Cow Boy/Billy Can Coffee

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Malcolm Douglas
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Cowboy Coffe:
I picked this method for making good camping coffee up on a week long hiking trip on the Bogon High Plains earlier this year, and have been using it on outings ever since. It's very simple, and does not require very much material to do. I will attatch photos for as many of the steps as I can, but they aren't particulalrly good quality (Taken on a smart phone :_fiu: ) and the pot of coffee photographed was made on a stove (As our night long camp out fell on its face :piange: ). Anyhow, without further or do, lets get into it!!

You will need:
1x Billy can/Cooking pot of some form
3 teaspoons of ground coffee, IE Vitoria (I have found to three teaspoons to work the best for me, but these things are always best altered to personal taste, so experiment!!)
A source of heat (Fire, stove etc)
A little bit of cold water, out of a canteen etc (About 1/8th of a cup works for three teaspoons of grounds, but obviously more coffee needs more cold water and vica versa, but not a lot of cold water is required)
Sugar/Milk/Other coffee additives to personal taste

Method:
1. Fill the billy can/Pot with enough cold water for the volume of coffee you wish to make:
Fill with water.jpg
2. Spoon in the coffee grounds and stir them in (You will not achieve a smooth consistency at this stage, that doesn't matter, all you want to achieve in stirring at this stage is to break up clumps of coffee and have the coffee in the water rather then floating on top)
Add Coffe and stir in.jpg
3. Place the pot/billy onto the heat, and allow it to boil:
Put on heat.jpg
4. When it boils remove the pot from the heat:
Take off heat after it boils.jpg
5. Add the cold water to the pot, but DO NOT stir it in, how this works is the coffee grounds cling to the colder water and sink to the bottom, allowing you to pour the coffee out, minus the grounds.
(No photo for this step)
6. Distribute sugar (If taken)
Distribute sugar etc.jpg
7. Pour out the coffee:
Pour out .jpg
8. Enjoy!!
Enjoy!.jpg

Hopefully this helps out those of you that didn't know how to do this already.
Cheers,
Aidan :risatonaD:
 

Wentworth

Bear Mears
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Hi Aidan, good post. Thanks for sharing it with us
 

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John McDouall Stuart
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I'm going to have to try that. I've never tried cowboy coffee. I've always taken the lazy route and used instant. (It's not great, but surprising how enjoyable it is in the bush in front of the morning fire.)

The idea of pouring the cool water in without stirring is interesting. While the concept of cool water falling to the bottom makes sense, I wouldn't have thought it would drag the coffee grains down with it.

Does anyone know if the billy tea trick of swinging the billy (like a centrifuge) also works with coffee? In theory it should, but theory doesn't always correspond with practice.

I've also heard a few grains of salt help the coffee go to the bottom. Probably to do with salt water being denser/heavier than fresh water I'm guessing, which makes it sink.
 
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Askew

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I take a different lazy route if I make coffee when camping, I make greek coffee. The sludge in the bottom of the cup is all part of the experience.
 

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I take a different lazy route if I make coffee when camping, I make greek coffee. The sludge in the bottom of the cup is all part of the experience.
Is it different to normal coffee somehow? Different grains? Or different method?
I'm not a huge fan of the gritty coffee grains at the bottom of my cup. Even at home when using a percolator I tend to leave the last mouthful. It looks like a layer of silt at the bottom of the cup, and has the texture of fine sawdust.

Out in the bush I tend to be a little bit less picky though. Things seem much more enjoyable in the bush, even when it's something I probably wouldn't enjoy at home (like instant coffee or 2 minute noodles).


Something I've considered adding to my pack is a flat tea strainer like:
http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/stainless-steel-Metal-Colander-5-22cm-Whatta-Abtropfen-Screen-Tea-Strainer-/272003125737
That listing has a bunch of different types but there's a flat one in there, which is likely easier to fit into a pack than a normal half sphere type strainer.
I think that one might be a bit big (and the postage is absurd). A smaller one should still do the job.
A strainer like that won't get rid of 100% of of the grains, but it should get rid of the biggest and grittiest ones, leaving just the tolerable silt in the cup.
Still... it's a good idea to know how to do cowboy coffee as we should IMO try to avoid becoming too dependent on gear where possible.
 
