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Staff Videocast: Cowboy Coffee

How do BPL Staffers stay warm, hydrated, and caffeinated in the backcountry?

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by Staff | 2009-01-13 00:02:00-07


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For a better viewing experience, please download the Flash Player. Cowboy Coffee, by Backpacking Light Staff.


Coffee. Tea.

Hot, caffeinated beverages keep some of us sane when in the backcountry. Some might argue that such beverages can even keep you alive. Here, a few Backpacking Light staffers share their favorite methods for staying warm, hydrated, and caffeinated while out and about. Whether you prefer tea (filtered or not), coffee extract, or cowboy coffee, there's a little something for everyone... except the one editor who shall remain unnamed. He just takes two NoDoz and hits the trail.

Which could be why I might never backpack with him. - Addie


"Staff Videocast: Cowboy Coffee," by Staff. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2009-01-13 00:02:00-07.


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Staff Videocast: Cowboy Coffee
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Staff Videocast: Cowboy Coffee on 01/13/2009 22:35:06 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Staff Videocast: Cowboy Coffee

Jay Wilkerson
(Creachen) - MLife

Locale: East Bay
Staff Cowboy Coffee on 01/13/2009 22:56:45 MST Print View

Great stuff!! I really like the pot cozy idea.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Coffee on 01/13/2009 23:06:35 MST Print View

Please pass the cream and sugar!

Michael Martin
(MikeMartin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Staff Videocast: Cowboy Coffee on 01/13/2009 23:18:22 MST Print View

Hey, NoDoze is a lot lighter than all those "luxury" caffeine fixes. What's next, backcountry espresso makers? How about a Starbucks every 10 miles on the PCT?


-Mike M. -- The editor formerly known as "nameless" ;-)

Edited by MikeMartin on 01/13/2009 23:40:27 MST.

Mike Saxton
(Hokie) - F
Re: Staff videocast: cowboy coffee - music? on 01/13/2009 23:43:24 MST Print View

The coffee and tea are great, but what is the name of the music that went with that coffee!

Steven Nelson
(slnsf) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Speaking too fast... on 01/14/2009 00:54:12 MST Print View

So, those are "Melita" filters I'm using, and I like that they're "unbleached". Spoke a little too fast to be clearly understood there.

Fun to see everyone's methods, and that I'm not the only one who uses a cozy.

I don't have a cool theme song like Sam, though...

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Staff Videocast: Cowboy Coffee on 01/14/2009 05:18:05 MST Print View

Sam needs a theme song since he doesn't talk during his clip...

Scott McClure
(scottmphoto) - F

Locale: The beautiful Arkansas River Valley
Cowboy Coffee on 01/14/2009 05:35:12 MST Print View

Where can I get a copy of the song that was playing during the video?

Tracy Novak
(tracyn) - F
MSR Mugmate on 01/14/2009 08:45:34 MST Print View

MSR Mugmate is easier, less mess. 1 ounce.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Staff Videocast: Cowboy Coffee on 01/14/2009 09:08:32 MST Print View

We'd love to see your techniques for backcountry coffee as well. Post your photos, ideas, or video links here and share with the rest of us.

There has been a great discussion going on about this in another thread here as well.


Locale: Pacific Northwet
Re: Staff Videocast: Cowboy Coffee on 01/14/2009 09:12:38 MST Print View

I too like the MSR mugmate. Great for coffee. It also works great for loose tea, so you don't end up with tea bags. It also can be used to pre-filter water.

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F
Staff Videocast: Cowboy Coffee on 01/14/2009 09:17:19 MST Print View

I agree the MSR Mug Mate is the way to go. Simple, easy to clean, and I can use the same organic, fair trade coffee that I use in my French press while not backpacking.

I think the important thing to note is how a person makes coffee wihle *not* backpacking. If you drink crap coffee on a daily basis, odds are good that I'm not gonna care what you do while in the backcounty. ;)

On the other hand, if you use NoDoze on the trail, then I have to wonder what you do for coffee when all the amenities of home are at your disposal. Well Mike?

