Making a coffee beer

, March 11, 2013

Coffee. Oh yeah!

Mmmmm. A nice delicious cup of coffee. Or a cold, dark, stout. Wait! Why not blend the two together? A good coffee beer goes a long way, and can be a lot of fun to make. It’s a specialty beer that I have made at least a handful of times in different varieties. Some of them have been merely adequate, with a couple approaching sublime. My last was by far the best yet.

There are three different techniques used for brewing coffee beers. The oldest, and most commonly used technique, is to add the coffee beans into the boil. The ground coffee can be boiled anywhere from 15 minutes to being added at flameout. This technique extracts some flavor from the coffee, although boiling for any length of time drives off most of the very volatile aromas. The drawback of this technique is that it extracts more of the bitterness from the coffee. That bitterness can give a strong impression of coffee, but it can’t give you the degree of coffee aroma and flavor you might prefer. The next technique is to add the ground coffee in a secondary fermenter after the main fermentation is complete, similar to a dry hop. Because there is no heat being applied, the delicate aromatics are not forced out of the beer, but can be dissolved into it. I have used this technique with much greater success than boiling, so it is the focus of this article. The final technique involves making a cold brew coffee and then adding that to the beer. Add the coffee grounds to a cold jar of water and let it soak overnight. This cold brew can be added to the beer to add the coffee flavor and aroma you desire. This extracts very similar compounds from the coffee as leaving the coffee in the beer, and should provide excellent results. That said, I haven’t tried it: adding coffee into the fermenter provides such excellent results I have had no need to try any other techniques.

Coffee can be added to any kind of beer, but most commonly it is added to porters or stouts. On occasion, you will see one along with an oatmeal stout, and I once even found one mixed with bacon (thank you Haven Brewing). Coffee can also work with lighter beers, but the roasty, malty, and chocolaty flavors of these beers complement the coffee flavor.

Delicious Coffee Beer
First, get a delectable coffee beer to drink. There are a variety of great coffee beers on the markets today. A couple of excellent examples are the Java Porter from Mountain Sun, Santa Fe Brewing’s Imperial Java Stout, and Founder’s Breakfast Stout. All of them will be an excellent accompaniment to a coffee brewing session.
Next, select a nice brand of coffee. Folgers? No. Yuban? No. Dunkin’ Donuts? Not even. Basically, if it’s coffee that you would want to drink, that’s what you want to add. The darker the roast, the more flavor you should expect. I have used the French Roast from that coffee manufacturer that you can’t avoid, gotten nice organic dark roast from the local grocery, and used the exotic stuff from my local coffee roaster. As long as it’s fresh, properly roasted, and freshly ground, you are bound to make an extremely tasty brew.

Coffee to be added to your beer
Grind your own beans immediately before adding them to the fermenter. If you can’t do it yourself, have it done at the store, but use the ground beans as quickly as possible, preferably the same day. The volatile chemicals in the coffee can escape very quickly, and you would much rather have them escape into your beer. Go with a fairly coarse grind. You want to make sure that the coffee will be absorbed into the beer, but the contact time will also be fairly long. Use about 1 cup of ground coffee for a 5 gallon batch for a robust coffee flavor. Use less if you don’t want the coffee to be as strong, but I would be cautious about putting in too much more.
Proper coffee grind for beer

Add the ground coffee directly to the fermenter. I use a sanitized funnel to prevent making a big mess. I don’t worry about actually sanitizing the coffee, as it is generally pretty clean. Make sure to take good care of it en route.

Adding Coffee to a carboy of stout

Let the grinds sit in the fermenter for 18-24 hours. Pull a sample THE NEXT DAY! This technique works quite quickly. If the coffee aroma and flavor are where you want it to be, rack off the coffee beans into another fermenter. Proceed to bottle or keg the beer as soon as you are ready.

Enjoy your coffee beer and don’t forget to share some with your friends.

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Hooch Time!

, May 6, 2012

Juice fermenting, several varieties

You fermented what?

