Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Ultimate Coffee Stout

Okay.  You know how when you have a "coffee" stout, you stand around with your friends stuffing your nose in the glass and sipping it, trying to search for the coffee flavor?  And you end up saying, "Oh yeah, I can taste it!" like "Oh yeah, I love the Emperor' pants?"  I hate that.  I've made a coffee stout, and it doesn't taste like coffee.  It tastes like dark beer with possibly a little extra roast, but not coffee.

So the hell with that.  If we're making coffee stout, let's make some damn coffee; and so: math.  Standard coffee proportions are on the order of 10 grams of coffee per 6 oz cup.  A little more, a little less, depending on the method and personal taste.  Taking that to five gallons @ 128 oz/gal gives 1,066 grams, or 38 oz, which is 2 pounds 6 oz.   OK, that's a lot of coffee.  If you look around at coffee stout recipes, they often call for less than eight oz of coffee, sometimes just four in a five gallon batch.  I'm beginning to see where the problem is.  Even in my own coffee stout, I used a pound, but according to what I just calculated, by the time you dilute it to five gallons, it's less than half-strength from what you would drink for breakfast.

Now, certainly you could make the argument that any addition of coffee will add dark, roasty flavors, and that's totally valid, and it helps make a great beer.  My point is that it doesn't make beer taste like coffee when it's mixed in with all the malt and hops and alcohol and whatnot in the beer.  I want coffee that coincidentally also happens to be beer.  So I got three lbs of Brazilian roast from Colectivo, Dan brought his Super Jolly grinder, and we went to town.

The next question to ask is how and when to add the coffee?  Put it in the mash?  In the boil?  Those methods will "overcook" it.  Make coffee and mix it in?  If you do that, it's really hard to get the strength right and it can get diluted.  The fact that you have to get 2+ lbs in do it with 5+ gallons of water also make it hard, logistically.  If you wanted to just make five gallons of coffee, what would you do?  The pourover method stands out as the best option, and once I realized that Shane's conical fermenter was available, and that I could get a giant mesh bag from Northern Brewer, that was the plan.

Five gallons of boiling stout wort?  Check.
Three pounds of perfectly ground coffee?  Check.
Huge seven-gallon funnel?  Check.
Pillowcase-sized coffee filter bag?  Check.

This isn't coffee stout, this is Stout Coffee.