it once and ended up with a lot of floaties. It especially helps with the finer grounds that have difficulty settling out otherwise.

Afterthoughts

If your grounds are too coarse, you can get floaties. Large chunks of coffee beans tend to float. The egg shell makes a lot of small bubbles on the top of the coffee (a product of the egg white), but does an excellent job of settling out the finer coffee particles. I tried coarse grounds, and then moved to percolator grounds. I’m interested in trying drip ground and espresso ground with the egg shell.

Terrible Experiment

If you put the grounds in when the water is cold, the resulting brew will be very bitter and flavorless.