Mountain Men and Life in the Rocky

Subject Guide


Mountain West

Malachite’s Big Hole

Making Coffee:

Coffee was available only as green, un-roasted beans.  Before coffee could be brewed it was necessary to first roast, and then grind the beans.  Lewis Garrard in his journal describes the process used when neither cookgear or grinder was available:  

"That night the parched coffee gave out.  We had nothing in which to burn more; but, as necessity is, ever, the mother of invention, we selected two flat stones from the channel at hand, twenty-five to thirty inches in diameter, which we placed on the fire till heated; then one was taken off, the coffee poured on, and stirred with a stick.  The stones served alternately as they became cool.  When the coffee was sufficiently burned, a piece of skin was laid on the ground, and a clean stone, a foot in diameter, rested on the knees of the grinder, with one edge on the skin.  A smaller stone, held in the hand, reduced the grains between it and the larger one to powder by a rotary motion." 

Of course if milk was available, a thick rich coffee could be made.  Here Lewis Garrard describes the acquisition of milk from the semi-wild cattle roaming one of the Bent & St. Vrain ranches in 1847 (Reference):

"The Canadians reported several cows, with their calves, among the beeves. The thoughts of milk roused our drowsy camp to alacrity, and after considerable spirited chasing on the part of our Mexican, Pablo, seven calves were lassoed. We hastily constructed a pen to hold them, and the dams then give little trouble.  All the pans, kettles, and tincups were put in requisition.  The cows were milked from behind, instead of at the side, with their heads drawn up to a wagon-wheel, with hind-legs tied, and fearfully rolling eyes, looked quite different from the patient “Suke” of the American farmer.  How we feasted!  A pot of rich milk was put on the fire, and when it boiled, the ground coffee was poured in, staying for a moment on top, to contrast the more strongly with the foamy fluid, until it sank; while we stood around, watching with eager eyes the grains as they were thrown to the surface by the ebullition.  It was splendid!".   

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