Ahh, springtime!  What better time to ferment some Costco juice.

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New Year’s Homebrewing Resolutions

, January 9, 2012

Happy 2012 everyone!

I recently saw this very entertaining post on the Serious Eats: Make These 7 Homebrewing Resolutions for 2012.

I enjoyed the resolutions as they are quite well rounded: learn more about beer, make more beer, and always plan ahead. I do enjoy them, but would also like to add a few of my own.

Teach someone else to brew. They say you learn more about doing something by trying to teach someone else how to do it than by doing it yourself, and I for one am ready to try this one. It’s also a great way to spread the love of great beer and make sure that anywhere you go you always have good homebrew to drink!

Brew with an ingredient I’ve never used. I have used a lot of different ingredients over the years, including herbal tea, molasses, and clippings from spruce trees. It always livens things up to go with something you’ve never tried, so go with something different. Be it spices, coffee, candy sugar or a new yeast strain, there is always room to grow.

Finally, have more fun brewing. I know over the last few years I have found myself getting hung up on the mundane tasks you have to perform during this process. This year, I resolve to have more fun during the processes of brewing.

Happy New Year to you and yours from the Nutty Brewer.

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End of an era – Whale of an Ale IPA

, December 20, 2011

Brewing is fundamentally a process where each batch has a similar life cycle and this can lead to the development of a lot of brewing traditions. One of the ones that I observe is to always declare “End of an era” when I get to the last of any brew. Sometimes it’s just for me, others it’s just a way to let my brewing partners and friends know that the keg is kicked. But I always feel a moment of sadness when that last bit of foam spurts out of the keg; gone from the world is something very real that will never be here again. My brew system isn’t perfect like that of the big boys, and I understand that the particular experience that was this brew won’t likely ever come back. I might get pretty close, but some way, somehow, we’ll never be here again. I guess I just get a little sentimental.

So when I heard the keg sputter out that last bit of foam from the Whale of an Ale IPA tonight, I had a somber moment as I reflected on its impermanence. Much like life, a great batch only lasts so long, but it has the opportunity to make brighter the lives of those around it, if only in a small way. I couldn’t help but smile, and as I took my nearly empty glass (the last inch of the dregs that made its way into the bottom was mostly foam anyway) into the other room, I told Mim “End of an era” and we paid our little moment of respect. But our troubles were brief, as the bubbling carboys in the next room will be our next story to tell. Someday I’ll look back in the brew log and think, that Whale of an Ale, there will never be anything quite like that again.

A happy new year of brewing to all of you.

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Coming home from an off site brew day

, December 18, 2011

As many of you probably do, I brewed today at a brewing partner’s house. We had a great day, making ten gallon batches of a porter and a stout. It’s really a great system, and is pretty straightforward with a little planning. You do end up loading a fair amount of gear up, but it’s sometimes nice to go work with other people’s brew systems and techniques. I certainly have leaned a lot in my travels this way.

This is great system, but it’s a good idea to follow some basic ground rules. First, and most obvious, go easy on step one (relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew). Have a good time, of course, but always stay safe. If you are bringing your own burner, don’t forget propane. Yup, I learned that one the hard way. Make sure your carboys are clean before you go, although sanitizing them on site is generally simple enough. Plan ahead and make sure you have everything you need – the day will go easier.

As for loading up the carboys on the way home, make sure you get the lids screwed on nice and tight to prevent spilling. Double extra make sure that you loosen them and get the airlock on when you get home. There is nothing worse than letting a sealed carboy ferment for a day or two.

Remember to buckle up.
Carboy full of fresh stout riding home in the front seat

Yes, even in the back seat.
Carboy of porter tightly buckled for the ride home

And remember, it’s always best to keep any sunshine off your beer, particularly if you use lots of hops. At the same time, you can even put yourself in position to use the HOV lane!
Every girl's crazy about a sharp dressed carboy

Happy brewing at your place, your friend’s place, or at the Nutty Brewer’s brewery.

