Coffee Beer Experiment

In January 2007 I did a coffee beer experiment which tried three different methods of infusing coffee into an oatmeal stout. My wishful-thinking goal was to reproduce Bell’s Java Stout, my favorite coffee-flavored beer. The methodology was to make a base oatmeal stout to then add coffee in secondary. The end results were pretty good. Dry-beaning produced the best coffee flavor but I cheaped out on the beans (8 O’Clock) making for an inferior coffee beer.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 8# Briess 2-row
  • 1# flaked oats
  • 0.5# Simpson’s roasted barley
  • 0.5# Simpson’s chocolate malt
  • 0.5# Simpson’s dark crystal
  • 0.85# Chinook, 12% AA
  • Pacman yeast in a 1.6L starter

The OG was 1.043, not sure what it wound up at. Initially I was going to split the batch five ways: 1 gallon as the “control” beer with no coffee and then 4 other gallons each with their own coffee method:

  • Toddy cold-extract
  • French press
  • Espresso
    • I used my cheap-ass Mr. Coffee steam espresso unit which if handled correctly can make an adequate cup of espresso.
  • Coarse-ground beans

After the beer was in secondary for two weeks I was ready to split up the batch and add coffee. With the three types of coffee on hand I pulled off a few cups of beer and began taste testing. Into a half-cup of beer I would add a measured amount of coffee (probably a teaspoon), mix & take a sip. When the sample tasted about “right” I wrote down how much coffee I added to get the desired taste. My goal was to get a good coffee kick, I wasn’t going for any subtleties here. At this point the press coffee was disqualified from the experiment because the volume required to get the correct taste was large enough to where it would have diluted the beer down too far. If I recall correctly it wound up being around 1/3 of the total volume. Because cold extract and espresso are more concentrated they lend more of their coffee essence without the volume. I didn’t do any experimenting with the amount of dry beans to add, the amount added was more of a visual estimation. The final numbers were:

  • 11oz cold extract per gallon
  • 16oz espresso per gallon
  • 2oz coarse-ground beans per gallon (the photo up top is of the grounds & their beer)

The rest of the batch was simply bottled. I’m not sure how long I left the beer in their gallon jugs, probably a week or two. In hindsight one could skip the “jugging” process with the two liquid additions and do those right at bottling time. As mentioned earlier the dry bean method produced the best coffee flavor. Cold extract came in second with the espresso in third. My conclusion is that the more concentrated your coffee addition is the better. The toddy coffee also worked well but I don’t like how this extraction method removes coffee’s acidity, it results in sort of a “flabby” taste. Toddy’s advantage is that it’s easy to measure out and mix with your beer while dry-beaning is more of a crapshoot and requires more work.

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