A coffee stout is something I brew once a year in the winter, it’s a style I tend to crave when the weather gets cold. The version I brewed last year turned out well, you can read about it here if you’re interested. Last year I used some Starbucks coffee which worked fine but I made notes to use more this time around to really get a good punch of coffee character from the beer.
I’m lucky to live close to a very talented roaster, Jonnie Java and I’ve been spoiled to consistently grab great beans roasted within a couple of days. Being a coffee geek I really wanted to use freshly roasted beans this time around to see if it would make an impact on the beer. I can tell you it had a much larger influence on the beer than I expected. I used beans that had only been roasted for a day prior to using them in a cold brew and dry “bean” addition.
I had initially planned to ferment this with a German yeast strain, even though I don’t have much experience with them. The idea was to brew something along the lines of Ursa Minor by Rising Tide with a coffee twist to it. I was hoping that the German yeast strain would help accentuate some fruit character in the beer. But my LHBS couldn’t get the strain I wanted in a reasonable amount of time so I decided to go with my dependable LAIII. It exudes fruit character and esters so I was hoping this would get me in the ball park of what I was aiming for.
I kept my grain bill pretty consistent with my previous recipe. I did up the flaked oats hoping to add some mouth feel that I felt was lacking last time. I also added a 10 minute addition of Amarillo to try to help add some fruity hop flavor to compliment the LAIII.
I’ve always found a really good coffee bean can display many complexities like a really good beer. One of my favorite beans from Jonnie is Ethiopian Yergacheffe, it has some berry character, mild chocolate, slight citrus yet is still quite dark. But I was worried the roast from the stout would over shadow much of that delicious bean. So I decided to go with a Colombian bean which was full of dark chocolate character plus an Ethiopian Mokamba bean which has some milk chocolate and blueberry notes.
For my last coffee stout I added beans to the mash and then a cold bean and dry “bean” addition. But I wondered if the mash addition had much, if any, influence on the beer at all. Not to mention using beans in the mash can potentially lead to some harsh bitterness, though I haven’t had that experience so far. So as mentioned earlier I went with a cold brew coffee and dry bean addition.
This turned out fairly well, but I seriously underestimated the impact of using very fresh beans. The initial pulls from the tap were all coffee. Like cold brewed carbonated coffee. Now this may sound great to any of you that love coffee as much as I do. But the coffee flavor completely overshadowed any of the actual beer character. The fruit character I was hoping LAIII would help add? Completely unrecognizable in this coffee bomb. Not to say the flavor isn’t good, I do enjoy it, and still am. But this is far too much coffee character even for a coffee stout lover like myself. I would cut my coffee additions by 50% next time around but I would still use freshly roasted beans.
Brew day went as expected. Mashed in with 15L of 166F water to hit mash temp of 154F, mashed out with 9L of 196F water. Drained the mash tun completely and then batch sparged with 8.4L of 165F water. Pre boil gravity 1.051, a few points low. 60 minute boil, chilled to 60F and pitched LAIII.
Recipe Targets: 5 gallons, OG 1.067, FG 1.019, ABV 5.8%, IBUs 45, SRM 56
4.00 kg Maris Otter 68.1 %
0.40 kg Chocolate Wheat Malt 6.8 %
0.40 kg Roasted Barley 6.8 %
0.30 kg Crystal Malt-120L 5.1 %
0.30 kg Oats, Flaked 5.1 %
0.20 kg Midnight Wheat Malt 3.4 %
0.15 kg Carafa Special II 2.6 %
0.12 kg Acid Malt 2.0 %
14 g Polaris [21.00 %] – Boil 60 min 34.2 IBUs
28 g Amarillo [9.20 %] – Boil 10 min 10.9 IBUs
1 tsp Yeast nutrient
1 Whirlfloc tablet
5 oz cold brew coffee @ kegging Day 21
1.5 oz dry bean @ kegging Day 21
Wyeast 1318 London Ale III
Appearance: Pours with a light brown head, 1″ which fades to a thin layer within minutes. Pitch black in color.
Aroma: Intense coffee, dark chocolate, some slight roast and dark fruit (I’m reaching here to get past that bracing coffee aroma).
Taste: Intense coffee. It actually tastes like carbed cold brewed coffee. Some dark chocolate notes, slight roast and possibly dark caramel.
Mouthfeel: Moderate, light to medium carbonation.
Overall: This does taste pretty good and I am a huge dark roast coffee lover. The darker the better usually. I love making a cup of intensely flavored coffee using my Bialetti or Aeropress. So you would think I would love the extremely high level of coffee character in this beer. Here’s the problem, a good coffee stout should have a balance of coffee to roasted grain character. This beer is all coffee, two months later and it has finally faded enough to be able to pick up on slight flavors from the grain bill. The hope I had of adding some fruit character from the Amarillo addition and use of LAIII were dashed overwhelmingly by excessive coffee additions. When I brew this again next year I will be cutting the coffee additions by half and increasing the ABV to ~7% in hopes I will get a more “balanced” coffee stout. I’m sure I could use a neutral yeast like US05 as well.