I used to drink coffee, but haven’t had the stuff in years. I loved the aroma and flavor, but hated depending on it to function in the morning.
These days, the only time I drink coffee is when it’s in my beer.
Coffee porter, coffee stout … I’ve even had a coffee IPA. For fans of both beer and the caffeinated drink, there are lots of great options. So how can you mix the two for homebrewing? It’s easier than you think.
Choose a Style
The first step for brewing a beer with coffee is determining what kind of base style you’d like to use. These days, brewers are all over the map with what kind of beer they’ll add coffee to, but classic examples include Founder’s Breakfast Stout, brewed with Sumatra and Kona coffee, and Kona’s Pipeline Porter, which uses Kona coffee as well.
You’ll often see coffee beers use a malt-forward base, as coffee flavors match the profile of roasted barley and chocolate malt very nicely. There are a lot of great stout and porter kits you can use as your base, but consider an imperial stout or robust porter for ideal pairings.
That said, experimentation is the beauty of homebrewing, so maybe an American pale ale with coffee is more up your alley. When it comes to brewing beer with coffee everything is open to one’s own interpretation.
Pick a Coffee
Once you know the style of homebrew you’d like to use, you’ll want to pick a coffee that matches nicely. Not all coffee beans are the same.
Technically speaking, any style of coffee will work, but you may have specific tastes or even strength you prefer. Espresso will be much stronger in perceived coffee flavor than a “cinnamon roast” coffee bean, which might offer more nut-like flavor. The National Coffee Association has a great list of roasts – from light to dark – that may help you find the kind you want.
One thing to be aware of when brewing beer with coffee is the oil content of beans, as it may impact head retention and mouthfeel of your homebrew. Depending on the beer style you’re using, that may or may not be an issue. An imperial stout, for example, isn’t as reliant on a big stack of foam as a pale ale.
Adding Coffee To Beer
Depending on the intensity of coffee flavor you seek, you may be interested in adding coffee to your boil, but the best way to get that roasted taste is in secondary fermentation. To maximize flavor without too much astringency, try cold brewing coffee.
Making a cold brew coffee is easy. Take a cup of ground beans and mix with four cups of cold or room temperature water. Let it sit for 12 to 24 hours, strain the coffee grounds from the water and you’re set. You’re left with less acidic, more flavorful coffee.
Keep in mind the risk for infection is fairly low as long as you properly sanitize whatever the cold brewed coffee touches.
As an alternative, you could also place ground coffee beans into a muslin bag and steep them like a tea for up to seven days in your secondary. Just make sure to sample your beer as the ground beans steep to make sure you achieve the right amount of flavor you’re looking for.
Ready to start brewing beer with coffee? Check out the Captain Cogsworth Coffee Stout, which has all the ingredients prepared for you.
Bryan Roth is a beer nerd and homebrewer living in Durham, North Carolina. You can read his thoughts on beer and the beer industry on his blog, This Is Why I’m Drunk, and send him suggestions on how to get his wife to drink craft beer via Twitter at @bryandroth.