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Archive for January, 2009

Coffee and beer? Coffee in Beer? Much Better

Posted by ebrius on January 16, 2009

Its been a while since I’ve posted (jeez, two months). Not much has changed since then, unfortunately I’ve had to put brewing on the backburner.

One thing that has changed is that I’ve bottled my Brown Ale and I just tried a bottle the other night. Something new that I decided to try was adding coffee at bottling, the results, less then impressive. This brings me to the topic of this post, coffee in beer.

There are several different ways to add coffee to beer, the ones that come to mind are: coffee flavor extract, fresh grounds, hot brewed coffee, cold brewed coffee, and espresso brewed. Now, I’ve tried or brewed beer with all this different forms of coffee (minus straight grounds), and some turn out better then others.
First, extract: This has to be one of the worst things I’ve tried, the extract was apparent and tasted very fake. Never, NEVER use coffee flavor extract, you will regret it.
Fresh Grounds: This is the one option I have not tried. I assume the flavor is very similar to cold brewed coffee. The thing with cold brewing is you are only supposed to keep the grounds in the water for about 12 hours. This is an option if you say, add the grounds to the primary or secondary 12-24 hours before you transfer it. Its hard to say how the PH and other properties of the beer will effect the flavor of the coffee, since coffee flavor is heavy influenced by the water used. I imagine, assuming the coffee flavor comes out properly, that this would create the best blend of beer and coffee flavoring
Hot Brewed: Adds the usual coffee flavor, depending on when this is added, it can either blend well with the beer or overpower it, this is simplest and safest way to add coffee
Cold Brewed: My personal favorite, this really allows the complexity of the coffee to come through (assuming you used good coffee). Because cold brewing creates very little bitterness, this can be used with basically any type of beer without overwhelming the beer
Espresso: The final option, and a pretty good one too. I wouldn’t recommend this for anything other then stouts and porters because of the strong flavor, but if you want something that says, BAM!, there isn’t a better option the espresso.

Next, when do you add the coffee? At the boil, primary, secondary, or at bottling? This, like any other ingredient, will have its flavor greatly effected by when its added.
At the boil: Not recommended, I have never tried this, but coffee tends to get bitter the longer it is brewed, so unless you plan to ‘perk’ some coffee grounds while boiling, this is not a good options. On a related note, I would never add straight grounds to the boil anyway.
Primary: This is a good option, it allows the flavors to blend well with the coffee, you tend to get more flavor and less aroma then you do when adding it to the secondary, but the difference isn’t very noticeable
Secondary: Also a good option, like I said, I haven’t noticed much of a difference between primary and secondary, its really a personal preference
Bottling: I tried this with my Brown Ale and I wasn’t very happy with the results, the beer tastes like beer with watered down coffee. It has started to get better with age, but I really don’t recommend it, primary and secondary additions are simply a superior method.

So, in conclusion, my personal favorite option is cold brewed coffee in the primary. But using anything other then extract and adding it to the primary or secondary will generally create a good coffee flavor. Do keep in mind what type of beer you are brewing, for example, I would not recommend adding espresso to an IPA, but adding some grounds to the secondary for an IPA could create an interesting flavor. One last thing to note is do use good coffee. Beans like Blue Mountain or Kona would probably be a little overkill, but don’t use generic, Price Chopper brand, $2 a pound coffee, you will taste the difference.

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