Espresso Cowboy

Making campfire coffee

Tea is the New Zealand backcountry drink. If a tramper says they’re putting a brew on they invariably mean a cloudy cup of Bell. But for those early starts, those cold mornings when you wake to find the fire long gone out, there is nothing like a mug of strong and piping hot black coffee. Here’s a few methods for making sure one is always within your reach.


So much sneering has gone on at the expense of instant coffee that whole generations don’t even know what it tastes like. The truth is it tastes fine, and like most things carried into the bush, better for being consumed far from civilisation. Not to mention it’s portable, easy to prepare and was invented in Invercargill.

The gadgets

There are plenty of gadgets out there for those who can’t face instant in any circumstances. For the best cup, we’ve heard some trampers will carry a small stovetop espresso maker, but the weight this adds to your pack means these people can only be fanatics. Lighter options include plungers that come with their own mug, as well as reusable filters.

A newcomer to the world of coffee preparation is the AeroPress. This syringe like device is lightweight, portable and squeezes out a cup of espresso style coffee in about 30 seconds. It also has the added benefit of looking like something you pinched from a hospital.

Cowboy coffee

Forget all that fussing around. Take nothing but a pot, matches and coarse ground coffee. Cowboy coffee was, as the name suggests, the preferred brew of the cowpokes of the old west. Ornery buggers who wouldn’t touch a drop of tea if it might save them. There are a number of schools of thought on making their morning drink of choice, but the aim is always the same: strong strong coffee.

To make, use a ratio of one very generous tablespoon of coarsely ground coffee to each cup of water. Bring your billy of water as close to a boil as possible then throw in the coffee. Stir it for a minute or two then remove from heat. Let it sit till the grounds settle at the bottom of the pot. There are a few ways of speeding this part up. One is to add a little cold water. It sinks, taking the grounds with it. Another is to add eggshells at the same time as you take the coffee off the boil.The residue egg white in the shell is said to help settle the grounds and make for a smoother cup. A more daring method is to grab the billy by the handle and swing it, windmill style, in a 360 degree arc over your head – the centrifugal force should keep the hot coffee in the pot while sending the grounds to the bottom. At this point, we’d just remind you of our disclaimer. Whichever way you do choose, the end result should be the same, a strong cup worthy of its name.