Have you ever had hobo coffee?
1959: When my dad first joined the army, he was a rifleman but he spent a brief time in the kitchen. He was on KP duty one evening, and one of the cooks wanted to make eggplant parmesan, but he didn’t have any eggplant. Several weeks later, when my dad was again on KP duty, the cook told my dad that he now had the eggplant, and he was ready to make eggplant parmesan. Then he asked my dad if he knew how to make it, and if he could talk him through it (it’s assumed that all Italians cook). At some point, my dad ended up making the dish, which eventually got him reassigned to the kitchen as an on the job training cook. He was in the 101st Airborne at the time, so his kitchen duty was short lived. He preferred jumping out of perfectly good airplanes rather than make eggplant parmesan.
During his brief stint in the kitchen, one of his tasks was to make hobo coffee for the troops when they were on field exercises. He used a large cooking pot (like 10 gallons) and added a number 10 can of coarsely ground coffee into the boiling water (about 3 pounds of coffee). Once it boiled, he added two or three canteen cups of cold water on top. The coffee granules were large enough that he watched them settle to the bottom of the pot in response to coming in contact with the cold water. Hobo coffee, as the Army called it, brewed 24 hours a day.
2004: Hurricane Frances wiped out our electricity for weeks. My dad can’t live without his coffee, and he only had a grill (and M.R.E.’s—meals ready to eat, the modern-day version of the c-ration). He made hobo coffee, affectionately renamed hurricane coffee, everyday. People came over and filled pitchers when they smelled the coffee brewing.
Hobo Coffee Recipe
- 1½ cups ground coffee
- 12 cups water
- 4 ounces ice-cold water
- Cover saucepan, and bring 12 cups water to a full rolling boil. Remove cover, and add coffee directly to the water, and boil for 10 minutes. For stronger coffee, continue to boil, or until coffee suites taste.
- Remove from heat, and sprinkle ice water over boiling coffee. When coffee granules settled on bottom of saucepan (about 1 minute), coffee is ready to serve.