Hops + Malt + Coffee = Big Watt Brewers Press

Big Watt Brewer's Press // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Big Watt Brewer’s Press // Photo by Aaron Davidson

It seems like every brewer is adding cold press coffee to craft beer these days, but you may not yet be familiar with coffee roasters adding hops to cold press. It’s a delicate balance—both hops and coffee have intensely flavored acids that will clash if a brewer isn’t careful. Big Watt founders Jason Westplate and Lee Carter have come up with something to meld those loud flavors together: brewer’s malt.

A sort of beer/coffee hybrid, their Brewers Press features the malt and hops of a certain beer recipe (for their first run, it’s Flat Earth Brewing’s Belgian Pale Ale) with cold press coffee. The non-alcoholic drink is on tap now at Five Watt Coffee at 38th St. and Nicollet Ave. in Minneapolis, and may be filtering out to other bars and restaurants in the near future.

“Some of our earlier versions didn’t really taste like beer,” Carter says. “It was important for us to make it feel like that. One of the huge problems with hopped cold press is you’ve got the hops, the bitter, the sharpness, but no roundness, no shape—like viewing a flat image that’s supposed to be 3-D.”

Big Watt's Lee Carter (l) and Jason Westplate (r) // Photo by Aaron Davidson

L to R: Big Watt’s Lee Carter and Jason Westplate // Photo by Aaron Davidson

They wanted to construct an effervescent cold press, but found a nitro version didn’t deliver the texture they wanted. They decided instead on carbonation, and that’s a ready pitfall for coffee.

“Carbon dioxide really should never touch coffee,” says Westplate. “It builds up a lot of acids that make coffee taste sharp, bitter, un-nuanced. So how do we carbonate it, and make the hops unified? A malt profile.” They experimented with syrups to fill out the texture of the drink, when they realized that they should simply extend the beer parallel in their drink one step further. Malt is the sugar they were looking for.

Brewer's Press on tap at Five Watt Coffee // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Brewers Press on tap at Five Watt Coffee // Photo by Aaron Davidson

The result is unique: a foamy head like a beer, with a light, pure body. It has the roast and acids of a nice cold press, but with a resinous high note and slightly bitter aftertaste. They anticipate working with different beer profiles for future batches, mentioning an ESB or a stout would be a natural fit.

“It’s not just as simple as chucking the hops and malt into the cold press and you’re done,” Westplate says, “but the reason that it works, is that those hops and malt are known to go together, and we’re just using coffee as a unifier.”

They’ve noticed bars and restaurants pigeonholing draft cold press as a brunch drink. They hope the Brewers Press will be a more versatile beverage—something a bartender can play with, but also serve as a beer-substitute. With an alarming lack of compelling non-alcoholic beverages on most menus, they just might be on to something.

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John Garland About John Garland

John Garland is the Senior Editor at the Growler Magazine. Find him on twitter (@johnpgarland) or in real life at various bar patios in South Minneapolis.