Thinking West: Campfire Coffee Recipe

El Portal has decided to publish its own recipe of a western favorite: campfire coffee. Campfire coffee is an art and a science, despite what many city folks might believe. Moreover, coffee is just as important to the cowpokes of the range as it is to the business folks of the city. Unlike those city slickers who visit Starbucks or some upscale coffee joint, inhabitants of the West prefer to make their own coffee, using only a few ingredients, a crude coffee pot, and hot coals. Western coffee recipes vary from one family to the next. Regional recipes are known to circulate the West. Agua Dulce, the name for a coffee made in the northern mountains and valleys of Nueva México, is one such example. Agua Dulce is known for its sweeter side and is often served with dessert or after hearing good news. Campfire coffee recipes are often handed down from one generation to the next, with few modifications made to these family recipes. It is also rumored that some campfire coffee recipes have spurred range feuds between competitive families. In some well-known cases, campfire coffee recipes have even served as dowries for many a range wedding.

What you’ll need:

  • (x1) Metal coffee pot
  • Coffee grounds (rough grounds; finer grounds won’t work)
  • (x1) Metal spoon
  • Hot coals
  • Water (enough to fill your coffee pot)

Optional ingredients (after coffee is brewed):

  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Cilantro
  1. First you’ll need to make your fire. You will not be using the flames to brew your coffee. You only need to use the hot coals.
  2. Put water in your coffee pot. Place your coffee pot on the hot coals. Allow for the water to boil inside the pot.
  3. Once the water has boiled inside the pot, remove the pot from the coals and remove the pot’s lid. With the lid removed, add between 6 and 12 tablespoons of coffee grounds to your boiling water. (The more coffee grounds you add to the boiling water, the stronger the coffee will be.) Stir in the coffee grounds. As you stir, the coffee grounds will start sinking to the bottom of the pot.
  4. Place lid back on pot. Allow the coffee to sit for at least 5 to 10 minutes. This will allow for the coffee to brew and the remainder of the coffee grounds will sink to the bottom of the coffee pot.
  5. Pour yourself a steaming hot cup of campfire coffee. Add sugar and whatever else you might like in your coffee. However, unsweetened and untouched campfire coffee is the best, according to many inhabitants of the West. As one cowpoke put it, “It tastes like burnt motor oil, goes down like drain cleaner, warms you like a fire would, and wakes you up like a cold shower might.”

Published by

El Portal

Eastern New Mexico University’s literary magazine, El Portal, offers a venue for the work of writers, artists and photographers. ENMU students, national, and international writers are welcome to submit their original, previously unpublished short stories, plays, poetry and photography. No entry fees are charged. Cash prizes are awarded to first-, second- and third-place winners in each category (only ENMU students qualify). El Portal is published each semester at Eastern thanks to Dr. Jack Williamson, a world-renowned science fiction writer and professor emeritus at ENMU who underwrote the publication. El Portal has been published since 1939.