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Askew

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The beans are ground to a very fine powder. Put the water in the pot, add coffee, and sugar if you want, then heat. Give it a stir or two, take it off the heat when it's just starting to boil. It's a bit messier, so there's a bit more clean up, but I like it because of the ease of making it.
Greek coffee is very similar to Turkish coffee.
 

remember-the-mount-bread

Malcolm Douglas
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Thats a really good idea Askew, I drink greek coffee at home quite frequently (Greek family) but never thought of taking it out bush..
Definitely worth a shot next time I'm out.
Thanks for the idea :_lol:
Thanks a lot,
Aidan
 

swampy99

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Similar to brewing Turkish coffee but let it sit on top till it boils then stir it in. Add crushed cardamom pods for flavour.
 

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Malcolm Douglas
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I'm going to have to try that. I've never tried cowboy coffee. I've always taken the lazy route and used instant. (It's not great, but surprising how enjoyable it is in the bush in front of the morning fire.)

The idea of pouring the cool water in without stirring is interesting. While the concept of cool water falling to the bottom makes sense, I wouldn't have thought it would drag the coffee grains down with it.

Does anyone know if the billy tea trick of swinging the billy (like a centrifuge) also works with coffee? In theory it should, but theory doesn't always correspond with practice.

I've also heard a few grains of salt help the coffee go to the bottom. Probably to do with salt water being denser/heavier than fresh water I'm guessing, which makes it sink.
Yeah man, swinging it definetly works, though I'd be catious in trying if you don't know how (I've never done it myself, hence the method above)

I haven't heard of using salt before, but as you sat it makes sense density wise.
Guess you never know till you try eh?
Thanks a lot,
Aidan
 

Askew

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Similar to brewing Turkish coffee but let it sit on top till it boils then stir it in. Add crushed cardamom pods for flavour.
A bit of cinnamon is nice too.
Hadn't heard of adding salt, would it affect the flavour of the coffee?
 

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Malcolm Douglas
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A bit of cinnamon is nice too.
Hadn't heard of adding salt, would it affect the flavour of the coffee?
A bit of nutmeg's nice as well.
I guess if it would affect the taste would depend on how much you use and how you have it as well?
I would imagine that if you took sugar and used little salt it wouldn't as much.
Definitely worth a go though I reckon :linguino:
Thanks a lot,
Aidan
 

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John McDouall Stuart
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The beans are ground to a very fine powder. Put the water in the pot, add coffee, and sugar if you want, then heat. Give it a stir or two, take it off the heat when it's just starting to boil. It's a bit messier, so there's a bit more clean up, but I like it because of the ease of making it.
Greek coffee is very similar to Turkish coffee.
Interesting. I like finding ways of simplifying things. This is something else I need to try.

Is there a risk of the coffee burning and going bitter when you add the coffee before heating? Especially cos a camp fire is difficult to control in terms of temperature?
I guess if it's sitting mostly on top that's probably less of a problem because it's the base of the container that gets the hottest.

I use a plunger lately at home, and I've used a percolator a fair bit (but the rubber seal on them always falls apart after a while it seems).
When using the plunger I tend to add the coffee, then some cold water, and stir. Then I add the boiling water. If I add straight boiling water it seems to go bitter because 100c is a bit too high for coffee (from my limited understanding). Same goes with tea, best if the kettle doesn't quite boil (or boil it but add some cold to the cup before adding the hot).

I had the impression that adding the coffee grounds before heating was a bad idea. But I'm going to give it a go some time. If it goes bitter then I think I'll retry it and take it off at a slightly lower temperature.
There's probably a temperature somewhere between 60c and 100c where you still release the flavor without making it bitter. But I'm not sure how you'd guesstimate the temperature without a thermometer.

