Cowboy Coffee: How to Make Coffee On a Stove Top

How to Make Coffee On a Stove Top: A Cowboy Coffee Guide

Have you ever heard of cowboy coffee before? Maybe not. Although many people don't realize it, back in the day, cowboys drank a lot of coffee! However, these rough and tumble folks also didn't have coffee pots on hand. After all, how would they put them in a saddle? Instead, these intrepid travelers of the Wild West had to make their coffee over a campfire. Hence the term, cowboy coffee.

Making coffee over a fire, stove top, or with any other source of high heat involves pretty much the same process: water, coffee grounds, and technique. The cowboy coffee method is pretty straightforward and can be replicated at home on a stovetop easily!


Below, we'll walk you through everything you need to know to make coffee on a stovetop, otherwise known as cowboy coffee!


(Tip: for the best stovetop coffee, we recommend these gourmet brews!) 


A Note on Cowboy Coffee Made On the Stove Top 

Cowboy-style stovetop coffee can be as disgusting or as delicious as it sounds. It will all come down to whether or not you do things right!

In this guide to making coffee on a stovetop, we are going to give you two recipes. The first one is the wrong way. The second is the RIGHT way! That way, you can really get the gist of things. 


How to Make Bad Stove Top Coffee

Cowboy coffee is famous for being gross. That is because people follow this incorrect recipe: 

  1. Completely ignore coffee-to-water ratio guidelines. Absolutely toss them out the window! Just randomly add coffee grounds to a pot of water. Then, stick it all on a stove or over a fire. 
  2. After putting the coffee and water somewhere hot, immediately bring it all to a boil. Let the coffee grounds float around on top so that they make a foam. Go ahead and let the pot boil over for fun if you want. The messier, the better. 
  3. After you have burned the coffee and let it boil over a bit, add some more coffee grounds just in case. Then, let it sit for a few minutes. !0 minutes should be fine. Don't worry about timing anything. Keep that boil rolling the whole time! Heck, why not let half evaporate?
  4. When it all looks brown and frothy, it's probably good enough to drink. 
  5. Pour that grimy, sludgy, bitter coffee sludge into a cup and choke it down. Congratulations! You're a cowboy. 
  6. Please don't actually make stove top coffee this way. 


Not a fan of this recipe?

Neither are most people!

Simply brewing your coffee grounds in a pot of boiling water isn't the right way to get delicious coffee.

The thing is, if you keep the coffee-to-water ratio right, brew grounds at the proper temperature, and allow everything to steep for the right amount of time, cowboy coffee can be delicious!


With that in mind, here's the ACTUAL recipe we recommend. 


Recipe for Making Coffee On the Stove Top the Right Way (Or, Good Cowboy Coffee)

Cowboy coffee does not have to be bad-tasting at all. If you have the correct supplies, you can create a delicious brew without ever having to set up a coffee pot. It is important to get high-quality coffee grounds and have a way to time things. Also, the ideal temperature to brew stovetop/cowboy coffee is 200°F. 



  • Finely Ground Coffee (French Press or Ground Smaller than Sugar but Coarser Than Powder)
  • Water
  • Timing method
  • Meat Thermometer (Optional)


  1. In a pot, add the water and bring it to a boil. Add as much water as needed for the right coffee to water ratio. (You should probably do 8, 12, or 16 oz. ) You can read more about that here. 
  2. Once your water is boiling, remove your pot from the stovetop and allow it to sit for 30 seconds. This allows the water temperature to lower. Usually, this will get the water temperature right where it needs to be at 200°F. You can use a meat thermometer to gauge the temperature of the water if need be. 200°F is the magic number for making cowboy coffee! 
  3. Next, add 2 tablespoons of finely ground coffee per 8oz of water. Once again, for the perfect coffee-to-water ratio, for every eight ounces of water, you should add TWO tablespoons of coffee. So, if you have a 16 oz pot of 200°F water, you will need 4 tablespoons of finely ground coffee. (A French Press grind is ideal. Think coarser than espresso, but finer than sugar.)
  4. Gently stir the coffee grounds in the water. Let the brew stand for 2 minutes. Do not place it back on the stove. 
  5. After 2 minutes have gone by, gently stir the coffee again. Allow it to sit for 2 more minutes. 
  6. After this coffee has been steeping for exactly four minutes, gently sprinkle some cold water on the Top. This forces the coffee grounds to settle back down to the bottom of the pot. 
  7. Now, slowly pour out your coffee in mugs or your preferred serving container so that the grounds stay on the bottom of the pot. You can strain the coffee as well if you need to. However, if you pour gently, the grounds should stay on the bottom and out of your mug. 


That's pretty much it! Cowboy coffee tastes best if it is served immediately after brewing. If you let it sit in the pot for a while, the grounds become over-extracted and tend to create a bitter taste. If you want a second cup, either brew a fresh pot or pour the coffee into a thermal container to keep it hot and prevent over-steeping. 


Final Thoughts on Home Made Stove Top Coffee with No Coffee Pot

Although cowboy and stovetop coffees have bad reputations, there's no reason these brewing methods can't be delicious. It all comes down to getting your coffee-to-water ratio right and brewing/steeping grounds for about 4 minutes at 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

When executed right, this is a great camping coffee recipe or an awesome solution when making coffee on a budget. We hope this has been helpful and wish you good luck. Happy trails partner! 

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