Edited by Ramapo on 01/14/2009 09:19:56 MST.

Lewis Martin
(MrtyMrtn) - F

Locale: Sierra Nevadas Golden Trout W
Have to have my coffee and tea... on 01/14/2009 10:28:37 MST Print View

One thing to remember, if you have your coffee ground, or do it yourself, have them grind it to French Press size... They grounds are bigger and they fall to the bottom after a quick stir, no need to strain....Throw out the last quarter inch.

I too have been wondering if I can download the song somewhere to my iTunes... Been looking for a year. I would gladly buy it..

Ben Pearre
(fugue137) - MLife
So how does it taste? on 01/14/2009 10:38:13 MST Print View

There are lots of ways to make coffee. The question, it would seem to me, is less "how to steep coffee grounds in water?" and more "find a few optima on the coffee-taste vs. equipment-weight function." I'd love to see you recruit Chris Kimball to the BPL staff :)

The parts of an Aeropress that are strictly necessary (syringe and stirring rod) are 246 grams. Damn if it doesn't make fine coffee (in about a minute including cleanup; no cozy needed as steeping time is about 10 seconds), but I tend to take tea into the woods due to weight and simplicity.

Speaking of which, those "MSR tea infusers" ( for $17) appear to be a re-branding of the Finum infuser ( for $7), and the Chatsford infusers ( are at least as good and far lighter (one for the Chatsford 6-cup pot weighs 12g). That sounds competitive vs. the strainer, and may be more convenient for tea, albeit less versatile?

Roger B
(rogerb) - MLife

Locale: Here and there
Re: Staff Videocast: Cowboy Coffee on 01/14/2009 10:41:42 MST Print View

Its great to see Alan making Tea, had not thought of doing it in that way I have always used tea bags. So I need to buy some loose green tea. And the cosy system seems ideal as a tea pot cover, just like my grandma used to use.

John Haley
(Quoddy) - F

Locale: New York/Vermont Border
Re: Staff Videocast: Cowboy Coffee on 01/14/2009 11:40:47 MST Print View

For those liking more of an espresso or Turkish/Greek coffee: Use a slightly higher mixture using darker roasted coffee grounds. Stir then boil over a gentle heat until about to overflow x three times. One final stir to get the grounds to sink, then pour. Although I use this method to make it on the trail using a FireLite 550, at home I use a copper and tin ten ounce Ibrik.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Staff Videocast: Cowboy Coffee on 01/14/2009 14:23:22 MST Print View

Side Note: We're exploring ways to make the BPL theme song available to our members. It's come up so many times that it's something we really need to do.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Multi-use SS filter on 01/14/2009 16:58:23 MST Print View

I made up a filter out of fine stainless steel mesh. Some dust gets through, but not much.

Coffee Filter, with coffee
Coffee filter in cup, empty of coffee
Empty coffee filter
Coffee brewing.

This is years old now, and went with me across France. It seems pretty rugged. An old face cream jar fits inside it neatly - that holds several day's worth of ground coffee.


Edited by rcaffin on 01/14/2009 16:59:05 MST.

Mark Hurd
(markhurd) - M

Locale: South Texas
Re: So how does it taste? on 01/14/2009 18:43:45 MST Print View

>The parts of an Aeropress that are strictly necessary (syringe and stirring rod) are 246 grams. Damn if it doesn't make fine coffee (in about a minute including cleanup; no cozy needed as steeping time is about 10 seconds), but I tend to take tea into the woods due to weight and simplicity.<

Ben P,

Hey! I use an Aeropress at home to make up "shots" for the trail. I usually use about 1/2 the water they suggest, but otherwise make coffee with the Aeropress as usual. I pour the "shots into a small plastic bottle for the trail then dispense as needed and add hot water. The concentrate will last without refrigeration for at least 10 days. Tastes great! Basically it is a do-it-yourself Java Juice.