Yeah man, swinging it definetly works, though I'd be catious in trying if you don't know how (I've never done it myself, hence the method above)
It can indeed be dangerous. A school teacher did it with just cold water as a science experiment. The bucket broke and almost hit one of the other students. (Don't worry no-one was hurt and we all cracked up laughing.)
I think if she used a billy it would have been less likely to break.

There's also the risk of not swinging it fast enough. So when it's above your head the liquid might even pour out all over you. (I'm guessing that's fairly unlikely unless you stop or slow down when it's directly above you.)
I suggest everyone try it with cold water first till you get the hang of it. Not a good idea to try it with hot water for the first time.

Hadn't heard of adding salt, would it affect the flavour of the coffee?
I'm guessing it depends how much you add. The tricky question is whether the desired effect (of sinking the coffee grounds) can be achieved with such a small amount that you can't taste it.
On the other hand.... go to a fancy chocolate shop or a fancy restaurant and order an expensive chocolate dish. There's good chance they've added sea salt to it because it stimulates the taste buds and brings out the flavor of the cocao.
You see the same technique being used on cooking shows, etc. by people like Heston Blumenthal (for anyone who is unfamiliar with him, he's arguably one of the most extraordinary chefs on the planet, famous for doing crazy things with food which you think shouldn't work but somehow it does).

Because of the use of sea salt in chocolate I'm wondering whether adding a bit of salt to coffee might actually enhance the flavor, even though it sounds a bit weird.
I wouldn't be surprised if adding sea salt tastes good, while adding table salt makes it taste horrible. So if it tastes horrible with table salt I think it's worth another try with sea salt, to see if it still tastes horrible.


Edit:

I'm just googling salt in coffee... here are some interesting links I've found...

Should You Put Salt in Your Coffee?
http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2012/12/should-you-put-salt-in-your-coffee-reduce-bitterness.html

A pinch of salt for your coffee, Sir?
http://blog.khymos.org/2010/03/21/a-pinch-of-salt-for-your-coffee-sir/

Add a Pinch of Salt to Coffee to Curb Bitterness
http://lifehacker.com/5846428/add-a-pinch-of-salt-to-coffee-to-curb-bitterness
which links to...

Man Coffee
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/man-coffee-recipe.html
That suggests kosher salt. As far as I'm aware, kosher salt is like sea salt at least in terms of being less salty than table salt.


Seems there are some people who thinks it makes it taste better, and maybe even a bit of science behind it. I'm definitely going to have to try this.
 
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remember-the-mount-bread

Malcolm Douglas
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Thanks for all the info mate, really interesting to read. To be completely honest I haven't tried it much adding the grounds after boiling, and as I said in the post, this recipe is how I prefer it, which is adding it first, but after reading what you've said I will definitely give it another shot adding it post, and definitely try out the salt.
Thanks for all the info mate,
Aidan
 

Foxtrot65

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Found this really interesting and will definately try this next time im out, will pack some salt too, I had no idea you could do this without a proper pot which look massive to take out in your pack, thanks for explaining the methods really well, great stuff!
 

Thrud

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I don't brew coffee when I'm out other than one of the coffee bags. I do carry some coffee filters in a tin to use as a pre filter for dirty water. I guess you could use some of these ...as a coffee filter...a water filter and as tinder.
 

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Malcolm Douglas
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Found this really interesting and will definately try this next time im out, will pack some salt too, I had no idea you could do this without a proper pot which look massive to take out in your pack, thanks for explaining the methods really well, great stuff!
Not a problem mate, glad it helped!
Thanks a lot,
Aidan
 

remember-the-mount-bread

Malcolm Douglas
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I don't brew coffee when I'm out other than one of the coffee bags. I do carry some coffee filters in a tin to use as a pre filter for dirty water. I guess you could use some of these ...as a coffee filter...a water filter and as tinder.
You could certainly do that, more then one use for one thing is never a bad thing. :risatonaD:
Thanks a lot,
Aidan
 
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