Coffee is a great ingredient to use in beer but how do you get the right amount of coffee whilst not over powering your brew? How should I use coffee in a recipe? What coffee brewing method is the best? These are all the question we’re going to work through. So, grab a nice cup of java and let’s explore the wonder of coffee and how to create an awesome coffee flavoured beer.
It’s pretty obvious that coffee is one of the worlds most loved flavour and that’s defiantly the case when we look at beer. This might not surprise the experienced brewers but when you try a beer and you get those coffee notes, there’s a very good chance that coffee wasn’t actually used at all. Most stouts and porters are brewed with highly toasted barley malts, chocolate malts and black patent malts which gives off coffee like notes whilst also creating a creamy texture.
Just like every ingredient you put in your beer, it’s totally up to you but it is worth considering the beans your going to use but probably just as important is the roast of the bean. Picking the right bean for your beer is pretty simple, you just need to find a flavour that works for your beer. My favourite coffee to drink is probably from Colombia or Nicaragua. Although they are my favourite bean to drink in the morning, I would typically stay away from them because the beans are normally lightly roasted which can normally be lost in your beer (depending on how you use it).
I don’t like my beers to have too much of a caffeine hit so I would normally pick a coffee bean that has a darker roast. Paige Russell highlights that in most cases the darker the roast, the less caffeine that’s in the bean but you also need to be aware that the darkly roasted beans will give off more bitterness and you need to account for that in your recipe. All of these reasons are why it’s important for you to consider the flavour you desire in your beer and then pick the bean according to your desires.
I’m going to talk about 3 different methods, Hot brew, cold brew and dry hopping. All three of these methods are good solutions but before picking your desired method, here’s a couple things to consider that will ultimately have an impact on the flavour of your beer.
The guys at javapressi explain it really well, “Cold brew coffee doesn't use hot water, so it doesn't break down and extract many of the compounds that are responsible for the acidity and bitterness. With less than half the acidity and bitterness of hot brewed coffee, cold brew feels smooth and forgiving on the palate”. I’ve seen many brewers lean towards this method simply to ensure they control the amount of bitterness, especially when working with a hop forward style.
There are many methods that fall within this area, areopress, cafetière, espresso & chemex to name a few. All of these methods will give you a good cup of coffee but you should expect a very different finish with a varying level of bitterness and body. Once again, the method you pick should be based on the level of bitterness you desire. It’s worth just highlighting that depending on when you plan to put the coffee into the bear you might want let the coffee chill but also make sure everything is sanitised if you’re going to add the coffee into the fermentation vessels or bottling/ kegs.
Finally we’re going to talk about drying hopping with coffee. I have to confess, I’m yet to try this method but I understand why a lot of people turn to this as their favourite method. Having spent some time talking to a few brewers, the general consensus is that you should put less coffee beans in than you think you need and make sure you don’t grind your coffee to fine. Also, a lot of people said they favoured the lighter roasts when dry hopping as the flavour can be too harse.
I don’t know about you but coffee is a huge part of my daily routine. Knowing that I can successfully add coffee into my beer and push the boundaries. Why not experiment with coffee in your next batch? Take a gallon away and throw in some coffee. The most exciting thing about home brewing is you can do what ever you like so if you’re brewing an IPA, why not throw some coffee in and you might be surprised, remember it doesn't have to be a stout.
Whatever the result, enjoy pushing the boundaries and keep brewing!
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