Roast and Cook your


the old way

Ed. Note: This is from a Civil War reenactor; however, coffee beans are still coffee beans, and except for where I have entered Texas Rev notes in (parentheses and italics) the article is Coach's, with our thanks.


 Coffee on Campaign

 Confederate and Union Soldiers Roasted their Own Coffee, and You Can Do it Just Like Them
 by Paula McCoach as dictated by the Coach

      Roastin' their own coffee was a common activity among soldiers in the War Between the States. They would carry only a few items and sometimes they would have been issued green coffee that they would roast. Their tin cup was what they had to complete the entire process. Some of them did have a frying pan, but for the most part, they would roast the beans in their tin cups.

      To do this at home, use a heavy iron frying pan. Roasting in your tin cup will mess up the solder joints.  
Pour the beans in the pan. You can't just throw the in and leave them. Move them around. (No kidding. I have burnt, flames and all, a few pans of coffee by going away "for just a minute"; overheated coffee burns quite well. -Ed.) Stir them until they start to turn brown.  The green beans have moisture in them and roasting them will draw the moisture out. The beans will even pop a little, not like popcorn. The roasting beans don't jump out of the pan, but they will crackle and snap some.

      The beans now get a little chaff on them, but keep stirring them. They will start to get different shades of brown. Stay away from real brown, which is like a French Roast.  If you roast the beans this long, they will get an oily look to them. Different kinds of coffees have different kinds of reactions.  I like mine the color of a milk chocolate bar not the color of bitter -sweet chocolate. It's up to your individual preference. When you have the beans roasted to your taste, let them cool before grinding them.

      Once the roast is to your liking, and the beans are cooled, you need to break them up with something.  Civil War soldiers didn't have much in the way of special equipment. They traveled light. That's how they could get around so quickly and efficiently. Jackson's Foot Cavalry could march 20-30 miles a day. Some of them marched barefooted. They were just incredible people. So to imitate what they probably did, I would break up my freshly roasted coffee beans with the lug portion of my bayonet like a mortar and pestle, but it would not be as fine. I would take my bayonet and the round lug part, and I would put the coffee in the tin cup and put the cup between my feet and chomp the beans to a fine a grind as I could get.  A stick can also be used but it will not be as fine a grind. Put that freshly roasted and ground coffee in your tin cup. (Soldados, Red Rovers, and Greys might have a bayonet; Tejanos can use a mocajete aka mortar & pestle; the rest of us have to use a little ingenuity. -Ed.)

      Heat the water until just below boilin'. Don't ever pour boilin' water on the ground coffee. Remember, these Civil War soldiers only had one cup, so after they would chop it with their bayonets, they would pour the cold water right on top of the grinds and heat it over the fire.  To make a better cup of coffee, heat the water in another container until it is hot and pour it over your grinds in your cup. Give yourself about 2-3 inches of space at the top of the tin cup, so you don't burn your lips when you drink it.

      A crust will form on top after the water is poured in the cup. Stir it until the crust falls to the bottom.  Let the crust rise again, and stir it down one more time.   Now, sit your cup of freshly made coffee with freshly ground AND roasted beans on the ground and the crust will go down.  Your own roasted and ground coffee, just like the soldiers used to do, is ready to drink.

      Now, you are back in the field with those heroic men and you have an excellent cup of coffee to enjoy your time there and appreciate the Confederate and Union soldiers for their bravery and pure stamina while you drink your cup of coffee.

 Coach and Paula McCoach have been serving coffee in the field to America's reenactors since 1997.  Cups of coffee made with their special coffee makin' technique, Open-Pot Brewin', have been enjoyed by thousands. Coach's Coffee is the creator of many blends and coffee enjoyin' techniques. Unfortunately, Coach has passed on, and their reenactor info and coffee supply business has gone with him. © 2003 Coach & Paula McCoach. Permission granted to reprint this article in print or on your website so long as the paragraph above is included and the contact information is included to:
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