Coffee on Campaign

How to Roast Your Coffee Like Civil War Soldiers Did

by Paula McCoach

Confederate and Union Soldiers Roast their Own Coffee, and You Can Do it Just Like them!

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. 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 and 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 Calvary 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.

Heat the water until just below boiling. Don't ever pour boiling 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.

For specifics directions on the exact temperature of the water, the feel of the fine grind, what to look for before you stir, what type of strainer to use, and how to serve, and for more information, email

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About the Author

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 Brewing have been enjoyed by thousands Coach's Coffee is the creator of many blends and coffee enjoying techniques.

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