Jared Cook
(rooinater) - F

Locale: Northwet
Re: Staff Videocast: Cowboy Coffee on 01/15/2009 14:08:59 MST Print View

will there be an announcement if and when the song is available?

i fell for the simplicity of java juice last season when i bought the cup, fire starter and coffee package. my morning cup of coffee is no nonsense, fairly smooth, boil, pour, drink. BPL isn't getting rid of java juice are they? I saw it labeled as closeout in the store...

Patricia Combee
(Trailfrog) - F

Locale: Northeast/Southeast your call
Nice! on 01/15/2009 16:51:14 MST Print View

Very nice video. I liked it a lot. Hope you do videos on even more stuff in the future. I shall give some of these tips some tries.

David Schill

Locale: Northeast
Cowboy Coffee on 01/16/2009 14:17:42 MST Print View

I used the GSI H2jo Coffee Filter. It fits on top of a water bottle. I use a 1 liter bottel with a home made cozy. Pour water in, close cap, let sit upside down for 3 min. +/-. Makes great coffee everytime, and with the cozy, even in winter it is HOT.

Judi Henson
(ritzhenson) - F

Locale: The Deep South
Sissy Coffee on 01/17/2009 10:24:58 MST Print View

At the risk of offending coffee afficianados, I like to use General Mills International Delights. I use cream and suger in my coffee, and this just seems like the easiest way to to do that. I boil water in my Snow Peak mini-solo, over my alki stove, add three spoonfulls, stir and drink. By the way I drink Fresh ground Kona coffee at home, not crap. Let the name calling begin. By the way, I want to download the song too! Who is that? I tried to Shazam it on my iPhone, it doesn't know it. Bummer!

Man! I just re-read that post, and I sound like a real jerk! Oops! I'm really a nice guy. My name is Ritz I used my wife's credit card to sign up so I gues I'll be Judith here. I want to thank everyone here for all that I've read here. I'm learning sooo much! Peace y'all.

Edited by ritzhenson on 01/17/2009 12:21:59 MST.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Staff Videocast: Cowboy Coffee on 01/17/2009 18:27:39 MST Print View

"Hey, NoDoze is a lot lighter than all those "luxury" caffeine fixes."

You're not alone, Mike. NoDoze is my recreational drug of choice when I go cold food.

For "Cowboy Coffee" I've found a finer grind to work better than coarser grinds, particularly at higher elevations where the water boils at a lower temperature. My hypothesis is that a finer grind exposes more coffee ground surface area to the water, yielding a more thorough extraction. Should work at all elevations, but increasingly important the higher I go. It also uses less coffee. Downside is that it takes a bit more effort to clean the cup, which is where I steep my coffee. I use a Rubbermaid cup(wrapped in 3 layers of Duct tape in lieu of a cozy) and after adding very hot(not boiling) water and coffee, stir, snap the lid on, wait 5 minutes, stir gently again to settle the remaining grounds, and enjoy. Aaaahhhh.

Monty Montana
(TarasBulba) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Cowboy Coffee on 01/22/2009 20:31:39 MST Print View

Hey, great videocast, music, ideas 'n all! But where was the cowboy coffe? Back at the ranch, in Montana, we made ours by boiling water in a blue enamal coffee boiler, then throwing in a handful of grounds, a pinch of salt and a crushed up egg shell. The salt helped neutralize the acids to give a smooth taste, and the egg shells helped settle the grounds. Now, you don't need a blue enamel coffee boiler to do this, but Montana tradition dictates the rest as essential for authentic cowboy coffee. Uh huh, mmmm! Happy trails.

