My closest friends could all tell you that in terms of beverages, I basically stick to four things: Whiskey, Beer, Coffee, and Water (No particular order). So it probably goes without saying that I’m a HUGE fan of any beer with Bourbon Barrel or Coffee in the name. And just like any other style, I’ve had some really great ones and some not so great ones.
So when I set out to make a coffee stout several weeks ago, I wanted to do it right – at least in terms of what I like in a coffee beer. I wanted to make a solid, smooth stout with some depth to the flavor, and I wanted coffee to be part of that flavor profile. I’ve had far too many beers that taste like a Starbucks Mocha mixed with some Guinness. I’ll admit, I am by no means a homebrew expert. I’ve brewed a few pretty solid beers over the past few years, but I’m still fairly new to this and continually learning.
I started with the Beer. Simply Beer – Stout recipe kit from Midwest Supplies. They make several different styles in this series that each have all the quality ingredients needed to make a good beer without any of the “bells and whistles” that some of their other kits contain. The end result is that you get 5 gallons of great beer for just $20! Great for beginners looking to try brewing without breaking the bank, but also perfect to use as a base for experimenting with flavor additions and infusions. This is the first one I’ve tried, but I just ordered the Brown Ale kit and am looking forward to trying several others in the near future.
You can find the full step-by-step instructions for brewing this stout here, but I’ll give you just a quick rundown. The whole process takes about 4-6 weeks, but it’s really just a couple of labor-intensive days with a lot of waiting in between. While I’ve done it alone before, both brew day and bottling day go a lot smoother with a buddy and a growler to help you.
Brew Day is really where you do the most work in the actual “beer making” process. This particular recipe started with steeping a blend of crushed roasted barley and chocolate malt to add some color and flavor depth to the finished product. After that’s done, we’ll bring the water to a boil and mix in the malt extract. After the malt extract is fully mixed – we can call it wort now – we’ll keep it at a steady boil and add our hops at specific time marks over the course of 60 minutes. This recipe only contained two hop additions, 1 oz Cluster Hops added at the beginning of the boil and 1 oz Cascade hops added 20 minutes from the end.
After 60 minutes, we’ll cool the wort and then transfer it to the fermenter. Take a gravity reading with a hydrometer or refractometer, aerate the wort, and add the yeast. Finally, we’ll seal up the fermenter with an airlock and place it in a dark place with a consistent temperature between 65° and 70° F. Then we’ll kick back and relax for the next two weeks while science happens.
After two weeks, fermentation is complete and it’s time for bottling. For this particular beer, however, I had one additional step to complete – can’t have a coffee stout without adding some coffee. Now there are several ways to add coffee flavor to beer. Some of the most common methods include steeping ground coffee in the wort at the end of your boil, Soaking crushed coffee beans during secondary fermentation, and adding brewed coffee to the beer just before bottling.
After a bit of research, I decided on adding cold-brewed coffee to the beer at the bottling stage for a couple of reasons. Adding brewed coffee to the beer seemed to be the easiest way to experiment with ratios and find the right balance since I could add gradually and sample as I went. It also eliminated the possibility of any coffee ground sludge making its way into the bottles. But why cold brew instead of regular drip or espresso? By brewing a concentrated batch of cold brew, I could add a stronger coffee flavor without diluting the beer as much.
The day before I planned to bottle my beer, I brewed a 24-hour concentrated batch of cold brew coffee made with Uel Zing Cold Brew Blend from Tinker Coffee Co, my favorite Indianapolis coffee roaster. The Cold Brew Blend was crafted for Uel Zing Coffee in Bloomington, IN and features notes of chocolate, berry, and smoke.
On bottling day, I added 20 oz of my concentrated cold brew to the bottling bucket, along with the priming sugar, and transferred my beer from the fermenter to the bottling bucket. With the help of a friend, I bottled and capped the beer, ending up with 52 bottles total! As ready as I was to try one, the beer needs to sit for another 1-2 weeks to carbonate. I can assure you though, it was worth the wait…
Appearance: Black. Thick, biscuity-brown head. Great head retention.
Nose: Cappuccino, Malt, Dark Chocolate, Hint of Smoke
Taste: Smooth Coffee (noticeably similar to cold brew coffee as opposed to regular hot brewed iced coffee), Dark Chocolate, Molasses, Just a Hint of Bitterness
Finish: Lots of Coffee and Chocolate, Pleasantly Bitter
Overall, very pleased with how this one turned out. By far, the best homebrew beer I’ve made yet. As I said before, I’m a huge fan of the Beer. Simply Beer. kits and will be trying several of the other styles in the very near future. Have you done any homebrewing? Have any questions or suggestions for next time? Leave me a comment, or shoot me an email to let me know!