Navy coffee

Famous with sea­men around the world, Navy cof­fee is rich, dark, just a bit salty … and the best cof­fee you can get.


Called by many oth­er names includ­ing black gang cof­fee, gun­ners brew, shaft alley juice, old black joe, it’s the same dark juice around the world, on all the seas.

Lifeblood of Navy: Good Cof­fee” by JOC Earl Smith, USN is the best arti­cle on Navy cof­fee out there. See also the poem by Cdr. Rod Mooney, USN (ret), “Navy Cof­fee.”


Brewing Navy coffee


True Navy cof­fee is a secret. Or is it? We know that the cof­fee’s ground just before it’s used, the brew­ing equip­ment is kept metic­u­lous­ly clean (yet nev­er scrubbed out) and the cof­fee grounds aren’t ever reused. The cof­fee is strong, you drink it all day, and it has a trace of salt so you won’t get dehy­drat­ed.

If you want the recipe, you need to read “Brew­ing Cof­fee the Navy Way.” It’s an arti­cle from SeabeeCook, reprint­ed from the 1945 edi­tion of the [amazonify]B000NNIF8I::text::::Cook Book of the Unit­ed States Navy[/amazonify].


Anoth­er set of guide­lines for mak­ing Navy cof­fee is giv­en by the Urban Pos­sum, who did his time in the Navy and knows what it’s all about. He says to use econ­o­my-brand cof­fee (the idea is we’re talk­ing about gov­ern­ment sup­pli­ers, but the US Navy has its own roast­ing plants in Oak­land Cal­i­for­nia and Brook­lyn New York), cit­ing Chase & San­born as an exam­ple. I’ve used it, and rec­om­mend it, but the best I’ve found is the dark French roast vari­ety of the store brand from the”>Tops gro­cery store chain, cur­rent­ly in upstate New York and east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia. (I’m sure that the Tops cof­fee is rebrand­ed but have yet to ver­i­fy this. It would be great to know their sup­pli­er and find out where else it can be obtained.)

It’s always drunk black, as TUP notes above, all morn­ing and all day … and then with cream and sug­ar to start the night watch.

Anoth­er blog­ger’s tory=20050804052958174”>recipe for black gang cof­fee is a mix of dark and light cof­fees with a pinch of salt. He uses Fol­gers. The dark French roast from Tops (defunct) seemed sur­pris­ing­ly close.


There is a whole lit­er­a­ture about Navy cof­fee. See also the many ref­er­ence to salt­ed cof­fee (and espe­cial­ly black gang cof­fee)

Navy cof­fee’s metioned in many nov­els and books, includ­ing Bill White’s [amazonify]0767929896::text::::Intre­pid: The Epic Story of Amer­i­ca’s Most Leg­endary War­ship[/amazonify]. And there are a vari­ety of [amazonify]B000HL7BE0::text::::crest Navy mugs[/amazonify] avail­able from Shopzeus, includ­ing [amazonify]B000HL7BEK::text::::special crests[/amazonify]. The absolute plainest, most “Zen” Navy mug I’ve ever seen is this [amazonify]B000HMYW1E::text::::understated mug from DAS products[/amazonify].

First published on March 7th, 2009 at 9:36 pm (EST) and last modified on March 7th, 2009 at 9:42 pm (EST).

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