Julian Watson
(JulesWatson) - F
Cowboy Coffeee and Roger's Strainer on 01/30/2009 22:33:25 MST Print View

Roger, again your MYOG continues to impress ! Did you source that locally in Oz, and can I ask what the mesh sizing is (I assume it has a sizing like thread has a denier and paper a gsm and the like), and did you 'press' it yourself ?

Overall nice thread and topic - I have been considering giving away the mini-espresso machine that I have been wedded to when walking for 15 years.... and was recently thinking 'I wonder how folks make cowboy coffee ?' And now I know !

Gordon Smith
(swearingen) - MLife

Locale: Portland, Oregon
Mini-Minit filters brew a perfect cuppa on 02/19/2009 05:41:49 MST Print View

I've been using the Mini-Minit coffee filters for backpacking for years:


They work great! They're practically weightless and you can leave the plastic stick at home unless wooden sticks can't be found where you're going. Perfect for loose leaf tea as well. You can get them at Amazon also.


Edited by swearingen on 02/19/2009 05:54:12 MST.

Jerry Cagle
(xclimber) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Urban Cowboy Coffee on 02/19/2009 06:01:00 MST Print View

I got an eMail from SBUX offering free samples (get 'em whilst they last...!) of a new (shudder) instant (shudder) coffee.... I'm going to try it (under controlled circumstances...), but I'm not expecting much. It would be nice not to have to deal with the grounds, I suppose.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Cowboy coffee on 02/19/2009 08:42:43 MST Print View

I still don't see the problem with Folger's singles.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Cowboy Coffeee and Roger's Strainer on 02/19/2009 15:34:04 MST Print View

Hi Julian

Sorry - missed your query. Probably away at the time.

I made it myself using a fine SS mesh, SS Mig welding wire and a small spot welder. Circle base and rectangle wall.

Mesh size ... Um ... I don't know. Certainly a fine filter mesh, but the fabric was actually scavenged.

But there are plenty of alternatives around, including one from GSI: "Ultralight Java Drip 79460"


Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Coffee on 07/04/2009 02:20:54 MDT Print View

I basically do cowboy style coffee but then I filter the finished product through my MSR mugmate. This works a lot better than putting the grinds directly in the mugmate and either pouring water off it (which just runs out the sides) or submerging it in a mug (which takes forever and makes weak coffee).

I supposed I could just use a regular paper coffee filter instead of the Mug Mate, but I don't really need that fine of filtration and that's slower (although lighter unless you're going for weeks).

Jerry Cagle
(xclimber) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Re: Cowboy coffee on 07/04/2009 11:55:04 MDT Print View

The problem with Folger's singles is: Flavor. Yes, it's an individual preference, and yes, I am a self-proclaimed "coffee snob".

David Heath
(snowguy) - F

Locale: Boulder Colorado
easy good coffee on 10/24/2009 00:44:17 MDT Print View

In September I bought some instant coffee that was recently introduced at Starbucks. They claimed it would taste as good as their fresh brewed and I found this, to my surprise, to be true. No extra equipment needed, just boil,pour and drink with your usual additives.

Jerry Cagle
(xclimber) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Re: easy good coffee on 10/24/2009 06:52:17 MDT Print View

Snowguy is absolutely right. This stuff is really good, and I HATE instant coffee... It's called VIA. I just wish they sold it in other than individual packets.

Bill Poett
( - F

Locale: Santa Barbara
Cowboy Coffee on 10/24/2009 09:38:31 MDT Print View

My morning cup of "Joe" is one of my favorite rituals, instead of brewing I'm sipping the Starbucks Columbian instant and by choice. Its awesome ;0)

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Staff Videocast: Cowboy Coffee on 09/07/2013 09:31:04 MDT Print View

Something to watch while having a cup. BPL in a fine moment in time.

Matthew Perry
(bigfoot2) - F

Locale: Oregon
Staff Videocast: Cowboy Coffee on 09/08/2013 19:44:45 MDT Print View

But can it be done in a "group coffee cooking situation"? We need an updated ad...uh...podcast.