Coffee - "Camp Coffee" AKA "Cowboy Coffee"

Dan Nelson

Hiker, Fisher, Writer, Bum
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.
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.

Jerry Daschofsky

Staff member
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.
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.
Are we talking about camp coffee? I want it fast and strong. I start the coffee before the fire. On my own for the first cup, I boil water and pour it thru grounds in a paper filter. I go with a Turkish grind, almost a powder. Makes a strong, flavorable cup of coffee.

In truth, I will drink just about anything. Coffee and alcohol, two essential food groups.


Ignored Member
I don't have time to mess with fancy coffee when camping. 5 cup percolater readied the night before, it is done in about 10 minutes. 1st cup down and I am on the water in less then 20 minutes from the time I get up. You can make good perced coffee if you keep the temp just high enough to get a perc every couple of seconds and only perc it for about 7 to 8 minutes, no more.


Active Member
For camping and a day on the stream, I normally bring my backpacking burner and pot along with a mug. Boil some H2O and mix with some Five(Star)bucks French or Italian Roast Via's and I'm in business. Then I tuck the waterproof mug in the front of my waders, enjoy!
I guess I am a coffee snob. I would rather not drink coffee if it's bad. When we are camping I use a Melitta cone filter. It fits on the top of a quart thermos. I boil water take it off the heat and measure out the coffee into the filter. By then the water is the right temp and I pour thfough. While I am doing other kitchen duties I continue to pour and make coffee. When one thermos is done I start fresh with more coffee and a new filter. I don't think there is a way to make gallons of really good coffee in camp, you are going to sacrifice quality for quantity.


Active Member
Pretty sure if you got a tupperware to store beans in, a grinder like this, a thermometer like this, and took the time to stick with one quality bean and measure out the appropriate amount for a serving beforehand..... you'd be in the money. Not much additional effort and I think you'd be pretty surprised with the results.

A great local roaster that sells in bulk and is located on Bainbridge Island is Storyville Roasters.
How about 5 gallons of hot water a couple of pounds of fresh ground coffee in a cheesecloth bag. stir it with an pontoon boat oar and take out the bag. No grounds to filter between your teeth then.


Author, Writer, Photographer
So far it sounds like ~ 4 out of 5 guys think coffee is pretty important. Thanks for that feedback.

The problems I always had with "Cowboy Coffee" was after it was made it usually sat on the woodstove where it would start boiling again. This suspended the grounds in the coffee and also the boiling made it bitter. Dumping a bit of cold water into it at the end, knocks the grounds to the bottom. I then pour off the coffee into airpots which keeps the grounds out of the coffee and negates the need to put it on the woodstove to keep it warm. I'm not a big fan of chewy coffee.

JesseC - the manual hand grinder makes sense, but I confess to ignorance regarding the thermometer.