Coffee Culture: Cowboy Coffee
What do you think of when you think of cowboys? Cattle? Horses? Adventure (though this may be more fantasy than fact)? One thing we think of when we think of cowboys is their love of coffee! It's hard to start a day on the ranch without a stiff, hot cup of joe to wake you up. The cowboy method has been around for decades, but has seen something of a renaissance in recent years. This is largely because of how good this method of brewing can actually be!
It's true, the typical thinking might be that heavy immersion brewed coffee would be too strong or bitter. It turns out, the opposite is true. But how id it brewed? Recipes vary, but generally coarse ground coffee is added to water that is either boiling or heating up to a boil. After a certain brew length, some cold water is poured into the pot, cooling the coffee to drinking temperature and stopping the brewing. This cold water also drives the grounds to the bottom of the pot, making it easy to pour grit-free coffee. Many coffee drinkers will say its some of the smoothest coffee they're ever had!
But what's going on in that pot?
The drinkability of cowboy coffee probably has a lot to do with the coarse grounds. Since these grounds won't dissolve into the coffee it prevents over-extraction and makes for buttery smooth coffee. This also means the heat of boiling water doesn't totally scorch the coffee like it would in a drip brew. While the principles work anywhere, it helps that being at high altitudes leads to a perfect boiling point right at 212 degree Fahrenheit. That brew as boiled immersion combined with the coarse grind and cold water to halt the process all adds up to a tasty cup of coffee!
This means that coffees with a lot of classic coffee taste and smokier notes will come through well in cowboy coffee. This is because some of their stronger notes will be diminished thanks to the style.
Despite the knee-jerk response from many specialty coffee enthusiasts to turn their noses up at this brew method, combining immersion brewing with craft coffee is a great way to kick it up a notch! Not to mention, we already use immersion brewing all the time in the craft coffee world. For example, the Fellow Duo Steeper uses similar concepts to cowboy coffee that uses a filter to filter out the grounds instead of pushing them to the bottom with cold water. Stovetop espresso brewers like the Ilsa Express also use immersion style brewing and high heat to brew and extract coffee.
So pick up some of your favorite smoky beans, brew em' coarse and get to boilin'. Try some cowboy coffee!