Campfire Coffee is a Hunters Brew


One of my favorite quotes is from the book, A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold. “Hoot owls, freight trains and goose hunters have a habit of getting up too early in the morning. Some goose hunters acquire the trait from freight trains, some coffee pots acquire the trait from goose hunters….”

My own coffee pot has acquired the trait of getting up “too early” on many mornings. It’s not always because of goose hunting, however. It may be a fishing trip, day on the trap line or a hunt for any number of different game animals, but the day always starts with a fresh cup of coffee.

I don’t know whether to be amazed, confused or saddened by people I encounter who don’t start their day with a cup of coffee―or two or three. Some shun the caffeine as though one sip of the stuff will start them down the road to becoming a crack-addict. Some say they just don’t like coffee, but are quick to pop a top on a Mountain Dew or Diet Coke to get their morning “jolt.”

I suppose “ya gotta do what ya gotta do” but I’m not going to do a Dew when I can savor a fresh “cuppa Joe.” That’s why I felt so sorry for the guy known as Pogo on one of the internet groups I monitor frequently.

Pogo posted: If any one bunch of guys knows how to do this, it would have to be you boys! MY COFFEE MAKER WONT WORK!!!! I will go crazy with out coffee, and made a BIG mess attempting to brew one pot! Here’s where I need the help. Every morning as a kid I could hear my father scrambling an egg. To this a scoop or two of ground coffee was added and then poured into a pot of boiling water. How do you do it? Is that all there is to it? Does any one else brew coffee with an egg? Please H E L P !!!!!

The obvious thing to me would have been to hop in the truck and head for a 24-hour WalMart to get a new coffee maker or at least to a 24-hour Qwikee mart for a large fill up of ready made. Pogo is from Iowa, however, so those “luxuries” of civilization may not be close at hand.

The brew he was trying to make is often called cowboy-coffee or camp-coffee. He was right, when he guessed among the group of people on the list were a number of individuals well schooled and practiced in the art (and science) of brewing “starting fluid” the cowboy way.
With the hunting seasons upon us, lots of guys are or will soon be heading to deer camps, to weekend overnighters or just a simple lunch-time cookout. Camp coffee can be (or is required to be) a part of these outings.

The simplest method is to purchase a camp-coffee brewer available from Coleman. In essence it’s drip-style coffee maker which can be set on a camp stove or campfire and it brews coffee just like the Bunn or Mr. Coffee does at home. That might be simple, but it isn’t a special camp-coffee.

The Internet advice Pogo got from the group recommended a variety of recipes. Evidently, there’s no one set way. Many of the recipes, however, were similar so if a pot of cowboy coffee sounds good to you, follow the general guidelines and experiment until you find a brew that works for your taste and style.

All the recipes start with a pot, ground coffee and water. The amount of coffee varied with each recipe from pretty weak to very stout. Most centered around a tablespoon or so for every two cups. A couple of the campfire chefs warned of using coffee ground for drip coffee makers, preferring a coarser grind made for percolators or just called coarse ground.

All the recipes started by boiling the water before adding ingredients. The simplest ones just dumped in the grounds and let it cook. How long? Weber from New York wrote, “If you boil for less than 8 minutes you are drinking water with some color. let it roll for at least 8 minutes, then let it settle.”

There seems a few schools of thought about the “settling” process, as well. Some of the brewers simply wait for the grounds to settle, then pour. One fellow suggested a sharp rap on the side of the pot will facilitate the process. Many of the cooks add a measure of cold water once the pot comes off the heat saying the quick chill hastens the process of settling the grounds.

About half the people who offered Pogo advice included an egg. One fellow only added the white of an egg and a couple include both the egg and the shell. The theory seems to be that the uncoagulated egg will stick to most or many of the grounds (and perhaps the crushed eggshell) and encapsulate all the gritty stuff as the egg poaches in the coffee. Little mention was made that the egg added any flavor to the coffee, but a fellow from Michigan did indicate his coffee has a richer flavor because of the egg and one of the eggshell users claims the calcium in the shell reacts with the coffee’s acids and mellows the result. (He must be a chemist of some sort.)

Most of the people indicated they just crack the egg and dump it in. One person whipped the egg before adding it and another mixed the egg and ground coffee before adding it to the pot.

I’m sure all the methods will work―to a degree―but more important, is the fun of doing the cooking in camp or on the tailgate. Okay, when getting up to go goose hunting, perhaps the caffeine jolt from that first cup is just as important.


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