Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Coffee As They Knew It...

It's time. It's time I do a historical post on coffee as they knew it. Coffee wasn't this fancy back in the 19th century. I was appalled when, for my last novel, I had to research how to make coffee over an open fire. Really? No French Press? How did them there pioneers survive? At least give the wagon master a Keurig. Sheesh.

Nope. Coffee, as it related to the pioneer, poor, or those without a local cafe, was rustic. Cowboy-Coffee got its name because those brave men of the west drank it fully-loaded, like their pistols. Water, grounds, heat, pour, and sip. The ladies apparently didn't appreciate grounds between their teeth, and without doing the proper research on when toothpicks were invented, I'm going to take a wild stab at the fact it wouldn't have mattered much. Unless you want a late night snack hiding between your molars, at some point, the grounds needed to go.

SO! First to grind the coffee. A lot of people chose to pack the handy-dandy hand-cranked coffee grinder. You could purchase ground coffee at a mercantile, but it wasn't as fresh--it's not like it was shipped overnight from Guatemala. SO grind away. Or as the Yankee soldiers used to do, the green coffee bean would be roasted over the fire (albeit not perfectly) and then smashed to smithereens with the the butt of their rifle. Sigh. No coffee snobs allowed in those days. Another travesty of the Civil War.

Then. Enter flannel--or any other finely woven fabric. It was perfect. No filters? Cut up Pa's shirt. A basic cup of good coffee with an adequate filtering system, came to the fore when open campfires or fireplaces were the place to be--or necessity driven. The grounds were mixed with the water in the kettle, heated, and then poured through flannel to capture the offensive little critters. Henceforth and forevermore giving a slight bit of culture to the pioneer woman who's base needs included--coffee.

Trust me, when it comes to coffee, there are no lengths too far to travel to get a good cup. And while Wyatt Earp just added his grounds to his chaw, my great-great grandmother chose the more refined way within her financial means ... water, coffee, and a bit of flannel.

Hoist ho! and drink heartily my mateys! (oops--wrong century)

Tell me what interesting fact YOU would like ME to research from history and I'd love to feature it on the blog!


  1. Testing, testing...uno , dos, tres.

    1. I SWEAR I twisted my head and then stopped. Hehe. He. I'm fine.

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  3. Cute post! My hubby is a percolator man so that's the way we make it around here. We have a plug in though...no propping the ol' percolator on the stove for us, lol. But I do love the sound of it brewing and the smell. :)


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