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Temperature Conversion Calculator Released

, November 30, 2011

The new Temperature Conversion Calculator has been released. This calculator performs temperature conversions between Fahrenheit, Celsius, Kelvin, and Rankine (a fairly rarely used scale that uses Fahrenheit degrees, but equals 0 at absolute zero like Kelvin (I am a big fan of absolute zero)).

This is the second calculator brought to you by the Nutty Brewer. Stay tuned for the latest updates to the Calculators as more will be coming soon.

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The Twisted Mist is Ready!

, November 13, 2011

Normally I try not to be the sucker for the clearance item, but I was over at the hombebrew store a couple of months ago and I couldn’t help but notice that the Twisted Mist Margarita Lime was on sale for half off. By the time any fermentable gets to the point that it’s cheaper than ingredients for a batch of homebrew and as easy and delicious as most of the Wine Expert kits, I’m in.

I bought the kit, and brewing the Twisted Mist is actually well documented by Mim over at It’s New and Different. Well, several weeks of fermentation and clarification later and, voila, it’s time to take what had appeared to be an ordinary wine kit and give it a tasty margarita zing before storing it in the bottles that will probably end up going to everyone on my Christmas list.

A quick gravity check showed that the final gravity on this brew was 0.994, a decent bit less dense than water, even. This was quite a bit lower than last time, so I went over to the Alcohol By Volume Calculator to check. The Twisted Mist finished at just over 14% ABV. Wow. And with well over 6 gallons in the batch, I am looking forward to sharing with all my friends.

Twisted Mist F-Pack Addition

The fun part was adding the flavoring, a gooey, syrupy, blend of what appeared to be invert sugar and margarita flavor that was thicker than cold molasses. After getting both of the “F-packs” in the carboy, it becomes a simple matter of stirring and bottling. Initial tastings have been great, sweet and yet simple, an awful lot like a wine powered margarita. We’ll really know the answer once I can confirm whether or not the advice of the guy at the brew store was right. He told me “Fill the bottles a little low; then you can stick them in the freezer and pour a slushy drink right out of the bottle into the glass.”

That all sounds tasty to the Nutty Brewer. I hope you have some delicious mystery beverages for your friends during the holiday season as well.

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ABV Calculator Released

, November 2, 2011

One of the things I have been wanting to do with this blog is to put some handy calculators up to allow me to do whatever calculations I have a need for. I am proud to announce the release of the first Nutty Brewer calculator, the Alcohol By Volume Calculator. Simply enter your initial and final gravity, and voila, there is the measure of your alcohol content. Don’t worry, there are more to come soon!

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I have found them!

, October 23, 2011

Simcoe hops. It's about time.

I am so excited to have finally found some Simcoe hops. I don’t know about you, but I have been looking for these for several months. I love the earthy flavor and have been rather distraught about the lack of availability. Apparently since the popularity of this hop has been increasing, demand has not been able to keep up. Coupled with the long lag time required for the hops to reach full productivity, it may still be awhile until they are generally available again.

I have been to several homebrew shops in the Denver/Boulder area looking for them, but with no luck. Owners of the stores told me it may be another year until they are available – one even indicated that it might be 2013 before he would have them in any quantity. The hop business, in many cases, requires prior commitments from the buyers to the growers in order to ensure sufficient supply, and several of the stores had apparently not predicted the rapid increase in the popularity of this hop.

Fast forward to last week, when I found myself at Dry Dock Brewing getting one of my kegs filled (more on this story later). I was with a friend who decided to get some ingredients for his next batch at The Brew Hut, the homebrew store next door. While we looking for his ingredients, I happened to stick my head into the hop cooler, and lo and behold, Simcoe hops! Needless to say, I bought a few ounces to keep in my own fridge until I have a use for them. So if you find yourself needing any Simcoe hops, head over to The Brew Hut, and tell them The Nutty Brewer sent you!

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