How to make great campfire coffee

How to make great campfire coffee

[Credit: Clem Onojeghuo]

Campfire coffee, or “cowboy coffee,” provides that much-needed zip, whether you’re just waking up in the tent on a backcountry camping trip or winding down the mountain trail at the end of a day-long, All-Season hike.

No matter your adventure, a good cup of coffee isn't too much to expect when you're out in the wild. Here’s our list of ways to make great traditional campfire coffee, and – for you coffeeologists – a superb modern brew. 

If you’re looking for that wild-west feel, and have a lot of hiking to do, there are a few methods you can use.

The Pot 

  • Step 1: add 1 tablespoon of coffee grounds per cup to pot of water 
  • Step 2: bring water to a boil over an open campfire 
  • Step 3: remove pot from flames 
  • Step 4: add 3 tablespoons of cold water in order to help grounds settle to pot bottom 
  • Step 5: pour yourself a strong, stiff cup of cowboy coffee 

Tasting notes: This traditional method will give you a strong, bitter cup of joe. An acquired taste for the tastebuds, but good for the soul.

The Sock

  • Step 1: stretch clean sock around coffee mug rim to form a brew pouch 
  • Step 2: add 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds to sock for every 6 oz of water 
  • Step 3: add boil water from campfire but let cool for 15-30 seconds 
  • Step 4: use a spoon to stir, smooth out any clumps of grounds 
  • Step 5: brew for 3 minutes then remove sock brew pouch and pour 

Tasting notes: This traditional method will produce a weaker cup than the pot method because the coffee grounds spend a shorter time in water. Easier on your tastebuds, smoother, but less buzz.


[Photo: Adam Griffith]

If you opt for the civilized route, and want more rec than trek, use these more modern methods for a smoother finish.

The Press

  • Step 1: add a tablespoon of coffee grounds to a french press per 200 ml (6.7 oz) of water 
  • Step 2: pour boiled water from campfire pot over the grounds in the press, and slowly stir 
  • Step 3: let stand for 3-4 minutes 
  • Step 4: gradually push down of press plunger to separate grounds from water 
  • Step 5: let sit for a bit, pour, enjoy 

Tasting Notes: A french press coffee is typically sipped for its silky glide over the tongue and well-balanced taste. Its caffeine high is just a bonus.

The Pour-over

  • Step 1: use filtered water (distilled water is too pure and will yield a flat taste) 
  • Step 2: use a pour over dripper on top of your coffee mug 
  • Step 3: line dripper with a brown filter (white filters contain bleach and other chemicals) 
  • Step 4: similar to pressed coffee, pour over requires a coarse grind (like raw sugar granules) 
  • Step 5: slow pour; wait until the bubbled, water-logged grounds settle before pouring again 
  • Step 6: continue pour for 3 minutes, stop and let drip out for 30 - 60 seconds 
  • Step 7: remove dripper and enjoy 

Tasting notes: Rich and bold, depending on how fast or slow you pour. 

Experimenting with your pour technique means more coffee for your friends and family around the fire.  What's your preferred coffee method? Let us know in the comments!

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