The old time cowboys called it Arbuckle's or brown gargle and it was rumored to float a pistol or heal a cut on a saddle horse. Today we just call it plain old camp coffee, and it has come a long way in the area of taste. Coffee prepared over an open fire can take on a flavor all of its own and greatly surpass the flavor of drip brewed coffee. The extra special taste could be partly due to the atmosphere of the great outdoors and the warm goodness of that hard-earned cup, but it's mostly in the way you make it.
Coffee making has a unique history. Before modern day percolators, coffee was boiled in large enamel pots. For every gallon of coffee an egg was added to help settle the grounds. Eggshells were commonly also added to help alleviate bitterness. If these old coffee techniques seem appealing, try them with some caution because the taste of the coffee can be dramatically altered.
To make the perfect cup of camp coffee, start with an enamel or granite coffeepot. Fill the pot about three-quarters full with cold water. Cold water is better than hot water because it gives the grounds a chance to soak and release their natural flavors before the temperature reaches a boil. Soft water is best, and rainwater is the ultimate, according to camp coffee making experts who claim that the secret to good coffee is the water. Next, add coffee grounds to the water. A good rule is 2 level teaspoons of recently ground beans for each 6 ounces of water. For stronger coffee, add more grounds, and remember the fresher the grounds the better the coffee will taste.
Place the pot on the campfire grill, over the campfire, and be prepared to pay close attention because this can make or break the good taste. When a low rumble starts, tiny bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pot or steam begins to rise. This means the coffee is beginning to boil. At this time, take the pot off the fire and allow the coffee to steep for a few minutes. This will also give the grounds a chance to settle to the bottom. It is important not to let the coffee boil. Boiling will cause the grounds to release tannic acid, which will causes a bitter taste.
As soon as the coffee cools, be sure to pour out what is left and clean your pot well. Coffee residues can spoil the next pot of coffee. Baking soda works well for removing coffee residue.
A successful pot of camp coffee is easy to create when a few basic guidelines are followed. These steps will hopefully keep your camp brew from being called such names as "Mississippi Mud" or " Campfire Crude".
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