Cortado. Americano. Iced caramel latte, sugar-free, no whip.
The options are endless—almost amusingly so—for ordering a cup of morning joe these days. As for coffee-infused beers, the options are just as plentiful, with most breweries serving up at least one French-press-meets-fermenter concoction.
Whether adding grounds, dumping cold press into the fermenter, or adding brewed coffee just before bottling, the type, timing, and techniques with which coffee is added can have a dramatic impact on the final flavor of a beer.
We talked with a few coffee-slinging breweries to find out how, when—and why—they’re infusing their beers the way they do.
Bent Paddle Cold Press Black Ale
The Coffee: Duluth Coffee Company cold press, added just before packaging.
The Why: “Coffee, especially cold press, has a ton of favorable volatile flavors that we try to harness. Boiling (think percolator coffee) and fermentation-style additions will scrub those volatiles or create undesired bitterness in the final product,” says brewer and co-founder Colin Mullen. “Our method captures the important flavor roles that both the beer and the coffee deserve.”
The Feedback: “It’s certainly a gateway beer for some that are shy about ‘dark beer.’ Simply asking, ‘Do you like coffee, chocolate?’ will open people up to trying it,” says Mullen. “We try to make sure our beer is beer first, and then something else second, and we feel that our balanced approach to marrying coffee and beer is successful.”
Barrel Theory Java Oats Coffee Oatmeal Stout
The Coffee: Bootstrap’s DIY Espresso, cold-brewed, added to the fermentation vessel.
The Why: “By cold brewing the coffee directly in the beer, the beer isn’t diluted, it’s less acidic, and it allows the flavor profiles of the coffee to come through,” says taproom manager Lindsay Abraham. “This coffee has flavors of milk chocolate, which pairs well in the oatmeal stout-based beer.”
The Feedback: “Our brewer, Timmy, is producing lots of IPAs and Berliners,” says Abraham. “Java Oats is almost the most ‘approachable’ beer offering in comparison. A lot of breweries are making stouts and coffee stouts, so there’s a familiarity with the style but also the flavors: coffee, roasty, chocolaty, nutty. People say they could drink this beer any time of the day—it’s a good brunch beer, something to drink while camping or fishing, or a beer they could see having with dessert.”
Fulton War & Peace Imperial Coffee Stout
The Coffee: Whole-bean Peace Coffee Guatemalan Dark Roast added to the fermenter, post-fermentation.
The Why: “The coffee flavor and aroma imparted is intense, with an almost-espresso-like characteristic to it,” says Brian Hoffman, vice president of sales. “Also, the coffee added in this way adds no bitterness that can come from a brewed coffee.”
The Feedback: “There’s a great balance between the coffee and malt, which makes it appeal to both coffee drinkers and fans of darker, more malty beers,” Hoffman says.
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