Homebrewing Tips

How to Brew Beer with Coffee

November 6, 2018
Coffee Stout

Looking for ways to keep your fall and winter beers bold and inviting? Bring some coffee into the mix! Whether you intend to make a beer that only features coffee alongside other notes, or a beer that is big on java flavor, we’ll give you tips on how to achieve the beer you want.

Important tip: You can bring coffee flavor to your beer with coffee or without.

Dark beers like stouts and porters are already brewed with toasted/roasted malts to impart flavor and creaminess. Those deep-roasted grains often give stouts and porters coffee-like flavors. Roasted barley has long been a coffee substitute because of the similarity in aroma and body that the grain has to roasted coffee beans. So, if you’re hesitant to start testing with coffee, bringing in roasted grains with big coffee aroma is a smart move.

How strong? How much coffee should be used?

I know you loathe this answer, but the best thing to do is experiment with some batches while keeping an exact record.

  • If you decide you want to integrate the coffee early on in the brewing process, using two of our one-gallon fermenters to split a 2 gallon batch is a clean and clever way to get the job done.
  • If you would rather add the coffee in during bottling, simply split your bottles into groups with different coffee variables to test.

Using more coffee will mean more pronounced flavors and aromas, while using too much will leave you with a big batch of carbonated joe. Test, test, test.

Which beer styles do well with coffee?

Folks tend to think of stouts and porters when they consider a style that accommodates coffee well. These dark beers are already strong-flavored as it is because of all those roasted grains, so expect to use more coffee to strike the right balance. Otherwise, the coffee is likely to get muted by the beer’s other notes.

Do not be discouraged to branch out in terms of style. Cream Ales and even Pale Ales can be deliciously flavored with coffee. These beer styles will call for less coffee and some gentle finessing when it comes to when you add your coffee and which coffee you choose. You’ll want to be sure you don’t derail the beer from the style’s intended flavor profile. Also remember that coffee bitterness and hop bitterness are likely to butt heads, especially in a hoppier beer. This will mean striking a balance between your hop and your coffee of choice so that the notes don’t clash.

Coffee Types

Coffee type will greatly affect the flavor, mouthfeel, head retention and hops usage in your beer. If you use a strong coffee, such as a French Roast or some espresso, you can expect a richer coffee flavor. Lighter coffee blends like Guatemala Antigua or Sumatra will give your beer subtler coffee flavor.

Be aware that darker roast coffees can provide a higher oil content from the longer periods of roasting that released those flavor/aroma oils. Those oils are sure to add richness and creaminess to the beer’s mouthfeel, but they can reduce head retention.

As previously mentioned, hops and coffee can both impart bitterness, so you’ll want to control your IBUs when working with a stronger coffee. When brewing with our hopped malt extract, you’ll want to find one with slightly lower IBUs (think five or eight IBUs lower) than the style you wish to achieve.  If you are a fan of bitter beers, then ignore this bit altogether and brew what you enjoy.

Beans? Ground? Prepared Coffee?

Many brewers feel that using freshly-brewed espresso or coffee will add the best flavor to your beer. That’s how folks are advised to add their coffee to our Sunday Morning Coming Down Coffee Stout recipe, and it’s got excellent reviews. A fresh brew is sure to bring out the best in your bean of choice while eliminating the extra steps of sacking and sanitation that beans or grounds would require.

For those who prefer cold brew coffee and the less-acidic flavor that it imparts, creating a toddy for your beer is very simple. Steep your coffee grounds in a muslin sack in cold water for 24-48 hours. Then, remove the grounds and use the remaining cold brew to add to your beer.

Just be sure that your store your brewed coffee, espresso, or cold brew in a sanitized vessel before it gets added to your beer.

No matter what you choose, you’ll want the freshest coffee available. By that we mean no instant coffee or canned coffee. Freeze-dried coffees just cannot bring the intended flavor or aroma you’re looking for and have allegedly contributed off-flavors to beer in the past.

When do I add the coffee?

Coffee can be added at any point in the process: when you heat up your extract, when you move the beer to your fermenter, or when you are bottling. All of these will provide different coffee character. However, in our experience, adding coffee while bottling your beer yields the best results. With Sunday Morning Coming Down, we direct brewers to add a shot of espresso or coffee with the priming sugar before adding beer to your bottles. Adding your coffee early in the process may mean that the coffee characteristics dissipate by the time your beer finished, while some brewers may find that beer added during bottling is too strong for them. Testing will be required.

FYI: Using coffee in your beer should not increase fermentation or conditioning times.

If this blog has piqued your interest about brewing with a new ingredient, we’ve done our job! We wish you many delectable coffee brews in your future. Any questions or pointers you need addressed on your next batch can be passed along to [email protected] or over the phone at 1-800-852-4263.

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